ONE of the last things that boxers are told before answering the opening bell is that they should protect themselves at all times. Hopefully the advice is taken to heart because they can’t always count on those entrusted with looking out for their welfare to do so. The recent fight that saw Tim Tszyu stop Jeff Horn is a perfect case in point.
For every Angelo Dundee who would not allow Jimmy Ellis off of the stool for the fifth round of his heavyweight unification fight against Joe Frazier, and Eddie Futch who ignored Frazier’s pleas to come out for the 15th round against Muhammad Ali in Manila, there are dozens like Horn’s trainer Glenn Rushton. They are so caught up in winning that they fail to fully comprehend the danger that their fighter is in. As a result, they are reluctant to stop the contest of their own accord, instead deferring to the wishes of the boxer.
First you must understand that fighters by nature are valiant. They are mentally conditioned to never give up even when their quest for victory is futile. To expect them to admit defeat in the face of adversity goes against the warrior mentality that is required of them at least in the eyes of the public. Their body language can be crying out for someone to step in and save them, but the one thing they will rarely do is verbally say they don’t want to carry on.
At the end of the eighth round Horn slumped on his stool well beaten. He had already been down a couple of times in the fight and was hopelessly behind on points in the scheduled 10-rounder. Horn was not punching with the type of authority that suggested he could stage a miracle finish. He was tired and being hit regularly, entering the danger zone that sadly puts a fighter’s life at risk. The match probably should have been stopped earlier. The decision for Horn’s corner was clear. There was no need to consult with Horn because he was so well beaten that nothing he could say could have made a difference. Yet when he got back to the corner there was conflict among his seconds. “What do you want to do?” Horn was asked by Rushton. He avoided answering, which is a universal sign of a fighter hoping his corner stops the fight.
“Do you have a punch in you or not?” Horn was asked by Rushton, invoking a response of, “Oh my God” from one of the commentators. The chaos continued. “Do you want to give us a minute?” Rushton inquired, giving Horn the option of getting seriously hurt even though it couldn’t have been his intention.
As Tszyu celebrated in the ring shortly after the contest ended one of the commentators said, “Thankfully sanity prevailed.” But did it really? The corner was the main culprit, but the referee, ringside physicians, and local commission could have intervened at any point as well.
In fairness to Rushton, Horn survived a ninth round barrage from Manny Pacquiao that had some calling for the fight to be stopped and was ultimately awarded a disputed decision. However, unlike the Pacquiao encounter, Horn was so far behind on points that even had he miraculously rallied over the last two rounds it would not have come close to being enough to wipe out Tszyu’s insurmountable margin.
Giving a fighter every chance of winning is a noble intention on the surface, but in doing so when the fight cannot be won is dangerous in the extreme.