Tokkers' Take: Fighter Safety Needs to be Taken More Seriously

Tokkers’ Take: Fighter Safety Needs to be Taken More Seriously

In this new series, I’ll be bringing a weekly, long form opinion piece, discussing the ins and outs of the sweet science. In the inaugural episode I’ll be discussing the horrific situatuion surrounding fighter safety in the sport at this moment in time.

It may seem a bit nonsensical for me to rant about athlete safety in a sport in which the main objective is to render your opponent unconscious, however, we simply need to have some open dialogue about letting fighters take completely unnecessary punishment. 

This weekend saw two absolutely horrendously late stoppages, both having a major impact on not only both fighters in ring ability in the future, but possibly, and probably if we’re being honest, having an effect on the future quality of life outside of the sport.

The two stoppages I’m referring to, are the shock defeat for Irishman Gary Cully against Mexican Jose Felix, and Junto Nakatani’s horrific KO of Andrew Moloney. Albeit being two very different scenarios, possibly having two separate sets of people taking the majority of the blame, both of these fighters should, and more importantly could have been spared the unnecessary punishment they took. 

Starting in Ireland, Gary Cully tasted defeat for the first time in his career, a 3rd round stoppage loss to Jose Felix. Cully touched down after a huge overhand landed with 2:14 left in the round. He just about managed to beat the count, but was clearly on unsteady legs.

At this point a more conservative referee would have stopped the bout, however I have no real issue with seeing how Cully reacts to an onslaught from Felix. What followed this however was absolutely disgusting. Cully initiated multiple clinches, not in the way that makes you think he was consciously, or even unconsciously thinking he needs to smother his opponents work, but in the way that makes you think, he simply can’t stand up without leaning on someone because his legs have completely gone.

Cully was counted again with 1:50 on the clock. At this point there is no way the fight should continue, somebody, whether that be referee or cornerman, should have stopped it in that moment. After this Cully was effectively defenceless. Getting battered from pillar to post and taking huge amounts of needless concussive punches from Felix. Being noticeably wobbled by a huge left on the 1:00 mark, which saw Cully slump back into the corner, this was followed by another monstrous right which saw Cully badly hurt again. Surely this was the last straw?

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It wasn’t however, and Cully took multiple more big blows. To add insult insult to injury, the pathetic attempt to save face by Cully’s trainer Peter Taylor, in the form of throwing the towel in, wasn’t seen by the referee, who allowed Cully to take another onslaught of unanswered punches before stepping in himself. This disgusting display from both referee and corner angers me to my core, in a fight where we should be celebrating a huge upset by an unheralded foreigner, we’re left discussing this mess. Would the fight have been stopped earlier if Jose Felix was in a similar state to Cully? I can say with almost certainty that it would have been. This fact is worse than any ‘home cooked scorecards.’ This puts people’s lives on the line. 

Over in the States, on the undercard of Devin Haney vs Vasily Lomachenko, Junto Nakatani faced Andrew Moloney for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. What on paper could have been somewhat competitive, absolutely wasn’t. Nakatani pummeled Moloney, won every single round, and was landing heavy uppercuts and straight back hands throughout.

The Japanese pugilist floored the Australian in the 2nd heavily, and put him down even heavier in the 11th. Moloney barely made the count and was stumbling around trying to regain his composure after making it, beaten, bruised and in no fit state to continue, the abhorrent actions by Angelo Hyder in the corner of Moloney at the end of the round, stating ‘if you take a clean shot I’ll pull you out,’ were horrific. Well Moloney did take another clean shot. A huge left hand then rendered him unconscious for around 5 minutes in the ring.

Moloney suffered two perforated eardrums in the bout and was taken to hospital. This pursuit of letting your fighter ‘see the final bell’ when he has no chance of winning, is clearly concussed, and has been put down heavily in the round previous is quite frankly disgusting. The knockout and any side effects from it lie solely on the hands of Angelo Hyder and the rest of Moloney’s corner team. Where is the accountability? The fact is Hyder KNEW he was in no fit state to continue.

Ultimately I have these questions to pose. To Peter Taylor, why did you let it go on so long? To Angelo Hyder, why didn’t you pull your man out at the end of the 11th? To Emile Tiedt, why on earth didn’t you stop it sooner? To Emile Tiedt, if Jose Felix was hurt as badly as Gary Cully would you have let it continue as long as you did? To the BUI (Boxing Union of Ireland), will referee Emile Tiedt face any action for his pathetic attempt at being compliant? Will Peter Taylor be put in front of the board to explain why he didn’t have his fighter’s safety as a priority? Will Angelo Hyder be held accountable for endangering his fighter?

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The unfortunate truth of the matter is that we, firstly all know the answers to these questions, and secondly, all know that nothing will change.

Afterall, if we look across boxing only last week Steven Butler was allowed to be knocked down two times too many by Janibek Alimkhanuly, and as far as I’m aware the disgraceful corner that oversaw Frank Arnold get beat up and brutally stopped by Brayan Mairena last year, and displaying one of the most pitiful and pathetic towel throws of all time as Arnold was unconscious on the canvas, are still in the sport. So is Terry O’Connor, who physically carried Nathan Cleverly to his corner at the end of a round, so he could continue fighting against Sergey Kovalev.

I could go on for ages with examples about these horrific decisions, but I think you all get the point by now. Boxing needs to protect boxers. We all scream from the rooftops about loaded gloves, and PEDs amongst other things, but what’s the point if even without those things, fighters are still being recklessly put in danger by incompetency at best, or corruption at worst?

I would like to conclude with one point on this subject. We see horrific injuries, and sometimes even lives taken in the ring. The same people complicit in ignoring these disgusting actions of letting fights continue too long will almost certainly be seen crying on interviews and giving heart felt tributes to the warriors who fall in battle. I’m not in any way saying these tears of tributes are not genuine, however they have the power to change the sport for the better. Yet they have not and will not change their ways.  This is the depressing truth of the matter.

By Andrew Tokley

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