Two weeks. We made it two damn weeks.
The sport had not had time to mourn the passing of Franky Leal when Magomed Abdusalamov stepped into the ring last night against "Irish" Mike Perez. In a rare departure from recent heavyweight fights, it was a fun scrap. Both men displayed plenty of shortcomings, but that made for an exciting fight, as they traded an unusual number of punches for big men. Neither man went down, but both were wobbled on several occasions. By the middle rounds, it was clear that the slicker Cuban fighter, Perez, was outboxing the hulking, awkward Abdusalamov, but "Mago" remained a danger to stop the fight at any point with one of his massive winging hooks.
As we watched the brutish looking Abdusalamov absorb punishment, most of us didn't recoil in horror - we laughed. We laughed when he asked his corner if he had a broken nose after the first round (he did). We laughed again a few rounds later when he asked if his face was really swollen (it was). We laughed because fighters don't ask those sorts of questions. We laughed because Mago, of all guys, looked invulnerable to damage, especially from a smaller opponent with no significant wins on his resume. We laughed because Jim Lampley could do no better than guessing that "something is broken in his face." We laughed because it somehow all seemed so pathetic compared to the usual inspirational back and forth between a fighter and his corner. I thought it was funny enough to tweet some idiotic nonsense.
This morning, we found out that it wasn't funny. The invincible looking Mago is just another human being, a human being who bleeds inside and out, and in this case, in his brain. The invincible looking Mago is now in a medically induced coma as doctors try to manage a blood clot on his brain. Two weeks. Two weeks since I wrote this. Two weeks and a few drinks was all it took for me to ignore the horror and laugh as a man absorbed a brutal beating to his skull, perhaps to his death.
It wasn't just Mago's gruff exterior that made us forget what was happening. Heavyweights, by and large, are less prone to these sorts of injuries. These sort of brain bleed injuries tend to be caused by an accumulation of punches, and heavyweights throw and absorb fewer punches than their smaller counterparts, both because they require more energy and because a single clean punch from a heavyweight is often enough to end a fight. Ironically, Perez's lack of power may be what did in Mago. The very thing that made last night so bloody exciting - an unusually high volume of heavyweight punches, no one of which was strong enough to end the fight - made it all the more dangerous.
Two weeks. Two weeks ago, I said that the boxing world would have forgotten Franky Leal by the time that last night's main event, Golovkin vs. Stevens, rolled around. It had: Franky's name didn't get a mention or ceremonial 10 count on the broadcast. But I hadn't forgotten him. So what's my excuse? How did I fall for it again? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me hundreds of times...
As I reflect on last night, and the horror in which I found something to laugh about, a part of me wonders how I can live with myself. For me, it's just a question. For the friends and family of Magomed Abdusalamov, it's something far more meaningful. So, say a little prayer for a frightening looking giant. He needs it. And all of us boxing fans could use it, too.
UPDATE: Mago has suffered a stroke and remains in a medically-induced coma. Per Michael Woods, a trust has been set up for Mago and his family. https://twitter.com/woodsy1069/sta...
SECOND UPDATE: Dan Rafael is reporting that Mago is expected to survive although his prognosis is still ugly. He may be blind, he may not be able to speak clearly, he may be severely disabled. But it's a marked improvement from the initial prognosis which was that Mago was not expected to pull through.