Boxing’s Guardian Angel…and Football’s Collective Devil

I’m a boxing fan, which means this past weekend, I watched the Gennady “GGG” Golovkin vs. Kell Brook fight. I also watched Chocolatito vs. Cuadras, which was an unbelievable display of boxing skill and Kamegai vs. Soto-Karass, which wasn’t. But those two fights don’t have any bearing on this piece. The GGG/Brook fight does.

To recap, GGG came into the fight undefeated and looking for his 17th straight middleweight title defense (the all-time record of 20 is held by Bernard Hopkins) and 23rd straight knockout, unheard of for a middleweight prizefighter. GGG is either first or second in the pound for pound fighter discussion, with Chocolatito occupying the other top spot. Kell Brook came in an undefeated welterweight champion, attempting to move up two weight divisions and achieve an other-worldly upset. He’s no slouch and was admittedly having trouble making weight at 147, so it wasn’t as large a jump in terms of weight as some would think. Plus, it was a home fight for Brook at the O2 Arena in his native UK before an electric fight crowd.

When the opening bell rang, GGG was on the attack. It was clear that he didn’t think Brook could hurt him and he stalked Brook from the beginning, cutting off the ring with impeccable footwork. Notwithstanding, Brook was up to the task initially, landing a few uppercuts that seemed to hit the pause button on GGG, even if only for a few moments. The moment that would decide the fight came in the 2nd round without many people noticing: GGG landed a blow to Brook’s right eye that caused noticeable problems for the underdog.

Kell Brook complained to his corner in between rounds about his eye, but, despite his pawing at the eye and the clean shots that GGG was landing upstairs and downstairs, Brook remained a game fighter. He was able to stick and move and, while surely behind on the cards, was giving GGG more problems than anybody had to this point. Then in the fifth round, something astonishing happened. Brook was taking some punishment, was in some trouble, but was clearly not done. He was throwing back and had his legs under him. However, Brook’s cornerman literally waved the white towel, which came as such a shock to everybody that the ref didn’t see it until the towel was literally thrown into the ring. Fight over.


When the fight ended, the reaction was confusion and most everybody watching thought it was a “poor stoppage.” Usually when poor stoppages occur in boxing, it is the referee who steps in a few seconds too early. It is rare when the corner steps in and stops the fight. After all, if their fighter wins, he moves on to bigger and better and brings his corner with him. If it’s the corner interceding and stopping the fight, it is usually clear to everybody in the arena (but the fighter) that the fight should be stopped. Saturday night was a rarity in the sport.

Kell Brook was predictably upset with his corner in the moment. He is a fighter, didn’t think he was in trouble, and wanted the opportunity to fight on. But that’s his job. Fighters who quit are not well looked-upon in boxing. Kell Brook wanted to continue and was saved from himself. Good for his corner for doing right by him, because, as it turns out, Kell Brook was fighting with a fractured orbital bone by the end of the second round, will undergo surgery, and was seeing three to five Golovkins out of his right eye. He may not have suffered any severe punishment to his brain by the time the fight was stopped, but if that fight had continued, there is no doubt that the precise GGG would have ended things much more violently. A couple hours after the fight, Brook was already thanking his corner for ending the fight.

So why did I take all of that time to write about another GGG win? Because the stoppage was in such stark contrast in my view to what I witnessed only two nights earlier. Cam Newton does not fight for a living. Taking head shots is not supposed to happen in his line of work and when those shots do come, he is supposed to be protected by referees, his team, and if not his team, an independent neurologist.

Kell Brook was saved from himself, but only two nights earlier Cam Newton was hung out to dry by everybody who was supposed to protect him. Where were his coaches? His team doctors? Any team official? The NFL personnel on site? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

First the NFL released a statement saying that some unnamed personnel with cool acronyms reviewed the film on the spot and determined that Cam wasn’t showing any signs of a concussion. Therefore there was no need to remove him from the game. No word on whether or not the unnamed personnel had money on the Panthers. Then came the media crap storm.

The key question was: How on Earth was Cam not removed from the game late in the 4th quarter when he took a devastating blow right to the chin? In reviewing the NFL Concussion Protocol, something should jump out at you. The unaffiliated neurologists, who are tasked with determining whether or not a player should be pulled, work in concert with the team physicians. Really? They’re not going to be feeling pressured by the game situations? I’d almost rather have James Woods from Any Given Sunday making the medical calls.

All that the Panthers/Broncos game told us was that the independent neurologists have literally no say in the matter or are completely inept. I’m leaning toward the no say category.

So after all of that, the NFL did what it always does. It waited another couple of days until it was uber clear where public sentiment was then released a second statement saying that it would look into things. The next step of the M.O. is to wait for everybody to enjoy the weekend of football and forget that this thing ever happened. Expect a Friday afternoon buried press release saying that the response was not satisfactory, they would ensure . . . blah blah blah.

What bothers me is that so many in the public jump at attention to blame Roger Goodell when the problem is that Roger Goodell is doing exactly what he’s being paid to do. He’s making the league owners a boatload of money and he serves as the public punching bag anytime anything goes wrong. Everybody blames Goodell. Nobody says jack about the owners. But it is the ownership of the NFL teams that runs the show. They are the ones that are failing to protect their players from themselves. They are the ones failing to throw in the white towel because it may lead to a loss despite of what the long term effects clearly are for the players. It is time to call the ownership out. They need to protect the players. Kell Brooks’ trainer was willing to accept a loss in his fighter’s biggest fight in order to save Brook from future damage and he doesn’t have a second stringer to put in. Why can’t NFL team leaders and ownership be better?

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