By Trigo Egegbi
NEARLY a week has elapsed since the supposedly biggest global sporting event of the week ending Saturday, March 19, 2011 has stood seemingly defenseless in the face of the criticism it has generated.
The pro boxing sport carries with it the stamp of controversy relating, largely, to decision rulings that are, in themselves, subjective. The camp of the loser seldom accepts the fact that its ward has been handed the fairest deal.
Last Saturday in far away Cologne, Germany, was enacted an entirely different scenario which – in the uninitiated among the 20,000 live spectators, as well as millions viewing in different locations worldwide on Television – bordered between a cruel joke and an abominable farce.
That night in question, Vitaly Klitschko, predictably, retained his World Boxing Council heavyweight title in a manner considered by many as suspect and outright unsatisfactory. The scheduled 12-rounder witnessed barely three minutes of fighting when a freak knee injury to challenger Odlanier Solis prompted the referee to terminate further proceedings.
A joke? A farce?
Well, these are some of the terms freely employed by the traditionally antagonistic section that has found cause to be up in arms against the boxing establishment. Indeed, the weekend event dislocated all true intents of the establishment seeking to build on what little credibility and interest there exist in the heavyweight division today.
Significantly, the Klitschko clan has been the butt of public reaction over the years for a sin neither brother is guilty of. Somehow, the world is unwilling to live with the fact that heavyweight boxing today lies solely on the broad shoulders of two siblings from the Ukraine.
For all I care, that Cologne contest could well have been listed a no-contest. What matters is that Vitaly retains his status as champion.
Going into the subject itself, I consider it a duty to throw some light that could serve to inform our many innocent followers of some of the intangibles boxing has had to contend with over the years. Freak injuries are common place in the sport and have served to separate the good competitors from the great ones.
Freak injuries do occur even in major title fights, and cannot be helped because boxers are human too. It is a phenomenon that occurs in football, basketball and other major team sports as well. Difference is that, whereas team sports allow for substitution of the injured player, the boxer must fight on unless he’s too incapacitated to continue.
The celebrated Floyd Mayweather Jnr. is an outstanding example of some of the sport’s standard bearers who courted intangibles to prevail in the ring. For all his brilliance, the four-division world title holder had to contend with brittle hands during much of his career in winning contests against formidable opposition. He never used that alibi to discontinue.
Or, the exciting Danny Lopez of the unforgettable 1970s. The skinny pocket-sized warrior from California was such a ferocious puncher, he sometimes broke his fingers on the heads and bodies of his opponents during his reign as WBC 126-pound champion. He never used it as excuse to discontinue.
Or, our own incomparable Davidson Andeh. In 1978, Davidson lifted the lightweight gold at the World Amateur Boxing Championships in Belgrade (former Yugoslav Republic), despite sustaining a broken finger in the right hand in the semi-final. Even with only one healthy hand, he proved too good for the favoured Serik Konakbaev of the old Soviet Union.
It is also recalled how the American Hilmer Kenty endured bouts of cramp in the right leg during two of his WBA lightweight title defenses. During his losing defense versus Sean O’Grady, the lanky youngster out of the famous Kronk stable in Detroit, Michigan, endured as much punishment dished by his opponent, as that generated by the raging cramp. At a point, poor Kenty had to vomit in his corner.
Yet, he held on to finish the scheduled 15 rounder.
There have been instances when even the mighty warriors, too, have had to capitulate. Middleweight legend, Bernard Hopkins, was making a defense of his (then) IBF belt against fringe contender, Tom Allen, when in the sixth round he was accidentally shoved out of the ring onto the floor where he suffered a dislocation of the ankle.
Poor Hopkins found himself unable to continue, and the bout was ruled a no-contest.
Of course, mention must be made of Sharmba Mitchell’s fruitless challenge for the undisputed world super lightweight title held then by the outstanding Kostya Tszyu. As if facing the Russian superstar wasn’t enough obstacle, the American underdog was further dogged by recurring knee dislocation. He was put out of his misery in the sixth stanza.
Finally anchoring my submission on the unfortunate Odlanier Solis, I feel compelled to grant the Cuban challenger the benefit of the doubt. It is already established he suffered a torn cartilage of the knee, although investigations are on-going.
This case is, indeed, different in the sense that at the point of his collapse Solis wasn’t taking a beating, save for a tap to the temple. Rather he was the one who had initiated the opening offensives against the vaunted Vitaly. In a way, Odlanier came into the contest looking like the only one out of the pack of jokers that stood the chance to give the champ an argument.
So, would he have caused an upset?
I say not very likely, despite parading an unbeaten pro record founded on a solid amateur background. It’s not that easy to prevail over an established champion – like a Klitschko – on account of an eye-catching start to a scheduled 12-rounder.
Just ask American speedstar Zab Judah who pelted Kostya Tszyu with every missile in sight, including the kitchen sink, in the opening three minutes of their title unification contest. At the bell ending the round, Judah was already celebrating.
However, it took just one Soviet missile to knock Zab and his faculties silly and out of operation at the start of the second.
For now, Solis remains a question mark.