Set-ups—dangerous and grotesquely obvious mismatches—used to be the dark secret of boxing, relegated to hinterlands and high school gymnasiums in the Deep South or buried on under cards in non-commission states.
Now, however, you can watch these blood money extravaganzas—the boxing equivalent of grind core flicks—regularly on television networks from coast to coast.
As Bert Sugar told the New York Times in 2004: “Fixed fights used to happen like in old film noir movies, when you had a fighter in the tank and he would be told in his locker room ‘Kid, this ain’t your night, go down in the third,’ and his mobster promoter would make a killing on a bet. Now losing is just not that interesting. We have the guys who are never matched to win. Silent offerings.”
But the silent offerings are more high-profile than ever. In fact, on February 24th, a new monthly show will air on Fox Sports, and its main event features James Toney against a fighter—Damon Reed—who once lost to an opponent whose record was filled with fixed bouts.
Golden Boy Promotions is the absolute worst offender, scheduling human sacrifices more often than the Aztecs did. In the last few months, they have televised despicable main eviscerations involving the likes of Pablo Sarmiento, Mauricio Pastrana, Delray Raines and Edel Ruiz.
Tomorrow night, Dennis Sharpe, who has not fought in nearly four years and who has not won a fight in nearly seven, is scheduled for a little altar time on Telefutura. With that kind of track record, you have to wonder if Leatherface is their matchmaker and not the boxing non-entities who pretend to make “fights” over there. But GBP, amazingly, has some unhealthy competition going up against it in the same time slot on Showtime.
First, a note on a ShoBox undercard bout taking place off-tv from Atlantic City. Former Olympian Ricardo Williams faces sorry John Brown, 24-18-2, in the kind of fight that only Torquemada could love. Brown, who remains a hazard to himself every time he steps into the ring, hasn't won a single fight since 2001. That victory is not worth the time it took to mention.
Whenever a fighter goes on the serious skids, he runs the risk of having his license revoked by the rare commission with backbone because of medical reasons or because the fighter is judged no longer competitive. In order to avoid a suspension that would be honored across the country because of the Muhammad Ali Act, some worn out pugs take set-ups in boondock states with weak regulatory oversight.
In 2009, Brown defeated a fighter named Daniel Gonzalez at the Four Bears Casino and Lodge in New Town, North Dakota. Gonzalez, from Billings, Montana, has now lost 13 fights in a row and is 2-24 in his last 26 bouts. Brown scored a unanimous decision over eight rounds and probably went on to play some Keno at the Four Bears.
With that illustrious win breaking an eight year losing streak, Brown, 42, gets to continue being used as a speed bag by all the sadistic forces of boxing—promoters, managers, opponents, commissions, and so-called fans. He is now 1-10-2 in has 13 fights and has won only two bouts in over a decade. But somehow the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board has no problem deeming Brown a worthy opponent.
In the main event on Shobox, undefeated Rico Ramos faces Alejandro Valdez in a 10-round bout. Valdez was once a competent—albeit fragile—journeyman, but the red flag in this matchup concerns the fact that Valdez was hospitalized with a brain bleed after being stopped by Nehomar Cermeno in 2009. Two “comeback” fights in Mexico, where boxing is still somewhat in the regulatory Dark Ages, and Valdez is now ready to roll in the United States.
How is that possible and why would any commission approve an opponent with such a medical history? How severe does a brain bleed have to be in order to qualify for a medical suspension?
Recent cases involving Oscar Larios, Edwin Valero and Joe Mesi suggest Valdez should be barred from fighting in the United States. An e-mail sent to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, surprise, surprise, received no response. But the questions still remain, and some of the possible answers are disturbing, to say the least.
From a 2007 article on ESPN.com: “Dr. Margaret Goodman, former chairwoman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission Medical Advisory Board, told ESPN.com that Nevada policy is generally not to license a fighter who has suffered a brain bleed of any kind.”
Dr. Goodman elaborated further on the risks of boxers who enter the ring physically compromised.
"After that kind of injury, there is almost always scarring on the brain's surface that could predispose any fighter to seizures and further damage if traumatized," she said. "The problem then is that it is tough to tell if a fighter has just been knocked down and dazed or has suffered something much more dangerous."
Of course, if you follow the mainstream boxing media—akin to subscribing to “Ancient Astronaut” newsletters—all you will hear about Valdez is that he is a “tough veteran” and a “former world title challenger”. Nothing about the fact that the man spent days in a hospital after suffering an injury in the ring.
The whiners out there who—under the ratty cloak of morality—want to boycott this event and that event, never seem to raise their index fingers for some good old fashioned hunt and peck when dangerous mismatches hit the air for all to see.
Then there are the boxing fans who enable this kind of junk to be perpetrated over and over again by sitting in front of their plasma sets and watching roped-in vivisections in HD week after week. There is no excuse for bad taste and a lack of discrimination—even for a boxing fan.
Tomorrow night, I might watch “I Spit on Your Grave” and “Cannibal Holocaust” on DVD. Maybe you should, too.
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