An Inglorious Weekend For Boxing

natecampbell_headbutt.jpgThere’s defending the sport when it needs defending, and there’s acknowledging the truth when it’s evident: Boxing didn’t cover itself in glory over the weekend, in ways both grand and small.

Timothy Bradley-Nate Campbell ended in a way that left a bad taste in just about everybody’s mouths. On the same Showtime junior welterweight card, Junior Witter stank up the joint against Devon Alexander then quit, confusingly. HBO’s documentary on the Resto-Collins scandal revealed the ugliest side of the sport. A prominent trainer, Roger Mayweather — uncle of Floyd Jr. — got arrested for allegations that he beat and strangled a woman. A second autopsy of Arturo Gatti dragged out what has turned into a sordid saga. A promoter is threatening to sue everyone associated with Mikkel Kessler’s involvement with the highly-anticipated “Super Six” super middleweight tournament.

The good news from the weekend is… uh… yeah there was none. Maybe, though, we can try to mitigate some of the damage done.


By now, what went down should be familiar to all — head butt caused the fight to be stopped, Bradley awarded a win when a no contest is the most obvious ruling — but read here for a fuller recap.

So what are our available solutions?

One is an appeal. That’s filed. I hope the California commission does the right thing and turns the fight into a no contest. It might, it might not. The precedent is James Toney-Hasim Rahman II, but in that case, as someone pointed out (I can’t remember whom), the referee ruled the injury was the result of a head butt. It remains to be seen whether the California commission will do about Bradley-Campbell referee David Mendoza’s mealy-mouthed explanation for why the fight ended in a TKO, i.e., there was a head butt and there was a punch.

Some have called for boxing to adopt instant replay. Yes, by all means, yes. There’d be no problems today if boxing had instant replay. The investment is very much worth it: Blown referee calls account for a very sizable percentage of occasions in which people are turned off of the sport. There’s simply no good reason not to do it. Nevada will soon consider a modified instant replay rule, and it’s a great start. What Nevada does, the rest of the country often follows.

I disagree with some aspects of this Franklin McNeil column, but he’s right on the point I italicized:

On August 8, UFC 101 will be held at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The place will be sold out and just about every paying customer will be seated when the main card kicks off. And rest assure, a fighter won’t quit if his elbow hurts, and a rematch will be in the works if a dispute arises at the end of a bout.

For better or worse, boxing operates in almost a pure free market in many ways, and in this case, I say it’s for the worse. The UFC’s near-monopoly on the sport means the organization can boss its fighters around for better or for worse. In this case, I say it’s better.

Certainly, you’ll find people today who argue, “Who would want to see a rematch of this fight? Bradley was owning him and was going to knock him out.” To which I say, initially, there is a school out there, although it is a minority, that thought both of the first two rounds were close. There is another school out there, signficantly larger, that notes Campbell historically does his best work late in fights. Bradley didn’t own Campbell until the 3rd round head butt. And there is another school out there that says whether Bradley was going to win or not, Campbell was robbed of his chance to try, and he deserves a rematch.

That there is any question about what might have or should have happened — from any of those schools — is more than enough to warrant a rematch. There’s a reason the UFC has such brand loyalty. I really do think that based on what I know of the UFC that if something like Bradley-Campbell happened in mixed martial arts, the risk of alienating some fans would be more than enough to warrant a mandatory rematch.

As it is, we only have market pressure to make a rematch happen. What’s the downside? Bradley’s not going to fight Manny Pacquiao tomorrow, so it’s not like there’s some massively bigger purse a rematch would rob him of. Indeed, if it’s “easy money” to do it over, as he claims, why not fight Campbell again? Think, as well, of the good will it would endgender. I respect Bradley’s skills and toughness, but I’m not a fan, in part because I think he’s one of the dirtiest fighters in the sport right now with the way he head butts every. single. person. he fights. But I’d have enormously nice things to say about him if he did the just thing and gave Campbell another chance.

The damage to Campbell’s reputation is done, unless he gets a rematch and owns Bradley back. I’m of the mind that he is the victim of an injustice, and I’m also of the mind that his desire to have the fight stopped is as defensible a “quit” as you’ll find. He was blind in one eye — unless he’s just a flagrant liar, but when has he ever behaved that way? — and his health could have been in severe jeopardy. Fortunately, no permanent damage was done, per the first link above. But if he’d kept fighting, is there any likelihood he’d be able to say that today? Not only would he have kept taking shots in the eye, he also would have not seen many of them coming.

But there are a good many people who think Campbell flat wanted out of the fight because he was getting his ass kicked, and I don’t think that’s entirely out of the question. Part of Campbell’s appeal is that he was a tough hombre, and even if he “quit” defensibly, he does seem like less of a tough hombre today, doesn’t he? Furthermore, he really hurt himself by wanting the fight stopped before he knew whether the referee had ruled the injury was the result of a head butt. He very much risked the TKO loss he says he didn’t want by pressing for that.

The appropriateness of Campbell quitting is a little different, ultimately, from what happened on the undercard.


When the most interesting thing that happens on a double-header is that the two endings are interesting in a bad way, that is not a good thing. Witter quit, and while I don’t have his doctor’s report handy to discern whether his elbow was really badly damaged, I’m more suspect of Witter than I am Campbell. Witter, unlike Campbell, does have a tendency of rolling over when the pressure on, as he did late in his own fight against Bradley. Combined with the fact that Witter made the fight suck to high heaven, the ending really didn’t please anyone.

But let me go back to McNeil, and italicize a different portion of his remarks:

On August 8, UFC 101 will be held at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
The place will be sold out and just about every paying customer will be
seated when the main card kicks off. And rest assure, a fighter won’t
quit if his elbow hurts,
and a rematch will be in the works if a dispute arises at the end of a bout.

Actually, fighters in mixed martial arts routinely quit when a body part hurts. It’s called “tapping out,” and it’s not looked down upon in MMA the way it is in boxing. What if Witter’s elbow was broken? Was he supposed to keep fighting on? If a mixed martial artist got his elbow broken in a submission move, everyone would think he was crazy for NOT tapping out.

Now, on this, I’m quite open to standing corrected. Unlike a lot of MMA writers who think they know a lot about boxing, I candidly admit I know very little about MMA. If I’m wrong, again, I really hope someone will tell me why. Witter quitting the way he did looked suspicious, but it’s not like it’s a knock on boxing for him to quit if indeed his elbow was badly damaged.

Assault In The Ring

I don’t have much for this one. That Panama Lewis, after all he has done and allegedly done — illegal cocktails, plaster of Paris, stuffing removed from gloves — continues to be an active player in boxing is nothing but a stain on boxing. He’s banned from working the corner of active boxers, but he still trains them away from the fights. I don’t suppose you can initiate a blanket ban forbidding him contact with all boxers, so perhaps the ban on him now is the best that can be done.

It’s just remarkable that he’d have any opportunities as a trainer at all. Lewis clearly will throw his boxers under the bus then turn his back on them as quickly as he kissed up to them to start, so what’s the advantage of having him as your trainer? That he once was considered a good trainer? Surely there are enough good trainers out there that everyone could do better, right? Why would Zab Judah need Lewis, when, with his talent, he could have found a decent AND reputable trainer? Is the thinking that Lewis can train his charges in the dark arts of cheating? There’s some strange version of the free market at work here, maybe, but it’s a deeply dysfunctional version.

Lewis’ existence reinforces all the nasty stereotypes about boxing, some earned, some exaggerated. For that reason, I can’t really object too strongly to this Deadspin post entitled “‘Assault In The Ring’ Reminds You To Hate Boxing Forever.” Speaking of the documentary’s three major subjects, Lewis, Billy Collins, Jr. and Luis Resto, Dashiell Bennett writes:

Watching Lewis and Resto move through the shady underbelly of boxing, the whole movie is just a stunning reminder that boxing is run by some of the most corrupt and selfish people that walk the Earth. A boxing match between two well-matched contenders is a sight to behold, but it’s hard to show any support for pugilism when you stop to think about what everyone involved had to do to get there. Or where they will end up, once they’ve outlived their usefulness. Rightly or wrongly, Lewis comes off as the consummate con-artist a man who casually threw away Collins’ and then Resto’s, lives in search of a big payday. The film is not entirely objective, but you don’t have to know much about boxing to know that Lewis is not alone.

To which I responded in the comments section (with a screen name that was arbitrarily assigned to me):

This documentary even made me, as a HUGE boxing fan, feel at a loss for words to defend the sport. I will say this, though — Panama Lewis may be the scumbaggiest scumbag in the history of boxing, and Resto-Collins probably its worst-ever scandal from top to bottom, all of which is really saying something. There have been a lot of terrible science fiction movies made in the history of mankind, but if you watched “Battlefield Earth” and said, “This is why I will hate science fiction movies forever,” I’m not sure it would be all that apt.

And that’s the most mitigatin’ I can do here.

Roger Mayweather

Really: Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But if unca Mayweather did what he was accused of — assaulting a woman — it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Roger had already been jailed on domestic assault once. Nephew Floyd, Jr. has been convicted of assaulting a woman and accused another time. If they did it, well, there aren’t many angels in boxing. Many of them have demons, as I’ve recently discussed, even the ones held up as “good guys.”

But look, I just am not comfortable with serial woman-beaters being “the face of boxing,” as Floyd, Jr.’s adviser Leonard Ellerbe said of the man who calls himself “Money.” Again, I try to judge boxing figures for what they do in the ring more than I do what they do outside it, but there’s something so offensive about hitting a woman, and it’s what Floyd and Roger have been convicted of doing and, in the case of Roger, newly accused of doing.

The good news, if there is any, is that very few people consider the Mayweathers “the face of boxing” who aren’t a member of their inner circle. Floyd has fans, and he is of course a ridiculously gifted boxer. There are people who think Roger is a good trainer, and I’m one of them. But the “face of boxing” right now as far as I’m concerned is Manny Pacquiao, and we’re all a little better for that. Pacquiao’s had his own rough spots, but he’s largely conducted himself like a gentleman; I’ve not heard of any occasions where he beat up a female, anyhow.

Arturo Gatti

I’m almost finished with this post and I practically want to throw up. Gatti’s new autopsy allegedly uncovered all kinds of injuries the Brazilian police didn’t. And there’s a celebrity autopsy guy doing the autopsy. Then there’s this.

Ugh. This is going to go on forever. I just hope it doesn’t jump the shark the way Ted Williams’ post-death antics did. I want to remember the Gatti who fought in the ring, not the Gatti whose death became tabloid fodder.

Not much mitigating to be done. Perhaps we can just be happy that someone other than Brazilian authorities are looking into it? No matter what you think of whether it was a murder or suicide, everyone has to agree that Brazilian law enforcement is probably on par with “Reno 911.”
Mikkel Kessler
Mogens Palle, who’s been ruining Kessler’s career since the end of 2007, is going to sue Showtime and everyone else for what he claims is their interference in his promotional contract with Mikkel.
I have no way of knowing whether Sauerland, whom Kessler calls his promoter these days, has any taken any kind of illegal action by signing Kessler, nor do I have any information about any other contractual breaches anyone else might have done. I have to imagine Palle doesn’t have much of a case. I doubt Sauerland and Showtime and everyone else would have risked putting Kessler in the tournament if there was any question about this.
So that’s the mitigatin’. But I remain worried that Palle could obtain some kind of injunction or something while this is all worked out, and everyone knows how swiftly courts decide things, right? A long delay would basically scramble the tourney like so many eggs. And if it sucks not to have Lucian Bute in it, it’ll suck a lot more to lose Kessler.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.