The Blood Is The Life: 25 Of The Worst Gashes In Boxing, Part I

Jim Watt TKO12 Sean O’Grady, 1980

Sean O’Grady is likely best known for boxing commentating and interviewing on FoxSports and USA’s Tuesday Night Fights in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but once upon a time, he was actually a fighter — certainly not a bad one, but he struggled against just about anyone with any sort of discernible class. And against WBC lightweight titlist Jim Watt, his skin gave in to the old stereotype about Irish boxers’ skin — that is, that it spews forth crimson when even gazed upon. By most accounts, O’Grady was doing quite well against Watt before the stoppage, pounding left hooks to the champion’s eyes and drawing first, second and third blood by way of three gashes around Watt’s eyes. But the WBA title wasn’t in the cards.

The AP said from Glasgow via the Plain Dealer, “Then, in the 10th, a dramatic change of fortune left O’Grady bleeding profusely from a severe cut low on his forehead, just above the nose. The American felt the damage was the result of a butt, dropped his hands, and was rewarded with two quick right jabs to the wound. His confidence drained from that moment on and French Referee Raymond Baldeyrou halted the contest 30 seconds from the end of round 12.”


Edwin Valero RTD9 Antonio DeMarco, 2010

A record of 18 straight 1st round knockouts and his tragically early demise are, by themselves, enough evidence that Venezuelan Edwin Valero was a hard-charging, intense guy in general. His relatively short career was literally defined by that fact, as he was banned from fighting in the U.S. following a head injury caused by a bad motorcycle accident, but found ways to barrel through opponents regardless. In what may wind up being his biggest win, Valero tangled with burgeoning contender Antonio DeMarco, who’s scheduled to take on borderline superstar Adrien Broner next month. Early in the 2nd round, a jab followed by a left elbow from fellow southpaw DeMarco caught Valero on the forehead and instantly bludgeoned open a deep, skull-enlightening wound that stopped the action. Instead of withdrawing, which would have been completely understandable, Valero stood his ground to finish up the round and slowly dished a beatdown to his younger foe in the middle rounds, forcing DeMarco’s corner to advise him to bow out after absorbing more whacks in the 9th. It was Edwin Valero’s first non-pay-per-view introduction to U.S. audiences, and his last, as he (and his family) would perish two months later in an apparent murder-suicide orchestrated by the former two division titlist.

Arturo Gatti UD10 Joe Hutchinson, 2000

By the time 2000 rolled around, Arturo Gatti had already become well known for his vulnerability to cuts, and his ability to fight through them in the most dire of circumstances. The cliché “blood and guts warrior” had already been used to describe him so often, that it became nearly obligatory to do so at that point — and this was before his career-defining battles against Micky Ward. In a foul-filled battle with southpaw spoiler Joe Hutchinson, Gatti did it again. In round 2, Gatti was cut badly over his left eyebrow following a flurry of right hands from Hutchinson. Strangely, Gatti’s trainer Lou Duva was allowed to work on the cut before the round had expired, and close-up shots on ESPN cameras revealed the cut stretched across almost the entire length of Gatti’s eyebrow. Ruled to be from a punch, commentators Teddy Atlas and Brian Kenny charged that the fight wasn’t being stopped because of the packed house of 20,000 spectators in Montreal, Gatti’s adopted hometown, and would have been in almost any other situation. Arturo toughed out another smaller cut over his right eye caused by one of the many headbutts over the course of the 10 round bout, and both went on to lose points for separate infractions. Allowed to continue fighting despite the widening crevasse, Gatti brawled his way to a decision win.

Manny Pacquiao SD12 Juan Manuel Marquez, 2008

Fight fans simply cannot bring up Tony Zale without mentioning Rocky Graziano; or Jake LaMotta without Ray Robinson; or even Ted “Kid” Lewis and Jack Britton. Ten years from now, we’ll likely be talking about Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez — two fighters born to produce fireworks against each other every time out. Scheduled for a fourth meeting in December that’s unlikely to disappoint, their first three were taxing enough, but especially their 2008 rematch. Marquez made it out of the 1st round fairly unscathed, which was a stark contrast to their first bout, in which Marquez hit the deck thrice in three minutes. He even managed to visibly stun Pacquiao in the 2nd, but in the 3rd, things got fun. Marquez was again down, and from there, in-ring chaos ensued. In round 9, Marquez’ right eyebrow gaped open, smack in the middle of obvious swelling that had grown more and more prominent with every left hand from Pacquiao. As if Marquez hadn’t already had issues seeing Manny’s speedy left sneak through, his right eye was halfway shut and blinded by a drizzle of red. The cut was wide enough for Marquez’ trainer, Nacho Beristain, to insert an unknown stringy substance and cover it up with vaseline. He finished the bout, though, but not before being rocked once again in the 10th, and was rewarded with a split decision loss for his efforts.

Sonny Liston RTD9 Chuck Wepner, 1970

One could easily imagine how a fighter with the word “bleeder” in his nickname could make his way onto this list, and Sonny Liston was intent on reinforcing the idea that Chuck Wepner deserved the moniker. After Liston’s final professional bout against Wepner, the “Bayonne Bleeder,” Gary Schnorbus of the Trenton Evening Times said, “Ten years ago Sonny Liston could have given Chuck Wepner his ‘ugly old bear stare’ and the self proclaimed New Jersey heavyweight champion would have bled profusely from the mouth. But Liston is at least 38 years old these days and a little slower afoot. Maybe that is why it took two rounds before Wepner’s mouth showed signs of blood and eight rounds before his entire face was covered.” Wepner was continually harpooned by Liston’s jab, as Liston claimed he wanted to get rounds in to prove he could endure, rather than take Wepner out early. And that hulking intimidation machine jabbed Wepner’s face apart. Before six rounds were through, Wepner was sliced and diced above and below both eyes, and when Wepner was stopped before the start of the 10th, the veritable canyon over his left eye had reportedly reached the length of almost three inches. Schnorbus claimed that Liston had never cut an opponent before performing facial necropsy on Wepner; if true, Liston cashed in on 53 previous bouts, and Wepner’s mug footed the bill.

Sugar Ray Leonard TKO15 Wilfred Benitez, 1979

Somewhere between the minefields of wars and the headaches of feint-filled skills competitions, lie the fights that waver between the two. Both Ray Leonard and Wilfred Benitez were either very familiar with the idea, or would become very familiar soon after they matched speed. These types of bouts tend to feature about as many huge whiffs as they do solid hits, and this particularly tactical fight matched a master of offense in Leonard, against a defensive wizard known as “El Radar” in Benitiez, amplifying tendencies. Though Leonard’s offense was overwhelming more often than it wasn’t, he would say after the bout, “No one, I mean no one, can make me miss punches like that.” But Benitez’ mission was made slightly more difficult in the 6th round, when a clash of heads opened up a vertical cut in the middle of his forehead that left him bleeding freely through the last half, all the way up until he was stopped by a knockdown and follow up swarm of shots with moments remaining.

Alfonso Gomez TKO7 Arturo Gatti, 2007

Being prone to cutting and exhibiting a “punch first, ask questions later” style means a number of Gatti’s bouts could be on this list, and another is visited here in his final bout against Alfonso Gomez. Years of punishment and surgery to correct lacerations thinned his already naturally fragile skin, and though his eyebrows stayed surprisingly intact, Gatti’s upper lip was split wide open under the constant two-fisted attack from Gomez. Gatti hadn’t fought in almost a year, and was coming off a 9th round drubbing at the hands of Carlos Baldomir, but was nonetheless a 2-1 betting favorite. Gomez was having none of it, though, and never really let Gatti into the bout. A series of shots placed Gatti with his back to the ropes, where Gomez landed a very final right hand that made the aging warrior slink to the canvas for the last time. Upon closer inspection after the bout was called, the facial gulch Gomez had created was borderline frightening.

Joel Casamayor TKO6 Diego Corrales I, 2003

Diego “Chico” Corrales’ untimely demise seems to have added to the mythos of a character who didn’t really need much hyperbole. His legend went from thrashing through handfuls of capable names, and traveled straight through one of the best fights of the last decade in his all-out war against Jose Luis Castillo. Against Joel Casamayor, a prolific amateur fighter that seemed bound for professional greatness, Corrales’ oft-hooking attack was up against a more tricky, linear style that walked him into a number of straight left hands that he took full force. A cut over his left eye from a headbutt in the 1st round was an afterthought once the extent of an unbelievable cut on his upper lip, ruled caused by punches, was realized. An apparently ill-sized mouthpiece had cut straight through Corrales’ lip and was bleeding heavily into his mouth, as evidenced by a blood-tinged mouthful of water spewed by him between rounds, just before the fight was officially called. His begging the ringside physician and referee to “Give me one round! Give me one more round!” harked back to his 2001 TKO loss to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., where he was downed five times yet insisted on continuing.

Victor Ortiz TD1 Marvin Cordova, Jr., 2007

Before Victor Ortiz picked up his reputation as, to put it kindly, a drama magnet, he was one of the sport’s topflight prospects. And on a Top Rank promoted ShoBox card, fighting in a co-feature to Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Cuauhtemoc Vargas, Ortiz faced off against fellow prospect Marvin Cordova, Jr. Both of them former Junior Olympics champions, the bout began to edge towards becoming a memorable firefight. But before the wick on the dynamite could reach its payload, a slip to the canvas from Cordova led to an elbow slicing into Ortiz’ forehead and producing an awful slash. Pleading to continue as his neck and chest transformed into a crimson mess, the fight was halted between rounds, and his “hungry prospect” status was kept well intact.

Francisco Lorenzo DQ4 Humberto Soto, 2008

The controversy surrounding referee Joe Cortez’ absurd decision to disqualify Soto for a grazing shot (at best) to the back of Lorenzo’s head in the fog of delivering a beatdown, clearly eclipsed the beatdown itself. Humberto Soto should’ve been the proud new owner of an “interim” alphabet belt, but in a rare move, the WBC chose not to recognize the official result due to the lack of logic applied to the arrival at the decision to render a DQ. Instead, a rematch was ordered, but Lorenzo was forced to sit out for six months licking his wounds, while Soto got in valuable work against Gamaliel Diaz. It appeared as though Lorenzo wanted the rematch and a crack at that coveted interim strap, but the laceration over his right eye and the state of his nose sidelined him before he could go on to lose a decision to Soto later that year.

Donald Curry TKO4 Colin Jones, 1985

Colin Jones, often regarded as one of Britain’s best fighters to never win a world title, was a bruising hitter. The issue, in this bout, was that he met a sharp counterpuncher and clever defender in Donald Curry. A carrot worth two alphabet belts dangling in front of Colin’s kisser wasn’t enough to push him through the lacing Curry delivered in just a few rounds. A nasty cut on the bridge of Jones’ nose, coupled with another over his right eye, forced an understandable stoppage.

“Eddie [Thomas] told me it was a bad cut (at the end of round three), and that I had to make the most of the fight while it lasted. I still don’t think Curry was a real mover, he stood and traded with the best of them, and that was all right be me at that point. I didn’t know how bad the cut was until I saw it from the outside, and it was a bad one, wasn’t it,” said Jones in an interview with BoxingScene’s Terence Dooley.

Fred Apostoli TKO10 Marcel Thil, 1937

Frenchman Marcel Thil’s countenance was the one of a weathered, hardened warrior; he had the face of a man who was born to become a battle-tested fighter. Walking opponents down, and often behind a low lead glove, he perhaps wasn’t the most difficult man to find from a defensive standpoint. And when it came time to face San Francisco middleweight Fred Apostoli, his gnarled scar tissue couldn’t hold up against the rakes to the puss.

Said the AP via the Lewiston Daily Sun, “Four stitches were taken in Thil’s cut. The Frenchman’s manager and father-in-law, Alex Taitard, made no complaints about [referee] Donovan’s decision. He said he had told the referee, after the ninth round, to stop the bout if he (Donovan) thought it was advisable. After examining the damage Thil himself admitted it would have been dangerous for him to continue.”

(Photo credits: AP Images; Getty Images; Cleva Media; Fightwire Images; The Press of Atlantic City; Top Rank; HBO; Zanfer)

About Patrick Connor

Patrick Connor is a long time boxing fan and historian. He is additionally a voice actor and co-host of TQBR Radio, Queensberry-Rules' boxing podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Vine: @VoiceOfBeard