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Monday, May 30, 2011

When to Stop the Fight?

Within the past year, referees controversially allowed three different fights, in which Jewish boxers participated, to proceed. Last June, a torn ACL and a white towel weren't enough to persuade Arthur Mercante Jr. to stop the contest between Yuri Foreman and Miguel Cotto. A few months later, Erkki Meronen signaled Alexander Frenkel to continue his pummeling of a half-conscious Enzo Maccarinelli. And this past February, Gilbert Richardson failed to stop the fight between Christina Ruiz and Emily Klinefelter, resulting in a burst blood vessel in Klinefelter's brain.

It is easy to second guess boxing referees who have to make split second decisions during the heat of battle. It is a difficult job and referees can be forgiven for missing certain calls. But a referee cannot miss when it comes to a fighter's safety. Above all else, that is the referee's primary responsibility.

On June 5, Foreman defended his WBA junior middleweight belt against Miguel Cotto in Yankee Stadium. The bout was competitive until Foreman tore his ACL 45 seconds into the 7th round as he bounced around the ring. As Foreman continued to fight, hobbled, he fell again with 1:38 left in the round. HBO commentator Jim Lampley exclaimed, "He's done! There's no way he can continue in the fight at this point." Mercante disagreed.

In the heat of the moment, perhaps it was natural to get caught up in the drama. The severity of Foreman's injury wasn't known until after the bout. But, a minute and 45 seconds into the 8th round, Foreman's then-cornerman Joe Grier threw in the towel knowing the injury had compromised his man. Mercante refused to accept Grier's suggestion to halt the fight and it continued until Foreman was put down by a body shot in the 9th.

Dr. Margaret Goodman believes the fight should have been stopped much earlier. In an article published on The Ring's site, Goodman writes, "Can a boxer compete with one hand? Yes, if he can mount an offense and/or move away from punches. A one-legged fighter is a disaster waiting to happen, a sitting duck, especially against a puncher like Cotto."

On why he continued to fight, Foreman told Tim Keown of ESPN The Magazine, "It was the fight of a lifetime... When you're on the biggest stage, you keep going until you can't go anymore. It's the referee's job to draw the line."

And that is precisely the point. The fighter has been conditioned to keep fighting. Someone else must step in and stop it. When Alexander Frenkel landed a gruesomely perfect left hook on the chin of Enzo Maccarinelli in the 7th round of their bout last September 18, Maccarinelli's head bounced around as he fell to the canvas. His noggin finally rested on the bottom rope.

Maccarinelli instinctively staggered to his feet. But it was clear that he was unable to protect himself. The referee, Erkki Meronen, had a split second to decide whether to stop the fight or to allow the European champion, Maccarinelli, to attempt to keep his title. He allowed the two combatants to continue. A quick one-two combination put down the woozy Maccarinelli. The fight was then stopped and Maccarinelli was administered oxygen.

Foreman and Maccarinelli were thankfully able to recover in the short term, and their careers will continue, but Emily Klinefelter wasn't as lucky. After her bout with Christina Ruiz on February 5, Klinefelter wound up in the hospital with a burst blood vessel in her brain. She had been knocked down repeatedly, but kept managing to return to her feet. Ruiz's manager, Emilio Ledezma, later said, "The girl was taking a beating. The ref should’ve stopped the fight [earlier]." Of Klinefelter, Ruiz noted, "Her eyes were kind of rolling back, and I thought they were going to stop the fight, but they didn’t."

After the final knockdown, in the 3rd round, Klinefelter was laid out, unresponsive. The fight finally stopped when referee Gilbert Richardson counted to ten. It's easy to criticize Richardson for failing to stop the bout earlier knowing Klinefelter's eventual fate. But Klinefelter, a decorated amateur and undefeated professional fighting in her hometown, kept rising to her feet. And her corner didn't intervene, either. Yet, one wonders if there is any justification for Richardson to count all the way to ten before calling off the contest.

Of course, the failure of officials to stop fights earlier is not limited to bouts that involve Jewish fighters. Instead, that three such bouts have taken place within this rather small sample size is an indication of a problem. There is little more exciting in boxing than watching a fallen fighter get back up and triumph. But this excitement cannot happen at the expense of the health of the boxer. This is a problem that is not unique to any single commission or country. It is pervasive. And it must be rectified. When in doubt, referees must be taught to stop the fight. A controversial early stoppage is always better than a controversial late one.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Salita Speaks

Dmitriy Salita co-promoted "Box NYC" at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, New York on May 19. Here is an interview with Mike Gogel just before the event.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Frenkel to Battle Branco

European cruiserweight beltholder Alexander Frenkel is expected to get back into the ring against Silvio Branco on June 25 in the latter's hometown of Civitavecchia, Italy, according to Per Ake Persson of BoxingScene.com.

Frenkel (23-0, 18 KOs) last fought in September, when he knocked out Enzo Maccarinelli in the 7th round. Branco (61-10-2, 37 KOs), who is turning 45 years old this summer, defeated Vincenzo Rossitto by unanimous decision last November to win the WBC international belt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boyd Melson vs. Hector Rivera

May 19, 2011
Roseland Ballroom
New York, New York

Melson: black and yellow trunks
Rivera: blue and white trunks

Friday, May 20, 2011

Melson Wins By TKO

Boyd Melson didn't spend much time in the ring as he improved his record to 3-0 with a first round TKO victory over Hector Rivera last night at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, New York. The knockout was the first of Melson's professional career. Rivera fell to 2-8-1.

Melson strolled to the ring with J. Cole's "I'm Coming Home" blaring in the background and entered to loud cheers from the balcony. As the opening bell rang, both fighters began in the southpaw stance. They circled each other until Rivera threw a wild punch. Melson made a nifty move to avoid the punch and came back with a shot of his own. Rivera didn't feel the full impact of the punch for a few seconds before he crumbled to the canvas.

To his credit, Rivera rose, but referee Harvey Dock saw that he was in no condition to continue and waved off the contest. Melson earned the TKO 44 seconds into the fight. Of the knockout blow, comedian Capone, who inexplicably did a set following the bout, exclaimed, "I heard that punch backstage!"

Ring announcer Joe Antonacci interviewed Melson following his win, giving him the opportunity to plug the organization for spinal cord injury research in which he supports. More information about the organization at justadollarplease.org.

The event was co-promoted by Salita Promotions.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Melson Fights for a Reason

Junior middleweight Boyd Melson is scheduled to fight for the third time in his professional career on Thursday in the Roseland Ballroom in New York, New York. Melson’s story is inspirational. He fights for a cause. By stepping into the ring, he hopes to raise awareness for stem cell research. In fact, he donates his entire boxing purses to the cause.

Melson met a woman named Christan Zaccagnino several years ago and they instantly shared a bond. This chance meeting would change his life. Zaccagnino was in a wheelchair stemming from a childhood accident. Her dream was to walk again. As they became closer, Melson soon shared in her dream. The desire to make it a realization fueled his competitive nature and he began researching on his own in a desperate effort to help her. Their love for each other strong, the two traveled around the world searching for a procedure that would help Zaccagnino walk again. None has worked yet.

But Melson and Zaccagnino refuse to quit. More research is needed. Melson’s voice quakes with emotion as he talks about his cause and it is easy to realize his devotion to it and to his friend. Listening to him, it’s a challenge not to get swept up in his words.

Melson learned to box in college at West Point because it was a required course. The sport came naturally to him. He gained success as an amateur and realized that he stuck out from the crowd. He attracted attention, not only due to his success, but because of his Jewishness and his education, two anomalies in boxing.

He gained the impetus to conflate his professional boxing career and his cause of bringing awareness to stem cell research from an unusual source. Boyd chuckled as he explained, when thinking about the popular reality show Jersey Shore, he realized that the people on the show are famous for no reason; they have nothing to say. It made him understand that he actually had something to say and could use the medium of boxing as a platform to say it.

Melson said he hopes to stay in boxing, “As long as I can be successful.” He wants to live “a normal life” and feels very fortunate that he has other options. So far he has been successful, utilizing a defensive strategy through his ability to avoid punches by employing movement. But he asserts that he’s willing to trade if need be.

He admits he’s a slow starter, which can be an ordeal in four-round bouts. Sometimes he’s thinks too much in the ring to his detriment. And it’s a challenge to train for a fight when you don’t know the opponent in advance. In training he tries to get “different looks in sparring,” so he’s prepared for anything, but he still contends that not knowing your opponent during training “stinks.” Regardless, Melson credits his will for his success in the ring. “I’ve beaten guys with better boxing ability because of my will,” he states in a measured tone.

Success nearly eluded him at the beginning of his pro career. The boxer admits that he came out too hard in his first fight, resulting in a knockdown in the first 15 seconds of the first round. He rebounded and controlled the rest of the round and the remainder of the fight. His motivation is not only to raise awareness for stem cell research. He told me he fights for his classmates who have been killed or wounded during their military service. He fights for his grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. And he also fights for himself.

Melson's website is here. To support spinal cord injury research, click here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Look Back: Leach Cross

In an effort to link the past with the present, The Jewish Boxing Blog will present monthly a short biography of notable former Jewish boxers.

Leach Cross had one the most colorful nicknames in boxing history, "The Fighting Dentist." But it was one of the least creative. He actually was an accomplished professional boxer and a practicing dentist- hence the moniker. The lightweight never won a title, but was well respected in the ring. In fact, Cross was the great Benny Leonard's idol.

Born Louis Wallach on February 12, 1886, he was raised in New York's Lower East Side. Wallach's parents were from Vienna and his father became a successful businessman in New York. But Wallach grew up in a tough neighborhood and was often forced to fight in the streets. Because of his father's success, Wallach was able to go to NYU for college where he studied dentistry. He only began boxing while in school to pick up a few extra dollars. In 1905, he fought his first fight in which he earned $6.

As a boxer, Wallach took on the name Leach Cross in the hopes that his parents would not find out about his alternative career path. On January 13, 1908, he knocked out Joe Bernstein in the first round and earned $100. After the fight, Cross's father was offered congratulations by an acquaintance. Mr. Wallach was thoroughly confused until the acquaintance explained that his son Louis had won his last fight. Cross's father was not happy, but the purse from the fight helped sooth his anger.

For a guy who eventually graduated with a degree in dentistry, the 5'7" Cross was not a particularly intellectual fighter. He fought out of a crouch and threw powerful right crosses and uppercuts. Against the crafty Packey McFarland, who he fought twice, once on October 21, 1908 and the other on March 23, 1909, Cross was unable to adjust to McFarland’s style.

During Cross's era, a winner of a match could not be determined unless there was knockout or a disqualification. To get around this law, newspapers declared a winner. In one such eventual newspaper decision which took place in December of 1911, Cross knocked out KO Brown's teeth. Brown then went to get his teeth repaired by Dr. Louis Wallach.

On November 10, 1913, Cross faced the scientific boxer and lightweight champion Willie Ritchie. Cross was taught a boxing lesson. After a few more years of relative success, Cross retired in 1916. He briefly returned five years later, but retired for good on November 7, 1921. Through it all he continued his dental practice.

According to BoxRec.com, Cross's record was 33-10-4 with 21 KOs which doesn't include his newspaper record of 56-28-13. Cross died in New York, New York on September 7, 1957.

BibliographyBlady, Ken. The Jewish Boxers Hall of Fame. 1988.
Century, Douglas. Barney Ross. 2006.
Riess, Stephen A. Sports and the American Jew. 1998.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Possible Opponent for Nakash

According to DogHouseBoxing.com, Ran Nakash could fight Garrett Wilson in his next contest. Nakash (25-1, 18 KOs) is coming off of a gutty performance against WBO cruiserweight beltholder Marco Huck in which he lost a unanimous decision on April 2 in Halle, Germany. Wilson (10-5-1, 4 KOs) took a unanimous decision victory in impressive fashion over veteran Omar Sheika on April 23 in Atlantic City, New Jersey to capture the vacant USBA strap. Nakash is rated number 2 in the USBA rankings.

Wilson is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Nakash has fought there many times, so the fight, if it materializes, would likely take place in the city of brotherly love. But, then again, this is boxing, so you never know, it could happen in Alaska.