Ehinomen Ehikhamenor, a cruiserweight from Queens, thought he was unbreakable until he came to face-to-face with everyone’s worse childhood fear: a pop quiz.
Ehikhamenor, who is originally from Nigeria, had just pounded out a tough unanimous decision over John Douglas on a Lou DiBella show on June 9 when, rejoicing with his support group back in the dressing room, he was hit with a question that on the surface seemed innocent.
“Excuse me, do you have a minute for the New York State Athletic Commission?” a young man holding a clipboard asked.
Ehikhamenor, 24, waved the official over and sat him down as if he was part of the celebration party, not knowing fully what type of trouble he was inviting.
“I always have time for the commission,” Ehikhamenor said.
The usual routine is for the commission to send a doctor for a routine check-up following a match to test hearing and reflexes and remind fighters of a urine test they have to take, but this was something completely different.
“Ok,” the official said. “I’m going to count off some numbers and I want you to repeat them to me backwards.”
Ehikhamenor, his attention still aimed in 10 different directions and the adulation of the fight still coursing through his veins, turned toward the official, who appeared young enough to be in college.
Half amused and maybe irked that someone was intruding on his victory lap, Ehikhamenor (11-0, 7 KOs) nodded his head and ran off the numbers without pause.
“Very good,” the young man said. “Ok, now I’m going to show you some pictures and I want you to draw them for memory.”
At that, Ehikhamenor did a double-take, and his manager, Roger Levitt, and just about everyone in the cluttered room – fighters and trainers – understood that this wasn’t just another mundane request by the commission, this was something that required time and energy. So they stopped what they were doing and leaned in to figure out what was going on.
“There’s no way my fighter is doing that sh**,” said Colin Morgan, who was warming up his junior welterweight, Peter Quillin on the other side of the room.
During the next 20 minutes, Ehikhamenor, still dressed in shorts and no shirt, was given a series of exercises that made him feel like he was in fifth grade again.
“It wasn’t that hard,” he said. “It was more annoying because it was so long,” said Ehikhamenor, who said he was a B+ student in high school.
A couple of times Levitt, who once managed a young Lennox Lewis, interrupted to voice his displeasure.
“I just want to tell you, whatever this is,” he said, “that this is entirely unfair to my fighter who has just finished his match.”
The DiBella show was the first time the test had been administered by the New York State Athletic Commission, and it was the brainchild of Doctor Rimma Danov, a pediatric and neuropsychologist from Staten Island who created the test under the direction of Dr. Barry Jordan, the chief medical official for the commission, to evaluate boxers before and after fights.
Egged on by the young official, Ehikhamenor completed the entire examination and was given a round of applause when he stood up to get dressed. When it was all over, the official mentioned that the exercise had been optional, and the fighter could have refused it if he had chosen. Levitt asked if he could see the results of the test and he was told the scores were confidential.
“I thought the whole thing was a bit bizarre,” Levitt said. “If you want to test the mind's clarity after a soccer match they're either going to be depressed if they lose or euphoric if they win, and I'm not sure if that's the best state to test someone's mental condition. I don't care how good you are, if you fight a boxing match, you're going to be mentally exhausted.”
Douglas was given the test 20 minutes before his fight while he was warming up with his trainer, Lennox Blackmoore. With his gloves fitted and sweat pouring down his back, Douglas was told to sit down and draw pictures on a piece of paper and reciting numbers backward. If it hadn’t been for his trainer and his manager, Carl Wheeler, who ran out to the ring and told Ron Scott Stevens, the chairman of the commission what was going on, Douglas might not have been ready to fight. As it was, he had only eight minutes to warm-up.
“That really screwed me up,” Douglas said. “They didn’t allow me to properly get ready. I was doing mitts with my trainer, and they made me do the test with my gloves on. That was kind of weird. I’ve never had to do anything like this before in my career. My mind was really distracted after that. I would have knocked the guy out if it hadn’t been for that. I didn’t get warmed up until the fourth round.”
Dr. Jordan described the test’s first go-around as a “pilot exercise,” and that the officials who gave the exam were college students.
“We’re always trying to get a better way to assess fighters,” he said. “We’re still in the process of developing it. After a fight, most fighters say they’re ok, when maybe they aren’t. This test is a way to examine them more thoroughly.”
Dr. Jordan said he hasn’t gotten any negative feedback from the tests, but then again, the test has been given only once. Two days later, during a higher profile show at Madison Square Garden involving Miguel Cotto and Muhammad Abdullaev, the exam was not offered.
Fighters were given their usual check-up at the weigh-in and brief inspection by the doctors following their bouts. But more than a week after the DiBella show, fighters were still griping about the odd test they had taken.
“It was way too long,” Ehikhamenor said. “A shorter version would have been ok. After a while it got aggravating because they did it right after the fight. They didn’t let us get dressed or anything. I didn’t know that I had the option of turning it down. They told me after I had finished that I had the option. I thought it was something I had to do. I’ll never do that again.”
Morgan allowed Quillin, who knocked out Anthony Hunter in the first round, to complete a couple of exercises before he stopped the official to let his fighter get dressed.
“That was strange,” Morgan said. “We sign a contract to fight, and they make us do all this extra stuff. But I’ve seen stranger stuff go on with the commission.”