One week on the job and I have been enjoying the response to the articles I have written for The Sweet Science. Throughout my tenure at TSS, I am going to try to answer as many questions as I can, as the mail I receive is pretty insightful and it all warrants an answer… I apologize if I don’t get to yours specifically, but a lot of the questions covered the same issue.
Stephen Tobey wrote of Mosley and Vargas… “On one hand, the bout was still competitive and Vargas still had a realistic chance of winning. On the other hand, his ability to defend himself was seriously compromised and it didn't look like the situation was going to get better.” Ultimately, Stephen wanted to understand what constitutes a correct stoppage of a fight if Vargas, with his eye almost swollen shut, did not.
MY ANSWER: On one hand you raise a great point Stephen… Vargas’ ability to defend himself MAY have been compromised by the swelling, but to what point we won’t know because the fight was stopped before anything significant happened. There were 3 rounds left in a fight many would say he was ahead or at least tied.
My opinion is this… With superficial injuries, (cuts, bruises, swelling, bloody noses) boxers should at least have the chance to adapt in times of duress because when you are not afforded the opportunity to WIN, I know firsthand it is frustrating and maddening, to say the least. As a fighter, I am the one who has to spend the rest of my life with the gnawing knowledge that someone “beat me” that I don’t believe really did. That alone is heavier than one would think. When a fighter trains, we all know he doesn’t simply jog a few miles and hit the bag; there is this complete mental and physical immersion/metamorphosis that takes place… The sacrifice that a fighter really serious about his profession makes, is nothing short of Spartan. Compare it to the state of other professional sports and their training/healing methods and you know boxing is about as close to its original state as you can get.
So coming from that mindset… (Some would say primitive) yes, I have a problem with THAT fight (Mosley-Vargas) being stopped. If a fight is stopped at the first sign of discomfort, then it is no longer boxing in its truest essence (Not that it didn’t or doesn’t need upgrading mind you). It is something else… Kinda like touch or point karate compared to full contact karate.
AN EX-PUG’S MUSINGS… I have heard the uninformed or inexperienced say that the UFC competitions are tougher than boxing, going so far as to say that boxing is sissy stuff in comparison… WAIT A MINUTE! When you are boxing, if you dare quit, without at least taking a few lumps, you are labeled a coward… as a boxer, that’s about the worst label you can wear. “A coward dies a thousand deaths.” With mixed martial arts competition, you have the option of tapping out, and I have yet to see someone go to the point where the arm or leg is broken. And as soon as they do get dropped by a punch or a kick, the match is over… It’s a whole other journey when you have been dropped and you have to get up and not just continue – but try to win. I am not debating who would win in a fight; I know I would tap out too if someone had my arm bent a way it wasn’t meant to bend. I am saying that boxing and boxers is/are a different breed. Boxing is more than just “the first one who lands a good punch wins.” It takes you to your very physical and mental limits and tests every natural instinct you have… and that’s just the training. I don’t think mixed martial arts train for endurance and withstanding blows. I may be wrong, but just by the fact that you can do so much tells you it can’t possibly go too far… Get me? AND NOW BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING.
I am not making a casual or general statement against the stoppage of boxing matches, I am referring to the stoppage of the Mosley-Vargas fight specifically.
A fighter negotiates his money, trains for the fight and then has to perform. Whether or not he wins the fight does not affect his purse. He will get what he negotiated regardless. Will it affect his future money though? YES. Is that why Vargas reacted the way he did to the stoppage? I doubt his future earning potential was at the forefront of his mind at that time. I think the issue is twofold… his nature, which is that of a fighter (or the type of fighter that he is), no matter the odds and pride… a real fighter that gets beat doesn’t take the loss lightly. Losing as a boxer isn’t the same as losing in any other sport. Not that losing is ever easy, but in boxing you always add INJURY TO INSULT – so to speak. It is a suffocating feeling and no amount of money can make you feel better. And there is never any redemption. How many great fights has Duran had, and still he is remembered for “no mas” before anything else. As a fighter you look your neighbor in the eye and he is thinking certain things about your character, whether they are accurate or not. As a fighter you are subject to a whole litany of things after a loss. (Sorry you lost the fight… So you lost, huh? Tough loss. I had money riding on you, man, wish you wouldn’t of lost like that.) It haunts you. Your manhood is on the line really. On a primitive level, that loss is a concession that another man is better than you. And who wants to believe that. Ultimately, for many of us, especially athletes/boxers, life is about overcoming adversity… to a great many, boxing continues to reflect society. But forget all that.
ON THE OTHER HAND… It may simply come down to the fact that Vargas had the opportunity to do something few would or could do… and he was robbed of that opportunity… Maybe he knew that right away.