Last weekend, super welterweight prospect Prichard Colon fought Terrel Williams and left the arena unconscious; he was rushed to a hospital and underwent surgery to relieve pressure from a brain bleed.
(1) Colon began complaining about rabbit-punching in the first round. Colon eventually replied with a illegal punch of his own into Williams’ groin, to which Williams (14-0, 12 KOs) responded with a throat-cutting gesture. Referee Joe Cooper, infamous for his role in Peterson- Khan, deducted two points from Colon.
(2) In the 7th, Williams exacted his revenge with another vicious rabbit punch to the back of Colon’s head, hurting him and receiving a one-point penalty. Colon took the full five minutes to recover. The NBC broadcast team overheard Colon tell the ring doctor he was dizzy.
(3) In the 9th round, Williams sent an exhausted Colon to the canvas twice, the second time on another punch to the back of the head as Colon stumbled into Williams’ grasp, allowing Williams to pivot and send Colon on his way.
(4) It was Colon’s third fight in as many months, and he had fought past 8 rounds only one other time.
(5) Colon’s corner, thinking the fight was over, began removing his gloves, earning Colon a confusing DQ loss.
(6) After returning to dressing room, Colon became dizzy, vomited, then fainted. He has not been conscious since. He underwent emergency brain surgery to relieve pressure associated with a brain bleed.
(7) Al Haymon, who has maintained a vow of silence with the media since he began his career in boxing, has refused to make any kind of comment.
With boxing fandom comes a good deal of hand-wringing over the back-room politics that govern the sport: its matchups, its alphabet sanctioning bodies, its shadowy (shady) promoters, and its broadcast partners. All of this pales in comparison to an injury like Colon’s (and Magomed Abdusalamov before him) when you can unpack the series of events that led to the catastrophic injury and conclude this was probably preventable.
Above the picture of the comatose Colon strapped to a hospital gurney making rounds on social media, the questions that echo the loudest are: Why was Colon fighting for the third time in three months (and against a very strong opponent)? Why would Cooper allow such a dangerous and repeated tactic to occur? And, why in bloody hell would a ring doctor allow a fighter to continue when they say they are dizzy?
Fighters are not mentally built to back down or let fear of injury cross their minds, which is exactly why a boxer making any kind of statement about their condition should be treated with utmost seriousness. Abdusalamov complained early on in his fateful fight that his face didn’t feel right; why a doctor who witnessed the rabbit punch would let the fight continue is disconcerting. Why Colon’s corner, which included Colon’s father, couldn’t see that Colon had waded into deep and unchartered waters out there is even more troubling. Fathers too often make for awful corner men. But that they removed his gloves and forced the DQ, unintentionally or not, most likely saved NBC from airing a boxer’s death live to America.
The inherent risk in the sport of boxing is hard enough to reconcile without multiple failures of organizing bodies and systems that should be there to protect the fighters as priority number one. It’s not good enough that the rabbit-punching eventually led to a point deduction later in the fight, by then, the damage was done and Williams looking for an edge as an underdog to the younger and more dynamic Colon, was undetered.
Look, I understand that boxing is a very dangerous sport and I even accept that it’s part of what makes it compelling. As a metaphor for life and death and as a metaphor for overcoming hardship, it’s an instructive and inspiring human act that is thousands of years old. The fight that brought me to boxing was Ward-Gatti 1, a brutal fight which sent both men to the hospital, and the recent 40th anniversary of the Thrilla in Manila was another time to reflect on a night during which Mohammad Ali, the great heavyweight warrior, had never felt so close to death—and you can see that spectre of death settle in on both fighters in the late rounds. By flirting with that line, boxers can transcend mortal restrictions and become demigods forged in the fire of pain, that most universal sensation.
What no one should accept here is the wanton disregard for this fighter’s health. PBC overlord Al Haymon continues his radio silence on all matters, neglecting to comment even a “no comment” to ESPN’s Dan Rafael over the Colon matter. Truthfully, I never needed to hear from the man until now. That this kind of tragedy being swept under the rug by PBC is almost as loathsome as letting referee Joe Cooper anywhere near a fight again. Haymon apparently visited Colon in the hospital Wednesday, to me a thoroughly meaningless gesture if he doesn’t even have the cojones to talk to reporters.
I observed Prichard Colon last month on the Stevenson-Karpency undercard. A young boxer with a fun, fan-friendly style, he used his insane height for 154 pounds and his reach to eventually set up power shots, dispatching with veteran Vivian Harris in four rounds. But here was the thing with that fight, Vivian Harris stayed in the fight until he got hurt; he knew his role as a B-side, he didn’t come to win. Soon as he got hurt, he got smart, and stayed on his knee. Nearly 15 years removed from his title-contending years, the 37-year old knew when to cut his losses, and Harris was probably the biggest name Colon had fought up to that point.
On Saturday, for his third fight in three months his handlers gave Colon the undefeated power-puncher in Williams, easily the most formidable challenge in Colon’s young career. And then they let the less-talented man foul his way to even playing field. And now one man hovers on the brink of death and even if he recovers, let’s face it: Colon will never fight again.
Boxing promoter Lou DiBella, who promoted part of the PBC undercard on Saturday, hasn’t pulled punches, acknowledging Colon sustained a “profound injury” where all you can do now is “pray, hope, and wait.” And not a word from Haymon.
The fight and its highlights and been nearly scrubbed from the PBC and NBC websites, a bootleg YouTube video of the fight that existed earlier in the week has already been taken down.
Now, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Colon’s family is requesting a copy of the fight, and that Virginia Boxing Commissioner David Holland spoke with Colon at one point during that fight, giving one of Colon’s seconds the distinct impression that Holland felt the boxer was hamming it up. Holland deferred comment to a spokesperson who stated the commission has launched an internal investigation into the circumstances of the event.
If you wanted a reminder that none of the money people in boxing give a flying F about fighter’s safety, just check in on recent articles about PED use in boxing. In no other sport can PED use become fatal, and in no other sport are there as many blindspots and loopholes as there in the crooked science. Antonio Tarver tested positive for PEDs after his summer fight with Steve Cunningham, begging the question, WHY WASN’T HE TESTED BEFORE THE FIGHT AND DISQUALIFIED?
Oh, Haymon had nothing to say about Tarver, either.