“I wanted to prove to the people that hey, I am a real champion…that I can fight, that I can bring the house down, and I can go through – I can weather any storm and come out on top.” – Timothy Bradley
There was no doubt to anyone watching the fight between Timothy Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov, that it was a brutal one. Starting early in round one, we saw Bradley sustain brutal hits to the head and the classic signs of someone who has sustained head trauma – he loses his balance, his legs seem not to hold well for him, and from the outside we can only assume the symptoms he was also struggling with from within – blurred vision, dizziness, confusion, or nausea…not to mention the pain.
If you watch boxing, this is nothing new, but the level of head trauma might not be something we’ve seen for quite some time. His level of resilience was truly staggering.
We watched round after round until the very end. In the final round, it seemed inevitable that Bradley (pictured above, at Wednesday press conference, in Chris Farina-Top Rank photo)would finally stay down on the mat, but he stood up to win it. It was a triumph of spirit over the body, but let us not forget the very dangerous and possibly permanent types of injuries he likely sustained in his quest. He said he had something to prove, that people called him a “fake champion,” but you wonder whether he proved it through his ability to sustain injury, or if this point may have been better proved by boxing a smarter match – improving defensive skills, and allowing himself a potentially longer career.
Soon after the fight, Timothy Bradley went into an ambulance and was taken to a local hospital for examination. The numerous comments on this from YouTube and other social media were interesting to read: Some individuals commended him on his toughness, others were calling him weak for going to the hospital. Given the amount of impact and trauma to the head, it was an essential that Bradley go to a hospital for evaluation…and his words in the later interview with Max Kellerman on HBO’s “Face Off” show the very real effects, and lack of understanding around head trauma that still exists in much of the boxing world.
When Kellerman asked Bradley about the effects after the fight, he seemed almost shocked at the candid response of Bradley, who stated, ”A few weeks after the fight I was still affected…my speech was a little bit off and I was slurring a bit after about two months, I got my speech back.” It was interesting to me to watch Kellerman make the very real connection – this is brain trauma.
It was commendable that Juan Marquez took the high road, and when asked his thoughts on Bradley, spoke only of his own training and Bradley’s toughness. He likely realizes well that boxing takes a very human toll, and one that if truly understood, might make more fans understand the real sacrifices many of these athletes will endure when they are no longer in the ring or in the public eye.
The truth of it, is that the worst effects of multiple concussions often aren’t always immediately obvious, and many people are not aware of the seriousness that concussions are in and of themselves. Concussions are considered in the scientific community to be a type of mild traumatic brain injury that actually changes the way that brain cells function…and they have little to do with weakness. Concussions occur because the brain, which floats in cerebrospinal fluid, is literally sloshed against the skull when an impact happens or the head is suddenly jolted in some way. You can see how boxing is primed for these types of injuries. Concussions effect both immediate functioning, but also certainly have the great potential for long-term consequences particularly for boxers as individuals often gather many of them over the course of a career.
A condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a more common long-term consequence in boxing than many realize. CTE is has been linked to professions that sustain multiple concussions that occur over the lifespan. It’s a particular type of brain damage that is linked to later memory loss, dementia, and deep struggles with depression. You don’t see CTE immediately, and the stories I have heard are devastating. I remember hearing testimony of Dr. Ann McKee where she described a 40 year old retired NFL player who couldn’t even go grocery shopping on his own, or remember which movies he had watched. It doesn’t always happen at 40, or 50…but whenever it strikes, it is equally tragic, robbing individuals of what would otherwise be a normal stride into older age.
While the Bradley vs. Provodnikov fight was an incredible display of human spirit, as a fan we can’t forget the incredible sacrifices they make when the fight ends. Bradley is keenly aware of the aftereffects, and when Kellerman asks if after his fight with Provodnikov he will go back to being a “smart boxer,” Bradley quickly replies that he understands that Marquez has a lot of power and he “can’t fight a dumb fight.”
While many will admire Bradley’s courage for his ability to remain standing in the midst of a brutal onslaught of punches, in his own way, he’s done something far more courageous by opening a small window to the world that often happens after the fight ends.
—Julie Gurner is a doctor of clinical psychology and public speaker on numerous topics. Her thoughts have been featured on some of the most prominent news outlets, such as NBC, Yahoo, and the Huffington Post. Feel free to chat with her on Twitter @drgurner or find out more about a talk or presentation she can do for your organization at http://www.drgurner.com/about