Iole: End retirement/farewell fights

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The secret to a long life,
Is knowing when it's time to go

-MIchelle Shocked

If age and time grind down your ability in Tennis, it's Love-40. If you lose it in fighting, it's your ass.

The best boxer of his generation, Floyd Mayweather Jr., discussed retirement on Saturday, after narrowly defeating challenger Marco Maidana.

“I have a life after boxing,” said Mayweather. “He has a life after boxing. This is already a brutal sport. Of course we're here to please the fans, but what about our health when boxing is over?

“Half of the boxers who are in the fight game now can't articulate well. So do we care about the fighters' health? You're always asking the questions, 'Why did this guy die? Why is he in the hospital?'”

In yet another remarkable essay, Kevin Iole looks at the question in general, and specifically at the highly respected, admired, even loved Pat Barry, who was knocked out for the third time in a row on Saturday night at Glory 16.

Much is still to be learned about injuries to the brain, but one thing that has been established beyond a doubt is that a person with a history of concussions is more susceptible to them.

This isn't good for his long-term health, clearly. No fighting sport is “safe,” and there is considerable risk involved. But part of the appeal of the sport, both for the spectators and, in a lot of cases, the competitors, is seeing them deal with that risk.

A grappling match is far safer for those involved than a slugfest that ends with a violent knockout, but the public doesn't care for them nearly as much and often boos loudly when a fight hits the ground. That's frequently true even when the ground battle is captivating.

A fighter like Barry is beloved because of his willingness to take and deliver concussive blows, consequences be damned, for the sake of entertainment. The fact that he's a clever, witty guy who doesn't take himself too seriously simply increases his appeal.

The risks of fighting are great, even under the best of circumstances. But when fighters are aging and beginning to repeatedly get knocked out, the risk increases exponentially: The more knockouts, the more serious the risk in the next outing.

Retirement or so-called farewell fights should also be outlawed, because if a fighter isn't fit to compete, then it makes no sense to go out and get kicked and punched in the head again in order to say goodbye.

Many fight on because they have no other source of income and have no idea what else to do with their lives. Fighting is all they know.

Neither Barry nor Nogueira will be forced to retire, no matter how much some may urge them.

They'll have to decide that for themselves.

Hopefully, they have the ability to assess their situations in a clear-headed, responsible manner.

If they don't have that ability, it's already way too late.

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