If you’re going to get your ass kicked, you might as well get paid for it. Statistically, most of us will have our dicks knocked in the dirt at least once in our lives and we won’t make a cent from it. Hell, some people pay good money to have the shit kicked out of them by a man in a leather executioner’s mask.
In a way, this is what makes boxing such a noble undertaking. The threat of violence looms large over our world and most of us do anything we can to avoid it. Fighters, on the other hand, walk directly into the open arms of savagery for no other purpose than our entertainment and the money we’re willing to trade for their sadism. Hard to argue that every penny isn’t earned. But my god, Lucas Browne, could you maybe use a fraction of that money to staff a corner who doesn’t actively want to see you die in the ring?
Now granted, Lucas Browne (25-1 22 KO) lives in Australia, where simply getting the mail is an Iliadic quest for survival against prehistoric hell beasts, so maybe staring death in his ugly fucking face is nothing new to him. Even so, this is a civilization we’re trying to run here and letting a man bleed from every hole in his head until he’s finally knocked prostrate and unconscious seems, I don’t know, uncivilized?
The human brain is binary. Ones and zeros, yeses and nos. During the course of a fight, millions of these synaptic calculations take place. Throw a jab? One or zero. Counter right hand over that jab? Yes or no. The fighter whose brain returns the most correct answers to these cognitive computations generally wins. It’s really that simple.
Last Saturday at the O2 arena in London, Dillian Whyte’s subconscious data processor returned all the right responses while Lucas Browne’s hard drive melted. And you know what? That’s okay. Domination of an opponent and the violence that comes with it is a feature of professional boxing, not a bug. When it becomes blindingly apparent, however, that one fighter stands zero chance of winning and, in fact, his survival isn’t even guaranteed, well, you’ve crossed over from competition to exhibitionism.
If you clicked on this article, I assume you’ve seen the fight, or at very least the highlights, so I won’t bother to recap the nuts and bolts of the action other than to say from the opening bell Whyte (23-1 17 KO) did, really, whatever the hell he wanted to Lucas Browne’s head and body. Whyte out landed him at a 3-1 clip (109 to 36 over five and change rounds) and in the process opened cuts over Browne’s left eye and his nose.
Browne, not exactly Willie fucking Pep to begin with, was rendered blind and defenseless from the second round on against a younger, stronger, and all around better opponent. Again, this is heavyweight boxing and they, as well as we, know what we signed up for. I mean, there really isn’t anything more enjoyable than watching two giant human(ish) men trade punches on a Saturday afternoon. When the trading stopped, however, I found myself thinking, “What the hell are we doing here?” This isn’t a public execution per se, but it’s not far off. Thousands of people staring at a ring surrounded by trained professionals, all who have the ability and authority to put an end to the carnage in a humane way that protects the fighter from further danger, allows him to fight another day, and spares him the indignity of being carted off on a stretcher in front of hostile, foreign fans but for some reason THEY JUST FUCKING WON’T. And that’s the problem here.
Did you ever see those old videos of public hangings where the entire town puts on their Sunday best and borderline tailgates in the town square as a prisoner is being marched up the gallows? Did you ever wonder what stops the prisoner from just jumping off the platform and making a run for it? I mean, besides the certain death at the hands of a vicious mob looking to satisfy their erotic bloodlust? It’s pride. The pride of saying, “I know what’s coming and I accept it.” The pride of facing your punishment head on with the small amount of dignity you’ve been left with. Pride is also what gets fighters killed.
I’ve personally never been punched in the head by Dillian Whyte (yet) so I can’t tell you how it feels, but here’s my guess: there’s no euphoria involved. In fact, I’d even be willing to bet that it hurts a bit. Hell, I’ll go one step further and wager a guess that it’s not great for your long-term cognitive health and that repeated exposure to it without the ability to defend yourself could have negative consequences.
And that’s me. Quite literally one of the dumbest fucking humans you will ever meet in your life. So if I’m able to detect these things from my couch 4,000 miles away, why wouldn’t a doctor, a referee and an entire trained corner staff not be able to from ten feet away? Is it because they thought Lucas Browne had a shot to come back? Not a chance. Is it because they wanted to spare him the embarrassment of a stoppage loss? Swing and a miss on that pitch. Is it because they were inexperienced and didn’t know their fighter well enough? Possibly. Is it because boxing is kinda fucked up? Almost definitely.
Make no mistake, I’m no bleeding heart. I giggle like Beavis every time a guy gets knocked out and falls all weird. I’ve had my life threatened by Sergey Kovalev on twitter and I loved it. I’ve watched the Pavlik/Taylor knockout on YouTube so many times I get royalties from it. But this was a bridge too far for me. I don’t know Lucas Browne’s corner, and I’m not even going to name names, but there’s some shame and self-reflection that should be going around in that camp. It appears Browne is doing well but this could have easily gone the other way and sadly it would have been all too common and at the same time completely avoidable.
As you get older your give-a-shit meter recalibrates. It doesn’t grow or shrink so much as it refocuses. Your brain will evict things you used to care about like PPV buy numbers, day-of fight weights and rematch clauses and replace them with things like “Am I watching a guy die?” I crunched the numbers on the karmic calculator and I think I’ve concluded that I don’t want to be around when the answer to that question comes back “yes.”
This is a great sport. Absolutely sublime at its best. But this is a dangerous sport. And people die all the time. One fight, one round, and even one punch can dictate the course of a fighter’s future. They’re the ones taking the punches and they know the risks. Maybe it’s time the people they pay to protect them from that blind intrepidity start holding up their end of the bargain. Just a thought.
(LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 24: Dillian Whyte (L) celebrates as he knocks out Lucas Browne in the sixth round for victory at The O2 Arena; Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)