Faith, we’re often assured, is one of the greatest gifts to mankind. It provides comfort in dark moments and gives its bearers a sense that there is some plan. Without it, the chaos of the universe would be too much to endure, and that deep chasm of meaninglessness would overcome even the strongest soul. Most often, in my experience, faith is used by people to ignore the reality in front of them. They can’t, or won’t, emotionally process their own wrongness in the face of overwhelming evidence, so they plow forward with nothing more than their belief that stalwart adherence to the plan can overcome tactical and technical blunders.
When former junior featherweight titlist Isaac Dogboe (20-2, 14 KO) was a child, his father Paul claims that a prophecy was made that his boy would be a world champion boxer. So Paul learned what he could about the sport as he guided his son to an undefeated record, a promotional deal with Top Rank, and an alphabet strap. The prophecy, it seemed was being fulfilled.
That was until last December. The Dogboes’ prophecy became unhinged by Emmanuel Navarrete (27-1, 23 KO) over the course of 12 rounds, in which the rangy Mexican switch hitter exposed the flaws in Isaac’s game and the amateurism his corner. The fight was close on the cards, but not in the ring.
Prudence would suggest that going back to the drawing board, fixing technical flaws, and hiring a trainer who knows what the fuck he’s doing would be the best thing for Isaac’s career. But when you’re full of faith, prudence is the last thing on your mind. Prudence is for cowards and quitters, apparently. So the Dogboes doubled down on faith and effort, shouldering the scorn and ridicule of their peers in Ghana and elsewhere. Oh, the things we do when shame and faith join together in their abusive marriage.
This past Saturday night on ESPN at the Convention Center in Tuscon, Ariz., Issac Dogboe and his father got their chance at redemption. They attempted to prove their faith and to rid themselves of shame. They failed miserably, and there was no angel to appear to Paul and let him know that his faith had been rewarded and he could spare his child. Paul Dogboe sacrificed his boy over and over and over through the course of 12 utterly one-sided rounds.
Emmanuel Navarrete is extremely tall, can punch with either hand, and has excellent technique. If Hell designed a demon especially to torture Isaac Dogboe, it would probably look like “Vaquero.” The Mexican immediately established distance with his spearing jab, which he followed with blistering right crosses and left hooks. When Dogboe got too far out over his front leg, as he often does, Navarrete stood him straight up with uppercuts. By the 5th round, Navarrete had closed Dogboe’s right eye and was teeing off with impunity. Late in the 6th, he brutally knocked Dogboe down. If there was a perfect time to stop the fight, it was after the 6th.
Paul Dogboe didn’t stop the fight. Instead, he implored his son to fight harder, and by the 9th, Navarrete looked like he was beating up a drunk that was too sloshed to just go down. Dogboe was clearly concussed by that point, and a professional trainer would have kept him on his stool or thrown in the towel a dozen times. Paul Dogboe is not a professional trainer. He’s a self-taught Dad whose ego and career are tied up in his son’s accomplishments. In his pursuit of proof of his faith, and his self-absorbed desire to avoid shame, he let his son take a career-shortening beating, the like of which often ruin young fighters for good.
In the Main Event of that ESPN card, Joel Diaz kept Francisco Vargas on his stool after the 6th round of a fight that he was losing but was definitely in. Diaz saved Vargas’s eyes most likely, but he also gave him the opportunity to fight on if so chooses, just not on this particular night. Diaz is not Vargas’s father, or even a relation. He’s paid to train and man the corner. He’s paid to save his fighter from himself.
Too often in life, the people that we love the most bear the injury, pain, and cruelty of the world because we are so invested in ourselves that we forget that our job is to protect them from our follies, not use them as cannon fodder. Paul Dogboe may have felt shame that his son lost in December, because he obviously cares what others think. He should feel an exponential amount more for sacrificing his child on the altar of his own hubris, egocentrism, and indecision last Saturday.