When A Boxer Dies All That Is Left Are Tombstone Words

Robbins Nest

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By Lenn Robbins

            There used to be a saying among sportswriters that if you can’t cover boxing, find another profession. Fast.

            Boxing offered every delicious morsel of sports reporting. The fighters often are colorful or have backgrounds that make you wonder how they’re not dead or in jail. The trainers possibly would not be allowed to work in any other industry because they’re, well, borderline nuts.

            Access to most boxers, albeit less now than it used to be as is the case with every professional and major college sport, is unique. The fighters are available during training and in the days leading up to the fight when they host an open workout. Often there is no media relations person whose job is to interrupt an interview by declaring, “Last question.”

            The weigh-ins often devolve into a shouting, pushing, macho man moments between fighters and their camps. The stare down between boxers usually is so tense the air seems to stand still.

            A writer has a chance to really learn what makes a fighter tick. The smart boxers (see: Muhammad Ali) knew how to work the media long before social media. Ali sold his looks, his skill, his personality, his political and religious views.

Until the advent of MMA, there was no sport like boxing. It appeals to the savage in all of us. Watching two warriors, blood and sweat flying off their faces; hearing the sound of body shots resonating, (see: Bernard Hopkins one-body-punch knockout of Oscar de la Hoya in the 9th round of their 2004 fight) is surreal.

One forgets that a flurry of punches is all it takes for death to invite itself into the ring.

Such was the case Friday night when junior welterweight Maxim Dadashev was pummeled by Subriel Matias at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Dadashev’s trainer, the legendary Buddy McGirt stopped the fight before the start of the 11th round.

It was two rounds too late. Dadashev, 28, had suffered devastating brain damage. He died Tuesday morning after doctors at UM Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Md., tried to reduce brain swelling and bleeding.

“It just makes you realize what type of sport we’re in, man,” McGirt told ESPN. “He did everything right in training — no problems, no nothing. My mind is, like, really running crazy right now. Like, what could I have done differently?”

“He seemed OK. He was ready. But it’s the sport that we’re in. It just takes one punch, man.”

Dadashev leaves behind a wife, Elizaveta Apushkina, and a son Daniel, who will be three in October. In other words, Daniel will never really know his father. Apushkina posted a photo of the family on Dadashev’s Instagram, page.

“He was a very kind person who fought until the very end,’’ Apushkina wrote in a statement. “Our son will continue be raised to be a great man like his father.”

Daniel’s father was fighting for $75,000 plus training expenses. He trained in California. His family lived in Russia. He literally was fighting for a better life. Fighting took his life.

In the wake of his death, all the responsible parties said all the appropriate words. He was a devoted father, loving husband, promising boxer. Tombstone words.

McGirt said he wanted to stop the fight in the 9th but Dadashev wouldn’t hear of it. The ringside doctor also let him keep fighting. It’s impossible to look into someone’s brain in the corner of a ring in between rounds.

The crowd roared its approval as Dadashev was pounded.

And then the fight was suddenly over and a few days later so was a life. There’s no one to blame. It’s the sport they’re in, man.

Trust me, it’s stories like this that make one think about finding another profession. Fast.

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