2020 boxing surreal scenes
By Ronan Mcilhennon: As 2020 draws to a close, we can reflect on what has been a truly eventful year for boxing. The year got off to a flyer after Tyson Fury demolished Deontay Wilder in February in Vegas; then came the confusion and uncertainty of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Like many others, the sport has had to adjust to survive, and fans have been treated to some memorable and surreal scenes as boxing reopened its doors. Gone was the tension and atmosphere that a packed arena brings, replaced with eerie silences of socially distant TV studios.
Face masks and sanitizer has become the norm. We had the surreal scenes of Povetkin knocking Whyte out in Eddie Hearn’s back garden, then came the crazy news that Mike Tyson would square off against Roy Jones Jr in some 90s throwback.
Both occasions have been seen as a success, and some fight fans have enjoyed the benefits of having no spectators. Allowing them to hear the thud of the punches or the instructions from the corners.
It’s scenes like the Dillian Whyte vs. Povetkin fight that will stick in the memories of fight fans. Not because it was a great fight but because of the whole occasion.
A fight to see who would go on to fight for the World Heavyweight Title was literally taking place in a garden. Boxing is no stranger to unusual sights. It had more than enough moments that will stick in the minds of the viewers who witnessed it, forever engraved in their minds.
On the 21st September 1989, light heavyweights Tony Wilson and Steve McCarthy met at the Guildhall, Southampton, United Kingdom. The winner would determine who got a shot a British Champion Tom Collins.
The fight got off to a steady pace and exploded in round three after McCarthy dropped Wilson. Wilson beat the count and rose to his feet only for McCarthy to trap him on the ropes and start to pummel his opponent; this was when things got crazy.
Wilson’s 62-year-old mother Minna had clambered up on to the ring apron and through the ropes with her stiletto shoe in hand. She struck McCarthy over the back of the head with it, splitting the fighter’s head open.
Minna was then dragged from the ring by security guards as the referee Adrian Morgan ordered the fight to continue. When McCarthy refused to restart the bout.
Morgan declared Wilson as the winner by technical decision, handing McCarthy his first loss as a professional. The Southampton audience were not pleased that their man had been robbed, and they started to show their anger by pelting the ring with plastic glasses and cups.
Wilson and his manager Jimmy Tibbs were kicked and punched as they left the arena, while former Commonwealth Champion Mo Hussein claimed he was stabbed.
Minna Wilson would later claim she had been upset by the crowd’s racial slurs towards her son, who banned her from any of his future fights, saying, “I don’t understand what happened. My mother has been watching my fights for years; everything just went wild.”
The 7,100 spectators in the Fargodome Arena in North Dakota witnessed another of boxing’s surreal moments as Virgil Hill put his WBA Light heavyweight World title on the line against Adolpho Washington on the 20th February 1993.
Washington, who had been dropped in round two, was taking a beating and had a badly swollen left eye. The bell sounded to signal the end of round 11, and Washington made his way back to his corner; as he turned to take his seat on the stool, his face collided with a ringside TV camera opening a one-inch gash across his eyelid.
On advice from the ringside doctor, the fight should not continue and went to the scorecards. Hill won on a technical decision 109-99, 109-99, 110-98 on the cards.
Steve Smoger, the referee, said in his 12 years in the ring, he has never seen a fight end that way, “As he (Washington) turned to sit, the tip of the camera sliced him,” “I saw that… I was shocked. The first thing ( I thought) is ‘uh no, what do I do now?”
Another bizarre moment was witnessed at the Turner Agri- Civic Center, Florida, on the 27th March 2015, when Tennessee native Marvin Jones faced Ramon Luis Nicolas, a highly regarded Cuban prospect fighting out of Miami.
When the first bell rang, the two came out and touched gloves to start the contest. As Jones stepped back to get into his stance, a black object fell out of his trunks and onto the canvas.
It was his mobile phone. As Jones stood confused about what had just happened, referee Frankie Santoe Jr picked up the Samsung Galaxy looking for an explanation, but Jones shrugged his shoulders what that ‘I don’t know’ gesture across his face.
The action was ordered to restart, and Nicolas won via knockout. Jones would later say that he had been listening to music before the fight and had put in his phone in his shorts. When he got to the ring, he removed his headphones but forgot the phone.
Craziness in boxing is not just reserved for the modern era. On the 4th December 1912, Frances Georges Bernard challenged Billy Papke for his World Middleweight Crown. Cirque de Paris was the venue as Bernard lost in unusual circumstances.
He had fallen asleep in his corner during the interval between the sixth and seventh rounds and was unable to be woken up in time for the start of the seventh.
By not answering the bell for the start of the round, the referee had little option but to award the victory to Papke via retirement. Bernard later claimed he was drugged, and that is why he did not arise, although many feel it was the most blatant sign of corruption boxing as seen.
For arguably the most surreal scene ever witnessed in a boxing ring, we have to go back to the good old land of the USA. 6th November 1993, Caeser’s Palace Las Vegas to be exact.
Riddick Bowe put his WBA and IBF World Heavyweight Titles on the line in a rematch against Evander Holyfield. Unbeknown to anyone in the arena except the HBO camera crew who had spotted it, a flying object was approaching.
One minute into round seven, a man in some contraption entered the open-air arena and crash-landed into Riddick Bowes corner. The man was 30-year-old parachutist James Miller, and he was immediately beaten unconscious by Bowes team and security guards, “I had my walkie-talkie in my hand was I guess it became my hammer.” said one of Bowes team.
The bout was delayed for 21 minutes as crew members tried to clear the ring. The apparatus had got entangled in the stadium’s overhead lights, and Michael Buffer pleaded for calm among the 14 thousand crowds.
Bowe’s pregnant wife Judy fainted and was taken to hospital alongside his 82-year-old trainer Eddie Futch, who was suffering from heart palpitations. The fight continued, and Holyfield went on to win a close majority decision.
Miller was arrested and charged with a $200 fine then released. Sadly he would be found dead in the Alaskan Wildernesses a few years later after suffering from ill-health.
So 2020, although different, has again thrown up some surprising and memorable moments for fight fans to cherish. As the sport evolves and adjusts to the new circumstances, it again will produce some crazy sights that only the sport of boxing can bring.
Those fans who were there that night to witness Minna Wilson getting in the ring or where there the night Adolpho Washington was knocked out by a ringside camera will never forget it. The same will be said in years to come about the crazy nights that 2020 brought.
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