Tragedy In The Boxing Ring

25.09.07 - By Matthew Hurley: There is nothing worse for the sport of boxing or for a reporter to have to cover than the death of a fighter. In the heat of battle a boxing match is, at least in the heart of this reporter, the most exciting athletic endeavor that the sporting world provides. Boxing, at its highest level all the way down to the club circuit, is overflowing with wonderful characters who embody the true blue collar ethic that beer drinking working people can appreciate. No martini lunch patrons or champagne drinkers need apply. Boxing is a sport catered to the regular Joe. And thatís why it hurts so much when we lose one of our own..

Jackson Bussell, 28, of Reno was rushed to the hospital on Thursday night after collapsing at the end of a six round match in Calabasas, California. The bout was one of little significance in regards to boxingís big picture, but its worth was paramount to the sport even before its tragic ending. Local fights and local fighters help keep the sport alive. It provides sustenance not only to local fans but to the local kids who might otherwise be running the streets and getting into trouble. The stories of young boys rescued by the boxing gym are endless and timeless. Whether or not Jackson Bussell was one of those boys doesnít really matter. What matters was that he loved boxing and had the courage to step into the ring and swap leather with another man.

Perhaps the worst night of my life as a boxing reporter was covering the Jesus Chavez Ė Leavander Johnson bout. I can remember as the rounds progressed wishing Johnsonís corner would stop the fight. But Leavander was a man of intense pride. Going into the bout nearly all of us new that Johnson was a spent bullet and on top of that a fighter with a heart as big as his body and a man willing to accept punishment in the hopes of landing that one punch that would rescue him from defeat. It didnít happen that night. Round after round he was pummeled by the younger, fresher fighter and when he walked out of the ring after being stopped in the 11th all of us scribbling in our notepads gave a sigh of relief. I didnít know until the next day what had happened. Several days later, after undergoing emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot, Leavander Johnson was dead.

As distressed as I was, I never questioned the sport I adore. Johnson made a choice, a valiant one, and he knew the risks. All fighters are aware of how dangerous their sport is and what could possibly happen to them or their opponent. The fact is ring deaths are few and far between. But when they happen it becomes a crushing indictment of the sport. The mainstream media thumps their collective chests in calling for its abolishment and then they all go off and watch 300 pound linemen knock 180 pound quarterbacks into unconsciousness on Sunday afternoons. You canít have it both ways. But the mainstream media would have you think otherwise.

When I heard of Jackson Bussellís death it brought me back to Leavander Johnson and then all the way back to Deuk Koo Kim who died after a thrilling bout with Ray Mancini in 1982. It hurts. I pray for his family. I pray for his opponent Javier Garcia. I pray for boxing. In the end we have lost a warrior. Not some overpaid superstar who fights once a year, but an everyday Joe who truly embodied the Sweet Science. Rest easy Mr. Bussell. You will be missed.

Article posted on 25.09.2007

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