Skip

"I noticed something on a lampshade. It was writing in Korean and when I asked the interpreter what it meant, he said it meant roughly, 'Live or Die.'"
January 5, 2012 9:14 PM   Subscribe

On November 13, 1982, in an outdoor arena next to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini beat Duk Koo Kim to retain his World Boxing Association lightweight championship title. It was a thrilling match, but its aftermath quickly turned into a nightmare, as Kim fell into a coma, and, a few days later, died. The bout's effects have rippled outward ever since.

Mancini himself kept fighting for a few more years, but he "was never Boom Boom again. Maybe one small boom but seldom boom boom and never, ever Boom Boom." The WBA's rules changed to prevent such a thing from happening again. And the bout may be the only fight memorialized in songs named after each of the combatants: Warren Zevon capturing the excitement around the fight favorite, both before and after the match, in "Boom Boom Mancini", and Sun Kil Moon in "Duk Koo Kim", a 14-minute-long immersion in sound.
posted by ocherdraco (51 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
An errant link which should have been in the post: the story of the fight from Triumph and Tragedy: The Ray Mancini Story (and the next part of that video).
posted by ocherdraco at 9:18 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I happened to watch that fight live on TV, and that was the last boxing match I watched, other than whatever I happened to catch accidentally while flipping channels. There wasn't any dirty fighting that I recall, and IMHO the ref did not err, because my impression was that Kim was also still hitting hard late in the fight. boxing can kill a man just like that, even when done according to the rules. Lost my interest in boxing right there; missed the whole career of Mike Tyson, except the recaps on the news.
posted by planetkyoto at 10:15 PM on January 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I remember seeing this. I remember trying to forget this. Trying not to see what had happened. The last link is what I've been needing... thank you.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 10:19 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


.
posted by bardic at 11:03 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, Benny Paret is considered to be the first ring death witnessed by a national television audience, so if you like that sort of thing, you can watch it. But that's not what the sport is about. Shit, more people get hurt bicycling.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:32 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not by other people, however.
posted by hat_eater at 1:53 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I didn't wanted to post anything that can be interpreted as a snide remark. What I wanted to say is that in boxing, there are at least two victims of an accident. And the spectators are affected much more strongly.
posted by hat_eater at 1:56 AM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I see nothing disturbing about the fight itself. It's the knowledge of the death afterwards. Watch MMA on any given night and you're likely to see a fight that ends with one fighter pinned to the floor and the other raining multiple blows to his head. I've been invited by "the guys" to go watch title fights at the bar but after giving it a go a few times I now pass.
posted by Brodiggitty at 2:03 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was anticipating some sort of comment along the lines of "any sport where people repeatedly hit each other in the head is no sport". The thing with boxing is that it's obvious that you can really hurt somebody by hitting them in the head, so there are mechanisms in place to prevent that kind of injury (referees, short rounds, padded gloves, etc.) These mechanisms don't always work, but they're there. Other more seemingly gentle sports might actually be more dangerous, because the need for those safeguards isn't as noticeable.

I would guess that high school football has contributed more long term injury and death than boxing.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:07 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


My mom was an ardent boxing fan, she watched that fight and never was the same about boxing.
I never was a big fan. I am not a huge sports fan really, except for
liking horse racing. Even there, the corruption in the sport spoiled it for me. And it's really hard to really love horses and know what goes on behind the scenes.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:27 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would guess that high school football has contributed more long term injury and death than boxing.

I used to work for an insurance company and thus had access to some actuarial data. The underwriters were absolutely paranoid about high ropes courses, but it turns out that they've got one of the lowest incidents of injuries per participant-hour out there. The highest? Soccer, of all things. Both boxing and tackle football was safer in terms of hospital visits per participant-hour.

Now a lot more people play soccer and football than boxing, and I forget whether boxing or football had a higher incidence of injury, but soccer was way more "dangerous" than either. A lot of that was sprains and dislocations, but plenty was broken bones.
posted by valkyryn at 3:57 AM on January 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


High schools, colleges, and televised sports teams should just come to their senses and turn their sports teams into kids playing videogames whilst walking on treadmills.
posted by crunchland at 4:14 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I learned about the story from Warren Zevon, and the song is still haunting.

When they asked him who's responsible
For the death of Duk Koo Kim
He said
Someone should have stopped the fight
And told me it was him
They made hypocrite judgements
After the fact
But the name of the game
Is be hit, and hit back

posted by Faint of Butt at 4:24 AM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Two weeks after that fight was the Larry Holmes v. Randall "Tex" Cobb fight -- a 45-minute, one-sided beat-down that had Howard Cosell saying he would not be a commentator for fights anymore. This fight also brought about the rule changes.
posted by Houstonian at 4:28 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't have any interest in boxing but the Zevon link drew me in. Fantastic post.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:56 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw the fight. It was extraordinary - every round Mancini would pummel Kim and I'd think the fight was over. Then Kim would come back strong and I'd think the referee was right to not call the end.

Kim was the toughest fighter I've ever seen. He would - not - quit. He convinced me, and many people in the sport, that there are fighters who need to be saved, not just from the other guy, but from themselves.

The benchmark beyond the backalley is now to leave a fighter not just his life, but his career. If a fight gets called too early, they can go for best of three. This has pushed the skills of the athletes, since a quick trick is now more likely to lead to a win than toughing it out to the end.

I final word to those who don't understand the whole thing. Some people love to fight. It is a deep communication event - two bodies 'bone-talkin' about who gets the win. It is happening, right now, in many places around the world, usually without a referee. It is a taproot deep into the mystery of who we are.
posted by dragonsi55 at 5:05 AM on January 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


The highest? Soccer, of all things.

This is not exactly news for anybody who has actually played soccer, or even watched it with some attention. It can be a pretty brutal sport.

On the other hand, I'm quite certain that head trauma is less common in soccer (although not unheard of) than in boxing.
posted by Skeptic at 5:12 AM on January 6, 2012


This is not exactly news for anybody who has actually played soccer, or even watched it with some attention.

It really shouldn't be, but my experience in the insurance industry suggests that it is. Soccer is supposed to be a "no contact" sport, so it's widely perceived as "less dangerous" than contact sports like football, boxing, and wrestling. But you've still got guys tearing around as fast as they can go kicking at stuff, so injuries are far more common than one might expect if one was simply thinking of it as a "no contact" sport like golf or even tennis. Combine that with the fact that the players are wearing the absolute minimum amount of protective gear, and you wind up with an activity that's a lot more dangerous than it looks.

On the other hand, I'm quite certain that head trauma is less common in soccer (although not unheard of) than in boxing.

I don't have those numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised if the numbers aren't as different as they might seem on first blush. True, the point of boxing is basically to beat the other guy about the head until he can't do the same to you, but soccer players can still hit their heads on the ball, the ground, other players, goal posts, etc. Heading the ball is pretty common, and I'd imagine it has a similar effect from taking a light to moderate punch.
posted by valkyryn at 5:23 AM on January 6, 2012


Soccer is supposed to be a "no contact" sport

Huh?! Soccer is what is called a "limited contact" sport, and its contact rules are in fact far less stringent than those of, say, basketball (which few people would call a "no contact" sport).
posted by Skeptic at 5:36 AM on January 6, 2012


Soccer brain injury raises concerns among researchers

American football: "During a full season of practice, each team averaged 2,500 total hits to the head that measured as significant blows (50 to 79 g’s of force) and about 300 hits to the head that were considered in the concussion-causing range (80 to 119 g’s). Each team experienced almost 200 practice collisions that measured above 120 g’s, which experts have likened to crashing a car into a concrete wall at 40 miles an hour." [NYTimes]
posted by dragonsi55 at 5:41 AM on January 6, 2012


so there are mechanisms in place to prevent that kind of injury (referees, short rounds, padded gloves, etc.)

Actually, you can hit HARDER with gloves. This is one of the reasons why Boxing is more dangerous than MMA. And the light grappling gloves, worn in MMA are actually protecting the puncher, not the guy getting punched. Quite easy to break you bones when punching with a unpadded fist.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:52 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would guess that high school football has contributed more long term injury and death than boxing.

Careful. There are vastly more high school football players than there are professional boxers, so just counting injuries and deaths isn't going to tell you the risk. I would expect more deaths in High School Football, simply because of the vastly larger population.
posted by eriko at 5:57 AM on January 6, 2012


Careful. There are vastly more high school football players than there are professional boxers

This might depend on how you define "professional boxer," but, yes.

Does anyone know of a sport where the majority of the money taken in goes to the people who are putting their bodies on the line rather than owners, managers, etc?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:06 AM on January 6, 2012


That Sun Kil Moon album (Ghosts of the Great Highway) contains another song about another prematurely-dead boxer (albeit by car crash), Salvador Sanchez.

The band itself takes its name from South Korean boxer Moon Sung-kil.


the album is just phenomenal all-around.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:21 AM on January 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is one of the reasons why Boxing is more dangerous than MMA.

The other is that, because there is so much focus on skills other than punching, the number of head-shots thrown and connected is far far less than in boxing.

Instead of 12, 3-minute rounds of small concussions, MMA fights usually just one big one at the end or none at all if the fight ends by submission. Though I haven't followed either sport for years so I could be wrong.
posted by VTX at 6:27 AM on January 6, 2012


Dammit, now I got the Zevon song in my head and the only recourse is to spend all morning listening to Warren. I guess there is no downside to that.
posted by Ber at 6:33 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


As anyone who has played soccer/football knows, a lot of injuries in soccer, and many of the most debilitating are leg-related strains, sprains and tears. I had to stop because of chronic ankle problems that even constant brace-wearing didn't allow me to recover from. I know many who went out with ACL knee or Achilles tendon problems, injuries caused more by the rapid accelerations and turns that are part of the game. Contact didn't help, sure, but the pace of soccer is, I think, the majority cause of injuries. Start-stop-pivot is really hard on the joints. Sprains and tears can, usually, take longer to recover from than broken bones.

I believe the stats on soccer injury time, but it's a different order of thing than chronic brain injury, a fairly uncommon occurrence in soccer. I saw more people go to hospital with abrasion rashes than head injuries in a few decades of playing. Never play soccer on astroturf. It's wicked stuff.
posted by bonehead at 6:47 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


It might be worth noting that this song grew outward from the songs, not the other way around. I had never heard this story till last night's episode of Soundcheck with John Schaefer, and both songs were mentioned.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:47 AM on January 6, 2012


One of the reasons MMA is safer than boxing, is that there is no standing 8, or 10 count - if you get hit hard enough to be unable to defend yourself 'intelligently' even for a couple of seconds, the ref stops the fight. There's no 'shake it off and keep going' so you are less likely to accumulate the kind of damage you can get in boxing. Also, there are a lot more ways to end the fight that don't involve brain injury. Heel hooks suck, but are rarely fatal.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:52 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


*this post grew outward from the songs
posted by ocherdraco at 6:59 AM on January 6, 2012


There were two more victims from that fight: Kim's mother, who committed suicide, and the referee, Richard Green, who also killed himself within a year.
posted by malocchio at 7:06 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never play soccer on astroturf.

Or indoors. Both my sister and her best friend had to stop playing indoor soccer because their doctors told them they were getting too many concussions. Indoor soccer is much, much faster-paced than outdoor soccer, because the "field" is smaller, and the ball can't go out of bounds. You can, however, get slammed into the wall with some regularity, which leads to things like concussions.
posted by valkyryn at 7:06 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's a different beast. I've played a lot of soccer indoors, but not "indoor soccer". It's not that common in my neck of the woods; hockey rinks are in too high demand for other things. I wasn't aware that boarding was such a problem with it.
posted by bonehead at 7:24 AM on January 6, 2012


> and the referee, Richard Green, who also killed himself within a year.

Green was also the ref for the 1980 Holmes-Ali fight, which should never have taken place.

Most of the ESPN 30 For 30 docs I've seen have been good-to-great.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:52 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great post and great discussion here.
posted by latkes at 8:15 AM on January 6, 2012


It is a taproot deep into the mystery of who we are.

Yes, it is, unfortunately. I deeply wish that boxing was the sort of thing that our society wanted to do away with. However, the tradition of watching people hurt each other for the sake of entertainment is as ancient as it is sad.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:36 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's the problem, as long as it's consensual?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:39 AM on January 6, 2012


so there are mechanisms in place to prevent that kind of injury (referees, short rounds, padded gloves, etc.)

Padded gloves are actually the REASON for so many of the brain injuries and deaths in boxing. Back when all you had was a bit of cloth wrapped around the knuckles to stop splitting, punching a guy in the skull until he blacked out wasn't a winning strategy because you would break your hand in the process - the skull is a very hard protective shell for exactly this reason. Another side effect was that getting punched in the face frequently made you ugly, fast. After padded gloves came around to make the sport more 'safe' and 'nice', it became a lot more feasible to smash someone in the head hard enough to slosh their brain around until the internal damage made the opponent fall over.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:00 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's the problem, as long as it's consensual?

Well, problem is a bit of a problem itself, as it has too many vectors to confirm or refute your argument. Because boxing is consensual, yes, the fighters know what they're getting into, and hopefully have the sense to get out when the necessity arises. On the other hand, we're talking about a sport where the objective is specifically to cause physical damage to your opponent, which obviously can present its own kind of problem.

Boxing is such a dichotomy for me. In some ways, I like the sport, and definitely have respect for the athletes and athleticism involved. But then, I also have this visceral reaction to the impending catastrophe that seems to underlie all boxing matches. I feel the same way about MMA, regardless of injury statistics. I think there's just something about two people physically assaulting each other that ends up squicking me out, regardless of consent.

I find it difficult to watch boxing or MMA anymore. But I try to stop short of passing judgment on the sports, because in the end, sports they are, and everyone involved knows the risks going in.
posted by Brak at 9:01 AM on January 6, 2012


I'm not sure you can consent to being beaten to a pulp, and I'm reasonably confident you can't consent to being murdered.

The problem is that everyone is betting they'll win and it'll be worth it and maybe they won't be hurt anyhow, and it's only afterwards that they have sufficient knowledge to actually evaluate the question rationally.

I find the "enjoying watching people hurt each other" thing deeply distressing - when I watch football I am always very anxious about everyone's safety, and I can't stand to watch hockey or boxing at all due to that worry/fear/sick feeling. The "I want to use violence on someone" thing is much easier to understand.

And I hate the idea that I might be incentivizing other people to injure themselves.
posted by SMPA at 9:03 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


there are mechanisms in place to prevent that kind of injury (referees, short rounds, padded gloves, etc.) These mechanisms don't always work, but they're there.

As noted a few comments up ... "Ironically, rules to prevent blood from appearing on our hands, put blood on our hands."

Bare-knuckle boxing would probably be safer, based on the decrease in mass hitting the head. Also, fights would end a lot sooner cuz everyone be bloody.

"In 100 years of bare-knuckle fighting in the United States, which terminated around 1897 … there wasn’t a single ring fatality."

Bare-knuckle fights would break more hands but fewer heads

That's one reason why, although I've never seen an MMA match, it seems a lot safer than boxing (or football).

I remember the Mancini-Kim fight, but the fact that he died several days after kinda lessened the association that boxing kills (at least to this 10 y.o.). I was from Detroit, so I was a Tommy Hearns fan, and followed the sport along with him mostly.

Then Tyson came along, and it was great to see a little(r) guy jumping up to completely destroy the boring heavyweight guys who were a head taller than them. Once he became a bad guy (regardless of his controversial conviction, there was other stuff), I stopped caring about boxing for a while (since the best boxer of the time was in jail), and I then I became more sensitive to the brutality/injury as I grew older. Same with football. I can't even watch the NFL anymore.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:07 AM on January 6, 2012


I hate the idea that I might be incentivizing other people to injure themselves.

GI Bill? DREAM Act? Perhaps more nefarious than straight-up offering money to bums to fight each other.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:10 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who Killed Davey Moore?

It will be UFC's turn next.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:22 AM on January 6, 2012


I think boxing, at its best, can be a great sport.. of course, it can also be fatal.

Not as fatal as soccer, or football (including lots of death from heat stroke), or car racing, or cheerleading, or hockey, or rugby, or mountain climbing, or BASE jumping...

No matter where you go in the world, sports are intrinsically part of our culture and identity. Even boxing. Those who see boxing, football, hockey, rugby, soccer, etc. as inherently violent overlook just how much skill and training is involved in being the best-of-the-best.

If all you're looking at is the violence of a sport, you're missing the essence of the sport.
posted by markkraft at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2012


I would like to add, SMPA, that no fighter expects to leave a fight unscathed. Fighters, especially MMA fighters, are very aware of what can happen to them. They don't expect not to get hurt, rather they expect to get hurt less than their opponent.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:20 AM on January 6, 2012


(That said, they can *all* be safer, and there are some real problems as far as a lack of solid statistics on how many people get hurt as a result of sports-related injuries, how they get hurt, etc.

It would be nice to see the teams, the top organizations, and the medical field work together to provide high-quality data on the types of injuries being faced, the most dangerous behavior, and how to make the sports safer... apart from not having sports at all.

In my opinion, some risks are statistically too high and should never be allowed, encouraged within schools and organizations, or rewarded at the highest levels... but nobody cares about -- or respects -- the statistics until its too late.)
posted by markkraft at 10:21 AM on January 6, 2012


Dark Messiah, I wouldn't even that far. When I was fighting, I would expect to get hurt, maybe even hurt more, and win regardless
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:23 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Excellent post! That Sun Kil Moon record really is exquisite. One of my favorites - so lovely, so peculiar, so specific, and so sad.

"Cassius Clay was hated more than Sonny Liston
Some like K.K. Downing more than Glenn Tipton
Some like Jim Nabors, some Bobby Vinton
I like 'em all"

(K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton are the two lead guitarists for Judas Priest)
posted by dirtdirt at 12:25 PM on January 6, 2012


Is it okay to say that adult humans have every right to take these risks, and the fact that they do so is terribly sad?
posted by LogicalDash at 3:38 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, I'm quite certain that head trauma is less common in soccer (although not unheard of) than in boxing.

The vast majority of boxers never get into the ring without a lot more padding than the people you see at pro-level fights.

Is it okay to say that adult humans have every right to take these risks, and the fact that they do so is terribly sad?

It's okay, but dumb.

I've met literally thousands of young kids who are into martial arts, including boxing (my father was an instructor when I was a kid). Few ever get hurt. I've had people offer me the same fake sanctimony for stuff that I do that might be dangerous: motorcycle riding, climbing, backpacking, even doing some of my own electrical work. People die doing all these things, just as they die in just about any sport you can name (including non-contact sports like cheerleading). Nearly all movement entails risk.

You're in more danger driving to work or taking a shower in the morning than I've ever been in the ring. But if I found the fact that you still drive knowing the risks "terribly sad" it would sound more than a little sanctimonious, no?
posted by coolguymichael at 4:25 PM on January 6, 2012


No, I already hold that opinion. Fuck cars.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:19 PM on January 6, 2012


« Older Alan J. Pakula's "The Parallax View"   |   One for the country! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post