Friday, July 8, 2011

How many is too many?

It is the age old question when it comes to boxing that a/o late has come into play more and more in the short history of mixed martial arts as well. The question, how many is too many? What are they referring to, knockouts? The answer, well that is up for debate.

After witnessing MMA living legend Wanderlei Silva crumple to the ground after only 27 seconds at the hands of Chris Leben in their fight at UFC 132 last weekend, that question has been debated all week. Should the icon Silva, (pictured @ left after being KO'ed by Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson in 2008), finally retire. Considering what I saw last week I say yes; but don't listen to me, listen to the facts.

The facts are that numerous studies have been conducted over the last few years on the brains of former athletes who have suffered concussions while competing at the highest level of sports such as football, hockey etc. These studies have shown significant damage to the brains of athletes that suffer repeated trauma, such as concussion caused by blows to the head. Former NFL player Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in February of this year at the age of 50, insisted that his brain be examined upon his death. The results were shocking, yet not surprising.

Doctors at Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy determined that Duerson had, "classic" and "moderately advanced" symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. Duerson's was the 14th of 15 brains of former NFL players to be examined at the center that was diagnosed with CTE. Thus, you can imagine what a pro fighter's chance of such a disease is. However, that's only the scientific fact. The other fact lies, no pun intended, in the repeated falls of some of boxing and MMA's greatest fighters over the last few years.

Silva (33-11-1) is just the latest example of this dizzying fact. At only 35 years of age, he is just (2-6) in his last eight fights, suffering five of those losses by brutal KO's, four of them in the first round. The one fight he didn't lose by KO, he took a beating at the hands of another fallen legend himself Chuck Liddell. Liddell (21-8), one of the all-time greats in MMA, finished his career going (1-5) in his last six fights with four of those losses ending by vicious one punch knockouts.

What do these two iconic warriors have in common? Once there lights were turned off once, it repeated itself over and over and each time it would happen easier the moment they got tagged. However, it's not just limited to these two and it's not just MMA fighters. A couple of examples in boxing as well will show that the same pattern has repeated itself.

Former multi-division champion and another all-time great in his sport, Roy Jones, Jr. has suffered the same fate over the last few years. Virtually untouchable in his first 50 fights going (49-1) with his only loss a disqualification, he's gone (5-7) in his last 12. Four of those seven losses have come by way of scary knockouts that all started with a second round lights out KO at the hands of Antonio Tarver seven years ago. Since then, once he gets touched, Jones head and body seems to shut down.

One vicious knockout appears to be all that is needed to alter a fighter's chemistry and ultimately his career. The proof is in the pudding in both MMA and boxing. A closer look at some other examples of some high profile names in both sports will show how their careers have "fallen'' by the wayside after one brutal knockout.

Andre Arlovski (15-9), former UFC heavyweight champion is (0-4) in his last four fights with three losses by KO in the first round. Other examples in MMA include, Matt Lindland (22-9), former UFC and Strikeforce veteran; he is (1-4) in his last four fights with two of those losses coming by way of KO in under a minute. Mirko 'Cro-Cop' Filipovic (27-9-2), UFC and Pride veteran is (5-5-1) in his last 11 fights with four losses by way of some of the most sick knockouts in UFC history.

In boxing there is former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor who is just (1-4) in his last five fights with three knockout losses after being unbeatable in his first 28 fights. Sadly, he has been cleared to fight again, which he is scheduled to do next month. Then there is the sad story of former Olympic and two-division champion Meldrick Taylor. Untouchable during his first 25 pro fights, one unfaithful punch from Julio Cesar Chavez with two seconds left in their championship bout in 1990 changed his career forever.

After that TKO loss, Taylor went (14-7) over the next 12 years with three of those losses coming by way of KO from '90-'94. A prodigy at the time of his first knockout loss to Chavez in 1990, he was a mere shell of his former self at the time Chavez knocked him out again four years later. This is why I think the answer to the question, how many is too many, may just be only one. They say one punch is all it takes to change the complexion of a fight. In some cases, it may change a whole lot more.

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