By Ted Sares
Beethaeven Scottland was born in 1975 and died in 2001at 26. He was a light-heavyweight who went into a coma after his televised fight on ESPN2 with George Khalid Jones on June 26, 2001. After taking way too many clean punches to the head, he collapsed and then passed away on July 1. As a substitute for David Telesco, he had taken the fight on short notice. In fact, "Bee," 20-7 coming in, was scheduled to fight Dana Rucker," but Rucker pulled out with a legitimate injury. Since Beethaeven was in top shape, he took the fight against George Khalid Jones on the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York.
In my opinion, that fight could have been stopped much sooner. Scottland was taking combinations of flush punches to the head in just about every round and was hopelessly behind by the halfway mark. Even commentator Max Kellerman was calling for referee Arthur Mercante Jr to halt matters. I recall mentioning to my wife that this was going to end ugly because he was accumulating punishment and would be better off if he were taken out by one punch..
In an interview six days after the fight, Kellerman told the late Jack Newfield, "I saw it coming. The kid was absorbing too much punishment to the head. I saw Bobby Tomasello die after an ESPN2 fight that I was broadcasting. The kid got a draw and then went into a coma. I have always preferred referees and doctors to err on the side of humanity and caution."
Indeed, as early as the fourth round, he said Scottland was taking "a brutal beating." During the fifth round Scottland absorbed more than twenty consecutive punches to his head while trapped in a corner. "That's it!" Kellerman shouted. "This is how guys get seriously hurt." Then, during the seventh round, Kellerman told the television audience, "I don't like the way he is getting hit.... Those are the cumulative punches that lead to things that you don't want to hear about after the fight." After that round, Kellerman said, "If you're in Scottland's corner you have to ask yourself, 'Is it worth it, for the damage he is sustaining? Is it worth it for the kid's life to stay in these final rounds?' I would say no." After Scottland finally collapsed with forty-five seconds remaining in the fight, Max Kellerman told the television audience, "I feel nauseated. I feel sick. Why does this ever have to happen?"
Still another, albeit terrible boxing experience for my memory bank. It went alongside one involving Benny "Kid" Paret in 1962 where I sat mesmerized as the Kid took 17 unanswered uppercuts and then collapsed like a rag doll. There are too many others in my bank.....Laverne Roach, Enrico Bertola, Doo Ku Kim, Johnny Owens, Jimmy Garcia, Leavander Johnson, Willie Classen, Stephan Johnson, and Bobby Tomasello......too many.
This experience, however, was particularly horrific since it occurred in plain sight and seemed very preventable.......yet, as a spectator all I could do was look at the television set and scream, "stop it, for Christ Sakes, stop it!'
But shamefully, I am not at the point where my guilt outweighs my enjoyment, because if and when that happens, I know I may need to walk away from my sanctuary. But I am not naive; I know something must be done sooner rather than later to clean up the sewer that boxing seems to have become. Otherwise, the many preventable deaths, horrific injuries, and cases of pugilistica dementia will continue. Something must be done to rotor-rooter out the despicable political hacks who often make up most of the state commissions, at least in those states that even have a commission. I may not be an expert on how to deal with this, but I do know one thing; I don’t listen to the people who are supposedly the voices of boxing today, for their concerns are more self-focused than anything else. How many of them actually have been in the ring or have trained boxers? What do they know of the needs of boxers? Do promoters really care if boxers get a pension? Do states really want central regulation even though local oversight has been a disgrace? How genuine is their professed advocacy and "passion?"
Boxing and boxers need passionate advocates; not hacks. Boxing needs a national commission (state commissions dominated by political appointees cannot cut it); boxing needs a Bill of Rights; it needs a labor union or guild; boxers needs a pension plan; boxing needs to be regulated at the same level as every other professional sport; it needs adequate safety precautions; and God knows, boxing needs standardized testing and licensing for ringside doctors, judges and referees so that biased, unfair and spirit-breaking decisions are minimized.
Look, I don't want to see any more fights like Paret-Griffith, Scotland-Jones, Reggie Green-Charles Murray (Murray landed over a dozen blows on a defenseless Green as the latter was trapped on the ropes absorbing one power punch after another while the crowd was screaming hysterically for it to be stopped), Whitaker-Hurtado (too many unnecessary and savage left hands landed on Hurtado’s head and knocked him cold), Ruddock-Dokes (Ruddock landed two brutal shots on what appeared to be an already unconscious Dokes helpless against the ropes), Reid-Lacey (where Reid's corner wisely took it out of the hands of Referee Jorge Alonso), Foreman-Briggs (I had it 8-4 Foreman), the spirit-breaking Toney-Tiberi (arguably the worse decision in boxing history), Quartey-Forrest (bizarre point deduction on top of bizarre scoring), Mo Harris-Larry Holmes (talk about how to turn a young fighter into a cynic), the first Augustus-Burton (a politically correct verdict if ever there was one), the disgraceful draw between Lewis- Holyfield, and Jerry Quarry's tragic and inexplicable fight with club fighter Ron Cranmer in Colorado at age 47....... why has that fight not been investigated.....why was it allowed in the first place.
Hell, I thought Bee Scotland's final fight in NY might have been the last one, but then I saw Valuev-Barrett recently. Thank God Monte Barrett's trainer's, James Bashir, did the right thing by stepping in and stopping the fight. Bashir saved his charge from further brutal and unnecessary punishment at the hands of the giant. Eddie Futch would have been proud.
So the beat goes on and I wait in apparent vain for some sign of reform.......it has to come, though, or my guilt may someday override my pleasure and at that point, I will have no alternative but to walk away.....hey.... this stuff is happening in plain sight and some of it is making me sick! As my friend Alex Ramos says, "I'm tired of waiting for our saviour for the sport...."
"Boxing has become like a gruesome car wreck. I can keep watching only if I am pulling a victim out to safety. I feel that I must do everything possible to make this velvet sewer better before I abandon it. That's why this muckraking meditation will end with a proposed Bill of Rights for Boxers. The best way I can display my respect for the workers is to try to clean up their polluted and toxic environment." The late and great Jack Newfield from his compelling article entitled the "The Shame of Boxing."