COMMENTARY | When Alfredo "El Perro" Angulo turned his back to the action on Saturday night against Erislandy Lara, he not only conceded defeat to his opponent, but he may have also broken, perhaps, the biggest cardinal rule in boxing-the one about never, ever quitting.
In the UFC, tap outs are as common as knockouts and not seen as anything other than one fighter acknowledging that he is physically at the point of no return.
In boxing, though, working through hideous and potentially life-threatening injuries is part of the sport's mythology.
From Mexican legend "Baby" Arizmendi beating the great Henry Armstrong while gutting through a broken wrist to Archie Moore refusing to have his corner throw in the towel during his thrashing at the hands of Rocky Marciano, boxing has been built on tough guy anecdotes. Fighters are supposed to be cut from a different cloth than mere mortals.
Those that don't adhere to this unwritten code of machismo hear the angry, derisive voices of the fans and media, who still insist on a "two men enter, one man leaves" philosophy when it comes to the boxing ring.
When Victor Ortiz quit in his brutal 2009 back and forth war with Marcos Maidana, he drew immediate criticism. When he said the following to HBO's Max Kellerman in the post-fight interview, he essentially committed career suicide:
"I was hurt. I'm not gonna go out on my back, I'm not gonna lay down for nobody. I'd rather...stop while I'm ahead, that way I can speak well when I'm older...I'm young, but I don't think I deserve to be getting beat up like this. I have a lot of thinking to do."
The young Ortiz, who was 22 at the time, was once considered one of boxing's brightest young prospects. The loss to Maidana, the way he lost, and his post-fight remarks have dogged him ever since. This one particular night will always be the "but" in any discussion regarding his career, no matter what he goes on to accomplish.
Long-reigning heavyweight champ, Vitali Klitschko is still fielding criticism for his own "quit job" thirteen years ago when a torn rotator cuff forced him to hand over his WBO belt to Chris Byrd following the ninth round of a bout he was easily winning.
The stigma of quitting is very real in boxing, especially in the Mexican boxing culture, so it was obvious that Angulo's first move would be to vehemently deny any intention of ever quitting:
"I never quit. I turned to tell (trainer) Virgil (Hunter) that my eye got thumbed twice," Angulo told USA TODAY's Mike Coppinger via text message.
"The ref (Raul Caiz. Sr.) stopped it without checking the situation or giving a count. A regular punch would not do that (damage). It's dirty fighting by Lara, again. I was following the game plan and was building the pressure. But I won the love and respect of nonbelievers, too."
But Angulo should not be in a position where he feels the need to justify any action he took Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
For ten rounds, Angulo battled a technically far superior fighter and began turning the tide with little more than old school boxing technique and his own dogged determination. On paper, what was made out to be a farce of a mismatch by some became a brutal back and forth battle that Angulo was actually beginning to win.
A knockdown in the fourth and another in the ninth put Angulo in a spot where not only was he winning the psychological war, but going into the tenth round, he was also close to winning over the judges--- up on one scorecard 86-83 and one point behind on the other two cards, 85-84.
Then his body gave in.
After taking a number of monstrous shots flush to the head and face throughout the bout, a fierce combination to the left eye made Angulo's eye swell and blow up into a hideous mass. (After much review, it was clear that Angulo's claims of being thumbed were not correct and, as a matter of fact, Lara was actually wearing thumbless gloves.)
Angulo reacted to the pain, instinctively turning his back to the action and, thereby, giving Caiz Sr. no choice but to wave off the bout.
It was a brief moment of human reaction by a fighter bred to ignore what normal humans may feel or do.
There are no cowards in boxing. Training to be a fighter involves suppressing every instinct you have as a human being to flee from conflict. It involves supreme command of mind and body earned through years of hard, lonely work. It involves learning to navigate through pain because, as a fighter, you are always in pain to some degree. When discussing world class fighters, the effort required is almost literally superhuman.
And for the better part of ten rounds, Angulo was showing an almost superhuman ability to walk through Lara's best punches in pursuit of victory until a badly injured, perhaps fractured, orbital bone around his left eye proved to be less tough than its owner.
No, Alfredo Angulo didn't quit against Erislandy Lara; His body did. There's a big difference.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Sources: USA Today, YouTube
- Sports & Recreation
- Erislandy Lara
- Alfredo Angulo