Dog Rounds by Elliot Worsell – Blink Publishing £16.99RRP
Review by Paul Mason (@PaulMason1986)
Dog Rounds is the term used by former WBA Lightweight World Champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini to describe the rounds from thirteen to fifteen in World Title fights. From here it really was survival of the very fittest, before contests were universally reduced to twelve rounds. This book focuses on the darker side of Boxing, namely serious injuries and fatalities that occur legally under the Queensbury Rules, and how these incidents have affected the boxers that inflicted the damage, the referees involved in these sometimes fatal contests, and the families and loved ones of the combatants that have passed away. The author shows great detail and passion in his search for the boxers who have unfortunately killed in the ring, and discovers the impact this has had on their lives, and the common theme is that these boxers and referees were never quite the same again. The author has also contributed to established publications like Boxing News and the Ring Magazine, and his accomplished writing style really comes to the fore in this great book.
The foundation of the book is built around Worsell’s involvement as a press officer for Hennessey Sports, in particular Chris Eubank Juniors contest against Nick Blackwell back in March 2016. The ending to the contest, with Blackwell left fighting for his life in a coma, made the author think twice about his involvement in the sport, and questioning why we watch and partake in the sport at all. This subject was not meant to be the main talking point, but came to the fore after the authors experience in being in Blackwell’s camp and company for the British Middleweight Title contest.
I remember watching the enthralling Nigel Benn v Gerald McClellan contest for the WBC Super Middleweight Title in 1995 as a nine year old child, which tragically ended with McClellan being permanently brain damaged for the rest of his life. I also vividly remember Paul Ingle’s tragic defence of his IBF Super Bantamweight Title, when he collapsed in defeat against the South African Mbulelo Botile, and slipped into a life changing coma in December 2000. The fear and sadness I felt for the boxers at the time was nothing compared to all connected with the stricken fighters included in this book.
The boxers covered and interviewed for the book include Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and his epic and ultimately tragic tussle with Duk Koo Kim in 1982 for the WBA Lightweight Title. The image of the stricken Kim is depicted on the front cover of the book. British Welterweight contender Hamilton “Rocky” Kelly also features. A man who still bears the scars of a fatal encounter withScotland’s Steve Watt, as Watt died after the contest after undergoing surgery to deal with brain damage he had suffered. Kelly has since battled alcohol addiction as a result of dealing with the tragedy.
The two contests between Blackwell and Eubank Junior, and the almost mirror image of his dad against Michael Watson back in 1991 are covered round by round simultaneously in great detail, along with the aftermath of both, and they bring back emotional memories, described perfectly by the author. Blackwell’s subsequent recovery and ill-advised relapse back into the sport are also lessons in fighters being born to fight, and missing the buzz, almost like a drug, once they are not licensed to box any longer. Blackwell hadn’t quite found the same buzz he had for Boxing in surfing and diving during retirement, so decided to the amazement of everyone associated with him, to spar with a professional boxer, and he was again taken to hospital after falling seriously ill during a session, with an operation performed to reduce swelling on his brain. Blackwell was effectively back to square one in his recovery, and again fighting for his life. Where Eubank Senior seems to live with his near fatal meeting with Watson daily, Junior has seemingly been able to shrug his traumatic meeting with Blackwell off, and continue with his career unaffected.
The book is gripping, and my thoughts are not only with the families of the men lost in these tragic incidents, but of the boxers still dealing with the effects of their actions to this day. These include former WBC Super Featherweight Champion, Gabriel Ruelas, who seemingly suffers the effects of dementia pugilistica as a result of the many wars he had over the years. He was also never the same fighter following his fight with Jimmy Garcia, which ended in fatality. Referee Kenny Bayless is interviewed too, going over the fatalities he has been involved with in the sport over the years.
The only boxer that came through his adversity, in an achievement sense, was Barry McGuigan. He went on to become WBA Featherweight Champion, dethroning the great Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road in 1985, three years after Young Ali died following his knockout loss to McGuigan. The World Title success did not stop the Irishman thinking about the Nigerian daily though. Thoughts that still haunt him to this day.
In the end, the conclusion is that tragic accidents happen in the ring, and they are not always as a result of the at times fatal conclusions to the contests, and a lot of times are due to the sacrifices boxers make in training to lose weight, or an accumulation of punches taken in previous bouts. The safety of boxers, especially in Britain is paramount, and the best medical care available is on hand at all times these days. A significant step up from days gone by.
In short, this book comes highly recommended, and is one of the Boxing and sports books of the year so far. It’s refreshing to see such a taboo subject covered within the sport so in depth, rather than the usual biographies that we so often see. The book is brilliantly written, informative and touching, and Worsell builds rapports with the fighters he interviews, which allows them to easily open up to him over the worst of subjects. A great read.
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