Common Sense First, Safety Second By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Oct 14, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing Tweet
Hardcore fight fans were in a bit of a panic as bantamweight standout Fernando Montiel was involved in a motorcycle mishap over the weekend in Mexico. Various reports had his injuries from being just bumps and bruises to his leg getting bent like Joe Theismann's after being sacked by Lawrence Taylor back in 1985. What wasn't known was the exact severity of the damage to his leg and if his February showdown with Nonito Donaire was in jeopardy.
When reached at his offices in Las Vegas on Tuesday, promoter Bob Arum told Maxboxing, "From everything I've been told, it's not fractured and he'll be back in the gym in three weeks." This means the Montiel-Donaire fight is a go. "Yeah, based on what I've heard, absolutely," Arum confirmed.
While Montiel's case was a freak accident, it got me thinking; in other sports, athletes are bound to stay away from any type of activities that would endanger their health and safety in an unusual manner. It makes sense; if organizations are going to invest millions of dollars in somebody, it doesn't seem all that obtrusive to ask these performers to stay away from such things as riding on a motorcycle, wrestling alligators or bears or skydiving.
In recent years, we've seen high-profile athletes like Jeff Kent (who tried to lie his way out of a motorcycle spill by saying he fell off his pickup truck while giving it a cleaning) and Kellen Winslow Jr., who went all Evel Knievel, getting his contract voided by the Cleveland Browns as he suffered a major knee injury in 2005 that caused him to miss a whole NFL season.
Do these stipulations exist in boxing contracts between promoters and boxers?
"Yeah," said Arum, "when we know about what they do. If it's publicized, we put it in; it warns us. But in most cases, we don't know what they're up to. I mean, why would we think motor biking? This guy wasn't into motorbikes. As a matter of fact, he wasn't riding a motor bike. I mean, someone was riding for him."
In the movie business, if the A-list stars don't agree to such safety clauses, movies don't get funded by the studio. A similar situation exists in boxing for their biggest events.
Kathy Duva of Main Events explains, "If you have a big fight, you would typically get 'non-appearance insurance.’ There are clauses in the 'non-appearance' insurance policy that say you won’t get paid in the event that they do something dangerous. So, yeah, in a big fight when you're going to be insuring it, there will be a clause in that contract that says that. We don't have clauses in our general promotional agreement that restrict them from doing things like that but we could have it in a big fight contract."
Arum says that fighters have no problems in signing onto such agreements but he adds," Whether they keep to it, who the hell knows? But they agree. But we've done that, yeah, with Marvin Hagler, with Tommy Hearns. But we've got to know that they're into certain things. But we've put it in. Like are we going to put in a clause like no skydiving, right? The guy doesn't know what you're talking about."
Such things don't just protect fighters from themselves and the organizers of the promotions but also fans, who oftentimes plan vacation time and invest in travel and lodging to attend these events live.
There is also another faction that invests in fighters and their careers and those are the managers, who often finance careers from the very beginning. Do they have stipulations that disallow certain hobbies or interests within their contracts?
"I've never seen it," said noted manager Cameron Dunkin, who has had a multitude of world champions. "I've never seen a contract where it existed and I have had fighters that have been through this same thing. I had Diego Corrales for years and I never wanted him on a motorcycle." Corrales died in a motorcycle accident back in 2007. "And he wasn't with me anymore but he always wanted a motorcycle. You have so many tragedies in the history of boxing with these things. It's just something that is terrible. I think it should- especially if you give a guy a lot of money, you should have some say in what he's doing as a hobby."
But there are other managers who have these regulations built into their managerial contracts with their clients.
"I do," said Garry Gittelsohn, who currently handles the career of Roberto Marroquin, Brian Viloria and Alfonso Gomez. "In the contracts I've had with many fighters, there are terms that require the fighters to not engage in dangerous activities that might have a deleterious impact on their ability to pursue boxing. And in addition to that, I generally- at my own expense- have the right to have the fighter engage in a medical evaluation to make sure that he's not limited in any way in pursuing his career."
Dunkin would have been directly affected by a major ailment to Montiel, given that he manages Donaire. He says that in the future, if promoters demanded such terms disallowing certain past times, he would not object.
"No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't and if everyone's pitching money in, I wouldn't think that fighters would be opposed to it, either. That's his livelihood," he said, early in the week as all the details were being gathered from Mexico. "Again, I don't know the circumstances with Montiel; we don't have all the answers as of right now but it could've cost him a lot of money, cost my guy a lot of money also."
But like Kent and Winslow Jr. showed, just because you are prohibited from certain activities, it doesn't mean that they will disengage from them in their free time. Besides, these are grown men used to being on the precipice of danger. Many of them would rather ride a Harley or sports car than a Toyota Corolla.
"Listen, a lot of them live on the edge and they love that excitement and doing activities like that," said Dunkin, who's dealt with more than a few headaches throughout the years with his stable of boxers. "So we've heard about others who like to do other things, to ski, water ski, and all kinds of different things. But motorcycles, it just never seems to turn out good."
But beyond contractual obligations, what's really essential is good ol' fashion common sense.
This brings about a hearty laugh from Duva, who joked, "They're fighters; if they had any common sense, they probably wouldn't do this. This is the nature of the beast and you ask them not to do crazy things. Look, we had an undercard fighter last month who is out for three to four months because he broke his hand playing basketball. We wouldn't call that a risky, crazy thing to do. Seems like exercise to me. But things happen. Unless you're in a big fight and you've laid out money and you have a huge investment out there, they're hurting themselves more than they're hurting you as a promoter.
"And remember, there are extensions in contracts if people are unavailable due to injuries,” continued Duva. “So that's covered. You don't need to tell them you can't go out and do crazy things- they're not going to listen anyways. We say to them things like, 'You could hurt yourself and then that hurts your career.'"
Speaking of boxers playing hoops, Arum's biggest star, Manny Pacquiao, has a particular affinity for playing pick-up games during training. In about 30 days, he faces Antonio Margarito at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in a huge pay-per-view event. But Arum states, "We don't allow him to do it when he's training a month in front [of a fight]. In other words, that's stopping now and he won’t do it when he's in the United States."
Well, that's what he hopes, anyway.
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