Boxing

Full Stop – Something to get “cut” up about?

Full Stop – Something to get “cut” up about?

Full Stop

The boxing bible, BoxRec has a flaw. If you search for referees and officials as well as boxers – in their amateur and their professional guises, you can find them; that’s not the problem.

But, if you type in the name, Benny King, you will be directed to a number of American pro boxers who used that name in their career in the Boxrec search engine. You will fail to find anyone who has a birthplace or place of residence as exotic as Greenock, on the West Coast of Scotland; that IS the problem.

If you are someone who has been in the small halls and big venues in boxing over the years, however it is a name that will instantly recognise.

Unfortunately, Benny King has lost his life, but he remains a legend. This is a man who gave so much to the sport of boxing that people who watch it casually, don’t see but those who box and follow it more religiously do.

King was a legendary cuts man. Boxrec does not have his details nor does he have a website dedicated to his memory, but he should have. When he passed recently the tributes were fulsome and impressive. The one that caught my eye was from a former World Heavyweight champion no less. National treasure Frank Bruno’s simple missive was echoed throughout the fraternity with the message “I’m very saddened to hear Benny King has passed away. My thoughts are with his family and friends. RIP.”

There are legends in the business, like Rafael Garcia and Jacob “Stitch” Duran who would have a legacy to read, investigate and discover that would, for the casual observer be fascinating. For the boxing nut, it would be riveting.

Benny’s career choice has been in the spotlight of late, not just because of the debate over the terrible cut suffered by heavyweight linear champ last year, Tyson Fury against the tall Swede, Otto Wallin. The fact that Fury passed the major test of going back into the ring against Deontay Wilder; the man who had the greatest sucker punch of all sucker punches and avoiding having that cut opened up. It is fashionable to applaud the work of the health care workers but the man in the corner with the swabs made sure that it was less troublesome for the surgeon once Fry was out the ring.

I know because, when he managed to finish off Wallin no less a legend than former unified heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis tweeted “Fury gets the win. Wallin’s stock rises. Without a doubt the, the most impressive job of the night goes to Fury’s cutman.”

The man in question was Jorge Capetillo; another who’s name you will not find on Boxrec.

Unlike the shy and reserved Scotsman, Benny King, Capatillo has never been too short of an opinion to share. He gave interviews after the Wallin fight, with a post-fight assessment where he held nothing back decrying Wallin for attempting to push his glove into the wound to try and open it up.

One of my favourite podcasts, hosted by the BBC’s Steve Bunce and Mike Costello’s brought in another legend of the cutman’s craft in Kerry Kayes. Kayes’ interview was just gold dust. Kaye talked through his craft, having supported the likes of Hughie Fry, Tony Bellew and Liam Smith amongst a cast of many, many others, he described in detail his job. He was clear as to how that 60 seconds when the fighter gets to the stool in between rounds are so vital. They are his working day right there.

What was new to me was how he described his contribution in exuding calmness and confidence. His job of compressing, getting adrenaline into a cut and transferring the feeling that things are all right to a boxer is so important. Remember this is a fighter who has blood pouring down his face, needs patched up, cleaned and returned to get back out again and expose his weakness to an opponent who just wants to knock his block off!

In amongst the chaos of a fight, around the time the hiatus created by the bell between rounds, whilst the audience are standing in awe, applauding in pleasure and calling for one or other to knock the other’s head off, the cutman, who is faced with the possibly of a fight stopping cut has to get busy and effective damn quickly.

Some of Kayes’ advice, as highlighted on the BBC website were priceless and whilst there may not be an absolute science to it there are techniques which are used to keep the fighter in that fight, as Keyes explained, “Now, for example, I always have a wristband on with two swabs held in it which are full of adrenaline. Then I have the adrenaline bottle with two swabs in it. Then every second or third round I’ll swap the swabs so they are always fresh. In one fight when I started, I wasn’t ready for a lad who got cut with two seconds of a round left. It took me maybe 10-15 seconds to get the adrenaline out. So from that fight I learned I needed swabs in my wristband ready.”

Adrenaline is brought into the fight by the British Board of Boxing Control and not by the entourages of individual fighters; it stops anyone brining things in they shouldn’t.

That ability to show calmness is doubly important when you realise that there is only one person allowed in a ring with a fighter during the interval between rounds. If the fighter is cut, then the trainer is sitting outside. That’s a big call as many trainers want to see the eyes of their fighter as they instruct.

Then there is the playing for time. When seconds out is called, we often see the cutman staying put, the fighter still on their stool as the Vaseline gets applied. We are all baying for the action to restart but that few seconds as the referee gets the cutman out the corner with a tap on his shoulder and a word in their ear, is often enough to make sure that the last part of the cut jigsaw is in the right place; Vaseline decreases the likelihood of a mark which becomes a cut.

Sometimes it aint the boxer you need to see you being calm but the referee. If the referee can see that the corner is calm and dealing with the situation without fear or fanfare, they tend to allow fighters to sort it out in the ring. Where there are huge concerns then you can get referees who, being the ones who call fights to a halt, get antse themselves. They don’t want to go home at night thinking someone was seriously injured on their watch.

Another legendary cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran eloquently put the whole thing in perspective when he talked of the gamesmanship, often employed to keep a fighter in the game,  “Yes, it’s called street-wise. It’s natural, I know how to put people at ease. It’s a trait I’ve been blessed with that comes from street experience. My job is not to give instructions but usually, when I say something, guys know there’s a lot of truth to it.”

Where the referee seems to have allowed a cut to continue too long can be seen in Badou Jack’s defeat to Marcus Browne; the cut became an internet sensation in its own right! That Jack was allowed to finish the fight became a massive debating point online.

It was not the worst that Stitch had ever seen. His worst memory comes from the Raul Marquez v Keith Mullings fight. Working in Marquez’s corner, his fighter ended up with five cuts and 70 stitches. The cuts were on each eyebrow, the nose, and one on each cheek.

His best experience might be a long memory as Stitch did get a taste of glamour when he was on the set of Ocean’s Eleven and met Wladimir Klitschko. Hollywood clearly reckoned Stitch merited something and so did Klitschko. Like many in the sport of boxing, Klitschko recognised the true value of people in his group and for the last 24 of his fights, Stitch was in the corner – including his final fight, at Wembley, against Anthony Joshua.

That there is no place on the Boxrec website for these legendary guys is a pity and one that sa the site grows and the sport returns it might be one they seek to rectify? Mebbes aye, mebbes naw?

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