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Home Boxing KEEP AN EYE OUT
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KEEP AN EYE OUT

boxing_artAs someone who was unable to turn pro partly because of poor vision, and lack of funds to correct it... I have always felt badly for fighters who lost careers because of their eyes.  Sugar Ray Leonard came back from a "career-ending" eye injury to win a close decision over the great Marvin Hagler.  What was extraordinary about this feat was not only the layoff, but the fact that detached retinas were not something that was previously considered overcomeable.  If you had a detahced retina, you retired.  Period.  Ever since Leonard's recovery, however, it has been assumed that an eye injury is something that one takes time off for, and has repaired.  However, some eye injuries have been career ending.  Here, I will look at a few of those fighters who had their careers hindered, or ended by eye injuries... before, during, and after the time of Leonard.
 
Leotis Martin
Here is a fighter that would have ached for that new technology.  In 1969, Martin, a lower level contender who never quite broke through at the higher level, scored the biggest win of his career, knocking out Sonny Liston with one devastating right hand.  He was never able to capitalize, as his retina was detached in this fight.  His biggest win previous to this, was a KO over the first man to drop Muhammad Ali, Sonny Banks.  Banks died following that bout, so it seems with Martin, his wins were cursed.  He wasn't going to beat Joe Frazier, but a fight with the fellow Philadelphian, would have made his 25 year retirement a bit more lucrative.
 
Barry McGuigan
McGuigan was a bit of an overrated champion, who got his fame for his style, power, ethnicity, and by beating a long-reigning champion.  However, the loss of his WBA Featherweight title to Steve Cruz was a result of a host of problems.  Fighting in the Vegas sun for a full fifteen rounds, against a Texan more accustomed to that weather was one.  Being dropped twice in last round, which lost the fight on the scorecards was another.  Yet, when it was announced he had suffered two detached retinas, it was a wonder McGuigan lasted the distance against the limited challenger.  McGuigan's best days were probably behind him anyway, but the two years he lost following the eye injuries, might have made the difference in winning another title, as he went 3 and 1 in his comeback, then retired for good.  This was around the same time of Leonard-Hagler, so the technology to repair it was new.
 
David Reid
Lack of firepower, and a questionable chin were also issued that Reid had to deal with, but he won a gold medal, a world title, and held his own for 6 rounds with Tito Trinidad, all while battling a recurring eye injury.  Operated on several times, it still never fully healed, and inhibited his ability to see, and deal with right hands.  Add to this the fact that he was rushed into bigger fights to capitalize on his gold medal victory, and perhaps this was the best formula for a shortened career.  In the days of the assumption that advanced medicine is able to fix every injury, this was a sad reminder that it is not always the case.
 
Orzubek Nazarov
The Kyrgyzstani lightweight had turned pro in Japan, won his title in South Africa, and defended it all over the world, including two wins over former and furture champions in the U.S.  Then, things out of his control conspired to end his promising career.  He was the lone survivor af a shooting, and though his arm recovered a bullet, his eye could not recover a thumbing.  In a title defense in France, he lost his title to local challenger Jean-Paul Mendy after being accidentally thumbed in the eye early on.  It was the only loss for Nazarov, and ended up being his last fight, as subsequent surgeries not only failed to correct it, but left him blind in the affected eye.  He was already 31, and probably only had a few more years at the top, but those years in the lightweight division involved names like Castillo, Mayweather, and Johnston.  It would have been interesting to see how things would have panned out.
 
Chris Strait
www.convictedartist.com

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