It’s OK to throw in the towel if you are hurt

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After the May 2 “Fight of the Century” — and by “Fight of the Century” I mean lackluster bout — between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, I was looking forward to a combat sports smorgasbord that included boxing, kickboxing and UFC.

One fight I had my eye on was the fight between the “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt and Stipe Miocic in Australia.
Miocic is a well-rounded fighter with knockout power and good wrestling skills. In the other corner, there’s Hunt, a former kickboxing world champion who has impressive power and a granite-like chin that has blocked some of the hardest kicks and punches in combat sports. His takedown defense has also improved over the last few years.

As I predicted, Hunt’s chin worked well in the fight — perhaps too well.
Miocic picked apart Hunt for five rounds, keeping the Samoan on the mat and delivering hard shots to the face.
MMA fans on social media were concerned. They demanded Hunt’s corner throw in the towel or the referee to stop the fight. Hunt would show some sign of defense, preventing the referee from stopping the fight. Even the doctors at cageside thought Hunt was good enough to continue. The referee eventually stopped the fight in the fifth round.

Although fans on Twitter were relieved when the referee called the fight, the Australian fans were booing the stoppage. Normally I disagree with the armchair cornermen and keyboard warriors, but this time I thought they had a point.

I’ve been a fan of Hunt for many years and the sportswriter in me loves a good scrap in the cage or the ring, but this was too much. I thought the referee should have stepped in and stopped the fight in the third or fourth round. However, I understand Samoans are proud and tough people and Australian fans were supporting Hunt, who is from the neighboring island of New Zealand. I’ve also never fought inside of the cage — though I have one unsanctioned boxing match to my credit — so I can’t join the other mixed martial arts fans who are calling for Hunt’s retirement.

What’s worse than an athlete continuing to fight after they get hurt, is someone going into a match with an injury, like Pacquiao when he fought Mayweather with an injured shoulder. Pacquiao could have sustained a much worse injury if he had fought someone who was more aggressive and more of an offensive hitter than Mayweather.

Some speculate that Pacquiao didn’t disclose the injury because he would have to withdraw from the fight and miss out the big purse. Years ago you’d see fighters take a beating and get back up because it was the only way for them to put food on the table. Former world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey once said, “When I was a young fellow I was knocked down plenty. I wanted to stay down, but I couldn’t. I had to collect the two dollars for winning or go hungry. I had to get up. I was one of those hungry fighters. You could have hit me on the chin with a sledgehammer for $5. When you haven’t eaten for two days you’ll understand.”

Times have changed. If a fighter gets hurt, they can find a career to fall back on, or a hobby to keep them busy as they heal from their injuries and gear up for a comeback.

I understand that in sports like boxing and mixed martial arts, you have to be tough and can’t show weakness, especially in front of your opponent during a fight. However, if a fighter is getting beat by their opponents for three rounds to the point where the doctor has to come in and check on them, maybe that competitor needs to assess the situation and say, “I’m done.”

If the fighter isn’t willing to stop the fight, then his or her corner should throw in the towel for them. There will be some harsh words in the locker room or at the gym, but throwing in the towel could save the fighter from suffering a permanent injury.

As for Hunt, I won’t be sending him a tweet and asking, “Please hang up your gloves,” especially since he’s announced his intentions of making a comeback.

If he changes his mind and decides to retire, I’ll will head over to Wild Bills and have a beer in honor of his career.

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About Al Stover

I graduated from Eastern Washington University with a bachelor's degree in journalism. I currently work as a Staff Reporter for the Cheney Free Press. I have interviewed characters like cage fighters, drag queens and dungeon masters. I like Batman, coffee, MMA and beer.
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