The brutality of boxing has long been chronicled in film and verse and in sobering medical accounts of what the after effects of constant pounding to the brain can do to the quality of life.
The lucky fighters are the ones blessed to learn to live with whatever trauma the sport brought upon them. But as we learned on Tuesday, sometimes tragedies in the ring happen instantaneously.
Junior welterweight Maxim Dadashev, 28, one of the world’s up-and-coming stars, died from brain injuries sustained during an 11th-round knockout loss to Subriel Matias on Friday in their 140-pound IBF bout at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
“It just makes you realize what type of sport we’re in, man,” Dadashev’s trainer Buddy McGirt told ESPN. “He did everything right in training – no problems, no nothing. My mind is, like, really running crazy right now. Like, what could I have done differently? But at the end of the day, everything was fine [in training].
“He seemed OK. He was ready. But it’s the sport that we’re in. It just takes one punch, man.”
What’s worse is, this fight was not a huge money maker for Dadashev. He was scheduled to pocket just $75,000 plus expenses. But it was an opportunity; the winner would get a chance to fight Josh Taylor for the crown.
“Maxim was a terrific young man,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Dadashev’s promoter, said in a statement. “We are all saddened and affected by his untimely death.”
Dadashev was in trouble from the start. Matias was finding clear paths to his opponent’s body and head and his attack was relentless. The domination was apparent to the judges, as well. Matias was ahead big on all three cards when McGirt finally stepped in and stopped the fight.
“Great, great guy. He was a trainer’s dream,” McGirt said. “If I had two more guys like him, I wouldn’t need anybody else because he was truly dedicated to the sport.”
The fight was televised on ESPN+ and it was clear McGirt was begging Dadashev to stop fighting.
“I’m going to stop it, Max. Max, you’re getting hit too much,” McGirt said to him.
Dadashev shook his head no. “Please, Max, please. Let me do this. OK? OK? Look at me. Please,” McGirt continued.
Dadashev again shook his head. “If I don’t (stop the fight), the referee’s gonna do it. C’mon, Max. Please,” said McGirt.
When Dadashev didn’t respond, McGirt stepped up and told the referee and the ringside doctor that he was ending the fight.
“I saw him fading, and when he came back to the corner [after the 11th round], my mind was already made up,” said McGirt said. “I was just asking him out of respect, but my mind was made up. I wasn’t going to let him go out there.”
After stopping the fight, and without knowing how seriously his fighter was hurt, McGirt described his reasoning.
“God forbid. … one punch as you know can change a whole guy’s life and I wasn’t going to let that happen. So, I’d rather have them be mad at me for a day or two then to be mad at me for the rest of their life,” said McGirt.
Dadashev collapsed before getting to the dressing room and then began vomiting. He was taken by ambulance to the hospita, where he underwent surgery for two hours for bleeding on the brain.
The hope of the surgeons was to be able to relieve pressure from the brain’s right side where the damage had been done. He was placed him in a medically induced so the swelling might subside.
Dadashev, who was from St. Petersburg, Russia, was ranked No. 10 on the ESPN top prospect list in 2017 after winning 281 of 301 bouts and becoming a silver medalist at the 2008 World Junior Championships. He won silver at the 2013 Russian amateur championships after taking bronze at the same event in 2010 and 2012.
He turned pro in April 2016 (he was 13-0 with 11 knockouts) and signed with Top Rank before getting an opportunity to fight in the Olympics.
He career path had soared last season when his knocked out former lightweight champ Darleys Perez and took a 10-round decision over another former champ, Antonio DeMarco. He then knocked out journeyman Ricky Sismundo in the fourth round on March 23 to get the fight with Matias.
Umar Kremlev, the Russian Boxing Federation’s secretary general, promised his organization would try and determine whether anyone should be blamed for Dadashev’s death.
“We need to know the truth about what happened,” Kremlev wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “I believe that some human factors intervened, that there was some kind of violation.”