On the death of super-middleweight Beethavean Scottland in June of 2001.
the death of beethavean scottland
by stacy carolan
He hadn’t died, but he would. We were certain of it. It was not some flash of precognition, some collective sixth sense. We knew it as we know hunger, or light, or warmth. Simple knowing. No, he hadn’t died. But there was no doubt that a man had been killed that night.
Had the fight been only nine rounds, he would have lived. He certainly would have lost the decision, but he would have kept his life. But there had been ten rounds -- barely thirty-seven seconds longer than his body, his training, his willpower, his desire, could withstand. And when the final blow came, it was not a powerful one. It was not the devastating knock-out shot that brings us to our feet, screaming in vicarious triumph. It was not, in fact, even that hard of a punch. It was simply the last punch he could take.
A boxer goes down; will he get back up? The answer is in his journey to the ground. The legs, moving in search of some shred of balance. The arms, instinctively out to brace the fall. The body, rolling onto the canvas in stages to absorb the shock.
He showed none of this as he fell. His legs were straight, unaware that they could help in any way. His exhausted arms were out from his sides, no longer under any control, simply trailing after the shoulders to which they were attached. There was no give in his frame; the length of his body met the canvas in one hollow thump, slamming his head into the mat like a hammer, like a fist, like the crackling end of a bullwhip. And there he lay.
Our eager eyes could not penetrate the thick and sudden cluster of doctors, corner men, officials, surrounding the man. A stretcher appeared magically from ringside, and just as magically disappeared into the tight knot of people in the ring. The winning fighter and the referee stood beside each other, staring at the gathering, two confused, concerned, and impotent bystanders. There was no pretense of a ten-count.
At last, the stretcher reappeared, heavy with defeat. Our curious, whispering silence followed him out of the ring. Then a quick, lurching movement of the fighter stumbled the stretcher-bearers, and we began to cheer.
But the cheer faltered, and died, and we made no more sound as the man lapsed back into unconsciousness. Then lunged again. Then fell back. The labored, shuffling footsteps of the EMT's were audible throughout the crowded, silent arena, as we watched the fitful struggle of a man, alternately awake and asleep, trying desperately upon each waking to rise from the canvas that was no longer beneath him, and to finish the fight that was already over.