COLLECTIVE heads drop as their goalkeeper plucks the ball from the back of the net for the seventh and final time. The rout is complete. Favourites, seven, underdogs, nil. Mismatches are commonplace in football and because of the tournaments that govern the sport’s fixtures, they’re largely unavoidable. That momentary embarrassment aside, no harm is done.
When they occur in boxing, the opposite is true. It doesn’t take much homework to avoid them, they are not a necessity and heads don’t just drop in a boxing mismatch, they plummet. Staging a blatantly unfair fight in a combat sport, when it’s clear one combatant is levels above the other, is dangerous and irresponsible. It’s cruel. It should be a criminal offence.
Such was the case when nine-year professional Seniesa Estrada took seven seconds to savage an opponent who did not know how to defend herself. It occurred on a Golden Boy show in Indio, California and was broadcast by DAZN. Maria Adkins, 42, shuffled three or four steps out of her own corner, held her gloves awkwardly and stood square on as 28-year-old Estrada approached and volleyed her to sleep. The fall was grotesque. The subsequent championing of Estrada’s ‘achievement’ from commentators unforgivable.
There can be zero justification for this bout. Adkins may have been 5-0 but four of those opponents were debutants and the fifth was a rematch with one of those debutants. Whoever made the fight shouldn’t make another. The commission and the sanctioning bodies – the WBC attached a title to this bout and the WBA, with whom Estrada holds another belt, took to social media to applaud the slaughter – should be ashamed.
Estrada-Adkins was a horrific mismatch long before the opening bell. The grey area arises when they’re not so obvious beforehand. Like the proposed ‘exhibition’ between 54-year-old Mike Tyson and 51-year-old Roy Jones Jnr. This cannot be labelled a mismatch but I’d argue the potential for serious injury makes this comparable to throwing a competent fighter in with a raw novice.
Those championing this sorry spectacle may grumble at that view. ‘But this is only an exhibition,’ they’ll say. If it’s really an exhibition, if it’s really just a case of two retired legends moving around a ring and having fun and showcasing some old moves, why is it scheduled for eight three-minute rounds? That’s the kind of distance generally deemed too much for young and upcoming fighters. Fit and fresh fighters.
Tyson last fought in 2005. He was stopped by Kevin McBride. He was exhausted by round two and quit after six. Before that he was knocked out in four by Danny Williams. His retirement saw him gain significant weight, battle personal demons before finding peace of sorts while opening a cannabis farm. He’s made no secret of using that drug extensively in recent years. None of which suggests that Tyson, now in his mid-fifties, can be in anything approaching true fighting shape in 2020 regardless of the time he’s spent in the gym in the last six months. The only evidence to the contrary are 12-second clips of him hitting pads. There is a reason we have seen no more than that.
Jones Jnr, meanwhile, has been on the wrong end of five horrible stoppage losses since 2004. Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson, Danny Green, Denis Lebedev and Enzo Maccarinelli all left Jones in a comparable state to the one Maria Adkins found herself in last week. There is only so many times the brain can take punishment like that. And 50-something brains, already dealing with years and years of trauma from boxing, are woefully equipped to cope with any more.
‘But it’s an exhibition.’
So why is it a pay-per-view event? Why are headguards not being used? Why is the California State Athletic Commission – who also sanctioned Estrada-Adkins – going out of their way to tell us if there’s any sign of trouble the bout will be stopped? As Adkins discovered, it only takes seconds for punches to land and damage to occur.
When there is concern, when there is potential for harm over and above the already dangerous level that boxing operates at, the fight – whether it’s an exhibition or a mismatch – should not be taking place.