The fate of Yerbossynuly highlights a change of mindset is required, writes Matt Christie

DAVID MORRELL was allowed to pound Aidos Yerbossynuly into a coma on Saturday night. Such rare scenarios are a sad inevitability in boxing. This one, however, is hard to brush off as mere bad luck. By the time Morrell landed the final blow, a right hook thrown at full pelt in the last minute of their scheduled 12-rounder, Yerbossynuly’s chances of winning the fight had long since disappeared.

What followed is difficult to watch. Yerbossynuly is hauled to his feet by experienced referee Tony Weeks and then guided to his corner with the help of Morrell when it became apparent he could barely stand. Yerbossynuly slumped to his stool. Blood seeped from his vacant and swollen face.

What came before is even harder to stomach. Morrell was in control from the opening moments. By the second half, Yerbossynuly, though offering the occasional reply, was taking a beating. Outclassed and out of ideas by round seven, the Kazakh focused only on survival down the stretch.

Survival: Last the distance, don’t get stopped, don’t lose face, retain pride at any cost. Referees know the importance of survival to a fighter, so too the coaches. There is an unwritten rule in these kind of fights and it goes something like this: When a fighter has shown extreme bravery in a long fight, they deserve to hear to the final bell. A stoppage loss would be cruel after such heroics.

That, of course, is hokum. The cruelty here was that Yerbossynuly was allowed to take countless blows when his body was in no condition to fight back effectively. Even after the underdog was decked within 20 seconds of the bell to start the 12th, the mauling continued.

“He [Yerbossynuly] acknowledged the ref [referee Tony Weeks],” Emanuel Savoy, Yerbossynuly’s assistant trainer, said. “He looked up and said, yes, he wanted to continue. As a corner, I think he still wanted to fight. He wanted to fight all the way to the end.”

That’s undoubtedly true. What the 30-year-old needed, however, was protection. Had he looked in such bad shape in the early rounds, would the fight have continued? Maybe. But probably not. The lure of the final bell undoubtedly played a part in the failure of both the corner and the referee to withdraw him.

Yerbossynuly had nothing left. He held on tight. Weeks recognised this and took a point away. Holding is not permitted in boxing. But when that’s all a fighter can do, the contest should be stopped. It was glaringly apparent he could not fight back. It had been clear for at least four rounds, a period of time in which the damage piled up.

Weeks accepted the fight was over when Yerbossynuly fell a second time. He then dragged the beaten man to his feet in the final act of trying to preserve the fighter’s reputation.

“I actually had the towel in my hand,” Savoy said. “Aidos wanted to continue. His head coach [Kanat Orakbaev] wanted him to continue. He evaluated Aidos and said nothing was wrong with him.”

Morrell and Yerbossynuly ahead of their fight (Getty Images)

Orakbaev will now regret his decision. Alongside Savoy, they will be forever haunted by their fighter’s fate. When the towel is in hand, throw it. Reaching for the towel in the first place indicates there is already serious cause for surrender.  

It’s easy to blame them for this horrible situation. Probably too easy. They did not want this to happen and, in those breaks between rounds, they listened to a fighter they know well and granted his wish to keep fighting. The referee, too, will now reflect on the decisions he made in the spur of the moment. Decisions from both parties that were rooted in a bedraggled boxer’s misguided wish to hear the final bell.

Yet it should act as a lesson. To fans and media who criticise boxers when on rare occasion they signal that enough is enough. To the coaches who have the hardest decision to make when they see the fight slowly disappear from someone they care deeply about. Coaches want to do the right thing, never doubt that. We are not privy to behind the scenes conversations that lead to promises of never stopping a fight. In the midst of a hard contest, logical and straight thinking can be difficult to attain. Doing the right thing,  keeping promises and retaining trust in the process, is not easy. So it’s time to change the mindset. Make a promise beforehand that the fight will be stopped if it becomes unwinnable, that their safety takes priority. Heroes don’t have to hear the final bell. There is no shame in not doing so.

We can all cite the odd moment from history when a boxer turns a fight around with a one-in-a-million punch. We can, however, cite myriad examples of that punch never coming. When the chances of victory have gone, both realistically and statistically, the contest does not need to continue. If it starves us of those uber rare fairytale finishes, so be it.

What happens next, we don’t know. But at the time of writing, as a consequence of the referee and Yerbossynuly’s corner adhering to that aforementioned, unwritten, rule of survival, the fighter is in hospital with his life in the balance.

A new kind of survival, the real kind, the important kind, is the only hope now.

Dmitry Bivol celebrates beating Gilberto Ramirez in Abu Dhabi on November 5, 2022 (Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

THE rise of Dmitry Bivol this year has been a pleasure to witness. For boxing connoisseurs, his style of fighting is awe-inspiring. His feet, his patience, his ability to pick exactly the right shot in a split second. If his win over Gilberto Ramirez is anything to go by, he’s going to be difficult to beat.

What comes next? Well, it seems that him being dragged seven pounds south of his best fighting weight and rematching Canelo Alvarez is a possibility. That’s ultimately Bivol’s decision to make and plenty might label Canelo and promoter Eddie Hearn as the villains here. But Bivol will be paid handsomely and no doubt fancy his chances of repeating his one-sided win over the Mexican superstar.

But seven pounds is an awful lot for a fighter who turned professional in 2014 weighing 179lbs and has never once fought anywhere near the super-middleweight limit. Dropping so low will not bring out the best in him. It can even be described as unsafe.

Now 31 years old, and every inch a natural light-heavyweight, it speaks of boxing’s lack of structure that he would be presented with such a task. There is an obvious fight to make: Bivol vs the winner of Artur Beterbiev-Anthony Yarde, a contest currently slated for January. Of course, the paymasters will say that Bivol can drop down to super-middle then move back up to 175 and “make history”. Yes, perhaps. But to give himself the best possible chance of ruling at light-heavyweight, yo-yoing between the divisions beforehand should be advised against. Bivol-Beterbiev is currently one of the best fights to be made in the entire sport. Let’s not yet again let a contest like that slip through our fingers.

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