The CBZ Newswire

David has a choice. Carol does not.

by on Aug.21, 2011, under Boxing News, CBZ Columnists

By Juan C. Ayllon

 

Bloody but unbowed, David Diaz (L) tries to find an opening before losing by TKO to "Hammerin' Hank" Lundy (R)

Bloody but unbowed, David Diaz (L) tries to find an opening before losing by TKO to "Hammerin' Hank" Lundy (R)

 Photo by Scott Dray

 CHICAGO, August 21, 2011 – Two nights ago, former World Boxing Council Lightweight Champion David Diaz was stopped by one Hank Lundy in Hammond, Indiana.  Following an eight-month layoff, Diaz was looking for a tune up bout to make another run at a world title.  Instead, he became a notch on an upstart’s career under the bright TV lights of ESPN 2’s Friday Night Fights. 

 I had an opportunity to cover his fight for the Cyber Boxing Zone, but elected not to because I had spent the last several days up at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with my wife and stepdaughter – who begins her pre-med biology program this fall and had college orientation meetings to attend.  A decorated high school student, she has a bright career ahead of her. I am so proud of her.

 This same Friday, we found out that my mother’s dear friend, Carol, a retired nurse, is going into hospice.  Having struggled with cancer for some five years, her body can no longer fight.

 Saturday night, I woke up and couldn’t fall back asleep.  I shared my sadness with my wife over David’s loss.  I remember years ago chatting with him regularly, almost weekly (or was it monthly?) over the phone.  Sometimes, it was an interview, others, it was fishing for new material, but others yet, it was just talking about life – his kids, working out, whatever.  I did that with several other fighters, too.  That was my gig:  I was an Internet boxing writer.  I had grown to love David – who despite breaking out of the “Second City” inferiority complex that seems to jinx Chicago’s fighters by winning a world championship, was a regular, down to earth guy –and the small Windy City boxing community that had embraced me for writing about them.  However, over time, things changed.  Diaz became very busy after his big money win over Erik Morales, and I found myself with less and less time for boxing writing as work, relationship and grad school demands pressed in. 

Fast forward to Friday night:  Diaz, 35, was stopped for the third time in his career and, my guess is that his last legitimate shot at a world championship passed with his decision loss to Humberto Soto for the vacant WBC lightweight title in March 2010.  To many, it’s clear that his best days are past, yet following Friday’s loss, he was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying that he feels he has two good years left in his boxing career.

 You’ve got to be kidding me.

 In a sport where one fight can not only hurt or cripple you for life, but actually kill you, why is it that boxers hang on past their expiration date, I marveled.  I told my wife, I don’t want to see David get hurt or, worse yet, get killed (since December 2003, I’ve had the misfortune of seeing that happen to several fighters I’ve covered, and I’ve watched others roll the dice with senseless pummelings they took well past their prime).

I remember sitting with 25 others at 2 AM in a waiting area for the operating room while surgeons removed a subdural hematoma from female boxer Rita Figueroa’s brain following her last fight.  Thankfully, she lived.  The following Friday, she sent me a text message to pray for Francisco Rodriguez, another fighter who was injured in a bout.  He wasn’t so fortunate.  He died two days later, leaving behind a wife and newborn daughter.  David was among the hundreds that attended his wake. 

 As I wrestled with my emotions on Saturday night, my wife said something profound:  “You might look at it this way:  David has a choice; Carol doesn’t.”

We have a Constitution that espouses the right to pursue happiness.  Who are we to interfere with that?  Fighters love to fight, they love to compete one-on-one; it’s in their nature. They are risk-takers and they get this ephemeral high when they put it all on the line in the heat of battle.   It’s addictive and, moreover for some with few options, it’s the only comfortable means to feed ones family.

Former Heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster once said that had he not had the opportunities presented in boxing, he might have ended up a criminal.  Say what you will, boxing helped turn his and countless others’ lives around, no doubt bout it. 

People have a right to make a living and, it’s been argued, who are we to tell someone when they can work and when they cannot?  But, at some point, the body and brain lose their youthful elasticity and dangers outweigh the benefits.  The next punch could be one too many, sending the fighter into a permanent stupor or death. 

Carol does not have that choice.  The cancer that has reduced this brave and pleasant, 5’ 4” 65 year old grandmother to an 85 lb. shell will most likely separate her from her son, daughter in law, two grandchildren and her best friend – my mother – in a matter of days.  A woman of faith, she has shown extraordinary grace as she’s suffered silently and fought where so many had succumbed.  Each day, each moment on earth is precious to her.  I believe she played Rummy Cube when my mother visited with her yesterday, perhaps for the last time. 

Life is deceptively delicate and tenuous.  Our time with loved ones passes all too quickly.  One minute, the kids are tussling around the house, the next they’re headed off to college.  They meet someone, grandkids follow, and life flourishes.  Don’t cut it short.  Don’t take it for granted.  Make your choices, pursue happiness, but please, don’t risk ruining – or ending – it all prematurely for one more rush of adrenalin before the screaming throng. 

You have a choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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