By Mitch Abramson
Faced with accusations it mishandled the treatment of a fighter who now lies in a medically-induced coma, the New York State Athletic Commission has come out on the offensive and is now defending the way it tended to brain-damaged fighter Magomed Abdusalamov in his fight last Saturday at Madison Square Garden, insisting all protocol was followed.
The manager of Abdusalamov, Boris Grinberg has accused the NYSAC of quickly examining him, performing a cursory look following his decision loss to Mike Perez and sending him on his way.
“[The doctor] says, ‘Count one, two, three, four, five…’ and then he tells him to make sure he goes to the hospital tomorrow because his nose might be broken,” Grinberg told New York Magazine. “They give him no attention! No ambulance!”
But according to those who tracked Abdusalamov in the roughly 60 minutes from when his fight ended to when he left the Garden, Abdusalamov was examined a lot closer than Grinberg has suggested.
Out on the street after the fight, Abdusalamov vomited and was rushed to the emergency room in a cab, where he vomited again, blacked out and had a blood clot removed from his brain, according to Grinberg. Abdusalamov, 32, remains in a medically-induced coma at St. Luke’s Hospital on life support, the seventh day he has been in such a state. The commission believes it's not to blame for his current condition, however.
“He had four different doctors look at him,” said a source close to the NYSAC who closely followed the actions of the physicians attending to Abdusalamov and requested anonymity because the NYSAC is still investigating the matter.
“He had four different examinations following the fight and never complained of anything. He never said anything was wrong. After the fight he went back to the audience and was watching the main event. The doctors can’t think of anything they would have necessarily done differently because all of the procedures were followed correctly.”
Abdusalamov was asked by four different physicians during and after the fight if he felt dizzy, if he had headaches or if he was in any pain. He also had two cuts over his left eye sewed up with nine stitches after the fight by another physician. Abdusalamov was examined periodically by a ringside physician during the fight; he was also looked at by three more doctors following the fight, the source said.
“He didn’t say anything was wrong,” the source said. “This is our chain of responsibility. We try to make sure he’s checked and rechecked and rechecked and not once did he indicate he was in pain. There was never a complaint made by the corner; there was never a complaint made by the boxer; all of this stuff being said now is stuff that we were not made aware of.”
Abdusalamov was also administered something called the King-Devick test, which is a new exam the commission started in August to test boxers for possible concussions in which series of numbers are recited by the boxer, the source said. There was nothing irregular about his answers on Saturday, the source said.
The source said he was shocked to later learn that Abdusalamov’s health had deteriorated to the point that he had a blood clot removed from his brain.
“I know these things as far as bleeding on the brain take a while to evolve and maybe that’s what was going on,” he said. “But there was definitely plenty of steps taken to ensure that wasn’t going on while we were watching.”
Grinberg asserts that Abdusalamov was never told by attending NYSAC doctors to go to the hospital despite grotesque swelling on his face. But another source at the commission said that’s simply not true and that he was told to seek further medical attention.
“We told him to go to the hospital to rule out any fractures on his face,” the source said. “We did everything we were supposed to do that night. What’s happening, with everyone jumping on the bandwagon and attacking us is just unfair.”
“As far as routinely sending people to the hospital after a fight, it depends on what they are complaining of about and what they present to us,” a source at the commission said. “If they present in a way like they’re impaired, they’re really injured or they’re really wounded, even if they mention a slight headache, they go [to the hospital]. He never complained to any doctor about that, of being in pain.”
The injury to Abdusalamov has rocked the NYSAC, lowering morale with some worried of a potential lawsuit and even firings, a third source at the commission said. (Grinberg said on Saturday he wasn’t thinking of suing the commission at this point, though he didn’t rule it out, either. “It’s too early,” he said. “I don’t know about that. I have to speak to my team about it.”)
On Saturday, the state commission sanctioned another professional boxing show at the Aviator Arena in Brooklyn, the first time it held a boxing show since the injury to Abdusalamov. The safety procedures for evaluating fighters remain the same as they did on Nov. 2, the source said.
“No, the protocol hasn’t changed and honestly, we don’t have to,” the source said. “I really pride ourselves on being safe about these contests.”
But others might not be as sure. Asked if he had any confidence in the ringside physicians on Saturday, Kansas City-based trainer Fidel Garza said he had none because of what happened to Abdusalamov.
“No, because he’s a doctor and he should have known by just examining this kid that that kid should have been on an ambulance going to the hospital, not allowed to leave;” Garza said in the dressing room, hours before his fighter, Kenneth Schmitz was stopped by debuting Junior Younan.
“That’s why you’re a doctor; that’s why you go to school for all those years. That’s your job, to make sure that stuff like that doesn’t happen. And this is a tough sport but those doctors and commissioners- that’s their job. [They don’t examine the fighters close enough, asking questions such as:] ‘Are you breathing? What state are you in?’ That’s it. I’ve seen it over and over; it’s not no in depth examination.”
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com