The dark and the light of boxing's brutality in the spotlight on one weekend

The dark and the light of boxing were laid bare on an incredibly difficult weekend for the sport and its participants.
Jason Cunningham (right) in action against Jordan Gill. Picture: Lawrence Lustig/MatchroomJason Cunningham (right) in action against Jordan Gill. Picture: Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom
Jason Cunningham (right) in action against Jordan Gill. Picture: Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom

On Saturday night in Doncaster, the black spot on the heart of the sweet science was brought to the fore with the tragic events that left Sheffield-trained Scott Westgarth in a life-threatening condition.

Westgarth emerged victorious in a blood-and-thunder battle with Dec Spellman - one which saw both fighters touch the canvas but rise to slug it out in pursuit of an English title opportunity.

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It was clear all was not well with the Glyn Rhodes-trained fighter in the aftermath as he struggled through a post-fight interview.

Moments later, back in the dressing room, he collapsed and was rushed to hospital where it is understood a bleed on the brain was diagnosed.

Westgarth’s situation rocked the sport to its core, bringing into the spotlight once again the barbarous and unfortunately questionable aspect of boxing.

And it was none more gut-wrenching than for those directly involved.

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Stefy Bull promoted Saturday show at The Dome, a night which could prove so pivotal in the life of Westgarth.

With ringside medics attending to Westgarth en route to hospital, the rest of the card - including a Commonwealth title eliminator for former Sheffield United skipper Curtis Woodhouse - was cancelled.

But it was not only the sport’s regulations which prevented action from continuing. No one could bring themselves to carry on.

Yet, 24 hours later, the wheels of the sport continued to turn - and did so for Bull, this time in his role as a trainer and manager.

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It had been an incredibly difficult day for him, as he wrote on Facebook. “Last night’s tragedy has left me questioning my time in boxing.

“I’m doing my best to shut it out and concentrate on the job in hand today.

“Jason Cunningham is boxing live on Sky Sports tonight. Fighters stepping in the ring are putting their life on the line in a brutal sport we all love.

“These boys are just chasing a dream to become champions. All we can do is support them and do our best to guide them along their journey.

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“God bless every fighter that climbs in that ring tonight. We will be doing our best to win - nothing more and nothing less.”

The bout in which Bull was involved reflected just what lengths fighters are willing to go to in the chase for success in the sport they love.

Woodlands fighter Cunningham twice got up off the canvas in Manchester to continue his quest in his British title eliminator with Jordan Gill, trained in Rotherham by Dave Coldwell.

The classy Gill enjoyed a dominant performance, demonstrating superb accuracy and a strong command of the ring to keep the tenacious southpaw Cunningham at bay for much of the fight.

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A huge right hook dropped Cunningham in the fourth and he was down in the seventh with a flashed right hand to the chin.

Though the odds were increasingly stacked against him, former two weight Commonwealth champion Cunningham would not concede.

And needing a stoppage, he produced a stunning and brutal final round performance where he threw everything he had at Gill in the chase of a win.

It would not come and Gill took the decision - 98-91, 97-92 and 98-90 on the scorecards.

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But the performance of Cunningham, particularly in the final round, was the perfect demonstration of the world these fighting men willingly enter into. And it was one that will draw plenty of praise for the guts and valour on show.

Westgarth’s terrible plight will reignite the long-held conversation about whether men and women should be allowed to do just that.

But a day later, one fight in particular showed that while ever they can, they will and with every ounce of fight they can muster.

The dark and the light of boxing.