FTS TBT: Giovani Segura and the lonely sport of boxing

Only a few people know that the first sport I followed religiously was boxing, not basketball. When I was young, Michael Jordan and Roy Jones Jr. were equals in my eyes. The primal appeal of boxing was what drew me to it. While a loss in basketball could forgotten after a couple of days, the same could not be said in boxing.

If you lose in a boxing match, chances are you also got beaten up pretty badly. It will take you a few days, maybe even a week before the aches and pains to subside. Then you’ll have to figure out a way to get back your old spot in the rankings and deal with possibly being paid a lower rate on your next match.

Boxing became “real” to me when I watched Brian Viloria bludgeon Giovani Segura. Back in 2011, I was still working for Solar Sports but was also working for GMAnews.tv as a contributing writer.

I was ecstatic when Viloria won as he was then a top talent of Solar Sports but I was not ready to face the other side of the equation when I visited his opponent the next day.

This article appeared on GMAnews.tv on December 17, 2011.

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There he was, on a hospital bed. Giovani Segura, the former unified WBA and WBO light flyweight champion, had his face covered with a blue shirt with an ice pack underneath.

I arrived at The Medical City at around 3 pm. When Segura noticed that there was someone else in the room other than his brother Luis, he jerked his head to see who it was. The shirt and the ice bag fell to the side of the bed to expose the monstrous black, maroon, and purple bruise around his right eye. I was taken aback.

Few things surprise me in boxing. Cuts are ordinary. Bumps, bruises, and rope burns are run of the mill. But when I saw Segura’s eye, I had to look away.

The hematoma looked bad in the ring. But somehow, it felt that it belonged there. An injury of that magnitude would have been a cause of panic elsewhere but since it was inside the ropes, since we expect prize fighters to suck up a tremendous amount of pain to entertain us, we all chose to accept it.

Boxing fans have to be, at least to a certain degree, desensitized to the violence that happens inside the ring. If you feel queasy at the sight of blood flowing out of deep cuts, then boxing is probably not the sport for you.

I stared at Segura while he was slumped on a plastic chair in the dugout after the fight. But when the gloves were off, when he traded his leopard-print boxing trunks for denim jeans and a shirt, when the setting changed from a sports arena to a hospital emergency room, I found it hard to look at his face.

Segura appeared unstoppable when he defeated Ivan Calderon twice. Segura was a fighter who knocked out 80% of his opponents but in that hospital bed, he looked as vulnerable as a newborn child.

“Sir Giovani, I need you to rate the pain you are in right now from 1 meaning very little to 10 being extreme pain,” the nurse asked.

“It was a 5 earlier but it’s a 4 right now,” Segura answered.

After hearing Segura’s answer, I smiled. A paper cut will be a 4 in my scale. A stubbed toe will be a 5. I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of pain he was experiencing with that severely swollen right eye and a fractured orbital floor but I understood that he didn’t want to appear weak.

This often happens in boxing. Professional fighters, at least the good ones, cover themselves with a blanket of invincibility. They feel that they can take more pain than regular people. If boxers go into a fight scared to get hurt, then they have no shot at winning. If they climb the ring worried that something bad might happen to them, it prevents them from fighting effectively.

But as soon as the adrenaline wears off, as soon as the crowd stops chanting the fighter’s name, he’s just like anyone else. He’s not immune to pain, not impervious to sadness.

Segura’s team accompanied him to the hospital but soon left Segura and his brother Luis to have lunch. They were gone for about five hours; away from the fighter they walked into the ring earlier that day, apart from their sole reason for flying to the Philippines.

Suddenly I remembered. After the badly-injured Segura made his way down the ring after the fight, one of Segura’s team members, instead of helping their fighter back to the dugout, jockeyed for position to have a pair of gloves signed by Manny Pacquiao instead.

I went out to buy lunch for Luis.  He had yet to eat since the morning of the fight. He wanted to stay by his brother’s side. When I returned with a sandwich, nurses wheeled in a man whose foot was profusely bleeding.

Segura was the ninth best fighter in the world according to Ring Magazine’s Pound-for-Pound rankings. He was the lineal and unified WBA and WBO light flyweight champion. Yet there he was, sharing a room in the emergency area with a man who obviously drank one too many and now sported a nasty three inch gash on his heel.

The Mexican fighter earned a good purse for his efforts. It will help take care of his family for the coming months. Segura’s injuries, although grotesque, were neither life nor career threatening. He could be back in action in a few short months. Chances are, he’ll be in the title hunt again next year.

In the few days he was here, Segura was nice to everyone. He stopped for fight fans who wanted a picture taken with him. He even went out of his way to hand out a one thousand peso bill to a family living on a kariton near his hotel. He’s a very nice guy. I know he’ll bounce back from this horrible loss.

But in that period of time in the hospital, when minutes stretched to hours, he was not Giovani Segura the boxing star. He was Giovani Segura the patient. He relived a story that’s all too familiar in the lonely sport of boxing. He was on a hospital bed, defeated, bruised, beat up, alone.

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