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13 NOVEMBER 2018


Shame On Boxing

By Thomas Hauser
Sources in Mexico say that Marco Antonio Barrera underwent brain surgery in 1997 and has been fighting with a metal plate in his head ever since.

The surgery, known as a craniotomy, took place after Barrera’s second bout against Junior Jones and was related to a congenital defect; not the fight itself. Barrera’s skull was opened, an abnormal vein was removed, and a metal plate to protect the area was affixed with screws inside his skull. Barrera has fought fifteen times since then and established himself as one of the best fighters in boxing. His most notable bouts have been a loss to Erik Morales in 2000, a win over Naseem Hamed in 2001, and a victory over Morales in their 2002 rematch. All three of these bouts took place in Nevada.

The first Barrera-Morales fight was promoted by Top Rank. Hamed-Barrera was promoted by Let’s Get It On Promotions in association with Prince Promotions. The Barrera-Morales rematch was promoted by Top Rank in association with Forum Boxing. Barrera is now promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. He is slated to enter the ring against Manny Pacquiao in San Antonio on November 15th. That bout is to be televised by HBO.

On September 12, 2002, the New York State Athletic Commission announced that MRIs to perform brain scans would be required bi-annually as part of an examination for fighters who box in New York. Nevada followed suit with similar legislation several months ago.

The choice of San Antonio as the site for Barrera-Pacquiao is believed by some to have been motivated in part by the fact that Texas does not have an MRI requirement. However, Barrera’s attorney, Stephen Espinoza, disputes that notion, stating, "San Antonio wasn’t chosen to evade any restrictions. Texas is an incredible fight state, especially for Mexican fighters."

"There was a surgery in 1997," Espinoza acknowledges. "The surgery was performed in Mexico City by one of the top neurosurgeons in the world. Marco has consulted with several experts on a consistent basis since then and has had numerous MRIs and other examinations including two MRIs in this calendar year alone. All of the medical opinions that Marco has received from the time of the surgery through today have concluded that the surgery does not present any risks for Marco beyond the risks that are faced by any boxer."

Espinosa states that the surgery does not place Barrera at any competitive advantage or disadvantage and that the Texas State Athletic Commission was made aware of the situation in a timely manner. He also says that, immediately after the surgery, Barrera gave his medical records to the appropriate representatives on the understanding that the information in them would be communicated as necessary to the proper parties.

Passage of the MRI requirement in Nevada was spearheaded by Dr. Flip Homansky and Dr. Margaret Goodman. On May 19th of this year, Bruce Trampler of Top Rank sent a letter to the Nevada State Athletic Commission vigorously opposing the mandatory testing program. Promoter Gary Shaw also argued against mandatory MRI testing and canceled a series of fight cards in Nevada after the requirement was put in place.

Subsequent to Shane Mosley winning a controversial unanimous decision over Oscar De La Hoya on September 13th, Bob Arum accused Dr. Homansky of conspiring to improperly influence the outcome of the fight.

On October 4th, Dr. Goodman called a halt to the bout between Joel Casamayor and Diego Corrales when Corrales suffered dangerous cuts inside his mouth and did not have a proper mouthpiece. Shaw (who promotes both Corrales and Shane Mosley) then spoke with Marc Ratner (executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission) and said that Mosley would not fight in Nevada in the future if Dr. Goodman were assigned to his bout. Mosley himself later said that he had no problem with Dr. Goodman’s work.

There is no indication that anyone at the Nevada State Athletic Commission was aware of Barrera’s surgery at the time he fought in Nevada.

Ratner addressed the issue of Barrera’s surgery in a telephone call with SecondsOut on Thursday morning. "We were made aware of certain information regarding the situation several weeks ago," said Ratner. "I have talked with [Golden Boy CEO] Richard Schaefer and my understanding is that Golden Boy has passed this information on to the commission in Texas."

During the dark days of Watergate, Senator Howard Baker frequently asked, "What did the President know, and when did he know it?"

A lot of people in boxing should be asking now, "Who knows what and when did they know it?"

I don’t know if Marco Antonio Barrera should be fighting or not. One can argue that, since his surgery, he has passed the toughest tests of all; twenty-four rounds with Erik Morales and twelve rounds with Naseem Hamed. Barrera’s future is an issue to be decided by qualified medical personnel in honest consultation with regulatory officials and Mr. Barrera himself.

I do know that there should be national standards for medical testing and a federal boxing commission.

There should also be an outpouring of revulsion from the media, from ring doctors, from the boxing community as a whole and, most importantly, from fighters over the way this matter has been handled.

Award winning author Thomas Hauser can be reached at

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