ATLANTIC CITY - Philadelphia cruiserweight Garrett Wilson fired a short, powerful, left uppercut that landed against Andres Taylor's dimpled chin late in the 12th round of their fight at Bally's Atlantic City on Saturday night.
The punch connected with such force that Taylor lost consciousness on contact. The Johnstown, Pa., resident landed on the canvas with a thud that could be heard in the dressing rooms behind Bally's Main Ballroom.
Referee Earl Brown started a 10-count but quickly motioned for the ringside physicians and emergency medical technicians to tend to Taylor. An oxygen mask was placed over Taylor's face and a neck brace was applied while the crowd looked on in silence.
He remained motionless on the canvas until regaining consciousness after about two minutes. Fans applauded as Taylor got to his feet, plopped onto a stool and then walked out of the ring before making a mandatory trip to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, for precautionary reasons. A hospital spokesperson said Sunday that Taylor had been released.
No one questioned the actions of the ringside personnel after the knockout, but some observers wondered why the fight lasted so long, considering Taylor had suffered two earlier knockdowns, including one in the 11th.
Veteran Atlantic City trainer Bill Johnson, who watched the fight from the back of the ballroom, was one of those skeptics. On Sept. 17, 2005, his son, IBF lightweight champion Leavander Johnson, collapsed in his Las Vegas dressing room after an 11th-round TKO loss to Jesus Chavez and died five days later.
"There's no way they should have let (Taylor) come out for the 12th," Johnson said. "They were lucky he wasn't seriously hurt or worse."
The Wilson-Taylor bout had been a rugged brawl. Taylor recovered from a first-round knockdown to stun Wilson with his own punches during the bout, but Wilson had appeared to take control.
In the 11th, Wilson hit Taylor in the jaw with a right hook. Taylor fell onto his back and was laying on the canvas with his arms outstretched when the bell sounded to end the round. Under New Jersey Athletic Control Board rules, the bell cannot save a boxer, meaning a fighter must still get up before the referee completes the 10-count in order to avoid a knockout.
Brown had counted to five when Taylor first tried to rise but toppled over. He scrambled to his feet at nine, took three steps toward Brown, told the referee "I'm OK, I'm OK," and then went back to his corner for the one-minute break between rounds.
Brown followed him and was joined by the ringside physician, Dr. Blair Bergen.
"I was thinking about stopping it when I went to the corner," Brown said afterward. "Anytime a fighter goes down, I'm concerned. I don't care if it's the first round or the 12th, I'm concerned about the fighter's safety and well-being. When I got to the corner, I looked into his eyes and he was OK. He had all his motor skills intact."
Bergen, one of three ringside physicians on duty, agreed.
"I checked him out and his thinking was clear," Bergen said. "He seemed to have all of his faculties together. I thought he was OK to continue."
Taylor's trainer, Tom Yankello, said he also considered stopping the fight but decided to allow Taylor to continue in hopes that he could score a knockout of his own.
"Of course you think (about the possible ramifications) when something like that happens," Yankello said. "It's a fine-line thing when you're in that situation. But he answered all the doctors' questions and seemed to be OK."
Judging by the way Taylor initially struggled to recover from the 11th-round knockdown, however, no one would have been surprised if Brown, Bergan or Yankello had halted the fight before the 12th.
Taylor begged for the chance to keep fighting. Most boxers, including the late Leavander Johnson, make similar pleas.
"(Ringside physicians) are there to save boxers from themselves," said Upper Township resident Dr. Dominic Coletta, who worked Wilson's corner. "Boxers are warriors, man. They're willing to die in the ring."
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