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November 21, 2014

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Paper trail

Whether it’s MMA or boxing, the post-fight forms tell the real story

The simple form, usually two pages, remains the same no matter the stakes. The violent box score of fighting gets neatly typed and formatted, then placed into archives with the simple title “Boxing Show Results.”

Each page reads like an emergency-room log book. Eyebrow lacerations. Wrist X-rays. Nasal cavity fractures. Orders for CT scans and MRI exams. Calls for visits to orthopedic surgeons and neurologists.

The remarks are cringe-inducing. A May 9 boxing match at the Hard Rock Hotel: “Whittom must clear right orbital bone blowout fracture with ophthalmologist or no contest until 12/26/09.”

In plain English: 30-year-old David Whittom of Quebec had his face caved in by 24-year-old Ismayl Sillakh of California. Unless a doctor gives the go-ahead, Whittom can’t box until after Christmas.

These results are public records kept by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the agency responsible for overseeing all professional boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts fights in the state. They are used, among other things, to track fighter injuries and records.

Each of the 117 boxing matches and 50 MMA battles so far this year—from the $8.8 million gate at MGM Grand for Manny Pacquiao versus Ricky Hatton to the club fights in a ballroom at the Riviera—have official records.

Each tells a story. Sometimes boring; sometimes brutal; sometimes bloody.

Fighters sustained cuts in 22 of the 117 boxing matches. The chances of seeing blood at a boxing match: nearly one-in-five.

Better than those at an MMA event. In the 50 MMA bouts (not including the 12 fights taped in Las Vegas for The Ultimate Fighter reality-television show) only six fighters were cut, meaning the audience has only a roughly one-in-eight chance of seeing blood spilt.

As for broken noses, MMA takes the belt.

A broken nose sounds primitive. It’s a telling detail for a narrative, a sure symbol of strong punch. Michelangelo had his nose busted 500 years ago. People still mention the fight with a rival sculptor. Perhaps the Sistine Chapel painter had a quicker wit. The rival had quicker hands.

Had Michelangelo suffered merely a black eye, the story would be forgotten. And Michelangelo’s crooked nose, looking like Randy Couture’s, wouldn’t be prominently featured on sculptures of the artist.

It’s the—in NSAC parlance—“fractured nasal cavity” that makes the story. You don’t need to see the punch to feel the impact. The pain shooting from between the eyes back into the head. The eyes immediately watering and the promises to self not to cry. The blood pouring out the nostrils and back into the throat. The thick taste on the back of the tongue.

Two MMA fighters felt this in January.

Only one boxer felt the pain in 2009, although the commission ordered a nasal X-ray for a female boxer the same night as the unfortunate Whittom orbital-bone incident. But, unlike Whittom, Anna Hultin of Henderson, the nose-smash victim, won her fight with a fourth-round TKO.

Just another story from the box score. Stories of winners, losers and sacrifices. The information comes direct, no need for Norman Mailer’s reflections or Bert Sugar’s historical context.

When Paul Williams dominated Winky Wright at Mandalay Bay in April, the fight journos had plenty to say about Williams’ stamina, hand speed and reach.

But nothing truly said more than the results page. Williams won by unanimous decision. The scores: 119-109; 119-109; and 120-110. The remarks: Wright had to visit an eye specialist. Williams needed a thumb X-ray.

It’s not hard to see what happened.

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