Lee Groves

10: Greatest “above and beyond” performances

1. Arthur Abraham W 12 Edison Miranda I – Sept. 23, 2006, Rittal Arena, Wetzlar, Hessen, Germany

Injury: Compound fracture of jaw

In boxing there’s a line that separates extreme bravery from borderline insanity, both in terms of how the fighter conducts himself during battle and the forces that surround him. The limits of those lines were tested mightily when Arthur Abraham (21-0, 17) defended his IBF middleweight strap for the third time against Edison Miranda, an undefeated (26-0, 23) Colombian bomber who put away 19 opponents in two rounds or less. 

Miranda entered the ring with murderous intentions, repeatedly miming the throat-slashing gesture during the ring walk while “King Arthur,” crown atop his head, strode regally into the arena. The first three rounds reflected their entries as Miranda charged ahead with ceaseless streams of power shots while Abraham bided his time and struck heavily in the final minute of each session.

Abraham’s problems began in the fourth round when a right uppercut to the tip of the chin broke the Armenian-turned-German’s opened jaw. From that point forward Abraham was unable to close his mouth and dark blood spilled onto his chest and trunks.

It would have been easy – even accepted by the most hard-bitten of fans – for Abraham to call it quits at any given juncture of the match. He was given a golden opportunity to do so in round five when an intentional head butt by Miranda resulted in a four-and-a-half minute time out. During the intermission – one that saw a ringside physician not only examining but administering to Abraham’s injury – referee Randy Neumann ran through two scenarios with the commissioners:

* Declaring the incident an unintentional foul and going to the scorecards;

* Accepting the recommendation of ringside physician Dr. Walter Wagner to stop the fight, take two points off Miranda’s score for the intentional foul but declare Miranda a TKO winner because Abraham can’t continue. 

Abraham’s corner couldn’t countenance a choice that would lead to their fighter losing his title, so Neumann – after subtracting two points from Miranda’s score – went to option three: He asked Abraham if he wanted to continue. At first he seemed reluctant but warmed up to the idea when queried again.

Steeling himself for the ultimate challenge, Abraham did his best to nullify Miranda’s rushes by moving, ducking, dodging and locking on timely clinches while simultaneously seeking his own chances to strike. Meanwhile, Miranda was involuntarily helping Abraham’s mathematical cause as he was docked two points for low blows in round seven and one more in the 11th to bring his penalty total to five.

In the midst of all this chaos and callousness – there were no more between-rounds examinations nor thoughts of surrender by chief second Ulli Wegner – the fighter himself was magnificently resourceful during combat and valorous beyond measure even between rounds. One cringe-worthy moment happened between rounds eight and nine when Abraham howled in pain as a second attempted to pry out his mouthpiece and others took place every time Miranda landed a punch on the shattered jaw. Despite it all, Abraham hung in and landed a surprising number of powerful blows.

It’s hard to fully capture just how courageous Abraham was: He fought eight-and-a-half rounds of championship competition against arguably the hardest puncher in his weight class with a jaw broken in two places, a grotesquely disfigured face and losing approximately a liter of blood. But when the cards were added up Abraham emerged with a unanimous decision (116-109, 115-109, 114-109). After the scores were announced, Abraham returned Miranda’s throat-slashing gesture with one of his own.

Abraham underwent emergency surgery that night. Two titanium plates and 22 screws were inserted into his jaw and he spent the next three days in intensive care. Abraham’s will to win, on the other hand, was perfectly healthy.

“I know for sure I’ve done the right thing,” Abraham said in an interview conducted from his hospital room three days after the fight. “It’s been a question of keeping my world championship belt but it’s been about more. It has been a question of honor and pride. I was leading on points and without the injury I would have knocked out Miranda – definitely. But I never would have given him the belt through concession.”

When he was asked about the criticism surrounding Wegner’s unwillingness to pull him out of the fight, Abraham chose to accept the blame.

“I never would have forgiven my coach for that!” he declared. “We’re a team, we know each other quite well – he never would have been allowed to stop the fight. Moreover, I was completely lucid. The referee asked me about 10 times if I wanted to go on, and 10 times I said yes. In the ring I’m King Arthur Abraham and I never concede. That’s it!”

*

 Photos / THE RING, Getty Images

Lee Groves, a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, W.Va., can be emailed at l.groves@frontier.com. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won seven writing awards, including a first-place for News Story in 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales From the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics.” To order, please visit Amazon.com or e-mail the author to arrange for autographed copies.

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