Sports

Mike Gavronski earns TKO against Tristan Todd, despite broken jaw

Auburn
Auburn's Mike Gavronski and Tristan Todd square off at the Silver Reef Casino in Ferndale.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Mike Blair

BY RICHARD BAKER
for the Reporter

The quiet of the intensive care unit at Harborview Hospital was in direct contrast to the cheering crowds at Silver Reef Casino, during what could be considered the greatest boxing match ever seen in the Northwest. Tristan Todd broke Mike Gavronski's jaw in the second round of their super-middleweight bout Sept. 21. Gavronski, the toughest prospect in local history, refused to quit and battled back in every round until he pummeled Todd to a TKO victory in the 8th round. Now Todd is fighting back, not for a minor title, but for his life.

Boxing is a severe sport. The more brutal the fight is, the greater the fan approval. This fight had the fans on their feet, a bloodlust they feel but do not really believe. They want to see a boxer hurt, pummeled, beaten because they want to see how much punishment a person can endure and still prevail. They imagine they can take the same punishment. Boxing is a surreal experience. When the fight is over the fans expect each fighter to immediately heal, as if the fight had not even happened, as if the punishment were a pleasurable illusion. The last thing they want is to see a fighter permanently damaged. Reality often trumps illusion, and fighters do get hurt.

There is no such thing as a minor title fight for a boxer. The inconsequential Global Boxing Organization Super Middleweight title was contested with fierce rivalry between these two warriors. To them the belt was as important as the World Heavyweight Title in the days when there was only one heavyweight title and people uninterested in boxing still knew the name of the champion.

Gavronski (12-0-1), fighting out of Auburn, Washington, has caught the eyes of people who understand the qualities of a future contender, if not a champion. His greatest attribute is his determination. He showed that determination after Todd hit him with a sledgehammer shot in the second round that broke his jaw in two places, causing him to swallow two teeth like gumdrops. Gavronski refused to quit and never took a backward step.

Todd, from Memphis Tennessee, was equally determined to win. Five of his eight wins have come by knockout. He brought that power into the ring against Gavronski. When two immovable forces collide, something must give. For Gavronski it was his jaw; for Todd, his brain.

Immediately after the fight it was Gavronski, although the winner, who was thought to be the most physically damaged. The hospital X-rays revealed a shattered jaw, which doctors wired shut. But it was Todd, who later collapsed from a brain hemorrhage, who was rushed to an emergency room. Bleeding in the brain caused tremendous compression and doctors operated to relieve the mounting pressure.

Contrary to popular belief, fighters have a mutual reverence for one another. By attempting to beat each other senseless, they pound in the respect. The hug and handshake at the finish of a fight is heartfelt and not just a convention. They resemble soldiers throughout the world who fight hard but accept the fact that both are engaged in a deadly endeavor, and seldom carry any animosity after the battle is won or lost.

When a boxer is badly damaged in a fight, the effect can be devastating for the winner. Emile Griffith never fully recovered after Benny "Kid" Paret died in their 1962 bout. Griffith always remembered the beating and pulled his punches when he realized his opponent was in trouble.

The reluctance to fight with full force after injuring an opponent has affected many fighters and ruined many careers. "Sugar" Ramos suffered doubts about boxing after Davey Moore died in the ring, even though Moore died, not from a punch, but because his neck snapped when it hit the bottom rope as he fell. No one has suffered more than Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini after killing Deuk-Koo Kim. Mancini, a devout Catholic, has never recovered. Although he continued to fight after the death, he spent years in counseling and lost his ability as a great finisher.

Fighting is a risky business. So are many jobs. The chances of being injured or killed in logging are far greater than in boxing. Truck drivers run the risk of wrecks and fishermen the fate of drowning. Cheerleading is considered the most dangerous sport in the U.S. Living is a risk. The risk of injury in boxing just seems more intimate. The whole point is to injure one another, to see if a person can overcome great odds.

Todd is fighting back. He is on his feet and in therapy at Harborview hospital in Seattle. A man with his determination is not likely to give up easily. His tentative release date is Oct. 18. His fighting career is over, not his life.

Gavronski would have fought even if his jaw was to be broken in 100 places. That is what separates him from other fighters and will help carry him into the higher rankings. He knows the jaw will heal. A broken heart is more difficult to heal, but knowing that Todd is on the mend will go a long way toward helping him continue his career.

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