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Burgos' handlers criticized

As boxer recovers from brain surgery, his trainer and cornermen come under fire for not stopping Saturday's fight.

March 06, 2007|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Boxer Victor Burgos and his trainer-manager Roberto Sandoval have been like family. For Burgos, whose parents died before he turned 11, Sandoval has become like a big brother in their decade-long relationship, stepping in as the godfather of one of the boxer's children.

Considering that bond, Sandoval would never knowingly risk Burgos' life, says a member of the fighter's promotion team.

But Sandoval and the rest of Burgos' corner came under fire Monday as the debate intensified over Burgos' late-round handling in a 12th-round technical knockout loss to flyweight world champion Vic Darchinyan on Saturday night. Burgos temporarily lost consciousness after the fight and later underwent brain surgery after a blood clot was detected by doctors.

Burgos is in a medically induced coma at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance. Juan Gonzalez, a boxing operations member of the Don King Productions team that promotes Burgos, said Monday that Burgos is moving his arms and legs as he rests through the coma, which was induced to allow his brain swelling to subside. The boxer also is occasionally opening his eyes.

Meantime, the California State Athletic Commission announced Monday that it would investigate all aspects of Burgos' injury, and Darchinyan's promoter and trainer said Sandoval should have ended the bout sooner.

"Candidly, I think Burgos' corner had opportunities to throw in the towel," said Gary Shaw, Darchinyan's promoter. "They knew the score was one-sided, you saw Burgos backpedaling and trying to stay out of danger in the later rounds. My personal belief in situations like that is that you err on the side of caution, and decide you'll live to fight another day."

Darchinyan's trainer, Billy Hussein, criticized Sandoval for not stopping the mismatch.

"If it was my fighter, I wouldn't have hesitated to stop it in Round 6 or 7," Hussein told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I don't want to be part of something like this -- it's the worst moment of our short careers. Fighters show you signs out there, and you have to save them from themselves because they don't want to quit. You should know your fighter, and if you don't, you should not be training."

The 31-year-old Burgos (39-15-3) was dominated by International Boxing Federation champion Darchinyan (28-0, 22 knockouts) at the Home Depot Center.

Darchinyan knocked down Burgos, a former IBF junior-flyweight champion, in the second round of a mandatory title defense, and the southpaw champion from Australia pounded Burgos with a left that Shaw describes as a "whipping hammer."

Darchinyan unleashed a barrage of lefts to Burgos' body and head in the ninth round, and threw 15 unanswered lefts in the last minute of the 10th round. A mouse had raised under Burgos' right eye, and some veteran boxing writers at ringside said then they believed referee Jon Schorle should stop the fight.

"I don't think the referee made a mistake," Shaw said. "Burgos was still throwing combinations."

Present at ringside were California State Athletic Commission executive officer Armando Garcia, assistant executive officer Susan Lancara, ringside physician Paul Wallace and four emergency medical technicians, but the decision to let the fight proceed was left to Schorle, Shaw said.

The referee consulted with Burgos and Sandoval after the ninth and 10th rounds, Wallace said, and granted their wish to "go forward." Burgos was clearly wobbly. His slip to the canvas in the 12th round was his fifth of the fight.

Gonzalez said the comments critical of Burgos' corner are "very disrespectful at this moment."

Gonzalez said Sandoval and Burgos "are together everyday, they're very close friends.

"This is boxing, man," Gonzalez said. "There's nobody to blame. They knew what they were getting into, that they can get hurt like that."

Darchinyan is "upset and shook" by his opponent's ring injury, Shaw said. The boxer boarded a return flight to Australia on Sunday but was surprised by the severity of Burgos' condition.

"Darchinyan asked me after the fight, 'He's OK, right?' " Shaw said.

Burgos is with his wife Claudia, Sandoval, and other friends and family members at the hospital, Gonzalez said.

"Nobody in the family is saying anything critical about the fight going on," until the 12th round, Gonzalez said. "They know how Burgos is. When they talked about stopping it after the ninth and 10th, he told them, 'Don't do that to me. No way.' "

Gonzalez speculated that allowing the fight to continue was "maybe a good sign."

Burgos had planned to be driven back to Tijuana immediately after the fight so he could be home with his three daughters.

"Imagine if they stop the fight in the 10th, and he leaves with that [clot] in his head," Gonzalez said. "Maybe he dies on the car ride to Tijuana."

Yet, Gonzalez acknowledged that the referee asking Burgos if he was OK to continue was not a question worth asking.

"When you're a warrior, you're trained to fight no matter how you feel," Gonzalez said. "It's almost impossible to ask these guys if they want to quit. This kid has loved the sport his whole life. Everything he does is for his kids. He knows as a boxer from Mexico to give nothing less than his everything."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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