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Cutman Mike Bazzel Reflects on Tim Tszyu’s Cut

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Last Saturday, Sebastian Fundora won a surprise split decision over Tim Tszyu, after an unintentional Fundora elbow slashed a cut above Tszyu’s forehead. When Tszyu’s corner was unable to get the cut under control, the bleeding clearly affected the fighter’s vision – and very possibly the outcome.

The fight underscored the importance of a quality cutman (or cutwoman). Often underpaid, and rarely fully appreciated, they can have a dramatic influence on a fight – maybe even turning wins into losses, or vice versa.

Unsurprisingly, Mark Gambin, Tszyu’s cutman, instantly became a major player in the fight narrative after the bell Saturday. In fairness, Tszyu’s cut seemed to be a particularly persistent one. It appeared (though has not been confirmed) that Fundora’s elbow may have nicked a vein in Tszyu’s head, which would have made the bleeding very difficult to stop in the moment.

Mike Bazzel, nicknamed “The Mechanic,” is a decorated cutman who has worked with a litany of world titleholders that includes Nonito Donaire, Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs. He is widely considered a top expert in one of the most niche vocations you’ll ever find.

Bazzel recently spoke to Boxing Scene to offer his own perspective on Tszyu’s cut and other related topics:

“I only know what I observed, which was poor technique, a lack of knowledge about knowing the rules of an unintentional foul that is bleeding in his eyesight,” Bazzel said. “[The fight] is not being stopped – you can have that fight stopped inside of four rounds.”

Bazzel notes that he can’t be certain exactly what he would have done in the same situation without having been in the corner on Saturday. But based on what he could observe, he formulated a plan:

“I wouldn’t use one swab. I would use two, because it looked like a pretty good gash,” Bazzel said. “I don’t know how wide or deep it was, but I would have used two swabs. Put on pressure. You have to use medicine and contact the wound. Then I would have taken cold grease, if I could, and packed the wound with it.

“[Gambin] dabbed it, and it was bleeding throughout the dabbing. There was no packing.”

Bazzel pointed out some other irregularities. For instance, Gambin didn’t wear gloves. Also, Bazzel notes, Tszyu’s team didn’t appear to have all the appropriate materials and equipment needed to handle the cut.

“The commission is not going to supply [everything],” Bazzel said. “You, as a professional cutman, have to do it. Poor technique, not prepared, the corner not knowing the rules – they are from Australia.”

In any case, Tszyu entered every round after suffering the cut (in the second) already bleeding profusely.

But this speaks to a systemic problem in boxing. Famed cutman Mike Rodriguez has said that commissions are like airport security – all of them different from one another. From the approval of medicines allowed by the Nevada Athletic Commission to the local rules surrounding an accidental foul causing a serious injury, more could be done to either align rules across commissions or make clear the differences to all parties involved in the fights.

“As the cut happened, it changed the whole fight,” Bazzel said of Tszyu’s fate. “It is unfortunate, man.”

Bazzel notes that both sides – Tszyu’s corner and commission-sanctioned ringside officials – could have done more to either give Tszyu a fighting chance or spare him to fight another day.

“I would have talked to the doctors in between [the rounds],” Bazzel said. “I would have talked to the corner. I am going to be honest with the corner, say ‘This thing is going to bleed. You can get this fight stopped if it is an unintentional foul.’ It will go to a no-contest and you will get a rematch. I don’t know if any of that was talked about.”

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