Some of boxing's most important decisions are made by Dr. Flip Homansky. As
the ringside physician for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, he is the man who
advises the referee about whether a fighter can continue. Not a single referee has
ever disagreed with his professional opinion. His decisions are made with careers
and millions of dollars hanging in the balance, yet, he is a doctor first. Flip
and Boxingwise's, Cornerman discussed his duties and his view on what the game
Dr. Homansky: You know, it is an inherently dangerous sport and there is no way you can make it 100% safe, but I know I can have a positive role in making it as safe as possible. So, that's enough for me. Boxing is going to take place whether it's at Caesar's Palace in Vegas or if it is in a back alley somewhere or a barge out in the ocean. So it is better to try to make the situation safe as possible for these guys. So I don't have any problem, morally or ethically. The Cornerman: Can you run down the criteria you use in deciding whether to stop a fight. Dr. Homansky: Actually, lacerations and cuts are pretty simple. It is actually tougher situation when a fighter is taking too many head blows. I'll divide into cuts and head blows; let me talk about cuts first. You know, I see cuts in the emergency room and blood doesn't worry me. A lot of times things look a lot worse than they are. Sometimes there's not a lot of blood but the cut is more dangerous. When I approach a fighter that has got a cut, it is obvious to me whether this was the first time he's seen his own blood or not. Whether the sight of his own blood is a real problem for him—that's #1. The Cornerman: Does that factor in to your decision? Dr. Homansky: No question. For Arturo Gatti it is just not going to be factor. For a 19-year-old kid in his second fight, who has never seen his own blood-yeah, that's going to factor in. If a kid changes the way he fights because of cut, that's a concern to me. If he starts bringing his gloves up to protect that cut but really isn't protecting his head—that's a problem. If he's taking more punishment just to protect the cut—that's a problem and the obvious thing—if the cut starts to obstruct his vision. Most cuts really don't, the question is whether there is a cosmetic problem or a if there's a physiologic problem. There are certain cuts especially around the orbital that you can't allow to extend. You can't let them get too deep, you can't let them go over a certain line because of where the nerves lie. Those are all factors that come into play. The Cornerman: Can you tell all that in the amount of time you get in between rounds? Dr. Homansky: You know, I can't say you can tell 100% of the time, but you better be able to tell pretty close to it. The Cornerman: Does a permanent cosmetic scar cause a problem? Dr. Homansky: There are very few cuts that will cause a permanent cosmetic problem with a good plastic surgeon and with fixing it at 2 or 3 levels. Cuts around the lip can be cosmetically a big problem and leave a scar. Those are the cuts I'm more prone to stop. The Cornerman: How about when a fighter is not cut but taking a lot of blows? Dr. Homansky: I stay in tune now and watch very closely, when a kid is not winning a fight, when he is losing every round—and when he's taking a lot of punishment. Even if he hasn't been down you need to look at the big picture and decide how much more punishment he can take. It is a tough decision. The Cornerman: When you stop a fight under those circumstances or, for that matter, under any circumstances do the boos bother you? Dr. Homansky: No. You know, in that moment you don't even hear it—you really don't even hear the crowd. The boos are irrelevant. The Cornerman: Do you have a favorite referee? Dr. Homansky: I thought Mitch Halpern did as good a job with Holyfield/Lewis that could possibly be done. I thought he was just superb. Richard Steele gets a lot of flack from the fans but if I had a son who was boxing; I would want Richard as a referee. The Cornerman: I've always wanted your opinion on Richard's controversial stoppage in the Taylor/Chavez fight. Should he have stopped it? Dr. Homansky: Without question. Meldrick Taylor's eye socket, his orbital rim was fractured and he had swallowed a lot of blood. He was peeing blood. I mean, Meldrick was never the same. Whether 1 or 2 or 3 more punches would have made a difference? I'm glad we don't have to know that. The Cornerman: Speaking of safety, what would you do to minimize the danger in boxing if you had unlimited resources Dr. Homansky: I strongly believe that fighters as they age are asking for trouble. I addressed the National Association of Attorney Generals when they had hearings a year ago in New York. One of my proposals and no one else seemed to agree, and it didn't get very far was that on a fighters 40th birthday he loses his license to box, all fighters. I would allow no one over the age of 40 to fight and anyone over the age of 36, and this is how it is in our state, would have to go through extensive testing. I understand age discrimination laws and I understand exceptions like Foreman but I firmly believe that we are asking for problems both for acute type injuries and chronic type injuries. I also think another significant danger in boxing is the weight loss and dehydration. I would be very strict with the amount of weight that could be lost in preparation for a fight. Proposals are out there for percentage weight losses seven days before a title fight and I think those should be implemented. Boxing is never going to be a safe sport but when the boxers themselves don't train properly and don't take care of themselves it is going to hurt all of us. If the funds were available it is a wonderful opportunity to do a lot of studies. The studies would start with some of the more sophisticated tests we have on the brain. You know, it was a real breakthrough when we got cat scans. We fought at that time over the costs of cat scans and it became obvious how important they were. They are the right thing to do AFTER a fight but they are not the right thing to do in terms of screening. Instead, we're talking about MRI's, MRA's, very sophisticated new types of brain testing that are extremely expensive but I think we need to look in terms of what we can do better to screen this so kids don't end up with problems. So, you know, a lot of things boil down to money but I'd look at developing funding from every ticket sold in America for brain research. You would need a baseline so when a kid turns pro he needs a full battery of tests—problem is that kids turning pro are the ones that can least afford it. So what you will need to do is work out deals in the fight centers where it can be done at a certain cost. There would have to be a central clearinghouse for these studies so that a kid who fights in New Jersey and then in Las Vegas will not have to have the tests repeated. Instead, I could call and get his baseline EKG and brainwave study. We will need a database; we need funds so we can do the right screening exams on these kids. The promoters get scared when we even start talking about this stuff. They want to help the kids but they just see dollar signs.