Abdusalamov Settlement Illuminates Virginia’s Role in Colon Brain Injury

Major Concerns in the Boxing Community – Starting with the Oversight
Boxing Czar David Holland’s continued employment shows Virginia DPOR’s Recklessness

By Marc Londo and Mohamad Elmahmoud

IB-September 18, 2017 – New York has finally settled with brain damaged boxer Magomed Abdusalamov for $22 million. The settlement is reported to be the largest personal injury settlement that New York has ever made, per ESPN.

The incompetence of the New York athletic commission was exemplified by the fact that they made Abdusalamov call a taxi to go to the hospital after being beaten prone by opponent Mike Perez. With Abdusalamov permanently brain damaged and paralyzed on his right side, the inspector general found widespread incompetence by the New York Athletic Commission. Now, more than $2 million in debt, Abdusalamov’s family faces tens of millions of dollars in medical costs going forward.

The egregious treatment of Abdusalamov reflects the loose ‘Old West’ patchwork form of governance that rules over the sport of professional boxing. Unfortunately, all too often the careless way these athletes are handled goes unreported. Or, even worse, it gets reported on and gets quickly buried because these athletes occupy a lower strata in the sports landscape. Boxers typically come from low income backgrounds and are most often minorities.

Pictured: With Colon grasping the back of his head, Virginia Boxing head David Holland appears unconcerned. Photo: Patrick Smith

Virginia’s (the Va. Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation) handling of the Prichard Colon–Terrel Williams bout on October 17, 2015 went far beyond disregard in the aftermath of the bout. The actions of the referee Joseph Cooper, ringside doctor Richard Ashby, and supervisor David Holland, are what put Prichard Colon in harm’s way.

If just one of those actors in this drama would have been capable at their job, Prichard Colon would be healthy today. Their inaction put Colon in grave danger. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of Colon’s vegetative state, mainstream coverage was focused more on his prognosis than on the defective mechanism that surrounded him that fateful day.

The New York settlement returns the focus where it belongs. Virginia boxing is broken. In the aftermath of Colon’s injury, there was a nearly 6 month period that Virginia officials were publicly claiming they were “investigating” all of the principle figures in the fight.

While he was under an apparent investigation, referee Cooper kept taking assignments in Washington. Even more alarming is that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe attended a fight that a main figure of his states investigation was refereeing.

Eventually, Virginia’s investigation was revealed to be a sham and the state has since shown no ability to recalibrate. More on that can be found here in the following Boxing Insider article: https://www.boxinginsider.com/columns/virginia-governor-terry-mcauliffe-must-stop-ignoring-prichard-colon-case/

An Extensive History of Reckless Behavior Under David Holland

Warning sirens were ringing about controversial Virginia boxing chief David Holland and the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) long before David Holland suggested Prichard Colon was faking his head injury.

His peers have described him as “arrogant”, “boorish”, and “incompetent in his current position.” In 2010, Gary ‘Digital’ Williams spoke to the DPOR amidst calls for Holland’s head to which the DPOR replied: “He’s not going anywhere. There are a couple of people who would like to see Holland go. He’s had difficulties with promoters in the past, but there are no plans to replace him.”

In actuality, many of his “difficulties with promoters” (which can be found online) eerily speculate that a catastrophic event, such as Prichard Colon’s vegetative state, would eventually happen under Holland’s watch. “Whatever you think of fighting, someone could be killed if a regulating commission does not do its job,” said Fairfax journalist Chris Beer in 2010.

In a Mason Conservative article titled, “Is There a Problem at the Virginia DPOR?” Beer reviewed the accounts of Holland’s heavy-handed and negligent leadership style and concluded “maybe because Virginia is smaller, but I don’t want our state to be the place the first death in MMA happens, or something very serious happens in a boxing or pro wrestling match.”

Beer’s article can be found here: http://masonconservative.typepad.com/the_mason_conservative/2010/02/is-there-a-problem-at-the-virginia-dpor.html

Beer’s concerns were shared by many around the Capital Beltway, and his conclusion foreshadowed what ultimately came. Five years later, Holland was again under public scrutiny for telling Prichard Colon to stop faking as he walked around the ring holding the back of his head.

Holland’s accusations that Colon was stalling very likely influenced the judgments of the referee and the doctor, making the danger much greater. While Colon stood above Holland, holding the ropes with one hand and clutching the back of his head with the other, the DPOR chief showed little concern for his safety.

Holland believed it was theatre. Once Holland blew it off, his staff (most notably Referee Joseph Cooper and Dr. Richard Ashby) become more fixated on watching their watches instead of observing Colon for signs of a brain bleed.

Now, almost two years later, the cruel reality that David Holland is still working fights in Virginia, as the DPOR Program Administrator, and Delaware as an inspector, while Colon can’t get out of his own bed, is a bitter pill. And, just like in 2010, the DPOR refuses to do anything.
In 2010, it was Ben Saunders – after cornering for his fighter in Harrisonburg, Virginia – who said, “I don’t want my fighter, or other fighters, fighting in a state that doesn’t do their job and puts lives in danger.” Today, those words have become my words. If Colon had gone out for the 10th round, is there any question it would have killed him?

If Beer and Saunders were warning this may happen five years earlier, how did we get to this point with Prichard Colon? That’s a question the State of Virginia has to answer for.

Nevertheless, a circle of silence surrounds Virginia. Once again, they turn their backs. In spite of the silence, Prichard Colon isn’t going anywhere. This latest ruling in New York has once again made that clear.

No matter what the Virginia DPOR does, they’ll never erase the images of Colon holding the back of his head. Those pictures continue to inspire questions surrounding the inaction of the DPOR officials. Prichard communicated all of the signs one would expect for officials to do their jobs. However, when the ringleader of the circus expresses doubt on what he sees then is it really surprising his staff would too?

David Holland must step down now. For those not aware of Holland’s record, take a few minutes to google “David Holland,” “boxing,” “DPOR,” and read more on his history in Virginia. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Must we send any more boxers out for that final round?

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