MMA pocket-sized powerhouse Rose Namajunas has used her elevated position in the TUF house to bring pressure on the dangerous gym culture at Duke Roufus’ Roufusport gym in Milwaukee.
This comes in response to the needless death of kickboxer Denis Munson Jr.
The evening of March 28 was to be Munson’s first, and last, Kickboxing fight. The 24 year-old had fought hard in the first round, but was clearly fading in the second. When the bell rang he wobbled back to his corner and slumped on the stool. His coach screamed instructions in his face and propped him up.
When the referee summoned the fighters for the third and final round Munson staggered as he marched forward.
Dennis Munson Jr. Image: www.round1network.com
Munson had exhibited signs of distress early in the second round. After taking a particularly vicious right to the face he crossed his feet (something drilled out of every fighter) and began taking undefended shots from his opponent. Sherry Wulkan, a highly respected ringside doctor (and medical chief of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, said, on viewing the video of the fight, “He doesn’t look like the same fighter. I would be on more than high alert at that point.”
The fight doctor, Carlos Feliciano, said he thought the fighter simply looked fatigued. However, video shows the doctor taking his eyes off Munson at key moments. He looked away to his cell phone or to talk to those alongside him.
The video also shows Scott Cushman, the corner man, lifting his fighter to sit up straight as he slumped on the stool. Cushman’s body language indicated he was angry to the point of disgust. The video shows him yelling at Munson, but doesn’t pick up what was said; all this while the doctor was on his cell phone.
As Munson stood for the third round he nearly fell to the mat. Cushman caught him and sent him out.
Munson’s opponent, Michael Vang (also debuting), said he knew the bout was his when Munson began dropping his hands. He said he expected the fight referee, Al Wichgers, to stop the bout, at least for a standing eight count.
Kickboxing, unlike MMA, has no rule allowing for a fighter to concede. Even if there were, a stigma exists against surrendering, making it all but impossible for Munson to end the fight.
Early in the third round Munson looked done. He reached for ring ropes that weren’t there, was unsteady on his feet, and wasn’t defending himself intelligently. Members of the crowd were yelling for the fight to be stopped.
No one did anything.
Munson struggled through the third round. In the dying moments Vang unleashed a series of devastating punches and a brutal knee to Munson’s head. Munson clinched Vang, giving himself a small reprieve from the barrage.
Referee Al Wichgers separated them and signaled the fight to continue.
The final bell sounded before they could resume.
Munson slung both arms over the ropes in his corner. Feliciano glanced at both fighters’ corner and then turned his attention to his cell phone. Wichgers stood in a third corner; while Cushman entered the ring to talk to Munson with his hand on his hip.
Then Munson fell to the mat.
Paramedics raced to aid him, but were waved off.
There was disagreement between fight officials about what to do with Munson. Eventually it was decided to take him to a local hospital instead of Milwaukee’s Level One trauma centre. Without the paramedics it longer than usual to get Munson to the car
Munson died at 00:10 on March 29. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner put his death down to blunt force injuries to the head.