The dressing room after a defeat is a time of raw emotion. Steve Bunce was backstage in the aftermath of Josh Warrington vs Kiko Martinez
LONG after Kiko Martínez had left the building, the floor in his changing room was still slick with his blood and water. My notes have his blood all over them, several pages are stained and I’m sure there is enough light-blood splatter on my clothing to make me an easy target for Dexter. Josh Warrington was wiped clean at the start of each round, the blood removed to make him look less like he had come fresh from an abattoir. It was that type of night in Leeds and we expected that type of night in Leeds.
I was looking for Warrington when I found Kiko’s room, but he had been packed off to hospital with a broken jaw and hand; he is now on a two-week liquid diet. I have no idea how many stitches were needed to pull Kiko’s face back together, and close the wounds and cuts and holes.
Back there in the dressing room corridors at fights, the night’s darker side is open and raw; it’s the place where men and women scream in joy, visit the fighter they beat, drink a Guinness, eat a burger and cry.
It’s also a place of extreme contrasts, a private place where access is a privilege.
You know it has been a bad night when the fighter is walking back alone, 10 feet and a life of silences in front of his trainer. This can happen with losers and winners and it is never a good sign. It’s a time of raw emotions and things are said and done that upset people.
An extreme example of this was the sad sight of Mark Breland sitting in the naughty chair outside Deontay Wilder’s dressing room at the MGM in 2020. Wilder had just been stopped by Tyson Fury and Breland was getting the blame. I went up and down that corridor about six times in an hour, in and out of Fury’s room of love and happiness and then in silence each time I walked past Breland. I never saw anybody say a word to Breland. That was an awful way to get sacked, a semi-public shaming in a corridor of emotions.
The loser’s dressing room requires a lot of nimble manoeuvring, a few wise and good words and an attempt to understand how low the beaten fighter feels. In all honesty, it’s not a great place to tell the truth – it’s hard to tell a fighter what he wants to hear if you have just finished talking on radio or television and you have said the absolute opposite. Ouch, careful with that one.
It is also in these corridors that a lot of boxing’s fixers and movers and duckers and divers can reach a fighter; a boxer is vulnerable at that time, ready to hear what he wants to hear and not happy to hear the truth. Nobody wants to walk in on a heartbroken fighter and tell him that he did this wrong and should have done that. Alternatively, telling out-and-out lies is not good to anybody.