Coming Up on Nightline

It was the fall of 1997. A young Washington, D.C. still photographer, David Snider, was making the transition to video and asked a friend of his, a boxing manager, if he wanted to profile his client, a then 22-year-old middleweight named Beethavean Scottland. Snider eagerly followed him through his training for a fight, the match itself and interviewed him about the life of a boxer who had turned professional only two years earlier.

In the interview, Bee Scottland talked about people's perception that the sport is barbaric. For him though, it was "how you make your income, it's not like you're making (boxers) go in and fight. Scottland was brutally frank about the dangers he and other boxers faced: "I'm getting paid to go in there and perform either to beat you on the cards or to knock you out. I know it's a 50-50 chance that that could be me laying down there, I know it's a 50-50 chance that I could die in the ring. I know that people die in the ring."

If you've been reading papers, you know where this story is going. On June 26 on the deck of the USS Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier docked on the Hudson in midtown Manhattan, Bee Scottland was a last-minute substitute on a nationally televised match.

He faced a light-heavyweight, George Jones, who knocked Scottland out in the tenth and final round after pummeling him for much of the fight. By the time he lay on the mat, he was disoriented and soon slipped into unconsciousness. Six days later, he died of his injuries -- a rupture of the veins between the brain and the skull. Scottland was 26. He left behind a wife and three small children. (A trust fund has been set up: The Scottland Family Trust Fund, Auxiliary to Bellevue Hospital, Room 100, 462 First Ave., New York, NY 10016).

Scottland is the fourth boxer to die in New York since 1979. According to the AMA, between 60 to 87 percent of boxers who have been in the sport any length of time suffer permanent brain damage. Clearly, there are many questions about boxing: should there be a national organization with teeth regulating the sport; should professionals don headgear the way amateurs do; and who should stop a fight when it's not crystal clear a boxer's life may be on the line?

Chris Bury will talk with some young boxers at one of Washington's storied training facilities and we'll speak with one of the sports leading promoters, Bob Arum. But it is Bee Scottland's prophetic words from 1997 that will probably stay with you for a long time.

Richard Harris is a senior producer at Nightline.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...