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For Stone, History’s Repeat Rings Tragic
LAS VEGAS, NV —Although it take hours after the 6th round knockout for the news to reach him, Robbie Lee Stone knew right away. The worst moment of his life was happening again. He had slain another fellow boxer.
At 6’ 9” and 234 pounds, present in a sinewy muscled physique, Stone looks every bit a boxer who can live up to the nickname “Sledgehammer” and he should. He works hard at it. From the beginnings of his career in a dusty condemned building in Detroit to a title shot seven years ago—one most boxing historians agree Stone won far and away by all accounts except for the judges—he has never stopped working on the sweet science.
In all other ways, however, Stone seems an odd fit for the sport.
Growing up impoverished, Stone used to skip school all the time to do odd jobs around his neighborhood to help his family. As a result, he could barely read or write when he began to catch people’s attention and collect some impressive purses. Rather than spend the money on things like cars, clothes, or even a new apartment, Robbie Lee instead immediately started taking college courses. Since his first fight, he has collected two undergrad degrees, one in accounting and one in art history, and a Masters in philosophy. He represents and promotes himself, dodging greedy profiteers, while still living a fairly modest life. Quiet, he has always eschewed the hyperbolic and hypermasculine trash talk of boxing, rejecting both the Ali school of slick, clever taunts and the Tyson approach of terrifying, sometimes confusing promises of destruction and child eating.
Which is why last night’s bout—and its tragic mirror from five years earlier—seems especially stunning. No boxer has killed anyone in the ring in a regulated fight in the past two decades. No one except Stone, who has now done it twice.
A previous investigation of the 2009 bout in which Stone’s opponent, a 21 year old phenom named Gordon Halls, hit the mat in the third round and never moved again, found that Stone had done nothing illegal or immoral and that he was not at fault. He nonetheless has been writing a check to Halls’ mother, every month, since.
“I was so angry at first,” she confesses, “that I absolutely cashed them. ‘Screw him’ I told people, although less delicately. But he kept paying, even after every investigation said he was just a tragic thing that happened. So I stopped cashing them. He’s a good man.”
This time, the cause of death seems clearer. Stone was fighting Calvin Dawn, an fighter in his late 30’s who has a reputation for drinking hard and long into the night and for next paying attention to how it affects his diabetes. In the course of the fight, Stone struck Dawn’s midsection and caused the man’s either overworked liver or pancreas—reports from trusted sources vary—to rupture. He was septic almost immediately, and by the time they were talking him out of the arena, it was purely ceremonial. Dawn, like Halls before him, died at the hands of Stone.
Stone has so far refused to comment and has issued the briefest of statements, saying, “This is a tragedy and one that has left me heartbroken. There is no way I can think of to seek forgiveness for what I’ve done.”
Although the Boxing Federation had not ruled out sanctions at press time, sources within the organization indicate they can see no reason to punish Stone at this juncture, although some would like to see him retire from fighting to spare the Federation from having to make any kind of difficult choice stemming from this event.