Given all we know about the wonders of the placebo effect, I’m always deeply skeptical about alternative medical practices that have never been the subject of peer-reviewed scrutiny. Yet I’m also deeply fascinated by the techniques employed by legendary boxing cutmen, many of whom had the ability to stanch geysers of blood—without sutures—in less than 60 seconds. I suspect that there is real medical wisdom to be gleaned from their experiences, but the secretive nature of their craft has prevented it from being seriously studied. Cutmen tend to guard their methods and potions as trade secrets of the highest order, a fact that may add to their romantic allure, but which frustrates anyone who might be interested in learning how pugilistic medicine might be adopted for everday ER use.
But every once in a while, a cutman opens up about a few of the craft’s proprietary secrets. Such was the case with Milt Bailey, the former cutman for Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier, who dished a little dirt to the Philadelphia Inquirer two decades ago:
Bailey’s modern tools include a small, oblong, stainless-steel press that he uses to apply pressure to cuts. Before the press, cut men used silver dollars to stop the blood.
“I don’t do much talking in the corner,” Bailey said. “I go in and immediately hit him with a cold cotton swab. If it’s a vein that’s like bleeding real bad, that’s when you try and compress it. You push down with one hand, put the medication on with the other hand. Sometimes I get blood on my jacket.”
In his ringside bucket, Bailey carries a water bottle; a bottle of adrenalin, which acts a coagulant; Vaseline, and three bottles of secret solutions. In the past, Bailey has used a mixture of ammonia, water and peppermint schnapps to revive fighters.
“It’s illegal today,” Bailey said.
Another interview with a celebrated Philadelphia cutman, Joey “Joey Eye” Intrieri, can be found here. Note his caution regarding the blood-thinning effects of energy drinks, which make a cutman’s job that much harder.
(Image via British Boxers)