09 November 2009 – By Alex McGreevy
Martin Rogan will undergo a spinal operation that requires a six-month recovery period – putting on hold a decision about his future in the ring.
The Belfast heavyweight revealed after his Commonwealth heavyweight title challenge defeat to Sam Sexton on Friday that medical opinion had advised a spinal injury could cause him serious long-term problems if he continued to fight.
Its an injury that champion Sam Sexton doubted in the aftermath of the gruelling six-round re-match at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. Rogan didnt come out for the seventh round – claiming the injury that initially delayed the second showdown with Sexton had left his left arm limp.
I sat with the heartbroken Rogan for almost two hours after the fight – witnessing the former champion needing assistance to put on his shirt and coat – and he even struggled to button his jeans. He was clearly in pain but the disappointment of defeat appeared to be hurting just as much.
Rogan admitted that sparring was excluded from his preparation for fear that the injury may reoccur.
He said: “If Sexton thinks Im not injured I will send him the medical report. I was playing with fire in there – thats what the doctor told me. I spent 800 for the best medical opinion and was told that I needed an operation.
“But there was too much at stake. Too many people were looking forward to the fight and had spent good money. I worked as hard as I could before and during the fight. I am in better condition than ever. All I wanted to do was please the fans.”
Rogans complaint is the sixth vertebrae in his spine. It can, according to the 38-year-olds advice, be corrected – and he can fight again. But whether he will or not will be a decision the former ODonovan Rossa hurler can only make later next year. By then, he will be in his 39th year.
The peoples champion revived Irish boxing with his amazing fairytale rise to prominence and would not be criticised for never pulling boxing gloves on again. But dont be surprised if sometime in 2010 Rogan seeks to add another chapter to his remarkable story.
His trainer, Paul McCullough, said: “Martin is heartbroken for his family and fans. We knew what we had going into the fight – we had six, seven, maybe at best eight rounds to survive before the injury kicked-in.
“I knew Martin had an injury but wasnt fully aware of how serious it was until I saw the medical report. Maybe Sexton knew of the injury because it was obvious to everyone that he was focussed on leaning on Martin throughout the fight. The pressure he put on Martins shoulders was blatant and how he got away with it I dont know. The referee must have warned Sexton three times but never took points from him.”
McCullough contested opinion that Sexton was close to stopping his man in the sixth round – one round after Rogan came so close to stopping Sexton.
He added: “Martin may have looked tired in the sixth round but he was not finished. Thats the way he fights – his bursts of energy come and go. His stamina is superb. As far as fitness is concerned there was no problems – he is as fit as a fiddle.”
The champion ruled out a third meeting with Rogan – claiming he had retired him. The Norwich man, who will seek a British title clash with champ Danny Williams, also doubted Rogans post-fight explanation.
He said: “We heard rumours there was an injury around the time he changed trainers. Who knows, maybe he just wanted extra time with his new trainer but all he did was give me extra time to prepare too.
“Maybe there was a niggle there but I not convinced there was – I just believe I took his heart away.
“He did rattle me in the fifth round but I knew he was finished in the sixth and that I would have stopped him had he came out for the seventh.
“Sometimes it takes a shot to wake you up and get into gear and that happened in the fifth round. I took good shots and I was momentarily dazed but nothing major.
“I just thought to myself ‘Im not having that again.’ There was no controversy this time – I have proved everyone wrong yet again.
“There no way will I fight Rogan again. Whats the point? I have been to Belfast twice and have beaten him twice. I have retired Martin Rogan – if he fights again after this I would be very surprised.”
David Hayes WBA heavyweight defeat of Nickolai Valuev gives Sexton another target.
There was an interested spectator at a pre-Rogan-Sexton fight public workout last week – former IBO cruiserweight champion Darren Corbett. He had been sparring with Sexton in Norwich and confidently declared he would beat either fighter. What chance a Rogan-Corbett showdown in 2010?