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McGirt on Dadashev: 'It's like losing a family member'

Valery Sharifulin/Getty Images

Back home in California a day after his fighter Maxim Dadashev suffered a TKO loss against Subriel Matias and was hospitalized with a brain injury, trainer Buddy McGirt received a call from the Maryland State Athletic Commission.

"Buddy, what did you see that we didn't see, that made you stop the fight?"

McGirt hung up, frustrated that someone would even ask such a question. If they were there watching, he thought, they should've known as well.

"I should've stayed on the phone and asked him his name," McGirt says. "But I got so mad, I hung up."

McGirt called the fight off after the 11th round July 19 in Oxon Hill, Maryland, after pleading with his fighter in the corner to let him end the contest. It was a move that was roundly applauded within the boxing industry as it happened.

Dadashev, who sustained a subdural hematoma, died four days later.

ESPN spoke to McGirt, who will corner Sergey Kovalev in his bout Saturday in Las Vegas against Canelo Alvarez, about how he's coping with Dadashev's death and how his thoughts in the corner have changed since.

Editor's note: Answers have been edited for content, clarity and length.

When did you realize the situation was serious for Maxim?

During the fight, Maxim said to me that the guy's punches hurt. When he said that, I knew that was not a good sign.

When they made him walk out of the ring, he started throwing up. A doctor told me, "That's not a good sign, Buddy."

When the doctor said that it really, really scared me.

Has the situation with Maxim Dadashev changed you as a trainer?

I'm trying to find the right words, because you can't let it stop you from doing your job. It makes you more aware. Have you become a more cautious, careful trainer when considering stopping fights?

I'm not cautious but careful. I mean, if anybody says they're not, there's something wrong with them. They're not human. I'm more careful, not cautious. I just watch the fighter's reaction more than normal. And with Max, I wanted to give him that one more round before I finally stopped it. But it's a situation that you never know what would've happened.

Nobody second-guessed you in the Dadashev fight, but did you ever second-guess yourself?

No. My thing is, no matter how you slice up the pie, who knows what would've happened if I stopped it in the third round, or the fifth round. I mean, you never know. You can always second-guess it, but I don't.

I know Max is looking down and saying, "Don't worry, Buddy, I'm in a better place."

Did you think of Dadashev as Sergey Kovalev struggled in the eighth round against Anthony Yarde just a month later?

Maxim Dadashev hit me for about three seconds during that eighth round.

As Kovalev was getting hit in the eighth, I looked at his legs, I saw his legs were steady. So I said, "OK, Buddy, you've gotta do something to get him back on track."

And I said, "Let me see his response in the corner." When he said to me, "Don't stop it, I got him now because he's tired," I knew he was going to be OK.

And then after that, he went out and did his thing. So I was OK. Every fight is its own entity.

Given his age (36), have you altered the way you train Kovalev?

Yes, you don't work them as hard at his age. He knows how to fight. You remind him of certain things and you judge him according to the workouts. Sometimes in the middle of a workout, I'll stop it.

Will you be thinking about Maxim when Kovalev faces Canelo?

I can't dwell on it. I take it as a lesson, and move on. I mean, there might be times where it may seem like Kovalev is going out, and there may be times in the fight that he isn't. We won't know till next week, but I pretty much have enough knowledge of Sergey to know when he's had enough.

How did the passing of Patrick Day affect you?

I felt for his family and his corner, because it's a sad thing, man. Until you've experienced it, you really can't explain it. It's like losing a family member because that's the type of bond you have with a fighter. You just can't believe it because you say to yourself, "I was just with him in the locker room laughing, cracking jokes -- and now I'm going to his funeral."

Do corners need to be better in remembering that the No. 1 goal is to protect their fighters?

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Atlas tears up while explaining Dadashev's impact

Just hours after the death of Maxim Dadashev was announced, Teddy Atlas tears up while explaining the impact of a boxer's death in the community.

Without a doubt. I think the problem we have in boxing today is that a lot of these trainers want to be bigger than the fighter, so if they can go in there and do something fancy or different and get praise for it, they're OK with it. At the end of the day, it's all about the fighter.

And I tell every fighter: "Remember this, you only have one shot at this. When you retire in 10 years, I'm still going to be doing this, your manager is still going to be managing, and your promoter is still going to be a promoter. Question is, what are you going to be doing?"

Regardless of how good or bad this sport can be, is this what you are and what you do?

Yeah, I've had opportunities to do other things, and I look at myself in the mirror and said, "That's not you, Buddy. Boxing is you."

I had a couple of companies I worked for, sitting behind the desk, suit and tie on, and I remember losing my mind. I'm like, "You've got a gift, Buddy, go out and share with this young generation."