A cutman is a person responsible for preventing and treating physical damage to a fighter during the breaks between rounds of a full contact match such as a boxing, kickboxing or a mixed martial arts bout. Cutmen typically handle swelling, nosebleeds and lacerations (commonly called cuts). The rules of combat sports stipulate that these injuries can be a cause for premature match stoppage, counting as a loss to the injured fighter. The cutman is therefore essential to the fighter, and can be a decisive factor in the outcome of the match.
The compensation for cutmen varies, generally staying within 10–15% of fighter's prize money. For many fighters on a low budget, the cutman duties are performed by their cornerman. While most athletic commissions require cutmen to be licensed, there is usually no formal training or certification required. Most cutmen learn their trade through apprenticeship and self-education.
Unlike boxing, cutmen for mixed martial arts events are generally provided by the promotion, rather than the fighter's corner. This is to prevent allegations of "greasing" (applying petroleum jelly to areas other than the forehead, which provides an unfair advantage in grappling situations).
Cutmen should not be confused with the fight physician, an official who monitors the health of the fighters and whose task is closer to that of a neutral referee. The fight physician provides medical advice, monitors the safety of both fighters in accordance with regulations or law, and evaluates their ability to continue fighting.
Before the fight, cutmen will usually put petroleum jelly on the most likely areas of impact, especially the fighter's face, making the skin more elastic and slippery, and hence less likely to tear. It is not considered good practice to use large amounts of petroleum jelly, since during the fight it is likely to end up on the gloves of the opponent, and later in the eyes of the fighter if the opponent lands a punch close to their eyes. Cutmen might also tape fighters' hands, which helps protect the bones and tendons. Wraps are used during training but are illegal during competition, though people still commonly use the term "wrap" in error to describe the taping method of using gauze and tape.
During the fight, cutmen try to control any swelling or bleeding during the breaks between rounds. Since cutmen are not doctors, and have a very short period of time to treat the fighter, their treatments are limited to advanced first aid treatments.
Swelling is usually associated with facial hematomas (bruises), and is traditionally reduced by applying firm pressure with a chilled enswell or an ice bag on top of the area of trauma. The cutman presses the enswell against a fighter's skin to cool and reduce swelling from injuries, especially in areas around the eyes where swelling can impair vision. Since the time between rounds is very short, cutmen try to apply the enswell right away and hold it as long as they can, but a common mistake is using the enswell to push directly on the swollen area in an attempt to disperse it or move it into a safer place such as away from the eye. Such treatment will not move the hematoma, and may disrupt the microscopic blood vessels under the skin, thus causing an increase in bleeding and enlargement of the swelled area.
Cuts (lacerations) are the primary focus of the cutman because unless the bleeding is stopped promptly, the fight physician may stop the fight and declare that the injured fighter has lost the match. Physicians also will stop a match for a laceration that is perpendicular to the eye. The most common area of the face to be cut is around the eye. Cuts are treated by applying a cold towel to clean and simultaneously cool the area of the cut, causing a decrease in blood flow. A cotton swab soaked in epinephrine is applied with pressure to decrease blood flow even more, and Avitene is put into the cut to coagulate the blood. A cutman might also cover the area with petroleum jelly to prevent further damage.
Most nosebleeds occur near the opening of the nose. To stop the bleeding, cutmen generally apply a cotton swab soaked in adrenaline hydrochloride to the damaged area, while simultaneously pressing the nostril against the cotton swab with the other hand. Once the bleeding has stopped, the area is chilled with an ice pack or an enswell. The fighter is usually instructed to breathe through the mouth during the treatment.
A broken nose is a more difficult case, and can be detected by a heavy flow of dark colored blood from the nose. The bleeding is generally treated the same way; however, the fighter is usually instructed to avoid swallowing blood as it may induce nausea or vomiting, and the cutman is more likely to consult the ringside physician to ensure the fighter's safety.
- Enswell, sometimes called end-swell, endswell, stop-swell, no-swell or simple eye iron, is a small piece of metal with a handle. It is traditionally kept on ice and is used to cool the area of a bruise or a cut by applying direct pressure to decrease the blood flow to the area.
- Cotton swabs are used to apply medications to the fighter's wounds. While some cutmen use ready-made cotton swabs, others make their own. It has been suggested that the practice of past cutmen's in keeping cotton swabs behind their ears or in their mouths is unsanitary and unprofessional.
- Ice packs are used to cool bruises, cuts and sprains, and to keep the enswell cold.
- Petroleum jelly is put on the cuts and most likely areas of impact to make the skin more elastic and slippery, and hence less likely to tear. Some cutmen cover cuts with homemade salve containing a mix of petroleum jelly and adrenaline chloride, so that adrenaline keeps getting applied to the wound during the bout. Also, perspiration from above the eyes will be prevented from reaching the eyes by applying petroleum jelly to the eyebrows.
- Gauze pads are used to dry cuts.
- Medical gloves are worn by the cutman to limit the fighter's exposure to infectious matter, as well as limiting the cutman's exposure to blood.
Cutmen used to create their own medications, and the recipes were passed from masters to apprentices as trade secrets. Today, the use of various medications in sports is highly controlled, and most cutmen use only two or three standard medications from the list below.
- Adrenaline hydrochloride (also adrenaline chloride, usually a 1:1000 solution)
- Applied topically to decrease blood flow. This is arguably the most common medication used by cutmen.
- Avitene (microfibrillar collagen hemostat)
- Coagulant used for bleeding cuts. Usually used in a powder form. It works best when the surface is dry. The treatment includes covering the affected area with Avitene, and applying moderate pressure with dry gauze.
- Coagulant used when the blood is removed and the surface is dry.
- Surgicel and Gelfoam
- Two other substances also used for coagulation, although less frequently than Avitene or Thrombin.
- Monsel's solution
- This widely outlawed hemostatic quickly stops the blood flow by chemically cauterizing the tissues surrounding the cut, while generating severe scar tissue. The application of a lead-based hemostatic can be recognized by the appearance of a dark ring of damaged tissue around the cut. However, Monsel's solution is an iron (sub)sulfate solution, contrary to popular misconception—which contains no lead.
- Chuck Bodak, a legendary boxing cutman who worked with over 50 World Champions including Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, Tommy Hearns, Julio Cesar Chavez, Evander Holyfield and Oscar De La Hoya.
Cutmen in popular culture
Film and TV
- Here Comes the Boom, a 2012 Columbia Pictures film, featured Jacob Duran as a cutman for a fictional UFC fight between "Scott Voss" Kevin James and "Ken Dietrich" Krzysztof Soszynski
- Million Dollar Baby, a 2004 Academy Award-winning film. Clint Eastwood stars as a trainer and cutman.
- More Than Famous, a 2003 documentary on Salvadoran/American boxer Carlos 'Famoso' Hernández, featured prominent cutman Chuck Bodak as himself.
- The Cutman, a 2003 short film by Yon Motskin, is a drama focusing on a cutman's life.
- Play It to the Bone, a 1999 Touchstone Pictures film, featured cutmen Chuck Bodak as "Cesar's Cutman" and Jacob "Stitch" Duran as "Vince's Cutman".
- In The Boxer, a 1997 Universal Pictures film, Ken Stott plays "Ike Weir", "Danny Flynn's" coach, and is seen performing cutman's duties by treating Danny's cut with two cotton swabs.
- In the 1976 film Rocky, during Rocky Balboa's fight with heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, Rocky's cutman is Al, played by former boxing trainer Al Silvani (credited as Al Salvani). During the fight, between the 14th and 15th rounds, Rocky's eyes have swollen so badly that he cannot see, so Salvani famously cuts Rocky's eyelid to restore his vision. He also serves as Rocky's cutman in both Rocky II and Rocky III.
- In the 2006 film Rocky Balboa, Jacob Duran portrays a cutman in the corner of Mason Dixon.
- In the 2015 film Creed, Jacob Duran portrays himself as the cutman in the corner of Adonis Creed.
- The Aaron Sorkin TV show Sports Night includes an episode featuring Allen Garfield as Chuck "the Cut-Man" Kimmel.
- The Contender, a TV boxing reality show which exposes and elevates prominent fighters to a celebrity status, earning the opportunity to fight for The Contender title. Featuring Sugar Ray Leonard and (Cutman Carlos Vargas) as the cutman in the corner.
- Fight Night Round 2 and Fight Night: Round 3 by Electronic Arts allow the player to perform the cutman duties during the breaks between rounds. The player has a very limited time to apply enswell to the bruises and treat cuts with adrenaline-soaked cotton swabs.
- Million Dollar Baby: Stories from the Corner by F.X. Toole contains several short stories on the lives of cutmen and their relationships with the fighters.
- Whisler, John (2004). "Battered boxers want Joe Souza in their corner". www.mysanantonio.com. URL last accessed May 9, 2006.
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- Guzman, Trinidad; Duran, Jacob (2004). "Boxing through the eyes of a cutman". www.fightnews.com. URL last accessed March 18, 2006.
- Davol, Inc. Avitene Microfibrillar Collagen Hemostat Instructions for Use. www.davol.com. URL last accessed March 20, 2006.
- Chuck Bodak passes Fightnews.com, February 6, 2009
- Boxingglovesreviews.com. Handwraps:How to guide. www.boxingglovesreviews.com. URL last accessed October 27, 2015.
- Coletta, Domenic. Management of hematomas – The proper use of Enswell. www.secondsout.com. URL last accessed January 28, 2009.
- Goodman, Margaret (2002). Cuts...To Stop Or Not?. www.thecutman.com. URL last accessed March 18, 2006.
- Guzman, Trinidad; Duran, Jacob (2004). Boxing through the eyes of a cutman. www.fightnews.com. URL last accessed March 18, 2006.
- Homansky, Flip (2002). The magic of the cutman. www.thecutman.com. URL last accessed March 18, 2006.
- Manning, Fiona (2004). Jacob "Stitch" Duran: A Boxer's Dream. www.eastsideboxing.com. URL last accessed May 5, 2006.
- Tenny, Dave (2002). How to Use Enswell and Take Care of a Nosebleed. www.thecutman.com. URL last accessed March 18, 2006.
- TKDTutorage. Common Sparring Injuries. tkdtutor.com. URL last accessed May 9, 2006.
- Toole, F.X. Million Dollar Baby: Stories from the Corner. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-081926-X.
- Whisler, John (2004). Battered boxers want Joe Souza in their corner. www.mysanantonio.com. URL last accessed April 28, 2006.