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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The first time Dr. Jeffrey Roth sewed up Manny Pacquiao, it happened by chance.
Pacquiao's third-round knockdown of Juan Manual Marquez on March 15, 2008, at Mandalay Bay had given Pacquiao the edge in the split-decision win, but he hadn't escaped unscathed. The rematch left Pacquiao with two gashes on his face that needed stiches.
A few people in Pacquiao's entourage knew that Roth, a Las Vegas plastic surgeon, was at the fight, so they summoned him to help. Roth gladly obliged and sutured the wounds in a backstage dressing room. Total stitch count: 18.
"These things happen all the time in boxing," Roth said at the time, according to the Las Vegas Sun (http://bit.ly/1I1d3Jo). "It's sort of a matter of course."
The spontaneous encounter thrilled Roth, a lifelong boxing fan who was raised in Las Vegas and once worked as a parking attendant at the Thomas & Mack Center. Roth marveled at the chance to be backstage with the athletes.
"There's nothing like being at a big fight with 18,000 people yelling and screaming," Roth said. "It's electric."
Since then, Roth has stitched up multiple boxers, including Zab Judah and Antonio Margarito, as a volunteer with promotions company Top Rank Boxing. He has traveled to Macau, Dallas and New York City to attend fights and break out his physician's bag when needed. He packs absorbable and nonabsorbable sutures, stitching instruments, bandages and his own light.
"There's never enough light, so you bring your own," he said.
Roth isn't a ringside doctor certified by the Nevada Athletic Commission. His role is secondary. He specializes in "soft tissue management," closing skin gashes and wounds.
If a banged-up fighter doesn't need medical attention at a hospital, Roth offers to suture cuts backstage in a dressing room, where he piles towels on training tables to form makeshift pillows. He numbs the area around the wound, because even professional fighters prefer as pain-free an experience as possible.
Like Roth's other patients, some boxers talk; others don't. Roth says he doesn't mind either way. He's there to address medical issues, not analyze the bout.
Roth also sees no conflict between his job as a healer and the brutal sport of boxing.
"Everybody kind of knows going in what the benefits and the risks are," he said. "For some folks, it's the opportunity to go ahead and feed their kids."
With more regulations about glove size, mouthpieces and training, boxers also are much better protected than they once were, Roth said.
If a cut is fairly deep, Roth typically closes the wound in layers to give the injury the best chance of healing and try to prevent it from breaking open in the future. Scars are a lesser concern.
"They're more utilitarian than vanity-driven," Roth said. "For the boxers, it's about getting back to work."
Roth plans to attend the May 2 bout between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. He doesn't know where he'll be sitting, but he'll have his doctor's bag.
"I'll just be happy to be in the building," he said. "I hope nobody needs me afterward."
Information from: Las Vegas Sun, http://www.lasvegassun.com
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