The corner man is a boxing designation that is capable of more than one meaning. In general, a corner man is a person who is permitted to be present in a fighter's corner during a boxing match in order to provide advise or assistance to the fighter. The terms trainer, corner man, and cut man have technically distinct meanings in the sport; although each term is sometimes used interchangeably with the others.
The term corner man also refers to the physical position of the corner man during the fight. The actual work carried out by the corner man will depend upon his relationship to the overall training and preparation of the fighter.
Boxing is an intensely individual sport; the actual battle is waged by the fighter alone. All fighters, however, enter a fight supported by a team that coordinates all aspects of a fight's preparation, a process that typically extends over a period of many months.
Most professional fighters have a manager who is responsible for the over all direction of the fighter's career. The manager arranges for fights and handles the financial aspects of the boxing business for the fighter. The trainer works with the boxer on a day-today basis; the primary role of the trainer is to prepare the boxer for his bouts. The trainer oversees all physical conditioning programs, develops the fighting technique, footwork, and tactics to be employed by the fighter, and assists with all other related fighter preparation. A trainer will invariably be present in a fighter's corner to provide both motivation and tactical advise as a fight progresses.
A corner man (also referred to as a second in some jurisdictions) may be the fighter's trainer. However, in most cases, the corner man is the physical support system for the fighter during a bout. The corner man generally has fixed duties, both immediately before and during a bout.
In preparation for the bout, the corner man will usually assist the fighter in wrapping the fighter's hands with elasticized tape that both protects the fighter's hands and provides support to the fighter's wrists, enabling them to better distribute and absorb the forces generated from the delivery of a punch. The corner man also applies a thin layer of a petroleum jelly such as Vaseline to the boxer's face; this product assists in keeping the facial skin lubricated and less likely to be opened by a cut caused by an opponent's punch.
Under the rules of boxing, the fighter's corner is a one-minute sanctuary between the physical battles of each round. During each interval, the corner man may provide the fighter with water or approved electrolyte replacement fluids. The corner man may sponge down the fighter, or attend to any injuries sustained by the fighter. It is in this role that the corner man is also referred to as a cut man.
At the elite levels of boxing, the cut man may occupy a distinct position in the boxer's corner. The cut man uses the one-minute interval between rounds to perform distinct types of first aid. Under the rules of boxing, both amateur and professional, where a fighter is cut and the resultant bleeding continues, the referee must stop the fight, and the opponent is declared the winner. The skill of a cut man in staunching the flow of blood is highly valued for this reason. In boxing history, Angelo Dundee (b. 1923) was admired for his ability to limit the damage done by cuts to the legendary Muhammad Ali during his long reign as world heavy weight champion. Most boxing organizations approve the chemicals that are permitted at a boxer's corner for use by cut men in repairing a cut. Various coagulants (substances that tend to thicken the blood to make it resistant to flowing freely) and the drug, adrenaline hydrochloride, applied to decrease blood flow in the injured area, are common substances employed by cut men.
A cut man will also have specialized equipment to assist in applying ice to the cut or lacerated region, as well as to reduce swelling from any larger hematomas (bruises) that occur in the vicinity of the boxer's eyes, restricting his vision. The cut man uses both ice and a steel device known as an enswell, to apply cold directly to a cut. Cold is a natural vasoconstrictor, as it causes the blood vessels in the vicinity of the cut to narrow, reducing the flow of blood to the area that would otherwise promote bleeding.
Boxing cut men are often not formally educated in any medical or athletic training discipline. Most cut men learn through experience the best means to stop bleeding or to reduce swelling within the one minute interval between rounds.
The corner man, whatever his specific role may be in a particular boxer's entourage, also has a responsibility to watch the fighter closely as a bout progresses. The corner man often has a deep knowledge as to the physical mannerisms of the fighter. If the corner man believes that their fighter is struggling and is at physical risk of harm should the fight to continue, the corner man can signal the referee that the fight should be stopped. It is this relationship between the fighter and his corner that gave rise to the expression "throw in the towel," the traditional corner man's signal to stop a fight was to toss a towel from the corner into the center of the ring.