Evolving from rough versions like chilled half-dollar coins or empty tuna cans filled with water and frozen, the modern enswell wasn’t widely used or recognized before 1981. It debuted center stage at Caesar’s Palace, playing a pivotal role in “The Showdown” between Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy “Hitman” Hearns. The introduction of this advanced design couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
Prior to that monumental fight, Angelo Dundee, Leonard’s trainer, had been introduced to long-time boxing fan and New Jersey physician Dr. Michael Sabia. Because of his love of boxing, Sabia had been developing a tool to help slow swelling and subdue bruising on fighters. Sabia called it an ‘enswell’ and gave one to Dundee as a gift. Sabia’s original enswell was a 3˝ x 1/2˝ thick piece of metal that would have been placed in a freezer or ice bucket to remain chilled.
Dundee didn’t give the gift much thought until the end of the fifth round of “The Showdown”, when Leonard returned to the corner and his left eye was swelling shut. Then Dundee remembered that he had packed the new gift between two ice bags in case he needed it. With the assistance of the Enswell, which he used between every round from then on, Angelo Dundee was able to keep Leonard’s swelling under control and get him to the 14th round where Leonard rallied and stopped Hearns by TKO.
Modern enswells, or no-swells, come in different shapes and sizes. Some newer models have easy-to-grip handles or can be filled with ice to remain colder for a longer period of time. They have become a standard tool for any cornerman, coach or cutman and just like Leonard, can actually make or break a fighter’s chance to see the next round.