Today, you will hear evidence that some of you may find disturbing. That is the nature of an investigation. We will be focusing on the records of young professional boxers. When is a step-up required? How many ‘easy wins’ are actually legal? It’s subjective, of course.
I would like to present to the court, Exhibit A;
A fighter with an exemplary record of 8 wins, 0 defeats and 1 draw as a professional. The combined record of his opponents? 37 wins peppered with 344 defeats. In the 9th fight of this fighters professional career, he faced a man with a record of; 7 wins against 58 defeats. As always in the courtroom, anonymity is essential.
Which brings me to, Exhibit B;
A fighter making his succesful professional debut against an opponent with a record of 4 wins and only 1 defeat. A tricky opening assignment. Now this fighter, has Olympic calibre and oozes class. So it makes sense to throw him in at the deep-end.
Using the above examples, we are merely scratching the surface! Look up some of todays champions, check their history of opponents and decide whether you feel they are truly elite. Deontay Wilder. Before facing Bermane Stiverne, who did he beat? In his 14th fight, for his 14th straight knockout, he battered a man with 11 wins from 49 contests.
Look at champions-turned-legends of the past. Look at Mike Tyson (how dare I?!). The first 10-15 fights of Tyson’s career were against nobodies, offering nothing. He was punishing them, finishing them early and in blistering fashion. They were terrified. What did he learn in those 15 fights that he hadn’t picked up in the first 7?
There is an argument that matchmaking is the issue, especially for characters like Wilder and Tyson. Who wants to risk a decent record against an enormous, tattooed man with stretch-armstrong punches? Anyone? Does anyone fancy putting an unbeaten streak on the line against a convict who would have beat you to death from the age of 14? No? Throw in another journeyman then!
The art of matchmaking is complex and often under-appreciated. It is the finest of balancing acts. Making a fighter look good without really risking his reputation can be tricky. This is why we often see fights built up embarrassingly when infact it’s as one-sided as AJ v Paul Butlin (no disrespect Paul)! David Haye v Audley Harrison is a prime example. The ‘YES I CAN’ mantra of Harrison and the cheap insults all culminated in a truly pathetic display, Harrison almost losing his purse for throwing less than 10 punches the whole fight. That fight temporarily ruined televised British boxing, wounding it for a long time.
It would also seem, in todays political boxing climate, that you can navigate a fighter towards titles by doing exactly that. We touched on Wilder previously, beating Jason Gavern in his last fight before the WBC title fell on his lap. Gavern, now a man with 20 losses, was hardly an acid test. We watched Namibian hero Julius Indongo unify the super-lightweight titles in Glasgow on Saturday. Before winning the IBF title in Russia, Indongo had only fought in Namibia. In his 9th fight, he fought a man with 6 losses from 6 contests. Now Indongo is a classy operator, however his record until the Troyanovsky fight was half-empty! How did he warrant that shot? How in Lord Lonsdale’s name did he climb the rankings beating strangers in his home country? It doesn’t seem logical.
It is surely detrimental to the sport of boxing. Allowing elite-level amateurs 15 fights with journeyman so we can claim they are ’15-0′. Sadly, the sport places too much importance on that undefeated record. Johnny Nelson lost his first 3 fights. He had a 0-3 record and went on to win a world title. Tevin Farmer, the YouTube sensation and soon to be world title challenger, held a record of 7-4-1. He has won every fight since – easily! Bernard Hopkins, one of the best middleweights ever to have graced the planet, lost his opening bout. It does not signal the end of a fighters career.
We have to give Eddie Hearn credit for taking risks with some of his fighters. Charlie Edwards, in his 9th fight, challenged for a world title and lost. Luke Campbell was riding the Olympic gold medal hype-train and lost to Yvan Mendy. Hearn has built them both back up. Intelligently. Hearn knows he can secure big fights for his stable, he trusts them and provides them the opportunity. Anthony Joshua has been moved at a fantastic pace, let’s be honest. In his 19th fight, he will face Wladimir Klitschko. In Wilder’s 19th fight, who did he face? Daniele Cota. Oh, you were going to say that weren’t you?
MMA records are a thing of beauty. One of the best to ever grace the Octagon, BJ Penn, has a record of 16-11. Madness! The sport is unpredictable, losses do not matter and the politics are far less evident than in boxing. Nate Diaz, with a record of 19-11, choked out superstar Conor McGregor. Losses don’t matter. The UFC is a unique position of being both the promoter and the governing body. But they take fighters records with a pint-glass full of salt and make exciting fights happen.
So, to conclude… When looking at a record unblemished and splattered with victories, the court asks you to dig a little deeper. Have a look at the opponents previously beaten, check out the path that has led them to their current ranking. A man with a record of 38-0, means little, if we do not know 35 of them. Losses are not the defining factor in a fighters career. If you weigh up the facts, it’s impossible to judge a boxer on a defeat. Consider the politics, the matchmaking, the governing bodies and never rule out the underdog!