Choking under pressure -- four fighters who had it all and still blew the fights of their lives

By Jason Peck - Every now and then you get a fight where one guy has every conceivable advantage. Then he finally steps up to the plate and blows it anyway. It’s not an upset, per say; that’s why I haven’t included obvious fights like Johnson-Jones, Lewis-Rahman and all three of Wladimir Klitschko’s defeats. But things shouldn’t have turned out the way they did. That’s what makes boxing great, I guess. Other sports say anything can happen, but in boxing it’s actually true..

Mikkel Kessler: He should have beaten Joe Calzaghe, plain and simple. He was an expert boxer with tremendous athleticism and conditioning. Kessler was bigger than Calzaghe, stronger and faster than Calzaghe, younger than Calzaghe – how many advantages can a single guy have?

Sure, Joe made up for these shortcomings by throwing lots of ineffective punches, but a solid 1-2 can stop that nonsense. Markus Beyer was anything but soft, and Kessler’s right cut right through him. A similar fate should have awaited Calzaghe in the later rounds, and saved us a hollow bout with Bernard Hopkins.

WHAT HAPPENED: Instead, Kessler’s inactivity in the ring allowed Calzaghe to slap his way to victory. Given Calzaghe’s subsequent insistence on fighting 40-year olds, that was probably the last chance to smudge the Welshman’s perfect record.

Jermain Taylor: Kelly Pavlik fans would like to believe that The Ghost’s coming was a foregone conclusion, his ascent to glory as inevitable as the sun rising in the morn’. But I keep on replaying his first fight against Jermain Taylor, and it’s easy how close Pavlik really came to disaster.

The fight wasn’t long in before Taylor had Pavlik in serious trouble on the canvas. So why not be brave and keep the aggression? Weren’t you the one who predicted a KO victory?

WHAT HAPPENED: Taylor forgot his jab, the one tool that brought him the championship glory in the first place, the one weapon with the best chance of reaching Pavlik’s face. This gives Pavlik a chance to connect. And suddenly frightened out of his wits, he further gives Pavlik the chance to finish him. Their rematch is tainted by terror; so frightened is Taylor of losing again that doesn’t show much heart at all.

But don’t worry – his comeback fight against Jeff Lacy will put him back on top!



Roman Karmazin: Where to even start?

First, he lost to Javier Castellejo, who freely admitted that he never should have beaten Karmazin. After winning a title, Karmazin lost to Cory Spinks, despite Spinks’s long inactivity. Then he caps a disappointing career with his KO loss to Alex Bunema.

If you say that Karmazin wasn’t worth a damn, you’re dead wrong – perhaps as dead as Karmazin’s career by now. This guy was strong, tough and technically sound. He was big for his weight class and had the reach to prove it. Had he kept it together, there’s no doubt he would still be a major force at either junior middleweight or middleweight.

But his talents – combined with his general lack of popularity – kept him from his shot at glory. Why would the best risk it all against a guy whose nickname is “Made in Hell”? Oscar De La Hoya pulled out of a fight against him to challenge Fernando Vargas. He made more money as a result, but most boxing insiders agree the fear of an embarrassing factored as well.

With that final KO loss, he likely fades away for good. What a shame.

Clinton Woods: Poor bastard. Six years after suffering an embarrassing KO loss to Roy Jones Jr. he climbs back to the top, scores a world title and proves the critics wrong. All pretty impressive for a man with little natural talent. Indeed, the only thing driving Clinton Woods was a solid work ethic and the fierce desire to never give up.

And then he finally gets the shot against Antonio Tarver, the one chance to not only silence his critics, but make fools of them. Woods was on the rise, Tarver on the decline. Experts smelled an obvious upset in the making. With the streak Woods was on, Tarver would have to pull out all the stops to win.

WHAT HAPPENED: Woods blows it big time and lets Tarver beat him. And it wasn’t even Tarver’s best performance.

Now what’s a guy to do with a small fan base and a reputation for blowing the big fights? Nothing much. The winner of the Dawson-Tarver bout might be gracious and give him one last title shot, but Woods may have finally run out of second chances.

Article posted on 17.08.2008

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