Toe To Toe Not Always The Way To Go

By Chris Akers: David Haye’s victory over John Ruiz was met with both adulation and praise in equal measure. Yet the reaction to his performance from those associated with the sport was as predictable as it was prosaic. The usual platitudes of a fighter taking risks and possessing an exciting style were spouted out with all the cadence of a market trader’s pattern.

The specificity of these remarks highlights a growing trend of fans and reporters having a Philistine attitude towards boxing. They would rather have fighters constantly throwing punches and having their faces covered in more red than a schoolboy’s homework after it has been marked, than appreciate the nous and artifice that boxing entails..

This is not to criticise what Haye achieved last Saturday night. His performance was impressive and rightly commended by those watching it. But compare the tactics he adopted for the fight with Ruiz to what he did to win the title from Nikolay Valuev. The blueprint that was constructed for that fight was perfect. Nevertheless, some people seemed dissatisfied with how the fight played out, despite Valuev being nine inches taller and nearly seven stone heavier than Haye on the night.

This desire to have blood and thunder showcased at every fight means that logic is defied when analysing the performance of fighters. Condemnation is forthcoming when a bout does not resemble a street fight in the ring. But that condemnation tends not to consider the circumstances surrounding that fight. It could be that one fighter does not have the power required to keep producing knockout after knockout. It might be that the other fighter has not got the necessary experience in the professional code to breakdown an opponent who is defensively minded. Even the last comment did not stop James Degale getting booed on his professional debut. Yet all this is not thought of when evaluating a fight.

People want to watch fights that resemble beat em up games on game consoles than the equivalent of chess in the ring at ALL times. Anything less results in acerbic criticism, despite the accumulative effects of these type of fights not been salubrious for a fighter’s health in the long run

Take Floyd Mayweather when he fought Carlos Baldomir in 2006 as an example. Mayweather won the fight by a shutout on two of the judges’ scorecards. In spite of that, there was widespread disapproval for his reluctance to “pull the trigger” when he was clearly ahead in the scoring. This was despite the fact that Baldomir was the biggest opponent that Mayweather had faced up to that point, had Mayweather has always suffered from bad hands and that Baldomir had the type of chin that you would need a sledgehammer to dent.

This blood and thunder critiquing approach to discuss fighters and their bouts has also affected which competitors are showcase in the big fights. Fighters may be world class, but due to having a tactically sound (or over cautious as a lot of uneducated connoisseurs might call it) style, they are frozen out by both rival promoters (as they represent high risk but no reward for any of their fighters to face) and the networks as they are not considered telegenic enough for their television channels. Imagine if Carlos Monzon, a very efficient though not aesthetically pleasing boxer to watch, was denied a world title shot because the way he fought basically did not look great. He would never had been known to the wider boxing public and he would never have had his near seven year middleweight reign. That would have been a travesty.
In many ways, this reflects modern society as a whole. We want everything now. Waiting around we do not want as an option anymore We want a bout to be exciting but broadcast instant drama, instead of waiting for a fighter to investigate what is in front of them for the first few rounds before making their move.

Excuses are not been made here for any fighter and a bad display should be called as such. But people with an interest in the sport need to take a step back and slowly amalgamate a reason in their minds when describing either a fight, a fighter’s style or even a weight class and not just blurt out a explanation based it on the fact that it may not be as exhilarating as they what it to be.

Boxing is not like Rocky. It is not always about throwing every punch with bad intentions in the hope of a knockout. It is also about out thinking as well as out manoeuvring your opponent. The sooner that people are educate about that the better.

Article posted on 07.04.2010

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