Tszyu Loses The Mental Battle

05.06.06 - By Goran Dragosavac: Kostya Tszyu's decision to throw in the towel on the end of 11th round against Ricky Hatton, was one of the strangest decisions made by the boxer during the fight, in my opinion, especially when the fight was so close. What could have happened to make him quit all of a sudden rather than fighting on for one final round, and perhaps winnning? He didn’t look more tired than any other boxer at that stage of the fight, and he wasn’t physically hurt to the point that he was unable to carry on. He was not even trailing so badly where even if he won the 12th round, it just wouldn’t make a difference. Even then, boxers rely on “boxers chance”.

On my scorecard, Kostya was point behind, and with 12th round coming up, this fight was for the taking for either fighter. Clearly, Kostya was landing the cleaner punches, and showing more boxing skills, even though Hatton’s outburst of pure boxing energy and toughness casued Kostya lots of problems.

What happened was, in fact, explained by Tszyu, himself, when he addressed the audience, accepting the defeat and admitting that Hatton was a better boxer and deservedly won the fight.

Those words pretty much expressed Tszyu’s view about his performance during the fight, and it seems that he thought he was doing much worse than he realistically was.

Before we put a magnifying glass on Kostya's decision to quit, let's see some other matches where boxers themselves have decided to remain in the corner. Firstly, we have Duran against Sugar Ray Leonard, where Duran, after being totally outfoxed and frustrated, decided to quit, uttering by the famous words of “No Mas."

One fight that is still fresh in memory of boxing public is Freitas against Coralles, where Freitas decided to quit after being dropped twice, and realizing there is no point getting seriously hurt when his chances of winning the fight at that stage were null.

And, of course, we all remember Golota vs Tyson, where after getting butchered by the Tyson – Golota decides to remain in his corner.

In all three cases, boxers have figured that that their chances of winning the fight were highly unlikely, and they certainly made the right decision.

Now, back to Tszyu and his decision to quit. He obviously thought the same, but question is why was he thinking that he is doing much worse than in fact he was?

Well, answer to that is likely to be in area of of psychology and not in boxing.

If 22,000 strong crowd cheer anything your opponent does, and anything you do just doesn’t get acknowledged – it will affect your belief system. It will make you think you doing much worse than you really do. It will affect how you perceive the reality.

British promoters have a brilliant understanding and exploit psychology of masses and its powerful influence to a single individual. Case in point - Nasem Hamed didn’t have single fight out of England and Frank Warren would sooner walk over the burning coals than allow Hatton to box anywhere else, in my opinion.

So, Kostya Tszyu’s camp thought they know what they are up against, or they thought they knew it. In his fight against Julio Cesar Chavez, his fans were silenced, and neutralised by Kostya’s dominance that evening. For that reason alone, fans were a non “factor”, as they were in this, much more closer fight.

Tszyu has been in boxing long enough to know that requirements to win the fight are as much of a mental as they are of a physical nature. With the help of hindsight, we can see that Kostya would had been far better prepared had he had some good psychological couching within his camp, rather than putting his body through the physical hell as it was reported by some sources.

Lets face the facts, the hell in Manchester stadium was all mental, and Kostya simply wasn’t up to it.

In Tszyu-Hatton match, there were no defensive wizardry – you could pull the truck through some of the defensive gaps that both fighters were leaving themselves open.

So, in my books, technically this match was fairly even, with Kostya having the advantage opn the outside, especially with his solid counter punching skills, while Ricky’s dominance was more on the inside.

Where the match wasn’t even - was in the minds of each boxer, and Ricky Hatton fans were as much part of a win as Hatton himself, and he was so correct, when he said that this victory is their's as much as his own.

And big credit must go to Frank Warren. He was architect of creating an environment that would determine, in a subtle way, the outcome for this fight.

I must say, "Job well done" to new champ Ricky Hatton. Finally, he has proven that he is force to be taken very seriously in 140 lbs division. As for Kostya, the former great champion, maybe it is time for him to hang up a gloves or simply press to have a rematch, but next time, make sure that it's not in England, and we know how unlikely is this to happen. As for quiting, it is something Kostya will have to live with, and lets hope it will be the only smudge on his rich and illustrious career.

Article posted on 05.06.2005

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