What Makes a Throwback Fighter?

26.08.05 - By Craig Parrish: “Throwback Fighter”. This is a term you see tossed around a lot in boxing columns. But what does it really mean? Is it a particular style? A personality? Or is it something more? You see this term attached a lot to current fighters like Arturo Gatti or Ricardo Mayorga, who for all intents and purposes are two of the most exciting fighters around.. I myself find that I have a particular excitement and anticipation when I hear an announcement that one of these guys will be fighting. More so than a lot of other fighters. Why is that? Why in it that these two guys, not the best fighters in their weight classes (although damn good) instill such a feeling of anticipation? Ricardo is brash. Arturo is fairly humble. Their styles are different. They come from different places. Basically, I think it comes down to this: When these guys get in the ring, they are going to war.

When I think of the old time fighters, what always comes to mind is the consistency and intensity of how those guys fought. Granted, boxing was a lot more popular back then, and these guys fought each other again and again. For example, the Graziano/Zale wars, or the Sugar Ray Robinson/LaMotta fights.

These were brutal slugfests. But once the dust cleared, the loser was scrambling for a re-match. LaMotta fought Robinson 6 times, winning only once. But he kept coming back. He took a tremendous beating in the final fight, but refused to fall. The fight had to be stopped in the 13th round.

So is being a “throwback fighter” the ability to take a beating? The willingness to stand toe-to-toe and slug it out? Or is it something as simple as desire? Perhaps that’s what it’s all about. If you watch the old time fights, most of these men had nothing to lose. In America, they were mainly immigrants or the Sons of immigrants who were using their fists for a better life. In essence, this is the immigrant experience personified, a person giving up what they know to gamble on a chance for something more. Isn’t that what the fighter does? They dedicate they lives to a brutal training regiment, forsaking many things to step in the ring for a chance at greatness and a better life. If you succeed, the payoff could be huge. If you fail, the payoff could be terrible.

As the popularity of boxing has waned, perhaps the lure of making it big time as a fighter has diminished so the competition is not as intense as it was in the old days. With the growth of other types of sports, athletes are looking at other areas not as demanding as boxing to make their way. There are more options, and so there are fewer talented athletes.

I read an article a while back that said a Throwback fighter “stayed busy, kept moving up, and stayed humble”. I think that’s a fairly accurate description. But I think there’s also that element that gives a fighter that’s not at the top that huge fan base. There are those fighters out there that, even if they don’t have a belt, people clamor to see. Oddly enough, many of these fighters are described by many as “Throwback fighters”. The guys that won’t quit. The guys that don’t spit out the mouthpiece a half a dozen times. In the end, they are guys that give all they have to give all of the time. It’s a rare breed, and one that should be celebrated. These are the guys that fight the fights that someday you tell your Grandchildren about.

Article posted on 27.08.2005

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