Winning the Battle and Losing the War

15.11.06 - By Ted Sares: Sometimes a fighter wins but really loses. The classic case of this involved Riddick Bowe's two brutal battles with Andrew Golota.

When Big Daddy met Evander Holyfield for the third time in the mid-90's, he did not look nearly as fit as the fighter who won the title three years earlier. His training routine has dropped off considerably, but his eating habits had increased considerably....and when those two elevators meet, it is not a good thing. And it showed during the last fight of this hard fought trilogy. A lethargic Bowe was decked by a Holyfield left hook in the fifth and he also appeared hurt in the eighth, but then he landed a big right hand during a furious exchange of bombs and that was it for the "Real Deal." In winning, however, it was clear something was very wrong with "Big Daddy." He was more vulnerable, his musculature had lost definition, he was lethargic, and he could not sustain a steady punch volume. All of a sudden, he appeared ready for a big fall.

His two brutal fights with Andrew Golota in 1996 proved just that and were a case of "winning the battle and losing the war." (The ensuing riot after Golota was DQ' d for low blows in the first fight was an infamous night in the history of boxing and who can forget the overhand [telephone] right to the top of the Pole's head). Bowe, who wisely rejected the notion of a trilogy, would never be the same after these two "wins."

Another example involved former champion Harry Arroyo. After a win against Charlie "White Lightening" Brown, he defended his title against rock-hard Terrence Alli, 24-3-1, from Brooklyn by way of Guyana. The fight took place at Bally's in Atlantic City in January 1985 and for those who were fortunate enough to be there or to witness it on national TV, it was a memorable one with ebb and flow action and incredibly hard punches landing on the heads of the two combatants. Savage and brutal, each fighter took turns hitting the other with sharp combinations and accurate shots. Harry was hurt by a vicious uppercut in the 7th but somehow hung on. In the 11th, with the fight dead even on the judges scorecards, Arroyo, who had been down once, waged a fierce exchange with Alli finally catching and trapping him in a corner. Putting his punches together, albeit slowly, he launched a barrage of unanswered blows that snapped Alli's neck back until Referee Tony Perez had no choice but to call a halt to the onslaught at 1:16 in what was hailed as one of the best fights of the year. Both fighters were ready to go at the end; Harry survived.................................but at what cost?

While the loss seemingly had no adverse impact on Alli's career (he would go on to win 29 more bouts though his last nine were winless), it was a different story for Harry. In April 1985, and perhaps too soon, he defended his title against rugged Jimmy Paul, 21-1-1. This time he lost a lopsided decision. Paul put Harry down five times to take the IBF title away from him and affirming that the Alli fight took far too much from him. He would never be the same.

In May 2005 Diego "Chico" Corrales defeated Jose Luis Castillo for the lightweight title via TKO in the tenth round in a savage war that is universally regarded as the best of the decade. Both men stood in front of each other, battering each other with hard combinations and power punches throughout the entire fight. It was old school stuff and it was simple ferocious. Finally, in the tenth round, Castillo knocked Corrales down, causing Corrales to spit out his mouthpiece. This allowed him some extra recovery time while getting another one put in. Seconds later, Castillo knocked Corrales down again. Once on the ground, Corrales took his mouthpiece out, allowing him more recovery time. This caused the referee to deduct one point from Corrales. After getting up, Corrales somehow connected with a punch that Castillo later called "a perfect right hand." Trapping Castillo against the ropes, Chico landed numerous punches, causing referee Tony Weeks to halt the action. Castillo was trapped with his hands at his sides, apparently knocked out on his feet—a potentially life-threatening position.

A rematch between occurred on in October of the same year. Since Castillo did not make the weight, the fight became a non-title bout. The two fighters continued with the same fighting style that they had used in the first fight, trading inside punches throughout the first three rounds, but early in round four, Castillo knocked down Corrales with a left hook to his chin. Corrales wobbled to his feet at the referee's count of ten, causing a halt to the fight.

Chico would later lose to Joel Casamayor in 2006 and it is reasonable to assume he left too much in the ring during his first fight with Castillo even though he won it.

On November 2, 2000 Heavyweight Harold Sconiers beat tough Ray Austin in a six rounder by UD. Austin then loss only once more in his next thirteen fights, has since become a top contender and may likely fight for one of the titles. The once promising Sconiers, however, proceeded to lose ten consecutive bouts, his last being to Romanian Claudio Rasco in Montreal by TKO in 2005. He did manage to bring this string of defeats to a halt with a win in November 2006, but the damage seems to have been done. A perfect example of hitting another kind of intersect in which one fighter loses but really wins and the other wins but really loses.

In 1982, the legendary Wilfred Benitez beat the great Roberto Duran by UD. Going in, Benitez was 43-1-1. After his "win," he would close out his ring career going 14-6 and losing many embarrassing fights to mediocre opposition like Pat Lawlor and Scott Papsadora. Perhaps another case of "winning the battle and losing the war." Today, he lives with his mother in Puerto Rico. The millions in ring earnings are gone as is his house and wife. So many battles won, but so much lost.

And of course, who can dispute the high cost Muhammad Ali paid when he rope-a-doped Big George Foreman into an end game strategy in Africa. Sure, Ali won, but the body shots he sustained from Big George were savage and would have debilitated a lesser man. Ali's later "win" over "Smokin Joe" in the Philippines and victory over hard punching Earnie Shavers would contribute greatly to rendering into him a shell of his former self. We all know the result and it is painful to write about, much less witness. The horrific Holmes' defeat in 1980 would finish the job that his victories started.

Yeah, sometimes a fighter wins but really loses.

Article posted on 16.11.2006

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