By Joseph Herron: On Saturday night, October 27th, on HBO Boxing After Dark, highly touted prospect Thomas Dulorme (16-1, 12 KOs) was stopped in dramatic fashion against hard punching Welterweight contender Carlos Abregu of Argentina in the eighth round of the main event of the evening.
In what was supposed to be a showcase type of contest for the previously undefeated fighter, Dulorme was outgunned and ultimately bested by a more experienced fighter. The promising Puerto Rican star now joins the ever-growing list of young fighters to be ousted in their big network debuts.
With the enticing possibility of generating the next big stars of the sport, are the networks, promoters, and managers prematurely exposing these talented young fighters to the hardened veterans of boxing, while ultimately placing their bright futures in jeopardy?
Hall of Fame matchmaker and promoter Don Chargin insists that cultivating a fighter the correct way is a very difficult assignment for any manager or promoter.
“Nurturing a fighter’s career the right way is a very daunting task these days,” admits the legendary matchmaker. “There’s a lot of pressure placed on the matchmakers and promoters by the television networks, who ultimately put way too much importance on a fighter’s win/loss record.”
“These network executives that wouldn’t know a left hook from a fish hook are demanding the great records from these promoters. As a result, we saw a promising undefeated young fighter being paired with a very tough and resilient Argentine veteran whose only loss was to Timothy Bradley this past Saturday night.”
“Abregu was a big puncher and an experienced fighter, and Dulorme obviously wasn’t ready for the step up in competition. I was really worried about this match-up when they made it. I had seen Dulorme once before and he looked to be a really good prospect. It’s easy to say now, but I was telling everyone that he has to be really good to be pitted against a very tough and resilient fighter like Abregu this early in his career.”
“You could see right away that Dulorme’s promoter made a severe mistake. The Argentine fighter hurt the kid with every punch he threw. Now there’s no telling whether or not this kid will ever reach his full potential as a prizefighter. Some fighters just aren’t the same after getting knocked out for the first time.”
Although the “Don” of boxing admits that everyone in the sport makes mistakes from time to time, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration when cultivating young talent.
“Confidence is everything in the sport of boxing, and sometimes a fighter never regains the confidence that’s lost by getting brutally knocked out on network television. Not every fighter is mentally strong enough to overcome that kind of adversity.”
“That’s why I don’t like to put young fighters in the ring with big punchers early in their careers. A promoter and matchmaker don’t have to coddle these fighters to bring them up the right way, but you have to be very careful when developing a young fighter’s psyche.”
“I always try to keep prospects away from legitimate punchers because they haven’t been taken into deep waters yet, and you really don’t what their reaction will be when they get hit on the chin. Their confidence and endurance levels have to be extremely high to overcome serious difficulties in the ring, and those factors are always cultivated with time.”
While many elements come into play when examining the fostering process of a young prospect in boxing, Chargin truly believes that there is no real solution in protecting these fighters as long as the networks ultimately decide which fights they choose to purchase from the promoters.
“The network executives don’t really look at much else besides a fighter’s record. If they see a young fighter with three or four losses on his resume, they ultimately think that he’s no good without taking his resume into consideration or really looking into the circumstances of his losses.”
“A fighter could have been the recipient of a bad decision in another fighter’s hometown or could have merely lost a four or six round decision to another good young fighter while he’s still learning. Too much scrutiny is placed on a single loss by these networks, which ultimately affects a young fighter’s chances to succeed in this sport.”
“But in the end, the networks have the real power in the sport. Either they buy a fight and choose to showcase a fighter or they don’t buy it. It’s entirely up to the networks.”
The six decade boxing proponent remembers a time when a promoter didn’t have to peddle a fight to the networks to generate popularity for their fighters.
“In the old days, a promoter didn’t have to depend on the networks to cultivate a champion. I know when I had Tony “The Tiger” Lopez in Sacramento, we would draw anywhere between 15 and 16 thousand people whenever he fought. It was always a big event whenever Tony Lopez was on the marquee.”
“The networks really were begging me to bring him to Atlantic City for a television date back then and I turned them down. Why would I want to take him to Atlantic City to fight in front of four or five hundred people who don’t even care about boxing, sitting there with cocktails in their hands and not even watching the fights? Heck, with Tony in Sacramento, we got to fight in front of screaming fight fans that really cared about seeing a great fight.”
“It was really remarkable that we were able to produce four world champions in boxing in a relatively small city like Sacramento.”
“But those days are long gone. Now every fighter, manager, and promoter wants the big TV money. When you have your own club, you can put on the kind of fights that you want and bring your fighters up the right way. But when you’re trying to use the networks for exposure, you are ultimately at their mercy and they call the shots.”