I was just listening to the Kovalev interview and you can hear it in his tone that he is still salty about his fight with Ward. He stated “For me, it would be much better if Ward stopped me himself….I do not agree with this decision. It was a low blow…..Ward was much better than he was in the first fight, but I was in my worst situation. They started a tactic game, a mind game, and I lost the mind game. The referee was involved in this, in my opinion, my opinion right now….”
Now I can understand him being upset in the first fight even though it was clearly a close fight, but the second fight Kovalev clearly loss. It appears to me the he’s trying to regain or recover the aura of Invincibility, The Intimidator, or The Baddest Man On The Planet.
One thing about the bullies or intimidators of the boxing world is that they look impressive and leave a trail of devastation when prey is already wounded and struck with fear. They are sitting on top of the world with huge followers in awe of their highlight reel of knockouts; but, what happens to the bully when they face resistance? Trials & tribulation in the ring? Their true character or the lack of gets exposed. Just like when Kovalev met Andre Ward.
So, this made me think. There have been a few bullies/intimidators in boxing history. First one that comes to mind is Iron Mike Tyson. In his heyday, there was no doubt he put fear in his opponents. They were already beaten before coming to the ring. As great as Michael Spinks was, an undefeated light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion, he was mentally beaten before he entered the ring to face Iron Mike. If you listen closely when he is walking to the ring, he replied to a fan and said, “I’ll try my best!” He psyched himself up to fail, which he confirmed by the final stare down in the center of the ring when Frank Cappaccino was giving the final instructions. Michael Spinks who is 6’2” never looked Mike directly in the eye. He kept his head down while looking down at the canvas… in 91 seconds the fight is over.
Now when Tyson faced somebody who wasn’t afraid of him, willing to stick to the game plan, and was there to fight. Tyson loses. The fight he had with James “Buster” Douglas. Tyson and his camp claimed that when Tyson dropped Douglas in the 9th round the referee Octavio Meyran gave Douglas a long slow count. The Tyson camp argued that Tyson’s knockout should obliterated because of the poor counting. If you haven’t seen that fight, it was a pure masterpiece. Let’s look at the two Holyfield fights, Tyson met resistance from the opening bell. Holyfield let it be known in that fight, that I am not going nowhere. Tyson ended up losing both fights one by TKO and the other by disqualification. Tyson and his camp blamed the referee and Holyfield for the constant headbutts, even though both fighters continuously leaned forward with their heads. That aura of invincibility was gone and gone forever.
George Foreman (first career) was a menacing fighter. 6’4” 228 of brute strength and punching power. How he ran through the heavyweight division during that time was a scare. How he would dispatch these opponents (George Chavalo, Boone Kirkman, Gregoria Peralta, Jose Roman, and even world champion Joe Frazier) was a sight to behold. Every punch had mean intention written on it. George’s greatest asset besides his intimidation factor was his ability to cut the ring off.
Once he had you on those ropes, you were about to experience a whole lot of pain and misery. A lot of opponents froze with pain and fear and all George did was smile and growl. When George faced Ken Norton you can tell that he wasn’t the same Ken Norton that broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw. Before George came in to the ring Ken Norton was sitting on the stool waiting to be glove with his arms resting on the ropes. Ken had the deer in the headlight glare. Ali who was at ringside near Norton kept calling his name trying to give him advice. Norton finally acknowledge Ali, looked quickly towards him, shook his head slightly and went back to that 1000-yard stare. When they finally got gloved up and in the center of the ring, Ken Norton looked away from Foreman, then looked at referee Jimmy Rondeau the entire time, while Foreman was gazing a hole through Ken Norton. Ken Norton is not an easy person to intimidate. This All-State, Marine Corp Veteran, stood 6’3” and was truly a physical specimen. His nickname was” Black Hercules.” That night that didn’t matter to Foreman. He went and did to Norton what he did to all his previous opponents; he annihilated them.
When Foreman face Muhammad Ali, Foreman figured this was going to be one of his easiest fights ever. For the first time in Foreman’s life he had no anxiety or pre-fight jitters that all boxers go through. When Foreman finally got to the ring and they started to put the gloves on you can hear Ali shouting at Foreman across the ring. Telling him to Hurry up! Tie that sucker up! Hurry up! We’re going to dance! He repeats this over and over. Then they finally get the gloves on and go to the center of the ring. Zack Clayton is trying to give the final instructions, not only did Ali looked him in his eyes, but he was taunting and talking to Foreman. Nobody has ever done that to him. When the bell ring Ali didn’t run, he was hitting Foreman with right hand leads and combinations. This infuriated Foreman, so Foreman would literally try to kill Ali. With those hellacious body shots. Every time Foreman would catch Ali, Ali would tie him up and bring him closer and ask him, is that all you got George. Throughout the fight Ali would do this to George. The finally 2 rounds Ali stayed on the ropes and let Foreman continually to hit him on the body and you can see Foreman starting to tire. He was pushing his punches instead of throwing them. He was unsteady on his feet due to fatigue. At the end of the 8th round Ali moved quickly off the ropes with a 6-punch combination and down goes Foreman and he is counted out. When Foreman got up he went to his corner with a look of defeat.
What Ali did was not only beat him physically but he beat him mentally. After the fight George Foreman was making excuses about the fight. He claimed that the ropes were too loose and his shoes were too big. It got so bad mentally for Foreman that on April 26, 1975 (six months later), in Toronto George fought 5 guys the same night to prove to himself and the world that he is the same invincible George Foreman. (Ideal that was given to him be the late great Marvin Gaye.) George was never the same after his loss.
Sonny Liston, the master of the art of intimidation. Was known for his demeaner, his glaring scowl, and stopping anyone and everyone that was in his way, and his (at that time) biggest fists ever recorded in boxing 15 inches!!! It also helps to have a criminal record and dealings with organized crime to enhance the legend of the “Boogey Man as well. This served him well going through the ranks defeating the likes of Cleveland Williams x2, Roy Harris, Zora Folley, and Eddie Machen. In the beginning of 1960, Liston was declared the number one contender for Floyd Patterson’s title. Patterson’s trainer Cus D’amato refused to give him a shot at the title because of Liston’s links to organized crime. But the funny thing was that Cus himself was, associated with racketeers back in 1959. This was all a ploy to divert the actual truth on the real reason why Floyd Patterson himself and his handlers wanted no part of Liston.
Well the day finally came that Liston finally got his shot at the title to face the underdog and champion Floyd Patterson. When both fighters got into the ring Floyd did everything he could not to look across the ring at Sonny. He turned his back, paced in a small area with his head down.
When it was time for them to face off in the center of the ring to receive their final instructions, Floyd look sad and miserable with his head hanging low, and Liston was just glaring at Patterson almost daring him to look up. When the bell rang you can tell by the onset that Patterson was fighting a little too timid. He threw one meaningful left hook, hoping to catch Liston to no avail. Two minutes and 9 seconds later in round one the fight was over. Liston became the new champion. In the rematch, the result were the same. Liston used his greatest asset his power and intimidation to win the crown.
It wasn’t until he got in to the ring with a young and hungry fighter name Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) when he figured out that this might be different. Before the fight Clay tried to out talk, outwit, and unnerve the champ. The reason why a fighter with only 17 wins was able to receive shot at the heavyweight champion of the world was his promotional mouth. When Liston and Clay stood face to face that was the first time Liston got the chance to really size Clay up.
Normally they had been keep apart or were sitting down near each other. If you look at Liston and his frightening scowl he had to look up at Clay. What Clay did in return was stared right back at him showing no fear. Letting Liston know that play time is over. Clay stared deep into his eyes… Clay danced… use lateral movement to frustrate the champ. Liston missed a lot of big shots and was following Clay, instead of cutting the ring off. It wasn’t until the third round when Clay hurt and cut Liston underneath the left eye with a flurry of punches that backed him up. Clay won the third round big. You started to see a little concern on Liston’s face after that round. Remember, Liston predicted that he was going to knockout Clay in two rounds.
So, what happens between rounds? Allegedly, Liston handlers place a chemical of some sort on Liston’s gloves. Some historians say it was Monsel Solution some others say it was liniment?
Whatever it is when Liston was finally able to allegedly put the chemical on Clay’s face and eyes with his gloves towards the end of the fourth round it. Between round four and five you can tell something was wrong. Clay started to panic to the point that he wanted the fight to be stopped. He knew something wasn’t right. He described the same burning feeling very similar to what Eddie Machen and Zora Folley experience with Liston. Angelo Dundee washed Clays eyes out and told him to run. Round five began and Liston jumps on Clay and unleashes a barrage of punches. Clay retreats and try to defend the best way he could. This barrage went on for majority of the round until the last 30 seconds of the round. By then Clay’s vision had cleared up and he started to hit Liston with same jabs again. When the bell rang for that round you could almost read Liston… like what do I have to do to beat this man! Round six, started and Clay again was tattooing Liston with beautiful jabs and seldom right hands. Liston did not have an answer or a defense for them. Liston would try to launch something occasionally, but Clay would continue to frustrate him with his movement and boxing ability. At the end of the round six Liston went back to his corner with the body language of a defeated man. When the bell sounded for the beginning of the seventh round, Liston failed to answer the bell. This was the first time in heavyweight championship history that a world title changes hands due to a fighter quitting on his stool. Liston was mentally defeated.
Liston used every trick in the book. He tried to intimidate, used his long reach and powerful jab, his brutal punching power, and even cheated in using a chemical agent to blind his opponent. After all that, he still couldn’t beat him. The excuse that Liston used to why he couldn’t continue was because he dislocated his left shoulder. In reality; that night Clay took Liston’s heart.
This by no means is a sign of disrespect to the fighters above named. What they did, they did very well. When you see a fighter that is always selling wolf tickets, tries to intimidate their opponent, and continuously win easy with little or no resistance. Hold on to our praise and ask yourself this… if the wolf meets a fighter with a lion’s heart… will they have the heart and character to withstand great resistance and pressure? Or do they have just another excuse?