Fighters And Excuses: “No Excuses, but……”

You can almost bet your life that, when a fighter loses, be it a big name or an up-and-coming talent, he will have some excuse for having done so. Also all but guaranteed is the fact that right after you hear the words, ‘I have no excuses for losing tonight,’ you will hear a ‘but.’ Maybe it’s simply the sheer pride a pro fighter has, needs to have, and maybe a losing fighter has to have a reason, or an excuse, so as to be able to live with himself and be able to retain his belief that he is the best and go back to the gym refusing to think his career is anywhere near over.

Just this past weekend, Andy Ruiz, who most agree has no-one but himself to blame for losing to Anthony Joshua in their massive rematch, uttered the very words those in the boxing world instinctively anticipate hearing at each and every post-fight press conference. “No excuses,” Ruiz said at the post-fight presser, before adding the inevitable ‘but’ a split second later.

But it’s been this way for the longest time. Even the greatest of the great, Muhammad Ali, occasionally had an excuse at the ready for the rare time he did lose: Ali stating how, ahead of his loss to Ken Norton (in response to being asked, he felt sarcastically, where Allah was that night) that he didn’t live right and he didn’t say enough prayers in the lead-up to the fight. Roberto Duran had every excuse imaginable after his (still perplexing) loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in the infamous ‘No Mas’ affair. As did a bewildered George Foreman after his stunning loss to Ali in ‘The Rumble in The Jungle.’

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And on the list goes; Gerry Cooney saying he was constantly thinking and worrying about ‘the distance, the distance’ in his career-biggest fight with Larry Holmes and that this is why he lost; that and he didn’t have enough experience. In fact, can you think of a fighter who DIDN’T make at least something of an excuse when he lost a fight? Maybe you can. But right now, though most people are not buying Ruiz’s ‘I didn’t train hard enough but I will be ready for the third fight’ tale, the former champ is not saying what he should be saying: that Anthony Joshua was the better man (the better prepared man if you like, but putting the work in ahead of the actual bout is as important as what happens inside the ropes) on the night in Saudi Arabia.

Fans wonder how an unbeaten fighter will react if and when he loses for the first time (Ruiz had of course tasted defeat before, against Joseph Parker, but guess what – here too Andy had an excuse for losing). Some past champions were never quite the same after losing their unbeaten record: the names Donald Curry and Naseem Hamed quickly spring to mind. Can Ruiz bounce back after this, his first non-debatable pro defeat? How might Deontay Wilder react if he ever loses? How about Tyson Fury?

Rest assured, even the best of ’em will have a ‘no excuses, but….’ tale at hand when they do taste the agony of defeat. It goes with the territory.