Let Go of the “0”

By David Vaught, a family member of the great Archie Moore – Floyd Mayweather has become a very controversial figure in boxing. It seems like boxing fans either love him or hate him. He was a great defensive boxer, and he has now retired undefeated. The purpose of this article, however, isn’t to debate Mayweather’s skill, but to look at the way some fans judge a boxer on their boxing record alone.

There have been many fighters that have retired with an 0. Rocky Marciano and Joe Calzaghe are two that come to mind. Different eras and weight classes, but both with perfect records. These fighters deserve respect for this accomplishment, as does Floyd Mayweather, but we must look at more than a fighter’s record to really appreciate their career. In some instances, the losses tell more about a fighter than his wins.

Case in point, Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali 1. Two undefeated fighters with perfect records when they met in the ring for the first time. As they say, somebody’s “0” had to go. Joe won by decision in an epic battle! Frazier famously hit Ali with a huge left hook in round 15, sending him to the mat. Muhammad Ali immediately stood up, but he knew the knockdown had ended any chance he had left of winning the fight. Afterwards, Ali said that he’d never thought about losing, but now that it had happened, he knew he could be greater after the defeat than he had been before. Saying “Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.” Boxing fans agreed, and Ali actually gained respect for the hard-fought loss.

Some younger or more recent boxing fans have been led to believe that if a fighter suffers a loss, the winning opponent must be the better man. Perhaps he is on that night, but sometimes that’s not the end of the story.

Let’s look back at boxing history, my favorite fighter of all time, Archie Moore, was ranked by The Ring as the top contender in three different weight divisions; middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight. He fought Rocky Marciano in a great fight. He even knocked The Rock down but went on to be KO’d himself in round nine. This losing performance made him even greater, because he was willing to step up and take the fight. In those days, if a fight was competitive, it wasn’t uncommon for men to face each other five, six, seven or more times.

Sugar Ray Robinson, for example fought Jake Lamotta six times. Robinson won five of the six fights, but fans wanted to see each of the matches because they were sure to see a competitive, and exciting night of boxing! So, when we are considering how skilled a boxer is, their boxing record is only one of many aspects of their career. Who they fought, when they fought, and how they handled losses must be part of the conversation. You can’t blame a promoter for wanting their fighter to have an unblemished record. It’s true that having a promising contender take a fight before they are ready is certainly one way to derail the up and coming boxers career. However, taking a chance at the right time can propel that boxer into stardom and gain them some major respect. A brash young boxer named Cassius Marcellus Clay, aka Muhammad Ali, took a fight with one of the most feared heavyweights in history, Sonny Liston, the successful dethroning paved the way for greatness. The rematch, which ended with Liston being caught with a short but powerful shot, that Ali later called the anchor punch, ended the match.

As fans we need to see the best fighting the best. When that happens, we don’t see as many perfect records, but we do see the most entertaining fights. 2018 is heating up in the sport of boxing and has the potential to be very special. We have undefeated heavyweight Anthony Joshua, who has promised to step in the ring with anyone put in front of him. Either Luis Ortiz (24-0) and Deontay Wilder (39-0) are likely to face Joshua this year. In the middleweight division. We have Billy Joe Saunders, Keith Thurman, Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr. among many others willing to put their 0 on the line! Terrance Crawford, Forbes fighter of the Year 2017, says now that he’s cleaned out the 140 pounders, he is also ready to move up and risk his 0. So, with all this action to look forward to, let’s try to focus more on the fighter’s skill and accomplishments and less on the 0.