By Jason Peck – For a time Antonio Margarito was regarded as the most avoided man in boxing, despite the fact that he had made millions, appeared on HBO and Showtime, scored magazine covers, and fought in a popular weight division. With Margarito’s shock defeat, Paul Williams had taken up the supposed Most Avoided mantle. But it’s just foolish to think that a name fighter could possibly qualify..
People don’t get it – how can you count yourself among the most avoided if there’s a profit in fighting you? The ones who actually qualify are more likely people like Sergiy Dzinziruk, Adrian Dicanou or Joshua Clottey. They’re good, but worse yet, you’ll make nothing from fighting them.
Granted, that’s not to say that every fighter alive would gleefully jump into the ring against Williams or Margarito without hesitation. Many would opt for the easier, safer fight. But you’ve probably heard of both men, and more than likely you’ve watched wither one of them fight on HBO. That very fact means they’re not as avoided as they’d like to claim.
The problem is that boxing has always been a sport where virtues such as honor and respect exist alongside along with more real-world values such as money. Thus, it can be rather difficult to distinguish whether a fight fell through out of cowardice or short-sightedness.
It should come as no surprise then, that many self-proclaimed Most Avoided’s have long histories of stifling their own careers. As such, when a fighter claims that no one wants to fight him, it should be treated with a dose of skepticism.
Case in point: Margarito signed a fight with Shane Mosley, at the time regarded as the kind of low-risk, easy-money payday that he’s long sought for. But wait – the fight almost fell apart when Margarito complained about money issues. Was this good business sense, or indicative of career mistakes? Juan Manuel Marquez long whined of being the most avoided, although he repeatedly turned down fights that would have cemented his reputation years before it actually hardened.
Bernard Hopkins likewise made much the same complaints, although he also turned down the kind of big-money bouts most fighters salivate over. Don King, in one of his insightful moments, described Hopkins as a man who threw away the winning lottery ticket. Joe Calzaghe pointed this out as his fight with Hopkins approached, although that’s kind of a pot/kettle situation for Joe. So whatever.
When I think of most-avoided, I immediately think of someone like Winky Wright, prior to his breakthrough victory over Shane Mosley. Talk about a guy with zero appeal.
Wright has minimal knockout-power, relying instead on a boring, frustrating technical style that won him few fans. More importantly, he was remarkably good at it. Add to that his general unattractiveness and his lack of flamboyance, and you’re looking at a man designed for obscurity. Why would anyone fight him?
The real tragedy with guys like this is that despite all their hard work, despite all their victories, there’s still an exceedingly small chance of them ever cracking through to A-list status. And if you think Wright’s Cinderella story is the inevitable result of hard work, you’re wrong. Quite the contrary, Wright’s breakthrough was very much the exception to the rule.
I consider it shocking that Mosley agreed to the fight in the first place. Wright was a high-risk fight that Mosley stood to make a pittance from. But remember also that the Wright fight came about only after several big-name opponents fell through. Far from inevitable, it’s actually quite easy to imagine a scenario where Wright’s one chance slipped by, leaving him with nothing but a forgettable title reign and idle challenges for A-list fighters who will never seriously consider fighting him.
Which, ironically, seems to be the position he finds himself in regardless. Soon after the string of victories over Mosley and Trinidad, he had no shortage of offers. But for whatever reason, Wright let himself slide off the radar after his fight with Hopkins.
Watch Wright fight and you’re not watching a fighter trying to break through. You’re watching someone trying to regain the momentum he squandered.