IB Opinion: The Unbeaten Obsession

By Paddy Appleton

The unbeaten record, a revered pinnacle of boxing in days gone by, is now in the process of being preserved for almost every young boxer coming through these days.

What has happened to boxing that a record once only held by the greats of the game is now being knocked about in front of almost every fighter at the top end of the rankings in their class?

Not every fighter, as of course there are many out there who go and fight who they want, when they want and where they want and such boxers deserve all the respect in the world for such a stance.

However, there are too many young boxers out there who hold on to the notion of the unbeaten record, as if it was a skill just like their talented footwork or flawless jab.

One loss should not define whether a young boxer will be a great boxer or a mediocre one, not unless the loss is truly career-defining such as Ricky Hatton’s loss to Floyd Mayweather.

But even that has its arguments, as the show was billed as ‘Undefeated’,and the hype was as large as we’ve seen in the UK and Ireland for a fight since Tyson Lewis. Surely the loser that night would find it hard to ever get back to those heights.

Though talking about Hatton is taking us off-track, as he was in the prime of his career and was fighting arguably the best boxer of his generation.

The real worry today is the young boxers turning professional and fighting against 10 or 12 Eastern European journeymen before they finally come up against a test.

Then in their 13th fight against a decent opponent they will undoubtedly be asked tricky questions, questions the 40 year-old Lithuanian never asked them twelve times before.

If they can’t withstand the pressure or come through a less than impressive victory then the daggers are out. Is he up to the challenge? He’s too inexperienced! Professional boxing is a different game to amateur boxing!

However, the answer is easy; he’s been protected too long. Promoters and TV companies don’t want to market a loser, so a 12-0 record fighter looks great, yet who has this young man been boxing against?

At the moment a young boxer’s career almost constantly depends on his winning record, but it shouldn’t be like this. The unbeaten obsession that is begrudging the public of the big fights can be fixed.

It just needs a number of things; TV to have a re-think on marketing fights, promoters to take a gamble and finally, for boxers to fight the best in their division and do anything and everything in their power to make it happen.

Easier said than done of course, TV has money and revenue to think about, as does the promoter. They will want to protect their best interests and although at the minute that seems like keeping a boxer on a comfortable route, it is not so.

Young Irish boxers careers would come on leaps and bounds if they had say perhaps two or three fights against the journeymen mentioned, but then after that get all the young professionals teeing off against each other.

The money made from TV would leave them with nothing to complain about if they were able to market two up and coming fighters clashing so early in their career, and the inevitable loss would banish the stigma attached to losing.

Losing so early in their career wouldn’t be damaging to a boxer, as they lost to a young, hungry fighter like themselves, and of course a rematch or numerous could be in the offing.

If the best fought the best early in their careers it would help them, and boxing, in the long term.

The sport would be stronger for it as it would have better boxers and stronger characters at an early age, as the young professional would be able to deal with defeat and move onwards and upwards.

It may sound preposterous, but losing early in your career could be helpful for the long term aspect. Losing early to a decent opponent could prolong a boxer’s marketability; he could be ‘The Comeback Kid’ with the never-say-die attitude.

However, lose his 20th fight after 19 straightforward wins and his career is in tatters, he’s the fighter ‘that came up short’, he’s had his day in the sun, and the TV stations may be reluctant to take a gamble on his next fight.

A strong statement would be to say that ‘the obsession with unbeaten boxers is destroying the sport’ and whilst some might feel it over the top it is surely not an outlandish suggestion as we very rarely see the best fight the best in this sport.

Sure governing bodies and negotiators could take a fair slice of the blame, but it is also down to many fighters not wanting to go into a fight that is too dangerous for them as it’s implied they are nothing without their O.

It is a sad state of affairs, but one boxing can work through and come out the other side of, though it needs help from the people with the power; the boxers, the promoters and the television companies.

Losing is as much a part of boxing as winning. Bar the few undefeated greats, coming back from being beaten, sometimes even humiliated, is the sign of a true champion. Boxing needs such champions, with or without their O.

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