By Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)
The generally accepted best to ever live has 19 of them. The Greatest has five. A (previously) widely agreed P4P #1 now has one too. Losses have evolved in their nature over the years. People didn’t put too much stock into an undefeated record ‘back in the day’ but that’s a far cry from the contemporary thought. A loss – even when very early in their career – is paraded in front of the modern fighter as some sort of talisman to their failure; you’ve lost, your career is never taking off.
The greatness of a fighter can well be determined from the way they return from adversity. Anyone else recall thinking they wouldn’t hear Badou Jack’s name again when Derek Edwards KO’d him? How about when Derry Matthews stopped Anthony Crolla? More topically, who expected Danny Jacobs to be able to go the distance with Golovkin after the Pirog KO, never mind drag him into a very close fight?
I think we’re all quite aware that Mayweather turned that 0 into a figure of glamour. He began to pride himself on it and being the wonderful salesman that he is, he then turned the undefeated record into his defining legacy – his enticement for people to pay PPV money to perhaps see him lose. The 0 hovered above his head like a manipulated dollar sign and the ramifications of this are how carelessly we look at a fighter’s loss and how we don’t care to analyse a defeat as much as we do a victory. Seeing as we’ve just had the Golovkin weekend, we can use another example in David Lemieux. Stopped by Rubio and then miraculously beaten by Alcine…now has a KO of the year candidate against a decent contender in the form of Curtis Stevens. Roman Gonzalez too took his first loss (officially, though I scored the fight in his favour). Here we have the chance to change things slightly. The boxing public and promoter’s response to this will ultimately shape the importance of the 0 once again.
In an ideal scenario, Gonzalez is thrust straight back into meaningful fights. If other fighters see that the fans still clamour for boxers even when they take a loss then it will encourage more risk taking. And then if we get really lucky, promoters will force these tough fights into happening. We regularly see this situation with prospects. Ohara Davies against Josh Taylor makes so so so so much sense. It’s the perfect fight for both guys. But it will never happen. The fickleness currently infesting the sport (and the money such a thing can lose a promoter) would likely mean the loser would be disregarded at least for a substantial amount of time before they’re cared about again. And whilst they rebuild, it’s equally reasonable to assume there will be muffled whispering of “the other guy just being a hype job anyway”. A loss has grown into an endemic within boxing. Too many of us (I’m as guilty as anyone) see a loss as a stopping block; we fail to consider that some fighters are better on the night or that some guys just have another guy’s number. Such is the ostensible importance of this 0 that Dillian Whyte’s Twitter bio still seems to ignore that the AJ fight ever happened…
A ‘0’ on the record can be an emblem of success, a signature of brilliance which shows that a fighter is elite. Similarly, it can be a marketing ploy engineered to make an unskilled fighter seem better than they actually are or a way of building hype for someone considered profitable. Of course, these aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. 2017 has been fantastic so far for boxing and I hope it enforces some positive change within the sport. The sort of change where we can see untested prospects pitted against each other more often and fighters given a chance to show improvement after a loss. That doesn’t mean give X another world title shot right away because he just lost one, but it does mean give tougher tests when building or re-building a fighter. Competitive fights over ‘name’ fights, that’s the kind of sport I want to see.by