Character (Or The Lack Of It) In Boxing
Let’s be honest. Most of us are boxing fans because we enjoy seeing a couple of fighters go toe-to-toe in...
Let’s be honest. Most of us are boxing fans because we enjoy seeing a couple of fighters go toe-to-toe in the ring. We like the excitement of them throwing magnificent combos and seeing which of them, at least for today, is the better, stronger boxer. We like seeing the courage and determination of serious fighters. It’s all akin to soldiers or warriors–the boxers adopt that mentality going into the ring, and that’s how we see them from the audience too. The politics and bureaucracy of boxing are not things most of us have any interest in.
So the seemingly common act of many of the top names cherry picking their opponents, or refusing to fight others for vague reasons (if any reason is given at all), is beyond disappointing. It reveals a lack of character, courage, and confidence in this sport which should be one of true champions. Declining a fight for common sense reasons like size/weight is one thing; declining it because, say, that generous amount of money just isn’t enough for you, or your promoter/TV network doesn’t work with his promoter/TV network is absurd, at least when it comes to the top ranked fighters.
If you want the fight, they’ll make it happen. For instance, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao–there’s no way the promoters and networks wouldn’t come together to make this happen if Mayweather would ever agree to the fight. There’s way too much money to be made and attention to be garnered. But it appears he doesn’t want the fight, and it leaves the question of why. I read somewhere that it may be because Mayweather (and other top ranked boxers) no longer have to prove anything. That may be true but I disagree with the principle. You need to prove you’re really the champion, that it’s not just about rank. Show us how much heart and what kind of character you have.
And, well…they are.
A warrior doesn’t fight because he knows he’ll win; he fights because it’s the right thing to do, because he believes in it, and because he must. So I argue that these so-called champs who won’t fight anyone who comes their way are no true champions, and certainly not the warriors so many of them claim to be. I want a champ who has the heart and will of a challenger–not one who, once he has the belt, rests on his laurels. I want to know that champion still wants that title because he’s a true fighter, not because he wanted the fame and the money. I don’t begrudge anyone those things, but are those the only reasons you became a boxer? With many modern fighters it appears that way.
You’ve got to respect fighters like Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs), who has tried for years to get a shot at Floyd Mayweather Jr. (in the meantime Pacquiao has fought truly skilled and intimidating fighters like Juan Manuel Marquez and, soon, Brandon Rios); and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (27-0, 24 KOs), who seems unafraid to take anyone on and in fact has a hard time finding takers among all the big names of the sport.
We’ve heard all sorts of excuses from boxers like Stevens and Murray, but the fact remains that they’re turning down Golovkin. It’s also becoming more and more common to hear other fighters make disparaging claims about up-and-coming boxers like GGG and Canelo Alvarez that taste an awful lot like sour grapes. In Golovkin’s case, they make claims about him like, “he hasn’t been tested” (hello, Geale!) or, “He only beat Macklin because I already softened him up” (hello, Martinez!).
Head games are a part of the sport of boxing, but let’s please cut out the cowardice and whining and just be honest and have some character. Think you’re a good enough fighter to knock somebody out? Say so and then follow through by actually fighting him (hello, Stevens!). And if you lose, be man enough to say the other guy was better than you, at least for today. He got in a lucky punch? Really? Nobody believes you, and you’re just making yourself look worse. Everyone can respect somebody like Matthew Macklin (29-5, 20 KOs), who, after his loss against Golovkin in June, stated that GGG was the toughest guy he’d ever fought and that Golovkin essentially just fought better than him. That’s honest, and it’s sportsmanlike.
Something the sport is in dire need of, particularly in this age of increased bureaucracy and decreased fans and media coverage.