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Boxing: Why everybody’s “0”, has got to go…

With a recent obsession to protect a fighter's unbeaten record at all costs, Lewis Watson dissects the impact it has on match-making in boxing.

“TBE”, “Money-May”, “Pretty Boy Floyd”, whatever you want to call him, Floyd Mayweather is on the verge of becoming a 50-0 fighter for the first time in the sport of boxing. 

Putting aside the politics, bemusement and bravado surrounding the Conor McGregor circus for one second, his Las Vegas bout with the UFC star has been licensed as a boxing contest, meaning that a victory for Mayweather would ensure he surpasses Rocky Marciano’s record of 49-0. 

Does a win automatically designate Mayweather as the great boxer of all time? No. Does a loss tarnish his record entirely and demote him out of contention in future Hall of Fame pound-for-pound lists? No. But either way, there is no denying that the Mayweather era has been defined by his winning streak, absence of defeat or a knock-down and his ability to pick and choose when he fights his contenders to best suit him – something that has tarnished the sport of boxing we know today.

Name the top ten boxers of all time. Impossible yes, but with a fair degree of certainty we are always going to stumble across the same names, ranging throughout the years. “Sugar” Ray Robinson, George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, Manny Pacquiao, Joe Louis, Roberto Duran, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Sonny Liston, Willie Pep, (we could go on). However, if we did go on you would seldom stumble across a fighter without a loss on their record. 

In fact, throughout history it’s been rare for a world champion to retire undefeated with a perfect record intact. You could argue for one, that this is primarily due to a ‘prize-fighter’ culture which has become less fundamental to the sport, where fighters only source of income was through lacing up their gloves, taking fights at short notice and against a huge range of opposition. 

Or, a more popular theory, that the modern day fighter is protected by promotional companies, sponsors and broadcasters so heavily that they are treated as a brand rather than a fighter, with any loss resulting in monetary losses for all related parties.  

Among our list of undefeated, retired world champions, we have the following stand-outs; Joe Calzaghe (46-0), Ricardo Lopez (51-0-1), Rocky Marciano (49-0),  Sven Ottke (34-0) and Dmitry Pirog (20-0), and with Rocky Marciano the only real name with a chance of making our top ten pound-for-pound lists, it’s looking more and more like a dichotomy of legacy vs money in terms of taking a defeat and staying undefeated.

'Rocky Marciano knocks out Jersey Joe Walcott'

With more belts and world title opportunities available in 2017 than ever before inside the squared circle, a dissection of the current world champions (WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, WBC) records highlights the current obsession with staying unbeaten in order to stay relevant. 

From heavyweight to minimumweight, we have no fewer than 36 undefeated champions, with WBC minimumweight champion Chayaphon Moonsri leading the way with a 47-0 record.  

With big names including Deontay Wilder (38-0), Gennady Golovkin (37-0) and Andre Ward (32-0) sitting on perfect records, the lack of five-star fights that these pugilists have had somewhat cheapens their records. 

With huge promotional companies carefully plotting the paths of these fighters it would be naive to place the blame solely on the shoulders of the boxer, but while living in a fight generation where so many champions avoid each other until the end of their careers, surely the tide has got to turn before we, as fans, miss out on our dream match-ups in return for promotional and TV gains.

With the heavyweight division thriving again after the de-throning of Wladimir Klitschko's superior reign, we have three undefeated world champions, and another (Tyson Fury) awaiting a return. With all four of these fighters reaching their prime in the next 18 months, it's the duty of the fighters, promotional teams, TV broadcasters and the fans to demand these unification fights whatever the consequences. 

Sure, one guy has to to take an "L" on their record, and once that fear has subsided they can go on and fulfil their potential in the sport challenging themselves at every turn, taking risks and giving the fans the fights they crave. 

 A prime example is that of 'Hi-Tech' Vasyl Lomachenko. At 29, the two-time Olympic gold medallist and two-weight world champion took a defeat in his second outing against Orlando Salido, as he challenged for the WBO featherweight title, only six months after turning pro. 

'Lomachenko is quickly climbing boxing's pound-for-pound list'

This decision has earned Lomachenko millions of fans around the world, and now with a record of (8-1) is looking to move through the weight divisions on course to be regarded as one of the most destructive fighters of his generation. The Ukrainian has speed, balance, agility, power, guts all in abundance, but the one thing he doesn't have is an "0", and we love him for it.

With trilogies such as Bowe vs Holyfield, Griffith vs Paret, Ward vs Gatti, Barrera vs Morales and Leonard vs Duran, none of these would have been possible if the same fear of losing their undefeated records was as paramount as it is today.

Floyd Mayweather is a true icon of his sport and will go down in history as one of the best defensive boxers of all time, but that defensive style materialised outside of the ring as much as it did within. Carefully constructing the Mayweather brand has earned "Money" millions in the bank, but at the same time has set the precedent for today's fighter to prioritise record perfection rather than "mano-e-mano" superiority. 

An undefeated record doesn't define greatness. Sure, it can be an indicator, but in a sport where the best should always fight the best, more can be said of the rollercoaster records of the fighters that have shone before us.

"Sugar" Ray Robinson retired with a record of 173-19-6 in a career that lasted one shy of 1400 rounds, sure these numbers won't be seen again, but give me a suitcase of "Sugar" over a suitcase of "Money" any day...

'"Sugar" Ray Robinson enjoying the fruits of a wonderful career'

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Lewis Watson

London based boxing Editor, fanatic and all-round lover of the 'Sweet Science'. Growing up in the 90's, Tyson, De La Hoya and Savon grabbed Lewis' attention at an early age, with Hatton-Tzsyu confirming the obsession in 2005.

As a student of the sport, you'll find him flicking through the archives of past "Sugar" Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali fights, as well as wide-eyed on a Sunday for the 5am Vegas bouts.

Also covering football, darts and tennis content for BetVictor and Betfair.

  • Matt Baxter

    Insane how many fights sugar ray had…

Boxing: Why everybody’s “0”, has got to go…

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