By Tris Dixon
WHAT does a loss mean for a fighter? What should a loss mean?
Too often, in today’s era of padded records and multi-weight division titleholders who do not have a defining win to their name, a loss marks the end.
A rebuilding job has to be undertaken but you will never be allowed to shake an off night or a defeat.
Unlike other sports, where you can pick yourself up and dust yourself off, you can’t simply win and all be right in the world again.
You will always have, “Well he lost to ‘so and so.” “He’s already been beaten.”
Repeatedly, the stick with the ‘L’ on it will be used to beat them over the head with. It goes with you everywhere
Of course, some losses are more damning than others. Guillermo Rigondeuax had far from dazzled on some of his biggest nights – certainly if you listen to Bob Arum – but his loss on Saturday night to Vasyl Lomachenko would have been hard for even his biggest fans to justify or explain.
That kind of defeat does, and arguably should, stay with you. However, it does not mean the rest of his record or his incredible achievements evaporate to dust.
It does not mean he was overrated all along, or that he was on the slide (maybe he was) or that he was not as good as we had been lead to believe. It meant he lost a fight. It meant there was a now an L in the right hand column of his stats, the first he has taken in the pros yet one that will both probably define and haunt him.
Will he make it into the International Boxing Hall of Fame? There will be many who won’t be able to forgive the way he pulled the pin on last night’s hotly-anticipated contest.
And it is the Hall of Fame where the greats should head. This year, Ricky Hatton failed to make the grade at the first time of asking. “He lost each time he stepped up,” said critics who referred to the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fights when looking at the top of his resume. Kostya Tszyu did not matter. Nor was it factored in how he was the first British fighter built into a brand on ‘satellite’ TV in the UK or how he took those incredible record numbers of fans on multiple trips across the Atlantic. Of course, they are not defining factors but contributing reasons as to why he will get in one day.
And while those pointed to Hatton’s famous defeats, Vitali Klitschko did make it in, and some looked to his thrilling, heroic and bloody loss to Lennox Lewis as a reason why he should be inducted.
So when is an L not an L?
Another case in point is Puerto Rican sensation Miguel Cotto.
Again, he is in a bracket where he lost his biggest fights, aside from the personal grudge match against Antonio Margarito. There were, like Hatton, defeats to Paquiao and Mayweather as well as Saul Alvarez and Austin Trout. Finally, earlier this month, there was the farewell Sadam Ali defeat, which will be wiped from our selective memories before long. He was a four-weight world champion who was past his best when he let the door hit him on the way out.
But in his defeat to Pacquiao he showed an unflinching heart, staring down a devastating machine at his peak that was, as a course of habit, devouring everything before him.
Against Mayweather, he was merely supposed to be fodder, a shopworn former 140-pounder who’d already been mauled by ‘Pacman’ and pushed to the wire by Joshua Clottey.
Instead, he gave Mayweather possibly the most bruising fight of his career and, in defeat, added to his Puerto Rican legend. Yes, he lost, but it did no harm to his legacy even if it dropped a further L in that column.
Of course, there are some who will not look beyond the loss.
But circumstances alter cases.
The modern pressures from TV networks and governing bodies who reward fighters with glossy records has harmed the sport, perhaps irreversibly. Occasionally you may see a battle of unbeaten prospects, but even then often it is the case of one cashing in and one cashing out before they are found out.
And again, that much anticipated fight where you have one perfect record against another with all of the belts on the line is the rarest of unicorns. In fact, boxing politics makes it virtually impossible, which is why we are watching the heavyweight negotiations between Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker with baited breath.
But let’s not be quite so hasty to trash a fighter for a loss or one bad night. In any sport, an unbeaten record is nigh on sacred and virtually unachievable. In boxing, losses can be badges of honour, lessons learned or they can be particularly unsightly. Regardless of what they are and how they occur it might not be best to judge a fighter on his worst night just as it may not be right to judge them on their best. But when the cheers or the jeers stop, their whole body of work and the mark they have left will be there for all to see.