Believe it or not, we writers are an objective bunch.
Though conspiracy theorists insist otherwise, we gather at ringside or in front of our televisions with unbiased eyes and assemble our stories based on the facts as we see them.
Doesn’t matter who’s fighting. Doesn’t matter who’s promoting.
Doesn’t matter whether or not we’ll have a spot at the complimentary buffet.
But we’re human beings, too.
And when we look at a weekend fight schedule we’re just like anyone else.
There are fights we’ll particularly want to see. And fighters for whom we’ll root.
For me, Badou Jack is one of those fighters.
I’ve interviewed the now 39-year-old cruiserweight several times over the years – stretching back to the days when he was an unbeaten Mayweather-groomed super middleweight prospect and through both the good and bad days since.
It didn’t look good when he was left stumbling across the ring by journeyman Derek Edwards exactly nine years ago next week. But it got better just 14 months after that when he became a member of the belted class thanks to a majority decision defeat of then-unbeaten Anthony Dirrell.
He was never the best fighter in the world. And maybe never the best in his own weight class.
But he was a good guy. And a worthwhile interview for the writer types.
He had seven title fights across two weight classes – super middleweight and light heavyweight – beating the likes of George Groves, Lucian Bute and Nathan Cleverly, and lost just one, the last one, for the WBA strap at 175 pounds against Jean Pascal.
That was several years ago. And it seemed a logical end to the road for “The Ripper.”
He wasn’t shy about retirement and insisted he’d not be a senior-citizen fighter.
“We can't fight forever,” he told me. “I'm not trying to plan on fighting when I'm really old.
“When it goes down, I'm gonna try to stop. I don't want to fight because I have to make money from fighting. I want to make as much money as possible right now and invest and do some smart business stuff outside of boxing.”
The launch of a line of nutritional supplements was on his near-term agenda back then as the ring faded to the background.
Until, that is, it didn’t.
He was back in the ring just 11 months after the Pascal loss, playing the “most legitimate active fighter” role on a Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. card that also featured Jake Paul’s second pro fight.
Jack defeated an untested Blake McKernan that night and has toppled four similarly unproven commodities since – compiling a pristine 5-0 record against foes who’d arrived with a combined 77-6-1 record but have gone just 5-4 since encountering him in locales like Los Angeles, Miami, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia.
Not the worst way to travel the world and ride into the sunset.
But all of a sudden, it seems it’s become more than that.
Though none of his beaten foes have been near a world ranking, Jack’s win streak nevertheless has him right in the thick of things with the sanctioning bodies – including No. 2 spots at 200 pounds with the WBA and WBO, third with the WBC and seventh with the IBF.
He’ll face WBC champ Ilunga Makabu on the undercard of Paul’s bout with Tommy Fury this weekend, again providing a dose of credibility on a card sorely lacking proven ring competence.
As a fan, I’m happy he’s got another shot at significance.
But as a guy who’d be equally happy to see him walk away without damage as he approaches 40, I’m not so sure I’m looking forward to it.
I’m not suggesting Makabu is even the type of fighter capable of inflicting damage that’ll linger beyond Saturday night. But when you have a guy on one side who’s not only older, but also hasn’t beaten a truly world-class foe in more than five years, there’s a strong chance the optics won’t be good.
We’ll save the “how did a guy without a significant win in the weight class get such a lofty ranking” rant for another day.
Because when it comes to this week, I’m just hoping he gets out in one piece.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF junior welterweight title – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Jeremias Ponce (No. 1 IBF/No. 8 IWBR) vs. Subriel Matias (No. 2 IBF/No. 9 IWBR)
Ponce (30-0, 20 KO): First title fight; Four KOs in five fights outside Argentina (5-0, 4 KO)
Matias (18-1, 18 KO): First title fight; Fought 75 rounds across 18 KO wins (4.2-round average)
Fitzbitz says: It’s reasonable to argue neither of these two is the world’s best at 140 pounds but they should make a compelling match. Matias is a KO artist and he’ll continue his streak. Matias in 9 (80/20)
WBC cruiserweight title -- Diriyah, Saudi Arabia
Ilunga Makabu (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Badou Jack (No. 3 WBC/No. 21 IWBR)
Makabu (29-2, 25 KO): Third title defense; Ten straight wins since last loss in 2016 (10-0, 7 KO)
Jack (27-3-3, 16 KO): Eighth title fight (4-1-2); Held titles at 168 (WBC) and 175 (WBA) pounds
Fitzbitz says: Makabu isn’t exactly a world-beater at 200 pounds. But Jack, though far more decorated, is also a 39-year-old who’s not had a relevant win in nearly six years. Makabu by decision (90/10)
Last week's picks: 1-0 (WIN: Lara)
2023 picks record: 5-1 (83.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,255-409 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.