By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Some things remain predictable.
The sun rises in the east, it sets in the west and the New York Jets are irrelevant by December.
Oh, and one other thing… if a fighter bows out of a match with something less than a flat-lining EKG, the jackals on press row and beyond will pounce faster than fat men on free donuts.
This weekend’s target: Nicholas Walters.
In way over his head Saturday night against consensus pound-for-pounder Vasyl Lomachenko, the previously unbeaten Jamaican stood from his stool, summoned referee Tony Weeks and informed him that he had zero interest in renewing hostilities with the Ukrainian for Round 8.
He’d not been cut, badly hurt or knocked down. Rather, he said, he simply knew he couldn’t beat the guy… and no longer felt the need to get beaten up while proving it.
Of course, no sooner had the words left his mouth that the sluicegates swung open, the clichéd characterizations began and the keyboarding tough guys in poster-laden basement “apartments” across the globe began puffing their chests in bathroom mirrors.
“Quitter!” screamed one. “Coward!” blared another.
“He committed the Cardinal Sin!” insisted three or four more.
It's a reason I hate the sport that I love.
While tapping out supposedly manly manifestos, myriad clowns criticize athletes in competitive circumstances that their own raisin-sized weaponry would never ponder, let alone actually pursue.
And when one of those athletes has the audacity to choose long-term health over short-term glory, the mini-testosterone factories get to pumping on overdrive.
Forget athletic intent. I'd wager that most of them wouldn't go outside in a heavy rain, or walk upstairs to a free buffet.
But it won't stop their grenade lobbing.
They'll bring up Muhammad Ali's enduring against Ken Norton with a broken jaw, or erect another wordy statue to a more recent hero – Arturo Gatti – and wax poetic on how no one short of a sissy-boy would have ever considered abandoning a fight short of a traumatic brain injury.
As if permanent disfigurement was somehow a badge of honor.
Here's a tip, macho men... it's not.
Had any of the punch-addled ex-fighters whose tragic stories you read these days had it to do over again, it's my wager that the majority would look back and admit they'd have rather taken one or two fewer combinations in exchange for the ability to still tie their shoes without assistance.
Ali might have remained the ambassador he was destined to be before his death, and Gatti might have avoided the post-ring freefall that resulted in a mysterious demise that'll be debated for decades.
They can't change their histories, but Walters can still chart his.
In the 1,450 days before Saturday, he won five title fights, knocked out two former multiple-division champions – including a one-time Boxing Writers Association of America fighter of the year – and was impressive enough in a leap to a new weight class to warrant a shot at another high-end fighter whom more than a few people thought he could push.
It was clear in three minutes he was outclassed. And once his self-belief had been beaten out of him, he decided that being concussed to salve the slobbering masses was every bit as stupid as it sounds.
It’s true that his decision cost him premium cable dollars for now.
But if it saved him sense for later, it was clearly the right call.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBO lightweight title – Accra, Ghana
Emmanuel Tagoe (No. 19 IBO/No. 69 IWBR) vs. Fernando Saucedo (Unranked IBO/Unranked IWBR)
Tagoe (26-1, 13 KO): First title fight; Five straight wins by stoppage (29 rounds)
Saucedo (60-6-3, 10 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Sixth fight outside of Argentina (1-4, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Tagoe has built a resume long on KOs, but short on substance. Meanwhile, Saucedo had his best days at lighter weights and was always a rung short of the top. Home team wins. Tagoe in 4
WBO middleweight title – Cardiff, United Kingdom
Billy Joe Saunders (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Artur Akavov (No. 10 WBO/No. 41 IWBR)
Saunders (23-0, 12 KO): First title defense; First fight in Wales
Akavov (16-1, 7 KO): First title fight; Fifth fight outside of Russia (4-0, 3 KO)
Fitzbitz says: The UK incumbent can keep beating the drum for a Golovkin match, but he’s far better off staying on the level he’s at here. It’s a lot safer. Saunders in 9
IBF/WBA cruiserweight titles -- Moscow, Russia
Denis Lebedev (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Murat Gassiev (No. 2 IBF/No. 29 IWBR)
Lebedev (29-2, 22 KO): Fifth WBA title defense; Unbeaten in Moscow (16-0, 10 KO)
Gassiev (23-0, 17 KO): First title fight; Eight straight wins by stoppage (24 rounds)
Fitzbitz says: Lebedev is the champion, he’s at home and he seems to have improved since joining the belted class. Gassiev has a string of KOs, but against iffy competition. Do the math. Lebedev in 10
IBF/IBO junior welterweight/super lightweight titles – Moscow, Russia
Eduard Troyanovsky (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Julius Indongo (No. 10 IBO/No. 13 IWBR)
Troyanovsky (25-0, 22 KO): Fourth IBO title defense; Fifteen straight wins by stoppage (63 rounds)
Indongo (20-0, 10 KO): First title fight; First fight outside of Namibia
Fitzbitz says: The challenger has an unbeaten record and is the younger man by three years, but he’s also not met nearly the same level of competition – which doesn’t help his cause. Troyanovsky in 7
Last week's picks: 2-0 (WIN: Flanagan, Lomachenko)
2016 picks record: 81-21 (79.4 percent)
Overall picks record: 814-269 (75.1 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 protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.