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The Beast of Stillman's Gym, Part 8

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Mary Darthard, surrounded by family members after the tragedy that was Lytell-Darthard II.

 

PART 8:  THESE HANDS

Bert Lytell was haunted by a ghost. It followed him wherever he went for the last four decades of his life. Sometimes he’d be sitting in a chair at his brother’s house in Oakland, surrounded by light-hearted nieces and chattering relatives, and then he wouldn’t be there anymore. His eyes would dull and lower to something that wasn’t there. Ellen noticed her uncle staring at the floor and asked her parents about it. They told her what he saw.

He saw Jackie Darthard, the shadow of Jackie Darthard, dying on a hospital cot. 

April 21st 1948. Bert Lytell was 24 years old and 160 lbs when he marched down the aisle to fight his second main event at the Milwaukee Auditorium. He slipped through quivering ropes and paced the ring, rolling his shoulders and reveling in his physical prowess like boxers do.

Ten paces away, the sixth-ranked middleweight in the world reveled just as much. His name was Jackie and he was one in a parade of teenage glory-boys that boxing used to beckon, a slugger good enough to fight Bert to a draw the first time they met. “Once an opponent has been hurt, Darthard is after him without letup,” his hometown paper boasted. “He packs lethal wallops in either hand.”

Like most black contenders, Jackie had to take an extra job to make ends meet. He worked at a mattress factory and washed dishes when he wasn’t training, though he had high hopes about this rematch with Lytell. He was sure it would launch him into the big-time, and the lucky blue cap he wore into the ring and everywhere else would make it a cinch. His wife remembered that cap and the tiffs they had when he wore it to bed. She made the mistake of hiding it once; “I thought we was gonna get a divorce,” she said years later.

In the third round, Bert landed a right hook to Jackie’s head and a left that went deep into his stomach. Jackie went down on his face and didn’t get up until the referee counted nine. Another left sent him down again. He used the ropes to get to his feet and barely beat the count. In the fifth round, Sammy Aaronson peered under the ropes from the Lytell corner and saw a sick look on Jackie’s face. His instincts, honed over twenty-seven years in the racket, told him something was wrong and he started hollering at the referee: “That kid’s hurt! Stop the fight!” It seemed to be a stunt to get his man the win and the referee ignored him. “Get a doctor! Take that kid out of there!” An official leaned over his shoulder. “Keep your mouth shut,” he warned, “or you’ll be suspended.” Sammy knew he was breaking the rules but kept at it anyway. No one listened. After the round ended, he told Bert to take it easy.

In the closing seconds of the sixth round Bert crowded Jackie into a corner and then landed a clubbing left to his temple at the bell.

Jackie slumped on his stool. “Give me a drink of water,” he said as he draped his arms along the ropes. He started tossing his head and his trainer started worrying. “Jackie, how do you feel?” he asked.

“Give me a drink of water and I’ll get him this round.”        

“You can’t go out this round.”

“No, don’t stop it. He’ll get a knockout on me!”

“You can’t go out this round, we are going to stop it.”

“No don’t stop it, don’t stop it.”

The trainer then asked Jackie where they were staying. Jackie said “sixteen, sixteen… Oh my head hurts, my head hurts, my head hurts…” The rest was incoherent and he went limp.

Sammy wasn’t even looking at Bert during the one minute rest. He was fixated on what was happening in the other corner and was already heading over there when Jackie slid off the stool to the canvas.

Officials rushed up the stairs into the ring. One of them scrambled under the ring, grabbed a stretcher and slid it under the ropes. Silence like a black veil fell over the 5,044 in attendance. Bert dropped to his knees. “Is he gone?” he kept asking. Jackie was carried out of the auditorium and rushed to the County Emergency Hospital.

A reporter approached Bert and asked him if he knew that Jackie was in bad shape. “I don’t know if he was talking to me or mumbling to himself but he said that he was hurt in the stomach,” he answered before excusing himself to go visit his opponent at the hospital.

By 1am reporters, state officials, and trainers from both corners were standing around in silent vigil outside of Jackie’s room. A few fans filtered in and volunteered to give blood transfusions. Sammy peeked into the room and saw the unconscious fighter’s head wrapped in bandages and his chest rising and falling with deep gasps that came too far apart. “I couldn’t stand it,” he said. Bert sat in a chair and prayed. Tears were seen streaming down his cheeks. A reporter from The Milwaukee Journal was watching him. He saw the flattened nose that all fighters eventually share and the scar tissue over the eyes. “It’s easy to see he packs a terrible wallop,” he wrote, “but when he talks it’s a quiet, gentle voice, you might say like a woman’s.” He was fondling a cigarette and the reporter remarked how it looked like a little white match in those big hands of his.

Those hands killed a contender. A nurse came out of the operating room and said that Jackie Darthard was gone. It was 8:40 in the morning on April 22nd 1948 and Jackie was still wearing his boxing trunks. Bert was inconsolable. The county medical examiner said that the cause of death was “a brain hemorrhage, caused by external violence.” Bert killed him, and he knew it. He was going to quit the ring.

Mary Darthard was Jackie’s mother. She and a few family members were on their way to Milwaukee in a borrowed Buick when a newsflash said that Jackie had died that morning. When they arrived into the city, they went to the District Attorney’s office where an official hearing was being conducted. Bert was already there. He was standing further down the corridor when he saw the family come in. He watched Mrs. Darthard sob convulsively while Jackie’s sister and younger brother dabbed at her tears and stayed close. Some minutes passed before he was able to gather up his courage and approach the slender, well-dressed woman.

“I’m Bert Lytell,” he murmured, “I just want to say I’m sorry.”

Mrs. Darthard quickly composed herself and took his hands into her hers. “I know how you feel, son. Just like Jackie would have felt,” she said, “it wasn’t your fault. It was God’s will, I guess.”

The most feared middleweight in the world began to cry.

“Brace up, honey,” she told him. “Don’t let it ruin your life.”

Bert wouldn’t let it ruin his life. But it changed him. He began pulling his punches whenever he had an opponent hurt and he could no longer bring himself to stage those all-out attacks like before.

The beast was gone. Only the man remained.

…..

Twenty years later, the hands that killed Jackie Darthard were shining shoes in an Oakland Laundromat. Their power to startle was undiminished. “I can still see his knuckles and joints, all worn and beaten,” his nephew Kelvin told me, “—they were huge.” Bert probably looked at them with both pride and sorrow. Those hands could not offer a glittering championship belt for his nephew and nieces to admire, but they could offer a lesser treasure more dear: a fraying scrap book with old newspaper clippings carefully taped to pages. It told the story of what he was —.

Bert Lytell’s scrap book was lost. More losses would follow.

In 1986, he was 62 years old and evicted from his apartment on Sunnyside Street. He moved only as far as the driveway and was determined to stay right there. His girlfriend was with him. At 4’5 she must have reminded him of Tiny Patterson. Her name was Patricia Taplin and she was less than half his age —“Pat” he called her. The police were called by the new tenant and the couple refused to make a statement after being admonished for trespassing. The responding officer wrote “offense likely to continue” in the report.

Soon after that, Ellen got word that her uncle was living in his car and she too responded to the call. She became his angel. Never far from her mind were those Christmas packages he used to send to her, her brother, and her sisters, wherever he was. She would be there for him now, wherever he was. Ellen set him up in a hotel room in downtown Oakland and paid the bill.

The old fighter eventually found an apartment with his girlfriend and was on solid ground …for a little while. Pat died, unexpectedly, in 1987. The loss devastated him. He didn’t know what to do, didn’t know where to turn, so he went for the bottle with both hands. He tipped and drained, tipped and drained, and tumbled down into alcoholism. He stayed there, uncomfortably numb, until a doctor told him that unless he wanted to die he had no choice but to give up drinking. Bert gave up drinking.

In June 1989, he was chosen to receive a special acknowledgement at an awards banquet for distinguished former athletes in Cuero, Texas. Someone even remembered his right name: The Victoria Advocate announced him as “Calvin Lytle, middleweight boxer.” He didn’t attend. In January 1990 he was admitted into Fairmont Hospital in San Leandro, California after he couldn’t endure the pain in his abdomen any longer. A liver biopsy revealed that he had a “metastatic adenocarcinoma of unknown primary origin” —cancer.

It was too late to save him.

____________________________

THE BEAST OF STILLMAN’S GYM winds down to its conclusion this Thursday. Don’t miss it.

Graphic is from The Milwaukee Sentinel, 4/23/48 (Frank Stanfield, photographer).

Darthard tragedy covered in The Milwaukee Journal 4/22,23/48, The Milwaukee Sentinel 4/22,23/48, and As High As My Heart: The Sammy Aaronson Story by Sammy Aaronson and Al Hirschberg, pp.87-91. Telephone interviews with Kelvin Lytle and Ellen V. Choyce, October 2011 and January 2012. Description of Darthard’s syle in Kansas City Times, 2/10/48. Pete Ehrmann’s “The Jackie Darthard Story” was another resource for this essay and is highly recommended. It offers more details about Jackie Darthard as remembered by his wife. Awards banquet reported in Victoria Advocate, 6/17/89. Cause of death found in Bert Lytell’s Certification of Death, State of California, #000693.

Springs Toledo can be contacted at scalinatella@hotmail.com“>scalinatella@hotmail.com.

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The Ali-Shavers Fight and the Ever-Present Open Scoring Debate

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Saturday, Sept. 29, marks the 41st anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s last successful title defense. The 35-year-old Ali defended his WBA and WBC belts against Earnie Shavers, a devastating puncher, but otherwise limited, in Madison Square Garden. Those tuning in to the Thursday night fight on NBC, an estimated 70 million, were able to track the round-by-round scoring. And therein lies an interesting tale.

A bit of background. Technically, the first instance of open scoring, at least as it pertained to television, was to have been implemented by Ted Nathanson, producer for NBC Sports, which televised the May 11, 1977, heavyweight bout pitting Ken Norton against Duane Bobick in Madison Square Garden. Although on-site spectators would not have been privy to round-by-round scoring, the TV audience would have had such access. The grand experiment proved dead on arrival, however, when Norton needed only 58 seconds of the first round to blast out Bobick.

Nathanson was nothing if not determined, however, and he successfully lobbied for the same format to be used for the Ali-Shavers fight. As was the case for Norton-Bobick, spectators in the arena would not have the same access to the round-by-round scoring as would NBC viewers. The New York State Athletic Commission, then headed by former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, signed off on the arrangement with NBC with some hesitation.

John F.X. Condon, vice president of Garden Boxing, said he originally had planned to show the round-by-round scoring on the huge overhead screen to the 14,613 on-site spectators, but he decided against it. “We didn’t think it was wise,” Condon concluded. “Personally, I think it also detracts from the pleasure of watching at home. Fight fans like to get involved. They like the uncertainty of waiting for the final decision.”

Even more adamant in his opposition to open scoring, in any form, was legendary Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner, who said he would do everything in his power to ensure that the NBC experiment would be a one-and-done, at least if he had anything to say about it. “I am against it,” Brenner stressed. “We at the Garden plan to do something about it.”

Unlike Norton-Bobick, Ali-Shavers would go the 15-round distance, with scoring on a round basis instead of the 10-point-must system now in place. Ali won by 9-5-1 on the card submitted by referee Johnny LoBianco and by 9-6 on the cards turned in by judges Tony Castellano and Eva Shain, the latter of who made history as the first woman ever to work a big-time fight. It was Ali’s 19th victorious title defense.

Garden officials were embarrassed, however, when a question of fairness was raised. The NBC telecast was shown in Ali’s dressing room, and a runner was assigned to keep Ali trainer Angelo Dundee informed of the judges’ evolving scores. The Shavers dressing room did not have similar access, which led his manager, Frank Luca, to complain of preferential treatment being granted to Ali. He said the NYSAC even attempted to obligate the fighters to use 10-ounce gloves instead of eight-ouncers, a change which was not approved but would have been detrimental to the harder-hitting challenger.

When informed of a playing field seemingly tilted to favor Ali, Patterson said the NYSAC never again would consent to open scoring at any venue in the state, be it for on-site spectators or just TV. “That will be stopped,” Patterson said. “I understand Angelo Dundee had someone running back to get him information and the other corner didn’t. That’s not fair. It could influence a fight, affect gambling in the arena with cheaters. It was not a success and it will never happen again.”

Shavers, who went into the Ali fight with a 54-5-1 record that included 52 wins inside the distance, said he might have fought differently – yeah, right – had he been apprised of the round-by-round scoring. “My corner told me I was ahead,” he lamented. “I didn’t go for the knockout. I would have put more pressure on him, taken more chances.”

Promoter Don King pushed for open scoring on May 5, 1994, at a Las Vegas press conference to hype the pay-per-view card two nights later at the MGM Grand headlined by WBC super lightweight champion Frankie Randall’s rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez, whom he had controversially outpointed nearly four months earlier.

“Progress can’t be stopped,” King said with his trademark bluster and hyperventilation. “It’s time for a change. Bring boxing out of the dark and into the light. People who go to football and basketball games know what the score is at all times. Why should boxing be the only sport where judges pass little scraps of paper back and forth and nobody else knows who’s winning until the end?”

King said he had been “excoriated and vilified” for having promoted two bouts during the previous eight months that ended in questionable decisions, and that open scoring could eliminate or reduce the problem.

“If anything controversial happens, people will be calling for (WBC president) Jose Sulaiman and me to be ridden out of town on a rail,” King continued. “One little controversy and these four great (rematches, the others being Simon Brown vs. Terry Norris, Gerald McClellan vs. Julian Jackson and Azumah Nelson vs. Jesse James Leija) suddenly become secondary. I don’t want that to happen.”

His Hairness indisputably was on target in noting that the two referenced bouts, in which Pernell Whitaker retained his WBC welterweight title on a majority draw against Chavez on Sept. 10, 1993, and Randall nipped Chavez on a split decision in large part because JCC had been docked two penalty points by referee Richard Steele, were controversial. Most ringside observers had Whitaker winning eight to 10 of the 12 rounds in San Antonio, Texas, and were it not for the two penalty points Chavez would have won a split decision instead of losing by the same margin.

Although King advocated for open scoring to be instituted immediately, he had to know that the wheels of change do not move that swiftly in Nevada or any other jurisdiction. But Marc Ratner, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, while expressing his own doubts as to the usefulness of open scoring, said such a proposal at least merited further scrutiny.

“For this particular card, there will be no open scoring,” Ratner said. “But we’re not ostriches. We don’t have our heads in the sand. This is an issue that should be studied.”

Studied and almost certainly likely to be rejected, as it later was by the NSAC, for reasons that to Ratner were even more glaringly obvious than those offered by King for the other course of action.

“What if two fighters accidentally butt heads in the fourth round and one of them suffers a cut?” hypothesized Ratner. “If the bleeding fighter is ahead on the scorecards, his corner might be tempted not to close the cut, thereby prompting the bout’s premature conclusion and a decision victory.”

An even more compelling reason to forever squash the notion of full-blown open scoring holds that a fighter, if he knows he is sufficiently ahead entering the late rounds to be uncatchable on the scorecards, would get on his bicycle and pedal around the ring to eliminate or at least reduce the risk of being knocked out. Such a safety-first approach would drain whatever measure of hope still existed for the losing fighter banking on a puncher’s-chance turnaround.

We haven’t heard the last of the open scoring debate. The subject came up again in the aftermath of the Golovkin-Alvarez rematch, a tightly contested bout which Alvarez won by majority decision, much to the displeasure of Golovkin and his supporters. But for now, fight fans must continue to live with the occasional scorecard that defies credulity. And while too much controversy is never a good thing, some of it helps sell the sport and keeps interest high up to and even beyond the final bell. The alternative is the elimination of uncertainty, and with it the magic that sometimes is produced when two fighters believe success hinges on giving maximum effort to the very last punch.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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George Groves and Callum Smith Finally Meet in the WBSS Capstone

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The 168-pound tournament of the inaugural World Boxing Super Series, an 8-man invitational, kicked off on Sept. 16 of last year with a match between Callum Smith and Erik Skoglund at Liverpool, England. Tournaments of this nature in boxing almost never play out as planned and this tourney was no exception. But on Friday we will finally crown a winner when Smith meets George Groves at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, of all places. At stake will be the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy and the bundle of cash that comes with it and Groves’ WBA “super” world super middleweight title.

Despite the odd location, this is a domestic affair. Groves, the top seed, and Smith, the #2 seed, are both Englishmen. And if the fight were on British soil, it would have certainly drawn well. In the UK, Groves is enormously popular. His second fight with Carl Froch attracted a crowd of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium, a British post-war record eventually broken by Joshua-Klitschko.

Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) suffered his lone defeats at the hands of Froch, who defeated him twice, and Badou Jack, and there’s no shame there. Carl Froch, in the minds of many, has a plaque waiting for him at the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Jack, a title-holder in two weight classes, is currently ranked #1 as a light heavyweight by the WBA and WBC.

Although both fights with Froch ended inside the distance, both were nip-and-tuck until Froch closed the curtain. Badou Jack defeated Groves by split decision in Las Vegas.

Groves has a high boxing IQ as he demonstrated on Feb 17 in Manchester where he scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Chris Eubank Jr. Groves, observed ringside reporter Gareth Davies, “was just a step too far, too strong and ultimately too technical and experienced in the championship rounds.” Eubank’s father and trainer Chris Eubank Sr. saluted Groves for fighting the perfect fight.

The victory was bittersweet as Groves dislocated his left shoulder in the final round. It required surgery, pushing back the finale until this Friday, a full two months after the conclusion of the other WBSS tourney, for cruiserweights, the finale of which was also pushed back from the originally scheduled date. For a time the promoters seriously considered bumping Eubank into the finals in place of the incapacitated Groves but eventually thought better of it. (Eubank will appear on the undercard in a stay-busy fight against Ireland’s J.J. McDonagh.)

Callum Smith (24-0, 18 KOs) is the youngest of four fighting brothers, each of whom captured one or more regional titles. In the family, the relationship between talent and birth order is inverse, which is to say that Paul Smith, the oldest of the foursome, wasn’t as good as his younger brother Stephen and Stephen wasn’t as good as younger brother Liam.

Liam “Beefy” Smith accomplished what his two older brothers could not, winning a world title. He won the WBO 154-pound diadem in his twenty-second fight and successfully defended the belt twice before it was sheared from him by Canelo Alvarez who knocked him out in the ninth round.

If Callum Smith wins on Friday, he will be recognized by hardcore fans as a more legitimate champion than was the case with his brother Liam. That’s because Callum, who stands six-foot-three (none of his brothers is taller than 5’11”), was touted from the very onset of his career as the most gifted of the fighting Smith brothers. He solidified that opinion in November of 2015 when he knocked out Liverpool rival Rocky Fielding in the opening round. Fielding went on to win the “regular” version of the WBA 168-pound title and that remains the only blemish on his record.

In recent bouts, however, Smith hasn’t looked that sharp. His last two opponents, the aforementioned Skoglund and Neiky Holzken, lasted the full 12 rounds. The obscure Holzken, a converted kickboxer from the Netherlands, was a late sub for Juergen Braehmer who was forced to bow out of the tournament with an illness.

George Groves was a slight underdog to Eubank. On Friday, the odds favor him, but only slightly. At last look it was 13/10 which portends a very close fight. Groves has the edge in experience and in ring savvy and has fought tougher opposition, but Smith will have a three-and-a-half inch height advantage and is judged to be the harder puncher.

Fight fans in the U.S. can access the fight on the new DAZN app. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is seven hours ahead of New York and other precincts in the Eastern Time Zone and adjust accordingly.

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Three Punch Combo: A Bouquet for “ShoBox” and More

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — We are embarking into a new age in boxing. There are new television contracts and digital platforms available that are making the sport more visible than ever before to the masses. But with all these new deals and platforms, it is important not to forget some of the consistent programming that has been around for some time. There is no better example of this than the ShoBox series on Showtime.

ShoBox, more formally ShoBox: The New Generation, began with a simple premise of matching young prospects in with tough opposition. To get their fighters on this series, promoters would have to find credible opponents who could potentially test and maybe even upset their prized prospect. This premise has led to consistently competitive and entertaining fights in the more than 200 broadcasts since the inception of the series in 2001.

This past Friday, we saw just how this premise works once again. There was a four fight card that featured competitive fights on paper in all the matches. However, in two of those matches there did seem to be clear favorites though each of the respective fighters was being matched with their toughest foe to date.

James Wilkins and Misael Lopez opened the telecast in a 130-pound contest. Wilkins was featured in a documentary that aired on Showtime just prior to the card and was expected to make a smashing television debut. He was a knockout artist and the thought was that he would put on a show to open the telecast. But instead, Wilkins got a boxing lesson from Lopez who was busier from the outside and managed to mostly avoid the power of Wilkins throughout the contest in winning an eight round unanimous decision.

The main event featured Jon Fernandez facing O’Shaquie Foster in another 130-pound contest. Fernandez had been getting a lot of buzz and many in the sport considered the Spaniard a future star. This was supposed to be a test for Fernandez as Foster (pictured on the right) represented a step up in class, but nonetheless many expected Fernandez to pass the test with flying colors. Instead, the power punching Fernandez was clearly out-boxed by Foster for ten rounds in an entertaining fight.

These two fights showed once again that when young fighters are matched tough we often get better than expected fights that can sometimes deliver surprises. This coming Friday, the series returns with highly touted lightweight prospect Devin Haney (19-0, 13 KO’s) in the main event taking on former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos (33-2-2, 21 KO’s). This is a fight in which Haney is favored but one in which he is facing the toughest challenge of his young career. At the very least, this should be a test for the highly touted 19-year-old Haney and I am certain we get a compelling fight.

ShoBox is boxing’s most consistent series and one that just continues to provide fight fans with high caliber, competitive fights.

10 Percent or 10 Pounds – How To Combat Fighters Who Blow Up In Weight

It is time to address the issue of fighters gaining an absurd amount of weight following the weigh-in. There is a reason why we have weight classes in boxing. If one fighter enters the ring weighing significantly more than his opponent, it gives the bigger fighter a big advantage. This can make for not only non-competitive fights but potentially dangerous situations. I have a simple solution that I think can combat this problem.

In past articles, I have touched on the issue of fighters who miss the contracted weight. My argument has always been to implement a system with stiff financial penalties. So in a similar aspect, I think stiff financial penalties can combat the continued problem of fighters blowing up in weight after the official weigh-in.

What I propose is second day weigh-ins where fighters would not be permitted to put on more than ten pounds or 10 percent (whichever is more) of the contracted weight limit. If they are over, the fight still goes on but the fighter who misses the second day weight limit pays a substantial fine. This simple adjunct can be easily administered by the various state commissions in the United States (or any other commissions worldwide).

Here is an example:  Let’s say we have a fight contracted at 130 pounds and each fighter weighs in at 129 pounds. The second day limit would be 10 percent of 130 pounds which was the contracted weight. So each fighter could come in at a maximum of 143 pounds. Now let’s say one fighter comes in at 146 pounds. The penalty I propose would be 20 percent of that fighter’s purse per pound over the weight. And this money goes directly to their opponent. Under this example, the fighter over weight would lose 60 percent of his purse.

Zero Shouldn’t Mean That Much

We are in an era, largely due to The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Factor, where fighters are often overly protected to keep that precious zero in the loss column. But to do so, they are frequently matched with soft opposition and learn little from dismantling their overmatched foes. There is little to no growth in their career during this period and though the record may get glossy, the development of the fighter may be stunted.

Setbacks can humble fighters and make them see what needs to be done so as not to experience that feeling again. They become better overall fighters and put themselves in a better long term position in their career.

This past weekend, we saw two once promising prospects bounce back with career defining wins after suffering an early unexpected defeat. They are both now in prime position to have their respective careers blossom which may not have otherwise been the case.

Earlier I mentioned O’Shaquie Foster’s upset win against Jon Fernandez. Three years ago, Foster was a highly touted prospect. He had a good amateur background and was blessed athletically with dynamic speed. After building up an 8-0 record against less than formidable opposition, he lost in a dreadful performance to Samuel Teah. Another loss would follow several months later to Rolando Chinea. But Foster clearly learned from his mistakes in these fights and bounced back, layering his natural athletic ability with much improved skills in frankly outclassing Fernandez. Foster’s losses made him take a step back and re-evaluate what needed to be done inside the ring. He is now in prime position to become a contender in the 130-pound weight division.

Luke Campbell was a 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist and considered a can’t-miss future star in boxing. But in his 13th pro fight, in a rather shocking development, he was put on the canvas and lost a split decision to veteran Yvan Mendy. Another loss followed two years later against Jorge Linares but Campbell performed well while losing a split decision and flashed signs of improvement from the Mendy setback.

The rematch with Mendy for Campbell took place this past weekend and Campbell did what many expected him to do in their first encounter. He boxed effectively from the outside and mixed in precision combination punching to easily avenge the defeat. It was a dynamic performance by Campbell and put him in line for a big fight at lightweight.

Luke Campbell is a vastly different fighter from the one who lost to Mendy three years earlier and appears primed to potentially live up to the once high expectations. He is in a better spot today in his career due to what he learned from that first loss to Mendy.

Photo credit: Dave Mandel / SHOWTIME

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