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Five Years Later – Ring Magazine All-Star Report Card Revisited (Part Two)

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photoPart two of this TSS special will focus on the second ten fighters listed in Gavin Evans’ Ring Magazine article from exactly five years ago this month, the 2007 All Star Report Card, an article intended to grade the very elite of the sport and forecast where their careers might be headed. Let’s continue to have a look at who those folks were then versus whom they turned out to be.

Shane Mosley was riding a renewed sense of vigor in his career. Having won “just one out of six between ’01 and ’05, Mosley [had] returned to form, with five straight victories – in increasingly impressive style.” The steak would stop at five that very year, when Mosley lost a spirited decision in November against the then-still-undefeated Miguel Cotto. Evans calls Mosley “one of the outstanding lightweights of the modern era – unbeaten at the weight” while also being fairly critical of his association with “the notorious Balco organization, a supplier of illegal, performance enhancing drugs to various athletes”. Of course, one of those athletes turned out to be Mosley, who subsequently confessed to taking PEDs before his 2003 fight against Oscar De La Hoya. Still, Mosley is most assuredly heading for the International Boxing Hall of Fame once he becomes eligible. Both then and now, Mosley is a “popular and highly respected figure” despite his inability to ever become as golden of a goose as his rival/brief business partner, Oscar De La Hoya. Mosley retired just this year after being winless in his last four fights, one of them a draw against Sergio Mora.

Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto was undefeated through twenty-nine professional fights in 2007. Evans notes Cotto as being a “heavy-handed boxer” who uses a “cool, unflustered approach, hits extremely hard with both hands, and is particularly potent with his body attack”. Cotto defeated Mosley later that same year, then followed his up with a stoppage of tough contender Alfonso Gomez. In late 2008, Cotto was defeated by fellow welterweight slugger Antonio Margarito in one of the most highly anticipated contests of the year. The bout has since been the subject of much debate, due to alleged foreign plaster-like material found in Margarito’s gloves in a 2009 fight against Shane Mosley. Whatever happened in the first Cotto-Margarito fight, it did seem to take a lot out of Cotto. He has never quite regained his status as possibly the scariest fighter in his division, but his TKO win over Margarito in the rematch, and a 2012 fight against Floyd Mayweather showed he can still be a dangerous competitor to anyone. Cotto lost the decision in the latter, but bloodied Mayweather’s nose in a rough-and-tumble bout few expected. Cotto is still a huge draw in a sport that demands tough, aggressive heroes, and a fight against undefeated Mexican prospect Saul “Canelo” Alvarez would be an enormous hit at the box office for both fighters.

There is only one Ricky Hatton, and in 2007 he was still undefeated and on top of the British boxing world. Hatton is noted for being “an extremely aggressive fighter who uses his strength and stamina to crowd opponents”. That style made him a star in his home country, but it also got him a lot of attention and respect in America, too. Perhaps even more endearing to boxing fans was Hatton’s well chronicled “inclination towards beer swilling and pie eating between fights”, something that earned him the affectionate nickname “Ricky Fatton”. At twenty-eight, Hatton was trending up towards the pound-for-pound elite, so he took the chance to confirm his status against fellow superstar Floyd Mayweather that December. It was an absolutely brilliant fight night atmosphere in Las Vegas, but Hatton’s throng traveling well-wishers couldn’t help him against vintage Mayweather. After stunning Mayweather early, the dominant fighter of his era settled down to take over the bout, ultimately ending it over Hatton by TKO 10. Hatton rebounded the next year with wins over Juan Lazcano and Paulie Malignaggi, but met his demise against Manny Pacquiao in 2009 in perhaps the most brutal knockout of the new millennium. Hatton retired soon after, but he’s poised to make a comeback this November after a three year hiatus, which has many fight fans excited to once again raucously cheer for the gregarious welterweight from Manchester.

Houston’s Juan Diaz “rose above the lightweight pack with his emphatic win over Acelino Freitas” to make the twenty-three-year-old the preeminent up-and-coming boxing “buzzsaw” on the list. Evans notes Diaz as the “premier Diaz” of the time, proving his mettle against some of the best lightweights in the world to create quite the separation between himself and the other notable lightweight fighters of the era with the same surname, IBF titlist Julio Diaz and WBC champion David Diaz. Diaz was a pre-law student at the University of Houston – Downtown, and perhaps had his sights set outside the boxing ring sooner than most of his contemporaries because of it. Diaz stayed undefeated until losing a split decision versus veteran contender Nate Campbell in 2008. His marketability remained, though, and Diaz used it to get a bout against Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009. Diaz lost the thrilling contest by TKO 9, then lost two of his next three contests before calling it a career as a fighter and focusing on his outside-of-the-ring business exploits.

A young Amir Khan, then only twenty, was already “one of the biggest names in British boxing” in 2007. Still, boxing experts like Evans saw his potential demise just around the corner. Sure, Khan possessed all the intriguing qualities in 2007 that he does now. His “blistering quickness of foot and hand”, exceptional reflexes, and long-range punching prowess made him a sensational prospect. However, his flaws where equally as evident then as they are now, too. Evans notes Khan as a young competitor who “leaves himself open to counters” before going through all the early times in his career he had either been buzzed or down on the canvas. Khan was knocked out by slugger Breidis Prescott in 2008, lost a split decision to Lamont Peterson in 2011, and was knocked out again just this year by Danny Garcia. Khan has recently decided to spit with his trainer, Freddie Roach, in search for answers to questions perhaps his chin has already told.

No one could have foreseen what Manny Pacquiao was about to do five years ago. Evans notes the constant improvement of the impressive champion, who was then already considered elite. His “footwork and balance” improved considerably under trainer Freddie Roach, but Pacquiao began one of the more impressive runs in history for a man his size that very year seemingly out of nowhere. Pacquiao decisioned Mexican superstars Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez in succession before moving up to lightweight to snag the WBC lightweight title from David Diaz. Afterwards, he utterly destroyed Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto at welterweight, then continued his historically great run by picking up wins against Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley. Pacquiao never made his way to the ring against Mayweather, though, which is the fight everyone has wanted to see for what seems like years now, and he has now lost a disputed decision to Timothy Bradley. No one is sure how many fights the thirty-three-year-old Filipino sensation has left in him, but he’s due for a fourth fight against nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez this December. Assuming he wins that one, he’d likely consider a rematch against Bradley before Mayweather, so fight fans may always be left wondering who the greatest fighter of the era truly was.

Forever undefeated Edwin Valero was just a few years and five fights from his death in 2007. Valero, who won every prizefight he ever had by stoppage, was “one of the big hitters of world boxing.” His career was momentarily halted after a failed MRI brain scan in 2004, but he found fights outside of the United States (the NYSAC had banned him because of it) to keep his career on track. He earned the WBC lightweight title in 2009 and held it until his tragic demise. Valero committed suicide in 2010 by hanging himself with his own clothes in a jail cell as he awaited arraignment for the alleged murder of his own wife, Jennifer Viera. With his death, fight fans are left wondering not only how good he could have been inside of the ring, but also how much damage was truly done to him by the sport we love. Was his tragic end a result of his craft, or was he merely drawn to pugilism because of something already inside of him?

Perhaps surprisingly, people were still wondering what to do with Juan Manuel Marquez in 2007. Five years ago, Marquez had yet to face Pacquiao a second or third time. He was fresh off an important win over Marco Antonio Barrera but had yet to really solidify himself as the best lightweight in the world and a legit contender for top tier pound-for-pound status. Nonetheless, Marquez was praised for his “blend of sharp counterpunching, controlled power, head-shifting defensive prowess, and his defined sense of time and distance.” To put it another way, over these last few years Marquez has shown himself to be a master pugilist, a true technician. He’s been close enough in every Pacquiao fight to be seen the victor in the eyes of many, and he’s constantly challenged himself against the very best. Since his last loss, in 2006 to Chris John, Marquez has only lost three times, twice to Pacquiao and once to Floyd Mayweather. During that timeframe, he’s defeated numerous notables, including Rocky Juarez, Juan Diaz (twice) and Joel Casamayor.

It’s funny to see Chris John on the list. The Indonesian featherweight, who was also an amateur Wushu gold medalist in his home country, defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in 2006, but has never really cashed in on it despite his undefeated record remaining intact. Sure, he suffered a bogus draw against Rocky Juarez in 2009 in the latter’s hometown, but avenged it in Las Vegas later in the year. Since then, he’s remained a titlist who never seems to get a big break against a big money opponent. Is it because he’s too dangerous? Or is he being protected by his handlers? He’ll need solid opponents to establish any sort of lasting legacy (with U.S. fight fans at least), so securing bouts against the likes of Yuriorkis Gamboa, Orlando Salido or Mikey Garcia is vitally necessary for the 33-year-old.

Finally, junior featherweight Rafael Marquez, younger brother of Juan Manuel Marquez, rounded out the list of twenty top fighters in the sport. Marquez had just scored a sensational win over Israel Vazquez in 2007. He’d go on to lose the next two to Vazquez in succession, then evened it up in 2010 with a third round knockout of his archrival in culmination of one of the greatest four fight series of the modern era (perhaps fittingly knotted up at two apiece). The fights took their toll on both fighters, though, and Marquez hasn’t quite excelled at the elite level since. He’s lost two of his last four, including an eighth round stoppage by hard-hitting Juan Manuel Lopez. Evans notes some significant talk at the time of the Marquez brothers “being the best boxing brothers in the sport’s history.” Indeed, they’d be on the very short list of siblings to discuss worthy of said honor, likely alongside the Klitschkos (Wladimir and Vitali) and the Spinks (Michael and Leon).

So there you have it, folks. Now, I can throw this old Ring Magazine in the recycling bin and (like you) go back to getting all my latest boxing news and information from The Sweet Science and The Boxing Channel.

You can email Kelsey McCarson at theboxingstop@yahoo.com, or follow him on twitter @TheRealKelseyMc.

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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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