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TYSON LIVING THIRD ACT OF AN AMERICAN LIFE

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There are no second acts in American lives.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of “The Last Tycoon”

Fitzgerald, just 44 when he died of a heart attack in 1940, might have been thinking of himself when he came up with one of his more memorable lines, ostensibly about U.S. citizens who have risen to great heights, only to tumble into an abyss from which there is no escape or redemption. But Fitzgerald, better known for his masterwork, The Great Gatsby, was wrong. There are many Americans who have gone on to live very public second acts, not all of them as successful as the first, and some who have even staged third and fourth acts which command widespread interest.

At first glance, two-time former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, now 47, would appear to be in Act 3 of a roller-coaster life, even though he suggests the actual number is low. “I had 10!” Tyson in 2009 told a Sports Illustrated reporter who also brought up the Fitzgerald quote. But for purposes of brevity here, better to compress the many phases of Michael Gerard Tyson into a more easily digestible three-part evolutionary cycle.

The first act with which everyone is familiar is that of a seemingly invincible destroyer in the ring, a remorseless battering ram who made a habit of sending opponents into spasms of fear before he sent them crashing to the canvas.

“I’ll break Spinks. I’ll break them all,” that Tyson said prior to his June 27, 1988, first-round knockout of Michael Spinks in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. “When I fight someone, I want to break his will. I want to take his manhood. I want to rip out his heart and show it to him.”

The second spotlighted incarnation saw Tyson stripped of much of his earlier aura of unbridled power. He came to know defeat, inside and outside the ropes. His $300 million fortune not only vanished, but was transformed into a $38 million debt, in part from leeching hangers-on and in part because of his profligate lifestyle. His deepening unhappiness caused him to lapse into a hazy fog of drugs and alcohol. He twice was incarcerated during his career as an active fighter, most notably on a rape conviction that he has always insisted was a miscarriage of justice brought about mostly by his increasingly unsavory reputation. Oh, and he was involved in perhaps the most notorious incident in boxing history, when he was disqualified by referee Mills Lane after chewing off part of Evander Holyfield’s right ear in their second fight.

“I wanted to kill him, bite him,” Tyson said in a Playboy interview during his Nevada State Athletic Commission-mandated suspension that was the “Bite Fight’s” byproduct. “I snapped. I was an undisciplined soldier. I wanted to hurt him. I never thought about what I was doing.”

And now?

In human terms, the current Tyson is neither destroyer nor destroyed. He is not quite as famous as when he was when he was knocking opponents stiff, and certainly not as rich, but he seems to have found the inner peace that always was more elusive for him to attain than the spectacular knockouts, the available women, the mansions, the fancy rides and piles of cash. He is the president and show pony of a relatively new boxing promotional company, Iron Mike Productions, and the star of a one-man stage show, Undisputed Truth, in which he lays bare for audiences the circuitous path he followed to glory, then to hell and back. His cites the highs and the lows of his personal journey in unsparing, often profane detail, and the effect on audiences is that, well, maybe there really is more to the guy than the one-dimensional pugilistic idol of Act 1 or the similarly shallow villain of Act 2.

Americans have always been suckers for comeback stories, which might be why this latest revision of Tyson’s continually shifting tale is noticeably upbeat. He – more so than the fighters who have signed with his fledgling company – is the reason for those relatively pricey $200 ringside tickets for Saturday night’s seven-bout card at the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, Pa., which he will attend. (He also will give a performance of Undisputed Truth in the same arena on Thursday night.) Maybe that’s because it’s been a long time, too long, since the snarling beast from the gritty Brownsville section of Brooklyn, N.Y., was the centerpiece of the last golden era of American heavyweight boxing, along with Holyfield, Spinks, Riddick Bowe and a resurrected George Foreman. Even somewhat lesser lights from that time frame, Ray Mercer and Tommy Morrison, tower above what now passes for the best of the U.S. big men in an era dominated by the Klitschko brothers and a host of other Eastern Europeans. It takes a vivid imagination to even dare to compare, say, Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings to the Tyson that used to be.

“Boxing is entertainment,” Tyson the promoter said of his first serious return to the sport that made him famous since his then-38-year-old self, out of shape and clearly disinterested, quit on his stool after six rounds against lumbering Irish journeyman Kevin McBride on June 11, 2005, in Washington, D.C. “People want to see exciting fights. I gave them exciting fights.”

Well, he did that and very well for a long time, although probably not as long as he might have had his passion for boxing remained on high flame. “I was a young guy on the rise,” he sighed, “but I rose too fast. Life was coming at me too fast.”

What happens when confused young people with a singular talent are suddenly thrust into a lifestyle of the rich, famous and decadent is that they find themselves with everything they thought they ever wanted, and emotionally with nothing. The wise heads and anchors of Tyson’s early years as boxing’s hottest attraction, trainer Cus D’Amato and co-manager Jimmy Jacobs, died before they could finish imparting whatever knowledge he would need to cope with his newfound fame and wealth . Tyson’s marriage to actress Robin Givens quickly became grist for gossip columns, and ended in lurid failure, with Givens going on television to accuse her husband of schizophrenia and slapping her around.

From there on, it probably was only a matter of time before the tightly wound kid from Brownsville’s mean streets unraveled, although his intimidating demeanor and crushing power enabled him to linger at or near the top until the remnants of what he had been were exposed by Buster Douglas, Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and even the improbable likes of Danny Williams and McBride.

Whereupon Tyson slid into Act 2, a long descent into darkness and despair. His fighting weight, around 217 pounds at his peak, ballooned to an unhealthy 330 and he was doing copious amounts of cocaine to boot. He had become a sad caricature of himself, and he knew it. But he had not hit bottom just yet. That would take the kind of tragedy that would send him totally over the edge, or finally make him take stock in himself and glove up for his hardest fight, the one with the inner demons to whom he had for so long surrendered.

His lowest point, Tyson said, was when his 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, somehow got a cord from an exercise machine wrapped around her neck and was suffocated nearly to the point of death. Tyson, who was no longer with the child’s mother, received the call from Phoenix police on May 26, 2009. She died the next day.

A devastated Tyson did not careen over the edge and into oblivion. With the support of his third wife, Lakiha – you can call her Kiki – he took off 110 pounds, quit the dusk-to-dawn nightclub scene and dedicated himself to becoming the kind of husband and father he had always admired, but could never bring himself to emulate. Well-received roles in The Hangover movies and the stage play followed as Act 3 hinted at a happy ending, or at least a happier one.

“Absolutely,” he said when asked if acting out his life story, the good and the bad, before live audiences had resulted in a stage fright he had seldom experienced in boxing. “I had to put in a lot of preparation to do this. It is sort of like fighting, but harder. But somehow it just clicked.”

So, too, did his reintroduction to boxing, which came in the form of an offer from Garry Jonas, the chief executive officer of Acquinity Sports, which was formed in 2010 in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Jonas invited Tyson to become his partner, and the company was renamed Iron Mike Productions in 2013. IMP staged its first fight card on Aug. 23 of that year at the Turning Stone Casino Resort in Verona, N.Y., which served as a reminder to Tyson that what he had enjoyed of boxing was still there for him to enjoy again, if only he could put aside all the negative memories of real and perceived betrayals.

“I had just mentally given up,” he said of those lost years. “I was not interested at all in boxing for a very long time. But my partner, Garry Jonas, is a shrewd businessman who gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I said to myself, `Let’s go with this and see what happens.’”

There is no irrefutable proof that Iron Mike Productions will grow and prosper, or disappear. Great fighters have a hit-and-miss history when it comes to trying their hand at the promotional side of it. Oh, sure, Oscar De La Hoya transitioned easily, with the aid of CEO Richard Schaefer, into one of boxing’s power brokers with the hugely successful Golden Boy Promotions. But Sugar Ray Leonard’s foray with Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing fizzled, in no small part because of differences with his partner, Bjorn Rebney.

The future of Iron Mike Productions might well depend on how well its titular head and the “shrewd businessman,” Jonas, continue to mesh. That could be problematical, given the various trainers and support personnel Tyson jettisoned or added during his own tumultuous ring career, but for now things appear to be going smoothly.

“We’ve already surpassed everybody’s expectations of us as promoters,” Tyson said. “The thing is, I’m not monopolizing nobody. I’ll work with other promoters to make good fights. I welcome everybody with open arms.

“What we want to do is to stage a fight card every month. Hopefully, we can get associated with a big television network like Fox. We’re in negotiations with them now. We want to make boxing big again.”

Tyson’s clashes with his own promoters, most notably Don King, whom he sued for $10 million, are well-documented. He said his experiences will dictate how he treats the 16 fighters currently in IMP’s stable. “The first thing I tell them is to get a great lawyer,” Tyson said. “You never want to be too trusting in this business. Everything we do at Iron Mike Productions is on the record, on the table. That’s the way it needs to be.”

The 10-round featherweight main event on Friday pits IMP’s Claudio “The Matrix” Marrero (14-1, 11 KOs) against Jose Angel Beranza (36-28-2, 28 KOs) , while the 10-round bantamweight co-feature pairs IMP’s Juan Carlos Payano (14-0, 8 KOs) against German Meraz (46-29-1, 25 KOs). But the most attention – other than that lavished upon Tyson, of course – features brilliant welterweight prospect Erickson Lubin (3-0, 3 KOs) in a four-rounder against Tirobio Ball (4-1-1, 1 KO). Everyone, Tyson included, seems to believe Lubin has a chance to develop into something special.

“He can go all the way to the top,” Tyson said of the 18-year-old Lubin, who had been seen as possibly the United States’ best chance for a gold medal in boxing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics before he decided to go pro with IMP. “We just need to get him more experience, have him fight guys who can take a punch and make him go more rounds. But there’s something there, definitely.”

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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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