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What Makes Gennady Golovkin Special

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It’s just about the most embarrassing thing that can happen when you have a phone interview with one of boxing’s biggest stars.

The call gets made. The interview begins.

And then the decrepit replacement phone you use (because you were dumb enough to jump into a swimming pool over the summer with your previous phone tucked into your pocket) doesn’t allow you to hear anything the fighter says.

“Hello Kelsey,” an ever-polite Gennady Golovkin said to me all three times the interview began. He remained just as polite after two stop-and-starts, the frantic finding of an alternate phone solution and the third-time’s-a-charm connection.

But Golovkin didn’t just seem polite. He seemed genuine about it. That’s a rarity in today’s world.

More applicable to what happens once the bell rings, when Golovkin hits somebody, they almost always fall down. That’s also a rarity. Golovkin has won 27 of this 30 fights by knockout, including the last 17. He not only knows how to punch with concussive force, but where and when to do so.

Golovkin is a knockout machine. But the 32-year-old from Kazakhstan doesn’t really know what to say if you ask him about it.

“It’s hard work every day in my gym,” said Golovkin. “It’s hard work. A long time ago, hard work every day.”

Golovkin’s work is paying off. He’s become one of HBO’s signature fighters, and appears to be on the verge of becoming one of boxing’s elite superstars. But what sets him apart from his competition? And how did his rise seem to come along so very fast quickly?

“It’s been a lot of work,” said K2 Promotions’ Tom Loeffler. “I call it a perfect storm in terms of the efforts on our side, the training on Abel Sanchez’s side and Gennady’s fighting style in the ring.”

Loeffler said Golovkin’s style has helped him both inside the ring against opponents and outside the ring with fight fans as well. Golovkin is an offensive force who is fun to watch fight.

“One unique quality Gennady has is his ability to cut off the ring and adapt to any style put in front of him,” said Loeffler.

Golovkin is an aggressive stalker with incredible power in both hands. He walks his opponents down as if they were his prey and disposes of them in due measure. Loeffler said it’s been difficult to get top-tier middleweights in the ring with Golovkin, despite his fighter holding the WBA and IBO middleweight title belts.

HBO Sports’ Vice President of Programming, Peter Nelson, put it most succinctly: “It’s not to say that any middleweight fighter is scared of a fight with Gennady Golovkin. It just seems like they don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Golovkin has come a long way in just two short years, but Loeffler believes it could have happened even faster had certain fighters been more willing to engage him than suggested by Nelson.

“Unfortunately, none of the big names were willing to get in the ring with him. It’d have been much easier had Sergio Martinez—when at that time he was considered the No. 1 middleweight—if he would have taken a fight with him. Or a different name like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. or Peter Quillin. We made a number of attempts at trying to get Quillin in the ring. I think it would have gone quicker had he gotten a bigger name to fight him. We’ve had to do it the hard way as far as keeping him active.”

Despite the difficulty in finding opponents, Golovkin has stayed active enough to fight his way into being one of the top budding stars in the sport. He fought four times in 2013 and his bout Saturday against Marco Antonio Rubio will be his third of 2014. Golovkin was scheduled to fight in April as well but the bout was cancelled due to the passing of his father.

“That’s the other unique quality about Golovkin. He wants to stay busy, unlike many champions who fight once or twice a year, Golovkin’s schedule is always for four fights a year. That’s also what made his rise possible in such a short period of time and without having a real A-side name on his record.”

HBO sure seems to like him. Nelson, said the growing mandate among fans to see him fight started because of his mysterious background.

“He’s always existed as a kind of myth,” said Nelson. “You take a look at a guy who had close to 400 amateur fights and lost almost none of them. And he wasn’t just winning the fights, but he was knocking out amateur fighters like Lucian Bute with head gear on. You take that kind of mystique and apply it to a professional career where he goes on these long knockout streaks…and everyone had heard a story or two about Gennady Golovkin…this is a kid who really earned his way.”

Nelson referenced rumored gym wars with Chavez, Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev as well as YouTube clips of Golovkin obliterating European fighters as key aspects of Golovkin’s mosaic of intrigue.

“So much of it starts with the press honestly. The mandate to see Gennady arose from the curiosity about his mystique and a desire to give the man an opportunity to see if he’s real. Everyone can relate to that. Everyone has had a moment in their life where all they wanted was an opportunity, and all they were asking for was someone to give it to them. And they knew that if they got it, they would make the most of it. Everyone can respect a man for whom it takes him nearly being 30 years old just to get the opportunity he’s wanted. That’s a relatable experience in any language and any culture.”

After some early-career promotional struggles in Germany with his previous promoter, Universum, Golovkin found his way to Loeffler and K2. Loeffler said his team’s commitment to Golovkin was making him into a global star, something they believed would necessitate bringing their fighter to the United States in order to achieve.

“Fighting in the U.S. is very important for me,” said Golovkin. “It’s my dream. For my fans, for my family and for my team of course. This is my life.”

But the knock on Golovkin has less to do with his age or even what he displays inside the ring when the bell rings and more with his lack of elite dance partners, willing or otherwise.

Boxing writer Bart Barry of 15Rounds.com told me he’s not buying the idea that Golovkin could become one of the best middleweights ever, something bandied about frequently via social media.

“I would say it is almost a mathematical impossibility for Golovkin to become an all-time great at middleweight,” said Barry. “Marvelous Marvin Hagler was not even a year older than Golovkin is right now when Hagler retired as an all-time great…Before we even consider using a word like ‘great,’ we have to look at fights a man has won against other greats. A prime Bernard Hopkins could have beaten Golovkin’s last three opponents in a handicap match with all three in the ring at the same time.”

Barry also believes at least some of the mystique around Golovkin has to do with his complexion.

“He’s an offensive force, and he’s fighting in a remarkably poor era. Just as importantly, white Americans – who compose the majority in our country, and the vast majority of boxing writers – identify with him in a way they do not identify with Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao or Bernard Hopkins. He may not speak English well, but in appearance and demeanor he otherwise reminds us of ourselves, and boxing has always been more honest about ethnic identification than America at large.”

Regardless, Loeffler said he expects Golovkin to become the premier fighter in the sport. In other words, Loeffler believes Golovkin will take over the mantle from Floyd Mayweather within the next couple of years, whether the latter takes a fight against him or not.

“I think that’s his destiny. I think he has that rare combination of not only being the best fighter but also being perceived as the most exciting fighter. Not since Mike Tyson have you seen that. I think Golovkin, after next year, will rise to tops of pound-for-pound lists. He’s even willing to go outside of the division for big fights.”

Loeffler said fans enjoy Golovkin’s ability to end fights with his fists as much as any other quality he might possess, something increasingly important in the age of bogus boxing judges and controversial decisions.

“There’s never a controversial ending to Golovkin’s fights,” said Loeffler.

Moreover, Loeffler said he expects Golovkin to finally get his chance against top-tier boxing stars next year. He said HBO’s financial commitment to Golovkin was substantial enough now that it would help GGG secure bouts against the likes of Chavez, Cotto and/or Canelo Alvarez. Moreover, Loeffler mentioned possible showdowns against Carl Froch and Andre Ward at 168.

HBO Sports’ Senior Vice President of Operations and Pay-per-view, Mark Taffet, indicated that Golovkin might just be the right man for the right moment in time.

“Inside the ring, he has tremendous knockout power,” said Taffet. “It’s the attribute by which he’s identified most. And it’s an incredibly fan-friendly attribute.”

Perhaps equally fan-friendly is that Golovkin and his team seem whole-heartedly engaged in putting him into the ring with anyone between 154 and 168 pounds. Loeffler said as much, and Golovkin himself brought up Cotto, Chavez and Alvarez by name as 2015 targets without even being asked about it. That’s a quality that a PPV guru like Taffet can really get behind.

“He’s willing to fight anybody,” said Taffet. “Not only is he a great middleweight champion, but he can fight anywhere from 154 to 168 pounds. He’s said numerous times he’s willing to fight anyone in those weight classes. Fans love that.”

Taffet called Golovkin part of the foundation of HBO’s boxing programming “for years to come,” and said Golovkin seemed poised to become one of boxing’s biggest stars. He said a proposed bout against Chavez earlier this year fell through on the Chavez side and would have been Golovkin’s first appearance on HBO PPV.

Still, Golovkin’s future appears bright.

“He’s fighting often and regularly on the HBO service,” said Taffet. “So he’s on boxing’s No. 1 television platform to the largest and broadest audience possible at the most important developmental stage of his career. His style appeals to fans in the same way Manny Pacquiao’s style appealed to fans early on through his fights with Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales. Gennady has that same universal appear in the ring.”

Heck, even one of Golovkin’s biggest critics believes the fighter is on his way to becoming a big deal.

“I believe he already is among boxing’s biggest stars,” said Barry. “HBO has thrown the weight of its diminished credibility behind him, and with the dearth of talent in prizefighting today, and the disproportionate exuberance that adheres to his every accomplishment, there’s no reason to believe he will not ascend to an outsized stardom–at least until he encounters Andre Ward.”

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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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