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The Heavyweight Bogeyman

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When a heavyweight is defeated in the manner that undisputed heavyweight #1 Wladimir Klitschko defeated Alexander Povetkin at the end of 2013, he usually has the good grace to disappear.

Ernie Terrell went 7-4 after Ali spent fifteen rounds turning his face into luncheon meat in their infamous “what’s my name!” encounter from 1967; behind the hideous beating he absorbed against a furious Rocky Marciano in their 1953 rematch, the excellent Roland LaStarza managed just 3-4 before hanging them up for good.

It is physical, yes.

Professional athletes of this standard, whether they are a surgeon of Ali’s calibre or a cannonball of Marciano’s density, do damage. They shift organs. They grind bone. But it is also psychological. Fighters, in reaching the summit of their personal Everest only to be confronted by an animal so in excess of their own evolutionary prism that they are, in essence, chanceless, perhaps don’t want to climb again. Every blow absorbed, every meal missed, every first step taken by a toddler to whom the fighter is a stranger, is for a reason in the beginning – The Title, The Title, but when The Title seems no longer a possibility it becomes easier to stay down, to clinch instead of punch, to run instead of box. Terrell and LaStarza found the end of their string in the ring of the dominant champion that bloodied their respective eras, and with that string providing a definitive measurement of their abilities, certain realities had to be accepted.

Yesterday in Moscow, Povetkin reversed this trend, finalising his rehabilitation with a sensational first round knockout over #10 heavyweight Mike Perez.

Perez is an impressive scalp almost regardless of circumstances. A superb body-puncher capable of deploying a high workrate (when he’s in the mood), Perez is a rarity in the modern heavyweight division on two different scores and his technical gifts and counter-punching ability certainly put him in the “handful for anyone” category despite certain doubts concerning his temperament (and his commitment to training). These doubts deepened after the injury tragically inflicted upon Magomed Abdusalamov by Perez during their rousing 2013 encounter in New York. In the wake of this contest, doubts surrounding Perez’s already questionable temperament deepened, but he was desperately unlucky against Bryant Jennings the following summer, missing out on a draw by virtue only of a point deduction in the final round. Jennings had been pushed to the absolute brink by a more talented fighter who could not match his athleticism. That said, Jennings adapted superbly, eschewing his reach advantage to come inside and make a fight of it after being cleanly out-boxed over the first three rounds.

Neither man was disgraced in that contest, but what it meant for Perez was that he was to enter his showdown with Alexander Povetkin last night in Moscow with, having knocked out cruiserweight journeyman Darnell Wilson in two rounds earlier this year, and drawn with the ranked Carlos Takam in January of last year, a 1-1-1 ledger for 2014 and 2015. Despite the bad luck, tragedy and slick counter-punching that had defined his previous 30 months in the ring, a loss would have sent Perez bumping roughly down the ladder to gatekeeper status.

More shockingly, a loss would have had the same impact upon Povetkin.

Re-watching Perez-Jenkins this morning, I was struck by how efficiently Harvey Dock managed the Cuban’s fouling early in the fight. Every time, without exception, that Perez placed his forearm or any weight across the American’s neck or back, the referee stepped in to separate the two. What would Povetkin have given for such a referee the night of his contest with Wladimir Klitschko?

Luis Pabon was the third man in the ring the night of Povetkin’s shot at king Klitschko, and as the champion over and over again drew the Russian in with his enormous reach before placing his full 241lbs on the smaller man’s back, crushing him, literally, with his superior size, the referee neglected to act. It was an exhausted Povetkin who was repeatedly barrelled to the canvas by the champion as the fight descended into a physical and technical mis-match. Much spleen was vented in the aftermath concerning Wladimir’s solution to Povetkin’s rushing tactics, but the scorecards of the three judges, bereft of any instruction from Pabon to remove any points from Wladimir’s total, sang out their scores as a choir: 119-104. Povetkin had been outclassed and had absorbed a horrific beating in the process.

When he returned, Povetkin did so against the perfect opponent, Manuel Charr. The enormous Lebanese, who boxes out of Germany, was neither ranked nor particularly dangerous, but he was known, courtesy of his crack at Vitali Klitschko’s alphabet strap, and he was durable. He promised a comeback victory and a good workout. Povetkin’s triumph was no surprise but the manner, perhaps, was. Charr, who had been stopped just once on a cut, was blasted out in seven, the finishing left-hook/right-hand combination so spectacular as to remind one of Joe Braddock’s near decapitation at the hands of Joe Louis. Returning to ranked competition, Povetkin did a similar job on Carlos Takam, dropping him in the ninth, following fluid combinations with a monster right hand, before landing a glorious left hook to end proceedings in the tenth.

This performance pricked my ears a little; Povetkin, perhaps, was not going to go the way of Terrell and LaStarza. But what was his role to be? That was decided in last night’s contest with Mike Perez.

Perez came out showing measured aggression, probing with the jab before launching a two-handed attack over the top. Povetkin gave ground and then re-took his territory in the middle of the ring. When he threw his first one-two it was clear that Perez was surprised by the speed with which Povetkin punched; he made no attempt to counter. When, after leading with his own one-two seconds later he was caught by a lightning-fast right-hand to the top of the head, Perez lost his feet. He stammered backwards, hurt, and not just physically but neurologically – he was suffering not from messages of pain but from messages of disaster, his nerve endings alerting his brain to the fact that he no longer had complete control over his body.

It is worth reiterating at this point that Perez, like Charr, like Takam, has never been stopped; his chin was tested by Magomed Abdusalamov, among the hardest punchers in the division when he repeatedly reached the Cuban’s chin; Jennings, too, repeatedly landed clean, crisp shots to little affect. But here was Perez, grasping for the canvas. Seconds later, when Povetkin stepped out of a half clinch to give himself room for the shortest of right hands, Perez was suddenly on the ground looking up. Closed-faced, he defeated the count, and stepped tenderly towards the gallows. A sweeping left sent Perez crashing into the ropes and out of the rankings and made Povetkin once more the preeminent heavyweight in the world with a name other than Klitschko.

Generationally, it makes no sense. On paper, Povetkin’s time had come and gone. In reality, he looks better than he did before Wladimir beat the contendership out of him. He almost looks faster but in reality it is a new sharpness that appears to have gripped his offense. The punches that Povetkin is throwing are absolutely deadly.

His ability to absorb the beating that Terrell and LaStarza could not is partly a matter of physiology. He is made of different stuff and that stuff has reacted differently. Partly it is circumstantial; such is Povetkin’s promotional support in Russia that he was able to reintroduce himself immediately to good money – and to draw ranked fighters to the Moscow fortress that served him no advantage against Klitschko. But I wonder, too, if he is not driven by a certain sense of injustice. As I wrote in coverage for that fight, “if heart is the greatest attribute to which a fighter can lay claim, then Povetkin was a great opponent indeed, for in the eighth he showed as much as any heavyweight who has ever stepped into the ring.” Povetkin really tried against Klitschko and to a degree was let down by an incompetent referee. After the fight he made all the right noises, calling Wladimir the better fighter, but having reviewed the footage it must irk him that his heart-fuelled stab at the title was rendered chanceless by officiating. Perhaps the top of the mountain holds no fear for him, despite the agonies he suffered there, for this very reason.

Regardless, such was the margin of the defeat of Povetkin by Wladimir Klitschko that despite his ranking above some of the other top heavyweight contenders by virtue of his wider and deeper resume, he was not really in any discussion over who is to meet Wladimir Klitschko next. Even when he was restored to the #1 contender’s berth ahead of the likes of Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings, nobody expected Wladimir to drop everything and rematch Povetkin at the expense of the next generation; but Povetkin’s destruction of Perez in mere seconds has made him something new, even though that thing has yet to take on any real form. Ethereal in his identity, without a belt, or a route to the legitimate heavyweight king, Povetkin has become a bogeyman to the division and most especially to the two men jostling for a shot at Klitschko next. Do not expect to hear talk of either Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder matching the #1 contender in an attempt to cement their own status as contenders. They will both neatly sidestep the man policing the world heavyweight title and wait for the call. The reason is a sound one: he would beat either one of them.

Povetkin will haunt Wilder and Fury now until they have had their title shots, or have been shorn of any belts. He will dog Wilder’s comeback. He will be made to lurk but will do so in the full glare of the #1 contender’s slot that has been made his until such time as he is beaten, something that only Wladimir Klitschko can do, but equally, something he has already done and something he is unlikely to do again any time soon. The champion has his own problems.

Made to look, for the first time, old, by Jennings, who in turn was made to look limited by Mike Perez, who in turn has been blasted out in mere seconds by a vastly superior Povetkin, Klitschko is poised at the far edge of an illustrious career. This combination has ushered in a game of thrones for the biggest seat in boxing. The heavyweight division is much maligned, but in my view the last few months have made it fascinating once more, a twisted web. In the middle of this web sits an ageing spider that has been preying upon all manner of intruders into his domain for an incredible eleven years – arranged around him are suitors positioning themselves in the belief that they are the right man to take advantage of his advancing years.

Should someone surprise us by doing so, or if Wladimir should reach the end of his ride, Povetkin’s haunting of the division will end with another title shot.

What price, King Povetkin?

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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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