Like no other category of men, boxers have a mammoth capacity for self delusion. It’s a necessary requirement for what they are compelled to do, since a truly candid man would probably turn around, mid ring walk, and head back to the safety of the locker room.
Mention a loss to a fighter and he will tell you a story. The chances are it will involve one of the following factors:
1/ AN UNDISCLOSED INJURY:
By far the most oft cited alibi for a loss or sub par performance. The likelihood of incurring an injury during an intense 8 week training camp is reasonably high, particularly when one considers the numbers of years that the average fighter puts his body through the mill of a rigorous training regime.
While boxers frequently pull out of big fights due to injury, there are plenty that prefer to soldier on and ride their luck rather than risk losing a pay day.
Sometimes the alibi is perfectly genuine from a fighter with a bad right hand or a torn rotator cuff. On other occasions, the ‘sick notes’ seem harder to accept. Regardless of veracity , the post fight interview protocol in such cases begins with, “I don’t want to take anything away from him BUT….”
NOTABLE EXAMPLE: David Haye’s dramatic insistence that a visibly disfigured big toe prevented him from giving his best vs Wladimir Klitschko in 2011.
2/ DOMESTIC STRIFE:
Many a good man has been afflicted by the thousand mysteries of the fairer sex, ever since Samson struggled to make a dent in the Philistines Temple. It would seem churlish to be too dismissive of any beaten fighter who cites ‘trouble at home’ as a factor in a ‘bad night at the office.’
A boxer with a ‘love problem’, as Lloyd Honeyghan once referred to the malady, is more likely to be affected during his preparation for a fight than on the actual night itself. If fighting is the easy part then it’s widely acknowledged that titles are often won on the road or in the gym.
Rowing with ‘Er Indoors’ has never been known to aid that process.
Anyone who has ever been through a gut wrenching break up can surely sympathise with a lovesick warrior unable to bring his A game to the squared circle.
One of the stronger alibis on this list.
Herol Graham claimed that a love triangle of which he was unwittingly a part was the dominant factor in his first professional loss to Sumbu Kalambay in 1987.
Not content with citing a specific relationship as a reason for their downfall, various leading lights of the ring have been known to blame the entire female populace.
Boxing is a hard game but a very small minority of fighters do become rich and famous. With those twin commodities comes a brand of fast women who don’t tend to bother the average shelf stacker at Morrison’s.
Old boxing sages and gym rats are generally at odds with modern science on the evils of sexual activity in the weeks leading up to a fight.
Abstention from sex may of may not help a fighter reach his physical peak but womanising in general, and the attendant social activities that inevitably come with it, has never been a recipe for a long championship reign.
NOTABLE EXAMPLE: When reflecting on his stunning upset reversal to James ‘Buster’ Douglas in Tokyo, 1990, Mike Tyson admitted, ‘I was f***ing them Japanese girls like I was eating grapes.’
4/ A CHANGE IN PRE-FIGHT ROUTINE:
Fighters vary from meticulous to downright superstitious when it comes to their pre fight rituals. Disregarding the frippery of ‘lucky’ shorts or lacing up the right glove first many a fighter has claimed a disruption to his normal fight day routine as the central factor in a losing performance.
A friend of mine who used to be British Cruiserweight Champion was convinced that the one off indulgence of a hot bath, hours before a fight, was solely responsible for a 2 round KO loss.
Vinny Pazienza famously blamed his loss to the then untouchable Roy Jones jr. on a caffeine crash, having taken his customary dosage too early.
5/ THE JUDGES:
Why bang on about a sore knuckle or a dodgy elbow of you can blame three arbiters at ringside who are either crooked or blind…?
The history of boxing is laden with questionable decisions, comprising the controversial to the blatantly corrupt.
From Billy Graham (vs Kid Gavilán) to Lennox Lewis’ outrageous ‘tie’ with Evander Holyfield at ‘the Garden’ , there have been a blizzard of fighters who could genuinely claim to have been the victims of a ‘bad call’ but thousands more have simply refused to accept defeat via the scorecards. Since scoring in boxing is subjective, the ‘we wuz robbed’ mantra will continue to ring down the ages.
Examples of fighters who were genuinely shortchanged on the cards are simply too numerous to mention but the most famous case of stubborn denial in this regard is probably Marvin Hagler’s morose insistence that he was robbed vs Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987.