Perhaps I’m alone in thinking that there is an inordinate emphasis on records and resumes in boxing.
The current climate is one where promising contenders, having lost their precious 0s, are invariably consigned to the scrapheap of derision and mockery; while those who are able to successfully maintain them are elevated to high pedestals, before they too inevitably lose their undefeated records one day and suffer an ignominious fall from grace.
In this context then – where fighters, for commercial purposes, are often anxiously preoccupied with preserving their zeroes – is the journeyman. The journeyman is more often than not a part-time professional who supplements his income by travelling across the world, sometimes on short notice, to essentially take a beating, allowing their counterpart to acquire important experience alongside augmenting their perfect record en route to more meaningful challenges.
The gatekeeper, meanwhile, is someone considered to be a somewhat more challenging proposition than a journeyman. Someone who has more than a few tricks up his sleeve and has a propensity for derailing the aspirations of undefeated hopefuls.
Such examples in this regard include Chicago’s famous ‘Drunken-Master’ Emmanuel Augustus, someone who Floyd Mayweather described as one of his most difficult fights, Darnell Boone – someone who knocked out Adonis Stevenson, knocked down Andre Ward, defeated Willie Monroe Junior and fought Sergey Kovalev to a split-decision in their first fight – and more relevantly Kamil Sokowlowski, the seasoned Polish veteran who spectacularly knocked out the comeback-making Nick Webb, in addition to dropping former WBA heavyweight titleholder Lucas Browne in the second round contentious decision defeat.
Indeed, these examples underline the fact that a superficial examination of a fighter’s record does not necessarily allow us to determine how good they are. It has to be said also that the distinction between a journeyman and a gatekeeper is somewhat arbitrary, and the above mentioned triumvirate have all each been described as the latter at one point in their respective careers; presumably due to their disproportionate loss-win ratios.
Of course, some, if not most, journeyman are nothing more than ‘gimmes’ for their counterparts; in the fact that they do not present any seriously dangerous qualities, but nevertheless possess certain characteristics that allow their opponent to learn and develop in the process of victory.
For example, Kevin Johnson, America’s loquacious former World title challenger is someone who offers virtually no resistance whatsoever in his fights, but has cultivated his spoiling and survival skills to such an extent that he is now widely regarded as a stepping-stone for promising contenders to showcase their offensive abilities and combination punching.
It’s often interesting and valuable for commentators to compare the respective performances of different fighters against journeymen like Johnson, in analysing their abilities and how these contenders themselves would potentially match-up against one another.
Ultimately, however, Sokowlowski’s knockout win over Nick Webb demonstrates why, at the end of the day, it is paramount for fans and fighters alike to be patient and to not always interpret a fighter’s record as indicative of their in-ring capabilities, as is so often the case in boxing.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: