Have news relating to Jewish boxers? Email the editor here!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Unknown Fighters

Ignorance might be bliss, but it makes for poor boxing analysis. Boxing fans, pundits, and so-called experts too often dismiss fighters because they don't know anything about them.

Olexandr Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight champion and pound-for-pound top ten fighter in the world, upset heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua on September 25. Before the fight, most felt Joshua would be too big for the Ukrainian and would trounce him on route to a mega-fight against Tyson Fury. Incidentally, I happened to think Usyk, a supremely skilled southpaw, would win on points but could see how other's felt Joshua would retain his belts.

After the fight, Josh Peter opined in USA Today, "Anthony Joshua, the British heavyweight boxer, is now a famous artist. A choke artist." Peter continued, "Who is Oleksandr Usyk, you ask? Exactly."

At 24-2 with 22 KOs, Anthony Joshua is an Olympic gold medalist and a two-time holder of multiple world title belts, hardly the resume of a "choke artist." If he never fights again, he's a top five heavyweight of his era.

To follow boxing and not know Usyk would be like following American politics and not know Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz. Besides becoming the legitimate world cruiserweight champion, the 19-0 Usyk is also an Olympic gold medalist.

If the bad takes on Usyk's win were primarily confined to one writer of a national newspaper, the bad takes on Mikey Garcia vs. Sandor Martin could fill bookshelves. The pontificators argued that since they had never heard of Sandor Martin, he must be terrible.

There are too many examples of the Sandor Martin phenomenon, so here are some Twitter comment threads littered with people exposing their own ignorance about boxing: Here's oneanother oneanother, and another. Ok, one more. In social media parlance, these people posted their Ls.

DAZN's own announcers categorized a Martin win as potentially being "the biggest upset of 2021." They described Martin, who is from Spain, as a "domestic fighter." Most American fans might not appreciate the distinction, but in reality Martin had been a European-level fighter for over five years, won the European super lightweight title two years ago, and has had two defenses since, one against a former European champ. It's like calling a hot baseball prospect in Triple A an "A" ball player.

I had seen Martin fight several times on DAZN, something the network's own announcers may not have done, and became frustrated with the lazy argument that Martin stunk because boxing fans hadn't heard of him.

Boxing fans, pundits, and experts often forget that fighters can improve. A smaller pundit based his assessment of Martin on a fight from four years ago. Needless to say, "Sandor Martin fights like a bulldog... Little power and limited skill," was way off the mark. 

Cletus Seldin has faced this type of critique since his loss to Yves Ulysse on December 16, 2017. HBO's blow-by-blow announcer declared, "I don't believe we'll see Cletus Seldin on HBO again," after the fight. That turned out to be true, but only because HBO canceled its boxing division within a year of his comment.

Seldin has improved since his lone career loss. Don't judge him based on a fight that took place four years ago. Last Saturday, William Silva spent the first three rounds outboxing Cletus, but the Hebrew Hammer showed impressive progression within the fight. He stopped chasing, wore down Silva, and set him up for two overhand rights to score a seventh round knockout.

We all want to see the best fights possible, but we shouldn't denigrate someone simply because we don't know who they are or what they will become. Manny Pacquiao was once an unknown before he became the most famous boxer in the world. He was once a one-handed fighter before he rounded out his game. Of course, few fighters turn into legends, but it's important to show respect to boxers putting their lives on the line for our entertainment.

No comments:

Post a Comment