One of my least favorite parts of the sport is the winner-blaming that goes on at the very highest level. While on a fighter's come up, we understand boxers are learning, developing, and less likely to take on all-action fights. At the top of the game, we have an expectation of excitement.
Truthfully, I understand why people complain about lackluster fights. While hardcore fans may appreciate the nuance of a tactical battle, most fans that watch the sport simply want entertainment value for their money. Especially when you consider the price of tickets and pay-per-view in 2022.
I hear ya.
Perhaps where I and the boxing community might disagree is with whom we lay the blame after watching a stinker.
Whenever a defensively brilliant fighter steps into the ring and puts on something of a clinic, the knee jerk reaction is to blame said eventual winner for putting forth such an underwhelming display. My argument is that we should be blaming the other guy.
For years, I watched Floyd Mayweather toy with many of the fighters so many claimed would be the one to knock him off his perch. When they all inevitably failed, his detractors would look for something to use against him and -- outside of attacks on his personal life -- it would always lead to claims that he was a boring fighter.
But how could that be...really?
The truth of the matter is that the objective of sport is to win. Yes, try your hardest and give everything you have to offer. But let's be real, you're doing that in the hopes of winning.
So, if, for example, Mayweather is doing enough to win and whatever no-hoper he faced falls short, how is that the soon-to-be Hall of Famer's fault?
Even in rather dull fights, you tend to get the sense that anything can happen and one punch can change everything. It's what keeps us around. And we believe this because watching the sport long enough teaches you of that sentiment's truth.
When someone can neutralize that chaotic element with skill, that, in its own way, is excitement. Where the excitement is lacking is from the other man inside the ring.
How you can blame the winner for not going beyond the call of victory when he did enough to win -- if not more? The person that needed to do more is the fighter that fell short.
Now, some will argue that the onus should be on the winner, the fighter theoretically looking to become a star. If he wants to fill arenas and make big money, he needs to be exciting and draw in the crowds. From a marketing stand point, that was once true. However, fighters such as the aforementioned Mayweather and even Vasyl Lomachenko and Shakur Stevenson to a lesser extent have shown they can both draw crowds (to varying degrees) and put on one-sided performances.
What's more, the fight would definitely be more entertaining if the defeated fighter had been more willing to sell out and go for the win. Especially in a fight in which he was hopelessly behind and needed a knockout. That extra aggression would certainly improve the chances for thrills.
Frankly, this mentality of blaming the winner comes mostly from fans hoping that the elusive fighter gets defeated. Fans that have no reason to root for said fighter, but can't sell him short for losing, so they pull the boring card.
And for the record, I'm not arguing that fighters can't have safe or somewhat less exciting styles. However, you put them in there with skilled counterparts that can actually challenge them and suddenly the fight is far more attractive.
Again -- and forgive me for my continuous use of Mayweather as an example, but he makes a good one -- look at Mayweather vs. his less skilled opponents. Fights with Robert Guerrero or Carlos Baldomir were mostly boring, one-sided snooze fests. However, his fights with Miguel Cotto and Marcos Maidana were far more entertaining.
Mayweather mostly attempted to employ the same style. In fact, he did a great job of that, particularly in the second half of his fight with Cotto, and in the rematch with Maidana. The difference is that Cotto and Maidana made it interesting for a while. Cotto due to his skill and Maidana do to his willingness to trade and get tagged.
When the losing fighters did more, the fight had more to offer.
Yes, at times, match-making must be blamed as lopsided fights that have been booked. However, more often than not, even when, on paper, fights were more evenly-matched, one fighter often times dominates. And the dominated fighter is really to blame. Again, they fell short.
I want every fight to be just as exciting as the next guy, but that only happens when both the red and the blue corners have plans in place to make the fight competitive. When one falls short and runs out of ideas, suddenly, the quality of the fight suffers.
And the winner shouldn't be blamed when that happens.