The ‘0’ Isn’t Actually That Important
Before boxing became this well-oiled machine and prior to the sometimes over protection of a prospects 0, boxing history is littered with boxers with less than auspicious starts who went on to achieve plenty in their careers.
Boxers without the right connections, sometimes self-managed, took fights they shouldn’t have. Some at the early part of their pugilistic journey simply were not good enough or were victims of dodgy decisions.
But whatever the reason and some modern-day promoters should take note, early career defeats doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of success further down the road.
Barry McGuigan for example, lost to Peter Eubanks in his 3rd pro fight, incidentally, Eubanks whilst being a decent enough journeyman himself lost his first 3 pro fights, McGuigan of course, avenged that defeat in his very next fight. Another future world champion Dennis Andries was another who lost in his 3rd pro fight losing on points to one Bonny McKenzie.
But a number of fighters lost their debuts but yet recovered to win titles later down the road. Joe Bugner lost his debut to Paul Brown who stopped Bugner in 3 in 1967. Like McGuigan, Bugner got his revenge a year later. Another heavyweight Neville Meade lost in his 1st fight, Meade would eventually become the British heavyweight champion, while Ray Cattouse who would later win the British lightweight title, also lost on his debut.
Incredibly as it might seem now, but future world cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson who would go on an unbeaten run in the last 10 years of his career, actually lost his first 3 fights. Nelson was perhaps Brendan Ingle’s finest ever work.
Looking further afield James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith lost on his debut to James Broad, Smith was stopped in 4 rounds but would become the first man to defeat Frank Bruno and would eventually become a world heavyweight champion when he blitzed Tim Witherspoon inside a round in 1985. Bernard Hopkins the long-reigning world middleweight champion lost his last two fights but also his very first, Clinton Mitchell won a majority decision over Hopkins in 1988.
Michael Bentt who in 1993 would shock Tommy Morrison to claim the WBO heavyweight title lost his pro debut when Jerry Jones stopped him inside a round in 1989. Herbie Hide took away his title, Bentt never fought again after suffering a brain injury in that fight in 1994. Bentt turned his hand to acting and even played Sonny Liston in the film Ali in 2001 starring Will Smith.
The highly controversial Ricardo Mayorga was defeated by Humberto Aranda in 1993 when he first tried his hand at the pro game.
Juan Manuel Marquez lost by DQ in his first fight but would go onto great things after, including flattening Manny Pacquiao in their final meeting in 2012.
Henry Armstrong lost to Al Iovino on his debut and was 1-3 after his opening 4 fights as a professional. But Armstrong ended up being one of the greatest fighters of all time, winning world titles at 3 different weights, featherweight, lightweight and welterweight.
These are just a few of the domestic and global boxers who lost early fights but still found success despite early setbacks. Far too often we see boxers protected with padded but meaningless records, but being an unbeaten prospect isn’t always the best recipe for titles when it gets real in their careers. Far too often we write off boxers after a defeat, but many learn from the experience and come back better as a result of a loss.