First Round Defeats That Didn’t Matter
By Henry Walter
In the brutal world of boxing first round losses can destroy a boxer’s aura and devastate his or her career. Knockouts are a traumatic and damaging way to lose a fight on their own. Add a knockout coming early into the equation and it’s very easy to see why so many boxers are never the same after a first round defeat.
The examples of this are numerous. Who can forget then world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson’s violent pair of first round KO defeats to the menacing mafia backed contender Sonny Liston? Patterson left the arena post-fight in disguise and never came close to capturing the world title again.
When legendary undefeated two-weight world champion Michael Spinks stepped into the ring to defend his heavyweight title against Mike Tyson most boxing critics regarded him as being at the very height of his powers. After a shocking 90 second loss he retired and never fought again.
The many examples are not limited to champions. Many contenders have looked destined for the top before being on the wrong end of a first round defeat and seeing their careers quickly nosedive.
However, there are exceptions to every rule and listed below are six rare cases where a first round defeat did very little to damage a fighter’s career or reputation.
- Roy Jones jr vs Danny Green
Having lost to fellow boxing legend Joe Calzaghe in 2008, Jones had embarked on a run of two impressive KO wins over Omar Sheika and former IBF super-middleweight champion Jeff Lacy.
Fighting in Green’s home country of Australia in a division (cruiserweight) that he wasn’t familiar with, Jones was still expected to win soundly.
Instead Green floored Jones heavily with a right hand just after the first minute. Jones clambered to his feet but hadn’t recovered and the fight was stopped shortly after. The result seemingly scuppered Jones’ upcoming super-fight with former two-weight champion Bernard Hopkins.
Yet shortly after the fight Jones dubiously blamed the result on Green’s hand wraps being too hard and claimed the defeat wasn’t legitimate. The Hopkins fight would still go ahead he promised and it did. He predictably lost to Hopkins, albeit via a decision and was then battered to a KO defeat in his following fight too.
Amazingly Jones dusted off his gloves and won his next eight fights, seven via KO to set up another big fight with former champion Enzo Maccerinelli, which he also lost.
- Andrew Golota vs Lennox Lewis
After twice battering the man most in the boxing fraternity had regarded as the world’s number one heavyweight Riddick Bowe, Andrew Golota was considered to be an elite heavyweight, capable of mixing it with the very best in the division. When he faced Britain’s Lennox Lewis for the WBC belt the following year many British fans feared the worst.
In the event Lewis produced one of the performances of his career to defeat Golota with an array of hard punches well inside the first round. The destructive defeat would have destroyed the aura of most heavyweights but the six feet-five Polish giant returned to the ring less than a year later and quicky returned to winning ways. He went on to face Mike Tyson in 2000 and secured a draw with IBF Champion Chris Byrd in 2004.
- Rocky Fielding vs Callum Smith
Rocky Fielding’s fight with fellow undefeated super-middleweight prospect Callum Smith saw two undefeated starlets compete for the British title in a fight seen as a must-see crossroads fight for both.
Opinions were divided amongst press and fans over who would win but everyone seemed to agree that the fight would be close and competitive. It was anything but. Smith produced a brilliant and clinical display to dispatch Fielding in the very first round, much to the surprise of many.
Fielding showed tremendous character not to let the defeat affect him and he captured the WBA super-middleweight title just six fights later to set up a super-fight with Saul Alvarez.
- Jorge Linares vs Juan Carlos Salgado
Jorge Linares was 27-0 and the reigning WBA super-featherweight champion when he defended against the then undefeated Juan Carlos Salgado in Japan in 2009.
Salgado charged out aggressively and knocked out Linares with a powerful left hook. Linares lost both his title and his undefeated record in the very first round yet bounced back with a solid win over Francisco Lorenzo, 34-7, just five months later. As of this year he is still fighting and has won multiple world titles in three weight divisions and was recognised by The Ring Magazine as being the legitimate lightweight champion from 2014-18.
- John Ruiz vs David Tua
In 1996 John Ruiz was 25-2 when he took on the big punching New Zealander David Tua, then 22-0. It was viewed as 50-50 match up going in but Tua stunned Ruiz, knocking him out brutally after just 19 seconds.
Many wondered if Ruiz would even fight again after such an embarrassing defeat but fight he did, winning his next eleven straight, including a win over the formidable Tony Tucker, to set up a championship fight with Evander Holyfield. Ruiz boxed on until 2010 and ended his career as a respected two-time WBA heavyweight Champion.
1. Amir Khan vs Breidis Prescott
Amir Khan was 18-0 and the star of ITV boxing when he changed his trainer and fought on Sky for the first time as professional.
In the opposite corner stood the unknown Columbian puncher Breidis Prescott, 19-0 with 17 KOs but no known names on his record. The fight was Khan’s big chance to prove he could beat a big puncher and showcase his skills to a new audience.
Unfortunately for Khan, Prescott had plans of his own and hadn’t just turned up for a pay cheque. He staggered Khan with a hard jab in the opening second of the fight before sensationally flooring him with crisp left-hooks. The fight was mercifully stopped after just fifty-five seconds.
Khan showed his fighting heart and sheer determination not to let the defeat affect him by changing trainer again, this time picking respected sage and trainer of champions Freddie Roach and relocating to California.
Khan eventually regrouped in spectacular fashion becoming WBA light-welterweight champion less than a year later and going on to become the legitimate champion beating such names Marco Antonio Barrera, Dmitry Salita, Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana, Zab Judah, Julio Diaz, Luis Collazo, Devon Alexander, Chris Algieri and Billy Dib.