Boxing is a sport where numbers and statistics don’t always hold a lot of weight. But one set of numbers is as elemental as a left-right combination: a fighter’s wins, losses and draws. Often, fans overvalue a good record and misinterpret a mediocre one. For example, there are dozens of 10-loss veterans who are better than young fighters with only one or two defeats.
Nothing, however, catches as much attention as an undefeated record. And as an undefeated fighter hits the ring, it’s almost guaranteed that the ring announcer or TV commentators will say something along the lines of: “Maybe tonight his ‘0’ might just go!”
Floyd Mayweather is one of thoe fighters, who appeal is the “0” in the loses column. He will be putting that “0” on the line against “Sugar” Shane Mosley on May 1 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Do fans and sports analysts focus on a perfect record more than the fighters do? Yes, says Mayweather.
“I don’t think about the ‘0’,” said Mayweather, whose last loss came on July 22, 1996, at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. “I think about winning. Everything takes care of itself if you win.
“Of course it’s a great thing to be undefeated, but I don’t consciously think about it when I’m preparing for the next fight.”
Many other boxing greats had undefeated records throughout their careers, but many eventually earned a loss before closing out their careers, except former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, who record stands at a perfect 49-0.
In September 1985, then-WBC titlist Larry Holmes was 48-0 until he entered the ring against Michael Spinks. But, even he says records didn’t mean a whole lot to him.
“I was always tying records, breaking records; it didn’t mean [expletive] to me,” Holmes said. “I didn’t care. What was important was making money, keeping the title, and proving people wrong.
“The undefeated record meant I wasn’t getting beaten up, and that meant a lot to me.”
In November 2008, another fighter joined “The Marciano Club” if you will, retiring with a perfect record. His name is Joe Calzaghe. His record is 46-0. What made Calzaghe different from most unbeaten fighters is that his toughest tests, vs. Jeff Lacy, Bernard Hopkins and Mikkel Kessler, came toward the conclusion of his hall of fame career.
“I never really dwelled on the ‘0’ until close to the end, when I realized I had only a couple of fights left, I was undefeated and I could retire that way,” Calzaghe said. “I always hated to lose, and when I did so as an amateur, it burned me up inside and created my motivation for winning.
“Taking big fights wasn’t a risk for me because I believed in myself and went for it. I can say, however, that it was a relief when it was all over and I finished undefeated and ahead of the game.”
Calzaghe certainly fought the best available opposition, as did unbeatens Marciano and Ricardo Lopez (51-0-1), but in today’s boxing world, there are four major titles per division and, as a result, champions can protect their records more easily than in the past. That’s largely why alphabet titlists like junior welterweight Terry Marsh (26-0-1), welterweight Michael Loewe (28-0) and junior featherweight Ji Won Kim (16-0-2) were able to retire without having lost. Marsh and Loewe defended their respective titles only once each.
The question remains … is a perfect record a sign of perfection or does an imperfect record reveal anything at all?
Below are some points, broken down by Swanson Communications:
- Ninety-nine percent of boxing historians rank Sugar Ray Robinson as the best fighter in history. He lost 19 times.
- Muhammad Ali was “The Greatest” despite losing five fights. In fact, he arguably gained more respect in his first loss, to Joe Frazier, than in building a record of 31-0.
- Since 1900, eight world champions have retired-and stayed retired-without having lost a fight. Even at their respective peaks, five of them never made the pound-for-pound top 10.
- Among today’s elite, Bernard Hopkins lost his professional debut and Manny Pacquiao lost to an opponent who went 2-4-1 in his next seven fights.
In evaluating recent champions, then, we must look at their body of work, and not just their records. The resume of five-division titlist Mayweather is impressive, making his perfect record all the more eye-popping. Maybe, just maybe, remaining undefeated and keeping his “0” means more than he’ll acknowledge.
“No one wants to lose their ‘0’,” said Floyd Mayweather Sr., trainer and Mayweather’s father. “I’m sure he thinks about it and it motivates him. Fortunately for my son, it’s so far so good and I don’t see anyone taking that ‘0’ away from him either.”
Mayweather taks on current WBA Welterweight World Champion Sugar Shane Mosley on Saturday, May 1 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas
Until the fight, however, HBO is running another edition of their “24/7” series, called “24/7 Mayweather/Mosley”, which chronicles the preparations and back stories of both fighters as they train for their May 1 pay-per-view showdown. The next new episode airs Saturday (April 17) at 9:30 pm ET/6:30pm PT.