Is the Fascination with the 0 Record Ruining Boxing?

The fear of defeat and the fear of losing your 0 are not the same thing

A lot has been written and spoken about the reasons boxing’s popularity has suffered in recent years, relative to MMA. The UFC in particular’s continued rise and rise shines a spotlight on the beautiful science that is far from flattering. The reasons boxing has struggled of late, especially in the US, are numerous and complex and the vast majority are a discussion for another day. There is though one reason that has not really been mentioned, but goes to the heart of what is the fundamental difference between the two codes and is very much a cause not a symptom of boxing’s recent malaise.

The be all and end all of being a boxer should be winning a belt. Once that has been achieved, those at the very top of their game can think about unifying the belts or moving up and down the weight divisions to pick up belts at other weights. Going your whole career undefeated is something that is a dream, but that should be the byproduct of a successful career not the driving force behind it.

Very few boxers go their entire career without tasting defeat. Ali lost 5 times but is still considered the greatest to have laced on a pair of gloves. Fighters occasionally lose fights because they carry on too late into their careers, when their speed, power, chin or all three have gone. Others lose because they go into a fight way less than 100%, carrying an injury or on the back of a tough weight cut. Some however lose fights because they happen to be beaten by the better man on the day, and almost without fail they will be a better fighter because of that.

You learn way more from losing a fight than from winning it. You go away, let the wounds and pride heal and work on what went wrong, work on being better than the person you were who stepped into the ring last time, in order to get your hand raised next time. It is a learning process, but it is also intrinsically part of the sport. Unfortunately, far too many young up and coming boxers – and their promotional teams – are terrified of losing. They see it as an indelible stain on their record, a set back that will cost them money and opportunities in the immediate future.

Mayweather went undefeated but has faced accusations of dodging fights

The most famous of recent undefeated boxers, Floyd Mayweather, though undoubtedly an incredible fighter, was accused throughout his career of ducking fights, or fighting people before or after their reached their peak. Such a high-profile fighter making such a huge show of being undefeated – something he is known for perhaps more than his belts – has shifted the mentality of many of today’s boxers. Social media does not help either. If you spend all the time on social media promoting yourself, shouting from the digital rooftops how great you are, you are far less likely to want to put yourself in a position where you will suffer a humiliating fall.

There are more 15 fight boxers today with perfect records than at any other time in the history of the sport. Fighters have always been protected but this goes way beyond that. It is the huge difference between how boxing is performing today, compared with how the UFC is. In MMA the 0 is not nearly as deified as it is in boxing, and even if it was there is a lot less opportunity for a fighter to actively defend their 0 other than getting their hand raised in the octagon.  

The greatest female fighter of all time, Amanda Nunes’ defeat at UFC 269 does not make her any less of a fighter in anyone’s eyes, and if anything it reignites the division. Until boxers take a leaf out of MMA’s book and really adopt the mantra of fighting anyone, anywhere, anytime and as a consequence think less about protecting their 0 and more about being the best fighter they possibly can, then their sport will continue to be second best.


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