Ask most boxing fans what they want from a fighter and chances are they will tell you something along the following: I want my fighter to win numerous world titles and stay undefeated! All I want is my fighter to go out on his shield to prove he has heart! I don’t ask much, just that my fighter faces top competition. I’m cool with my fighter as long as money doesn’t get in the way of big fights etc ... etc .. And while each of those one liners sounds perfect many boxing fans fail to understand that boxing - and everything about the sport - is far from it.
The best fighters will not always face off and money will sometimes prevent this from happening while other times rival promotional companies may be the straw that breaks the camels back.
Fighters have heart and anyone who has ever laced up a pair of gloves and fought will tell you that just having the courage to put your life on the line and trade bombs with another human being shows that a fighter has enough heart to please his audience.
Like it or not money is going to get in the way of possible super fights. Boxers are competitors and each and every one of them usually believes that he is the greater attraction and better fighter. By believing in ones self, a fighter doesn’t want to take short change in a mega fight. It’s human nature and while it causes conflict, it hardly means one guy is scared of another.
A fighter staying undefeated in today’s game is a rarity. By placing the expectation of never losing a professional bout on a fighter, one is setting himself up for a let down of great proportions. While a fighter may be 30-0, if you’ve watched him fight chances are that a few of those wins may have been controversial. On the flip side a guy that has a ledger of 25-5 may be the one guy unable to get the benefit of the doubt from any judge.
In boxing the glass is either half empty or half full. It just depends who’s drinking from the straw.
So the question that must be asked: What do we want from our fighters? In order to figure out some sort of answer I have spent a lot of time observing boxing fans from behind the ring apron. In my studies I have gone to local shows all around the mitten state - Grand Rapids, Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo - listening to people’s thoughts on the state of the game and also the fighters that represent it. I have also logged on to just about every boxing website’s message board and read through as many threads as humanly possible. And this is what I have found.
Drum roll, please. I’ve realized that we want our favorite fighter to win and if he doesn’t, then we will find a way to cry foul play and in the process, find enough energy to argue our point of controversy to a dull and mute point. There are no close fights in boxing when it comes to our favorite fighters. Battle hard with another champion or solid contender (See Castillo/Mayweather I, Byrd-Golota, Morales/Barerra) and if your fighter comes out on the losing end the bout was clearly a robbery. Watch your fighter get pummeled and out classed over the entirety of a fight and it’s obvious he just had an off night. Knocked out? Never. Caught with a lucky punch? Of course. The themes are the same across the board - most fans are bias when it comes to their fighters. End of story.
Showing a fighter such loyalty causes a big stir among message boards and company, but it is this unwillingness to believe that maybe, just maybe, your fighter was beat by a better man that makes boxing fans unlike any other sports fan in the world today. The major sports - basketball, baseball, football - all have fair weather fans (how many Bengals’ fans did you know until ‘05?) but in boxing it is a whole different story. You may see a fighter win one big fight and jump on his bandwagon, but unless you’re a true fan of the guy there’s a great chance that you’ll doubt him and bash him the minute he is knocked from the throne. Exposed, anyone? The word is used too much within the industry once a fighter loses and while true fans may have a hard time coming to the realization of defeat, it’s a rare case to hear one dog their fighter in such a negative way.
For everything that is annoying about a die hard fan of a certain fighter, there is a lot of light at the end of the tunnel, however most people will never take the time to see this light. It is a light that shines from a fighter down through the soul of his most loyal fan. A bond is created between them as if they are real life counter parts for one another. This type of close knit recognition is only seen in the sport of boxing, when compared to other major events. The reasons are many. Most boxers do not make millions of dollars in endorsements, let alone in the ring fighting. And most fighters are never the same after taking a beating at the hands of another man. It is in the trenches, up against the ropes, bleeding from the nose and swollen from the face up, that a fighter is able to give back to his fans. These are the instances when a fighter shows his true grit, which is something most hard working blue collar individuals live to show every day by supporting their families and making ends meat.
Being able to relate to an athlete is what we as die hard sports fans look for. The world “hero” is often over used, when in reality all we are looking for is someone to pull for when times get tough in our own lives. Following a fighter when he is on top and backing him when he is against the ropes is what boxing is about. It is what all sports are about, but boxing especially, provides a gateway for fans and their passion to help out one another. These emotions provide boxing fans with something special.
Call it what you want, boxing fans share it with the fighters they love. Win, lose or draw, it remains within us as fans and nothing can change that.
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