The Most Feared: Mythical Or Factual

By Michael Herron


The Most Feared: Mythical Or Factual

To compete in a boxing ring one must possess heart, determination, strength, and above all, courage. With that understanding, is it feasible to suggest that any fighter literally fears another? To simply choose prizefighting as a profession denotes a certain degree of fearlessness; and to actually engage in battle is something that only the chosen few can do. Boxing great Joe Frazier once stated, “I respect all men with two hands who steps into the ring.” This statement clearly indicates the mutual respect and natural vigilance shared amongst all fighters; yet even with this general respect established, cynical fans, biased writers, and uninspired promoters can’t help but create a mythical beast known as the most-feared fighter in boxing.

Has the most-feared moniker become a credible mythical title? Is this the anti pound-for-pound champion? It seems that whenever there is a fighter who is recognized as the best, a most-feared archetype is created to oppose him. Throughout boxing history the pound-for-pound champions seem to have to deal with this fabrication most often. Sugar Ray Robinson, the man considered the best pound-for-pound fighter of all-time, had to fight the most-feared Jake Lamotta six times, in part, to demonstrate his fearlessness. The self-proclaimed and often proven “Greatest of All-Time” Muhammad Ali, battled the most-feared versions of Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and even Ken Norton and Earnie Shavers. There was no shortage of most-feared opponents during Ali’s reign.

Sugar Ray Leonard, heralded as the best fighter of the 1980s, came out of retirement to face the most-feared Marvelous Marvin Hagler in what was the Superfight of 1987. Roy Jones’ most-feared opponent is imagined to have been several European fighters but in particular, Poland born Dariusz Michalczewski, the former WBO light-heavyweight champion. If the name doesn’t ring a bell then “Ya’ll must have forgot!”

Presently, no active fighter has more most-feared concoctions surrounding him than the linear welterweight champion and reigning pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Mayweather’s so-called most-feared opponents are a virtual who’s who of the welterweight division: beginning with Antonio Margarito, the title then shifted to Paul Williams who was exposed by Carlos Quintana; the moniker took a detour to Miguel Cotto, who currently shares it with a resurgent Margarito; and finally, in the background lurks the also feared and avoided Joshua Clottey. The fact that all of these guys are marketed, at one time or another, as Mayweather’s most-feared opponent suggests a lack of creativity and imagination on the part of boxing fans, proponents, and promoters. Furthermore, to throw the term around so loosely takes away any legitimacy in the claim.

So do the most-feared fighters in boxing only exist where the pound-for-pound champion’s reign? Why is the moniker currently not used in opposition to any fighter not named Mayweather? For example, why is Junior Witter not billed as the most-feared fighter in boxing? It is clear that he is being ducked and dodged by the alleged best junior welterweight, Ricky Hatton. Why is Winky Wright not considered the most-feared, it is obvious Team Pavlik want nothing to do with him. Why isn’t Vernon Forrest considered most-feared, it is clear that Oscar De La Hoya has avoided him since his days as a welterweight. Why isn’t Nate Campbell the most-feared, it is clear Pacquiao intends to skip right past him when he enters the lightweight division. To reiterate, why are the most-feared fighters in boxing relegated to the welterweight division only? And why as part of their media portrayal, they are all infused with “mythical powers” (overrated boxing abilities) designed specifically for beating Mayweather?

In theory, the most-feared moniker is pure fantasy. Its flawed logic suggests that any top ranked contender in or around the same weight-class of the pound-for-pound champion is potentially the most-feared fighter in boxing. The reality is that as long as Mayweather or any future pound-for-pound champion remains undefeated there will always be a most-feared opponent created and over-hyped by fans to challenge him. It’s a recurring cycle that many boxing greats have acknowledged “there is always somebody else; always another challenge.” Therefore the real fear is in recognizing when to hang up the gloves not to put them on. Prizefighters live to compete--to test themselves in the ring. What they most fear, in actuality, is the day their careers are truly over, the day when their fight options run dry. In their view, to have a most-feared opponent, whether fantasy or reality, is much better than having no opponent at all. Mayweather is likely quite happy to have all these “feared” options available. It simply means more opportunities, more exposure, and more money. If and when these most-feared creations begin to fade however, that, ironically, is when the real fear begins.


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