Boxers who were never the same after their first loss….
A fighter will inevitably experience defeat, whether that is in the amateur ranks or the pro ranks, a win can be the highest of the highs but a loss can equally be the lowest of the lows. In a one man sport such as Boxing, where you are fighting an opponent in a one on one battle, this is to be expected. Greatness isn’t just being one of the rare men to go undefeated in a career, very few can achieve what the likes of Andre Ward, Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Rocky Marciano were able to do and go through a professional career without experiencing defeat and swallowing the bitter pill of a loss, greatness is also measured by how you react and come back from suffering a loss. Lennox Lewis is one of the all time greats and a huge reason why is because he beat everyone he stepped inside the ring with. Lewis lost just twice in his career, both times he came back to avenge his loss, to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman. This is the mark of a truly great champion. Muhammad Ali was the same, losing to Frazier he came back and beat him twice, he did the same against Ken Norton and also coming back to beat Leon Spinks in their rematch. It was only an aged, Parkinsons suffering Ali out of retirement who wasn’t able to come back and fight again after his last two losses against Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick.
The following boxers shouldn’t be termed as bad either, some of them were on the cusp of greatness but there is little denying they were unable to display the same mental strength as physical strength they displayed in the ring after suffering their first loss in the pro ranks.
Perhaps this is a controversial choice, Curry competed in around 400 amateur bouts and lost just 4 times. Turning pro at 19 he would win the WBA Welterweight title in just his 16th fight whilst barely out of his 20’s. Curry seemed to have it all and possessed all the tools of the trade to make him become a great of the game with some comparing him to the next Sugar Ray Leonard. He became the undisputed Welterweight champion when he knocked out Milton McCrory in just two rounds in 1985. But he was to take his eyes off the prize on that fateful night of 27th September 1986, coming in as the huge favourite the 25-0 Curry faced off against the 27-0 Lloyd Honeyghan. Drained from struggling to make weight he put in a lethargic performance and quit at the end of the sixth round, a cut caused by a headbutt was the final nail in the coffin.
Moving up in weight and conquering the light middleweight division was Curry’s next goal. Less than a year later Curry was challenging for the WBA title against the body snatcher, otherwise known as Mike McCallum. Curry came out strong but was knocked out by a picture perfect left hook, finishing the fight sprawled on the canvas in round five.
Although Curry went onto win the WBC title the following year against Gianfranco Rosi, he was never able to live up to those lofty expectations set for him before his 1st loss against Lloyd Honeyghan. Further losses to Terry Norris and Michael Nunn only confirmed his status as a fighter who was unable to make the jump from good to great. After starting 25-0, Curry lost 6 of his last 15 fights to finish with a career record of 34-6 25 KO’s.
Naseem Hamed needs no introduction. One of the most gifted fighters I have ever seen with outrageous natural talent, Hamed was one of the most exciting and explosive boxers we have ever seen. Hameds penchant for big knockouts gave rise to equally big ring entrances as his fights became virtual night clubs and music videos all rolled into one.
Hamed was a ferocious puncher who could knock out his opponent from any position, by age 20 he had already won the European Bantamweight title and in the same year won the WBC International Super Bantamweight title. The following year in 1995 Hamed would start his run of dominance when he outclassed and overwhelmed Steve Robinson for the WBO Featherweight title.
It wasn’t long before he exploded onto the scene in the USA with a see-saw battle against Kevin Kelley. Both fighters were knocked down multiple times in an action packed four rounds which saw Hamed eventually end the fight with a stunning left hand. Hamed continued his rule of the division, taking his record to 35-0 31 KO’s before he was to come up against the Mexican legend, Marco Antonio Barrera. With conflict in his camps and rumours Hamed was not taking his boxing seriously, more concerned about his hair style and ring entrance than his opponent, Hamed would pay the ultimate price when he was beaten over twelve rounds by Barrera with relative ease.
The fall was hard for Hamed, who returned to winning ways in his next fight, which was over a year later with a lacklustre performance going the distance against Manual Calvo. Despite promising more fights it turned out to be his last contest aged just 28 and Hamed retired with a record of 36-1 31 KO’s.
Whether Hameds ego was never able to recover from the loss or whether it was because of chronic hand injuries, Hamed fell out of love with the sport at a time he should have been entering his peak and boxing fans were never truly able to see how good he could have become.
There’s a reason he was nicknamed ‘the beast’ and that’s because he was a beast. Mugabi was one of those names you spoke about during the 80’s whenever there was discussion about ‘The Four Kings’, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler, he was that good and add in names like Wilfred Benitez and this was a terrifying period to be in and around the division. Mugabi rolled over his first 24 opponents with knockout after knockout before forcing an RTD inside the distance in his 25th fight. The 26th fight would be against the middleweight king and would present Mugabi with his sternest test. Roll in ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler, who was fighting for the first time since ‘The War’ with Thomas Hearns. In what many believe was Haglers most difficult fight as a pro, the two engaged in a brutal battle which saw both fighters land heavy blows. In the end, Haglers savagery was too much to handle and he prevailed in the 11th round, inflicting Mugabi with the first loss of his career.
The Beast returned to his home land of Uganda after the loss and was back in the ring nine months later as a light middleweight but suffered a broken eye socket in a defeat to Duane Thomas. Mugabi never again returned to the feared level he had achieved prior to his loss against Hagler and suffered two first round knockouts against Terry Norris and Gerald McClellan. The latter forcing his retirement but he was to return yet again 5yrs later and finally called time on his career after a disappointing spell of 4-3-1 in his final eight bouts.
If you know boxing, you know Broner, because Broner is an active boxer who is a four weight world champion. It seems such a shame to mention a boxer with his achievements in this article but the man known as ‘The Problem’ has been only a problem to himself since his first loss.
Broner was seen as the heir apparent to boxings number one star, Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather JR, which was probably why he began naming himself ‘About billions’. Unfortunately he may have been counting his money before the fights. Broner had a dominant start to his career which had many believing they were seeing the next superstar of the sport with a mouth as fast as his hands, he was still only 24yrs old when he beat Paulie Malignaggi to win the WBA welterweight title and improve his record to 27-0.
It was his next fight against the hard hitting Argentinian Marcos Maidana in which the problem that was Adrien Broner was eventually solved. Maidana put Broner onto the canvas for the first – and second time in his career as he swarmed, battered and butted his way to a convincing victory.
Since his loss, Broner has bounced up and down the divisions but each time he has stepped up in class, against Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia, he has been found wanting and suffered the 2nd and 3rd losses of his career. His last fight against Jessie Vargas showed nothing to suggest the old Broner in the ring was back, all it did show was Broners continued downward trend with his attitude, finishing off with a controversial post fight interview. Broner is still active and is still only 29yrs old, he clearly has a lot of natural talent but more concerning is his life outside of the ring, the longer he continues to have problems outside of the ring, the less chance he has of becoming a problem again for his opponents inside the ring.
Fortunately Broner’s gloves are never the problem, Cleto Reyes – only the best.
No list is complete without the mention of Jeff Lacy. “Left Hook” Lacy got off to fast start in his boxing career, winning his first 21 fights and building a reputation for himself as a ruthless fighter with devastating power. With his athletic physique he looked like the perfectly built fighter. When the 21-0 Lacy travelled to the UK to face the WBO Super Middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe, he was the overwhelming favourite, not just in the USA, but in the UK too, this despite Calzaghe being undefeated in 40 fights. It wasn’t just the bookies who had Lacy as favourite, even the majority of boxing sites had Lacy pencilled in as the winner – by knockout.
The result though would be in the opposite direction, Calzaghe gave Lacy such a beat down that Lacy’s career never recovered. Outclassed, overwhelmed and over matched, Lacy looked lost in the ring as Joe Calzaghe showed his greatness.
Lacy would fight a further 11 times in his career, losing 5 of them, after Calzaghe poured water over his fire, Lacy never was again able to ignite the flames of his career to the pre Calzaghe heights.