Duck, dodge, dip, dive and…Duck?

By Boxing News - 07/06/2016 - Comments

Image: Duck, dodge, dip, dive and…Duck?

By Adam Godfrey: Ask any Boxing fan which two varieties of bird you can find in our beloved sport and they will all tell you the same thing; there is the kind that parade themselves, thankfully scantily clad, around the ring between rounds (for my American friends, consult a British neighbor). We like this kind of bird. And then there is the ‘Duck’. This bird is less affectionately thought of.

By reputation, these are the fighters who purport to desire a certain fight with a particular opponent, only to ‘Duck’ out at the last minute for ostensibly nefarious reasons; typically assumed to be physical or psychological fear of the opponent they, until the last moment before contracts are signed, claimed to covet.

No fighter worth their salt would ever consider admitting that this is the reason they declined to fight the opponent they are said to have ‘Ducked’, but to the stubborn mind of entertainment starved Boxing fans it is seemingly impossible to alter their judgment that a ‘Duck’ has occurred.

At the time of writing there are three recent occasions of particular note that divides fans as to whether a genuine ‘Duck’ has occurred. Canelo Alvarez has made a rod for his own back in this regard, and it is difficult to find anybody willing to defend his constant U-turns as to his intentions of fighting Golovkin. I will take the liberty of considering it a given that a ‘Duck’, in this case, has genuinely occurred. Feel free, albeit at your peril, to disagree. The other two occasions also involve Gennady Golovkin, with the other perpetrator considered to be Andre Ward; fans of each endlessly trade arguments as to how one has ducked the other, despite the fact that the two fighters are currently two divisions apart, and have historically been separated by a single division. Fans of Golovkin point to the Abel Sanchez/Tom Loeffler line that Ward only offered to fight ‘GGG’ after the latter had already agreed to fight Canadian David Lemieux. Fans of Andre Ward argue that Golovkin is a hypocrite, claiming he would fight Carl Froch and Julio César Chávez Jr. at 168lb but demanding a catch weight of 164lb of Andre Ward, despite both Ward and Froch being Super Middleweights. One other notable ‘Duck’, which in my humble opinion is utterly absurd, is the idea that Floyd Mayweather ‘Ducked’ Golovkin (a pattern is emerging…). Sure, Floyd spoke about how he would ‘school’ the dominant Middleweight, but this would clearly not be a fair fight due to Golovkin’s huge power advantage, and the chances of the two actually meeting in the ring are a categorical nil. A dodge, dip or dive, perhaps, but ‘Duck’? No, you cannot ‘Duck’ a man who weighs twice as much as you. As much as I am exaggerating the weight difference to make a point, it is a point that has to be clear. ‘GGG’ was simply in the mouth of every Boxing fan and Floyd’s natural reaction is to draw attention away from those who are being talked about instead of him. Floyd does not need Golovkin on his resume, and knows it. Just because Amir Khan is arguably foolish enough to tackle a relative Goliath, there is no requirement of Mayweather to do the same.

The point of this article is not to dissect the rights or wrongs of any specific arguments regarding one Boxer ‘Ducking’ another. My point is to draw attention to the power of reputation, regardless of whether this reputation is warranted. To be labeled a ‘Ducker’ is, quite frankly, the most damaging thing that an opponent or fan can say about you, and the repercussion of the label being applied can infect every aspect of a pugilist’s career. Unless he faces an opponent who has the slightest chance of beating him anytime soon, Canelo will find that his reputation as a ‘Ducker’ will begin to weigh heavily on his financial clout as the new PPV star of the sport, again (and I cannot emphasise this point enough), regardless of whether the reputation is deserved. The reputation exists. You have to counter it head-on, not by moaning how unfair it is that you’ve been labeled as such. Frankly, nobody cares, and you can play us the World’s smallest violin if you are that upset.

To highlight the power of reputation, consider the first George Groves v Carl Froch fight. Froch had a hard-earned reputation as an unflappable warrior with an iron chin. He had survived wars with Michael Kessler (who he ultimately lost to, before obtaining revenge), Jean Pascal and a particularly impressive last gasp TKO of Jermaine Taylor, who he defeated despite being behind on the cards with barely seconds to spare. George Groves, however, had a reputation as a man with a glass chin. Fair? Arguably not. But if life is not fair, then Boxing is a perpetual kick in the gonads. Groves was ahead on the cards and seemingly still strong until he was trapped on the ropes and subsequently battered by a revitalised Froch, the referee moving in during the ninth to save the challenger from the champion’s onslaught. If the roles were reversed and it had been Froch who knocked down the challenger in the first round, dominated thereafter, only to find himself cornered and on the end of a barrage as the championship rounds approached, would the fight have been stopped? The answer is probably a resounding ‘no’. It is irrelevant. Froch’s renowned reputation came through for him, and probably won him the fight.

A fighter’s reputation may be neither fair nor accurate. It is, however, the reputation that they are stuck with until the time comes that they embrace the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. Before his fight with Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali’s reputation was that of a man with an enormous confidence in his own ability and clear talent, but whose penchant for self-promotion ultimately dwarfed his chances of actually winning. Ali proved every doubter wrong; not by whining how unfair it was that Liston was the favorite instead of him, but by beating the man they said he couldn’t beat. Ali never looked back, and his reputation will be preserved for all time as the man that fought, and beat, every elite heavyweight of his era. ‘The Greatest’, indeed.

Right now, Canelo has a reputation for ducking Golovkin, Golovkin has a reputation to some for ducking Ward, and Ward has a reputation for ducking Golovkin. The debate around the facts of the matter can, and will, rage ad infinitum, in both a constructive and destructive manner. Ultimately, the only way to end the debate once and for all is for all the ‘Ducking’, perceived or as a reflection of reality, to stop, and for these fights to happen. As a fan of Boxing over any particular fighter, I hope that the dream fights can become reality.