What Is A Signature Win?

By Alex Fesl: With hundreds of world champions and even multi-division world champions, it is hard to judge the true value of a boxer’s resume. In the past, being a world champion or even a challenger meant much more than it does today.

Currently, a boxer can be deemed eligible for title contention simply by being inserted into one of the major boxing organization’s top ten to fifteen, depending on the organization. Therefore the path to becoming a world champion is not as extensive as before.

Current state of boxing

One good example that comes to mind is the 48-year-old former lineal middleweight champ, Sergio Martinez. Since being stopped by Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto in 2014, Martinez has won five straight bouts against completely unknown fighters in obscure locations over the past three years. Now, Martinez sits at the number two spot according to the WBA middleweight rankings.

The WBA can then easily order a fight with Martinez and the current champion, Gennady Golovkin, or they can strip Golovkin and have Martinez fight secondary WBA middleweight champion, Erislandy Lara. They can also strip Golovkin and then have Martinez fight the number one contender, Michael Zerafa, for the vacant belt.

There is really an infinite number of possible scenarios where the WBA can put Martinez in a middleweight title fight for their respective belt. To me, this is just a microcosm of how the major boxing organizations operate today. They can put whoever they want to be in a position to become a world champion, depending on any ad hoc ruling they choose.

With that said, these types of scenarios will, in turn, dilute the status of being a world champion. Seemingly anyone with strong connections can become a world champion in boxing as long as they win the fights mandated to them by the major boxing organizations.

Signature win

Given the current state of boxing, I believe the best way to judge a fighter’s resume is the number of signature wins a fighter has. A signature win takes into account the opponent’s age, whether the opponent is in their prime, weight class fluctuations of the opponent, the quality of the opponent’s opposition, controversies in the opponent’s career, as well as typical characteristics like titles and major boxing organization’s rankings. So considering all of those characteristics, you can then determine if a win is deemed a signature victory or just a regular win.

As an example, let’s take a look at Canelo Alvarez’s record. Specifically, Canelo’s win over Miguel Cotto in 2015. For this fight, Cotto was considered the Ring Magazine middleweight champion after previously defeating Sergio Martinez. Cotto had also recently defeated former IBF middleweight champ Daniel Geale, and former title challenger Delvin Rodríguez, after taking on and defeating Martinez.

Before the Canelo fight, Cotto’s most recent loss was a surprising decision to the highly skilled Austin Trout in 2012. While Cotto was not in his prime for his fight with Canelo, he was having a career revival and was still viewed as one of the top fighters at the time. So I would say Canelo’s win over Cotto would qualify as a signature win considering the background information.

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Looking forward

It is definitely a confusing time to be a boxing fan, and it is understandable why casual fans are turned off by all of the belts floating around. Using this type of qualitative assessment, I believe we can better understand the value of a boxer’s resume. At the same time, it is important to consider the difficulties cross-promotional fights have in coming to fruition. A promoter often prefers to protect their fighter and book an in-house opponent rather than schedule a risky cross-promotional super fight which inevitably leads to fewer opportunities for signature wins for boxers.

Nevertheless, what are your opinions on signature wins? Do you think considering signature victories are necessary? If so, which top fighter do you think lacks signature wins? Do you think fighters that lack signature wins are overrated? Let me know in the comments.