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Fights Without A Crowd Could Benefit Unlikely Fighters?

We have all heard the phrase ‘don’t leave it in the gym’.

What most might not know is the ability some might have in the gym, being a Mike Tyson-like figure in the gym only to be seen as a stepping stone in professional boxing looking like a shell of themselves or say King Hippo rather than Tyson, himself, come fight night. 

Sure, things like overtraining from lack of confidence in one’s self, the ability to adapt to familiar situations as opposed to unfamiliar, and also the pressure of living up to one’s potential on any given night with added pressure from the crowd, i.e. what is called “a gamer” in other sports, the ability raise one’s ability on the fight night. Let’s focus on the biggest variable – the crowd, and how many people, skilled at their craft, will engage in a fist-fight in front of a lot of people, which the activity itself is trauma-inducing, now add the spectators, it is more so.

The very nature of being a professional boxer up until this year was two things; 1) you show up and make a contracted weight and 2) you fight in front of a live audience that will pay to see the fight, but doesn’t literally know you for the most part.

Let’s rewind to the crowd part.

That might be a variable that many fighters, who border on the lines of self-destruction and self-doubt already, might be a kicker for their career. A silent and unseen enemy that could be the one that has KOed their chances at a six-figure payday.

Some of the greats get off the deck or become resilient when a fight is going bad, but when you have lost two or three times after being a solid amateur, one can’t help, but think that a feeling of “Oh No! Not this again,” overtaking a fighter looking to elevate from a local boxing legend to a marquee name in the sport of boxing, as the mental aspect is often the bridge most have to walk and/or climb. Add to the fact, that boxing no longer rewards those who take chances and obtain a loss to a fighter’s record is viewed as dramatically hurting the capital you can earn, making each risk taken by a smart manager-fighter combo, highly calculated.

In MMA, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is infamously known for doing better on short-notice fights as he has publicly stated that the mental side of fighting can affect his performance. To understand how this is magnified in boxing is understanding a basic boxing structure, I am assuming most don’t understand or will go over it now, just to clarify.

For Top Rank, PBC, Golden Boy, Matchroom USA, and any major promoter, they have their signed fighters, and then look to guide them through competitive and fan-pleasing bouts to a world-title in which the fights with their own fighters or fighters from other promotions will make themselves. If you’re in the wrong corner, and unsigned by the promoter, fighting their fighter in a ten-round fight, with the deck stacked against you, it takes great mental strength to fight in front of the other fighter’s fans and achieve like how you have in the gym.

Enter the disease of COVID-19.

Fights now will be budgeted differently, and the logistics of these bouts will be nightmares. That being said, could discomfort, global uneasy, and unsteady training circumstances, for example, many professional fighters don’t have a gym to train in currently, could this benefit the fighters who have always been beaten before entering the ring on fight night.

On the terms of anonymity a few fighters who could fall around this category, whom I spoke to, but am withholding their name so the general fight fan will not label them as a lesser fighter, saw the prospects of these bouts as exciting. One even expressed that it will feel much more familiar and normal then a professional fight, as their career had seen large gaps of inactivity despite being in the gym daily training, as management issues, lack of a steady promoter, and a loss on their record hurt their career. 

On the other side, some fighters feel as though they have made it once they got signed by a major promoter. That being said, they haven’t.

This pandemic could see some fighters in ideal spots training, but not learning. What I mean by that is, they are keeping their body in shape, but might be doing so alone, focusing on fitness goals and/or things in the gym they excel at, but without another set of eyes helping with what is needed to change. The biggest cardinal sin in boxing in terms of training, besides not training often, is to train yourself and/or for the fighter to run their own camp, once that happens the margin for error becomes thin. Fighters who opt to run their camps during and after this pandemic quite possibly could be the most vulnerable and could seem themselves losing and without a promoter in the next year.

 For those expect boxing bouts of the past or classic, I hate to break it to you, but that is not what you’re going to see. Fighters timing will be iffy in a lot of bouts, outside of big money fighters, and the pace might be dramatically slower based on the new conditions we live in.

In short, without writing too many words, the new conditions might create a new playing field which then in return could produce unexpected results. In short, boxing might get a bit more interesting over the next months as we return.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle