THE MOST OVERUSED EXCUSE fans use to protect their favorite boxer is:
"When my boxer lost he was PAST HIS PRIME"
- "He was shot"
- "He was shot to pieces"
- "He was old as f*ck"
- "He was past his peak"
- "He was declining while his opponent was peaking"
- "Wheelchair Boxing Federation"
- "Grandpa wouldn't stop"
- "The eye of the geezer"
So whatever you try to say to AliFans (e.g. about Ali vs Larry Holmes) or to Lennox fans (about the performance against Vitali Klitschko) they pretty fast will claim:
- "Muhammad Ali was past-prime"
- and "Lennox Lewis was fat and old"
This killer argument ("KO argument") is even twisted by accusing the other boxer of a bad performance:
- "Larry Holmes sucks because he couldn't properly handle a shot Muhammad Ali"
- "Overweight past-prime Lennox Lewis won against Vitali Klitschko thus Vitali Klitschko can never be an ATG"
What is the definition of "the prime of a boxer"? When is a boxer in his prime?
The first problem is that the prime of a boxer is utterly subjective.
Boxing fans simply decide "The prime of Muhammad Ali was 1967" (= this was the year where they think Ali performed best) by no objective standards.
They might say
- "It was his prime because look how fast he was then, and how slow he was later"
- or "Look how he could withstand punches in his prime"
- or "Look, he was one of the youngest world champs thus this was his prime"
- or "Look how athletic he was".
It's utterly subjective and you can find a lot of reasons to declare someone "in his prime" or "past his prime".
The truth about the "prime in boxing"
Let me tell you how I see things:
There are SEVERAL PRIMES = DIFFERENT PRIMES of a boxer = Different ATTRIBUTES that PEAK at different times.
There is the speed prime.
There is the chin prime.
There is the stamina prime.
There is the athleticism prime.
There is the the body toll prime (body injury prime) (which decreases after every fight and heals during longer breaks)
There is the hunger and dedication prime.
There is the reflex prime.
There is the prime of the power/accuracy/snap of the punch…
There is the mobility prime prime (footwork, head movement, …).
Thus THE PRIME is when the COMBINED attributes add up to a "high level package of attributes".
In other words: A boxer may NEVER have a prime per se, only a high level combination of SEVERAL peaking (or near-peaking) attributes.
The Prime of a heavyweight boxer
Now, Nobody denies that a heavyweight boxer loses speed the older he gets.
But at the same time he may gain chin and resistance.
It was early Ali who was viciously knocked down by featherfist ·Henry Cooper 185 lbs not older Ali 12 years later against George Foreman 220 lbs or even older Ali (another 5 years later) against ·Larry Holmes.
Especially at heavyweight (where you need to do only 1 or 2 things really well) speed, athleticism etc are not as necessary as in lower divisions, since they can be substituted by other attributes.
At heavyweight the prime of a boxer
may be LATER and more PROLONGED
than at lower weight classes
In other words:
- Especially at heavyweight it's very difficult to assess prime. A boxer might be SLOWER than 4 years ago, and yet his stamina and power might have increased and compensate for the loss of speed.
- A heavyweight boxer's prime can indeed be in his mid-30ies (as opposed to other weight classes, and other sports actually).
I am not saying that these different "attribute primes" follow the same Gauss bell patterns for all boxers.
And I am not claiming that for ALL boxers "chin" will harden (or soften) as they get older.
And I am not saying that attribute XYZ peaks at the same year for every boxer.
But I am saying that
- prime is more difficult to assess for heavyweight boxers
- matching the right opponent for the current state of "set of your attributes" is more important at heavyweight than at other weight classes thus even older heavyweights might have huge wins EVEN AFTER their speed and reaction has faded.
In other words: Matching a heavyweight opponent to your current set of abilities can prolong your winning streak.
Therefore careful matchmaking (even after your supposed prime) may be more important than the actual physical attributes themselves (like speed and out-of-shape'ness).
How important is experience at heavyweight boxing?
Let's not forget experience.
Experience knows no prime because it increases with every fight.
Since at heavyweight boxers have usually LESS fights (than in other weight divisions) it means:
- Every additional fight counts more at heavyweight than an additional fight at lower weights.
- Additionally heavyweight boxers (as opposed to lower weight divisions) are far more diversified when it comes to boxing types and boxing styles therefore every fight increases the experience a lot
- Therefore a heavyweight with, say, 10 more fights on the record than his opponent has a far greater experience advantage than, say, a featherweight with 10 fights more.
In other words: Especially at heavyweight EXPERIENCE is a HUGE ASSET.
And: Experience at heavyweight might be a bigger asset than at lower weights.
And: Experience may be more important than prime'ness in certain constellations.
And: Experience at heavyweight may be a substitute for a lot of other attributes.
A lesson in spin doctoring: Arguing with primes and eras is worthless
This "prime argument" (and some other arguments) is so worthless that you can always spin in the other way around, too.
Here are some examples how I can spin the SAME EVENT to its opposite:
- Lennox Lewis fan: "Vitali couldn't beat an out-of shape Lennox"
Me: "Lewis chubbiness helped to withstand Vitali's attacks"
- Lennox Lewis fan: "Vitali couldn't beat a past-prime Lennox Lewis"
Me: "Past prime by whose standards? Lennox' body was in less athletic shape but that does not mean that Lennox was past-prime"
- Lennox Lewis fan: "Vitali couldn't beat a past-prime Lennox Lewis"
Me: "If you argue with prime then I claim 'pre-prime Vitali lost against a near-prime Lennox'"
- Lennox Lewis fan: "Vitali couldn't beat the oldest version of Lennox in his very last fight"
Me: "Vitali retired Lewis"
- Lennox Lewis fan: "Vitali failed against the most inactive version of Lennox (1 year layoff of total inactivity)"
Me: "A long time to heal wounds. He may have been more healthy and refreshed than ever."
- Lennox Lewis fan: "Vitali was a lot younger, faster, and stronger than nowadays"
Me: "Whatever he was, he was definitely LESS experienced"
- Lennox Lewis hater: "No heavyweight champ can be considered an ATG when knocked out twice in his prime by ONE PUNCH from sub-par fighters. end of. " (original quote)
Me: "That Lennox was prime when he got KO'ed is pure speculation. Maybe he was pre-prime and Rahman and McCall were in their primes."
- AliFan: "Ali is an ATG. No one could beat Ali in his prime"
Me: "That's circular logic because if someone DID beat Ali in his prime then you'd claim that Ali wasn't in his prime."
- Tyson fan: "Tyson won because he was such a good boxer"
Tyson hater: "Tyson only won because the era was bad"
- Tyson hater: "Tyson lost because he's such a bad boxer"
Tyson fan: "Tyson lost? Damn it, what a good era with tough opponents!" or "That was Tyson BEFORE/AFTER his prime. Nobody beat Tyson in his prime!"
You see, you can take the exact same data as SPIN IT and then COME TO THE OPPOSITE CONCLUSION. That is always possible if someone argues with "bad era" or "prime".
The boxing prime: The excuse and the virtue
"Prime" is not only used as an excuse ("Well, my boxer was shot, that's why he lost").
It's also used as a virtue: "Look how past-prime Ali won against Earnie Shavers".
The "prime argument" is used to diminish losses and heighten wins.
But, sorry, I disagree. If a boxer steps into the ring he steps into the ring. He should know best what he is capable of. Any argument like "He was pre-prime" or "His mother died" is an interesting anecdote but nevertheless it's revisionistic and tries to diminish the accomplishments of his opponent.
To all "prime arguers": Be careful what you argue for!
A typical claim is the following:
"Ali (29yro) was past-prime when he lost to Frazier. Joe Frazier never beat the prime Ali".
Now, if you as an AliFan consider 29 years "past prime" then just be careful that somebody doesn't check how many opponents Ali beat who were past THEIR prime (>= 29 years).
In other words: If you diminish Ali's loss by the "prime argument" you have to accept that others diminish Ali's wins against opponents who were also 29 years and older.
Let's check whom we would have to erase off Ali's record who was supposedly past prime:
|Sonny Liston||33.0 (official age)|
Fistic Statistic [#2613.1]
Let's check Mike Tyson, whose fans seriously claim he was past-prime at age 25.
Let's check whom Tyson fought who was 25 and older…
Oops… nearly everybody whom Tyson fought was 25 and older. In fact EVERY non-bum Tyson faced was 25 or older (average age of Mike Tyson's opponents 30.99 years. Average age of Tyson's opponents he lost to is 33.0 years).
Lennox Lewis could only beat a past-prime Mike Tyson
In Tyson's case it gets especially bizarre since his loss to Lennox Lewis is nearly 100% attributed to Tyson's age. Yet it's utterly ignored that Lennox was even older.
If someone claims "A boxer was shot at age X"
then one should immediately delete off the record all opponents who were as old.
Fair is fair.
The prime argument is a killer argument. And since assessing prime is subjective it's a near-worthless killer argument.