RANKING BOXERS BY THEIR RECORD leads soon to a problem: Instantly others will bring up losses. And instantly after someone brought up losses someone else will say "but he avenged his losses" or "he failed to avenge his losses".
Thus, believe it or not, the assessment of losses causes huge problems.
Please note: This article is part of a multi-part series:
- Heavyweight Boxing Rankings (1) pound for pound, head to head, record for record
- Heavyweight Boxing Rankings (2) A common sense formula -OR- Ratio*Quality
- Heavyweight Boxing Rankings (3) TOP 10 by boxing experts -OR- Grandpa's champions
- Heavyweight Boxing Rankings (4) Head-to-head toplists by trick questions
- Heavyweight Boxing Rankings (5) Losses and avenged losses
- Heavyweight Boxing Rankings (6) The all time greatest boxer
Losses dilemma #1 (The low number of losses)
Since we are compiling toplists the boxers on the toplist will have only little losses (otherwise they would be not considered "top").
But since these top boxers have only little losses (e.g. 2 losses in 40 fights) it's stupid to draw too many conclusions from these 2 losses, just as it would be stupid to draw too many conclusions from 2 wins in 40 fights.
Losses dilemma #2 (49 > 220)?
Another problem are flawless records (= zero losses). Is a record of 49-0 better than 50-1?
I know 49-0 sounds good…
- "He retired unbeaten"
- "No man touched his belt"
- "Flawless career, stainless record"
- "Not one dent in his crown"
- "He beat every man he ever faced"
- "49 tried, 49 failed"
…but isn't having twice as many wins and a few losses even more impressive?
As you may know ·Brian Nielsen also had a record of 49-0 (like Marciano) but then continued boxing (unlike Marciano) and stands now at 64-3. Shouldn't that be more impressive?
If you go by the logic of Lou Duva (trainer of Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis) who said "To me, the best heavyweight of all time is Marciano: No one ever beat him!" then
- even 1 loss on your record (no matter how strong the opponent has been and whether avenged or not) kills your aspirations for the #1 position
- and possibly anything below 49 wins excludes you from consideration for the #1 position
A continuation of that logic would be "A boxer with 3 losses is always better than someone with 4 losses".
Sorry, but such a "career reduction" to a simple "Win-Loss formula" is totally wrong in my view.
Losses dilemma #3 (Is a KO'loss worse than a loss by decision?)
Many will automatically agree ("KO'loss is worse than UDloss"), but think about it:
A loss by UD is probably deserved, whereas a loss by KO could be merely a fluke (as we are talking about heavyweight here where lucky punches can happen any moment), watch ·Audley Harrison vs ·Michael Sprott II or ·Serhai Liakovich vs ·Shannon Briggs for example.
Is a KO'loss by RTD (= boxer refuses to continue to fight and retires) worse than by KO? A boxer who (for non-injury-related reasons) retires on his chair basically admits that he is completely outclassed and that he doesn't even believe in his chance to land a lucky punch.
Thus when considering the above points you might come to the (unsatisfying) conclusion that RTD > UD > KO.
- Is losing by DQ (disqualification) better than by UD?
- Is a flash KO (= 1 bingo punch that knocks you out) worse than a wear-out KO?" (= being battered for several rounds until the body gives up)?
- Is having gassed (= out-pace oneself) better than losing by being knocked down/out?
- Is a TKO (referee decides "Enough!") better than a KO (boxer lies on the floor)?
Losses dilemma #4 ("It's no shame to lose against an ATG")
Is losing against a bum[?], e.g. George Foreman vs Jimmy Young (34-19) or Muhammad Ali vs Leon Spinks (26-17) better than against an ATG?
Think about it:
Muhammad Ali (ATG) losing to Leon Spinks (bum) doesn't make Ali less than Spinks.
And it doesn't make Spinks more than Ali.
But Foreman (ATG) losing to Ali (ATG) may very well make Foreman less than Ali, at least in the eyes of the normal boxing fan.
This is a hidden standard ("Losing to an ATG is a proof, to a bum is a goof") that is never openly addressed but influences toplist results a lot.
A variation is: Is being KO'ed by an ATG featherfist (like Evander Holyfield) worse than by a non-ATG featherfist (Buster Douglas)?
Is being KO'ed by an ATG featherfist (like Mohamed Ali) worse than by a bummy puncher (like Ross Puritty)?
Losses dilemma #5 (Is losing against the best boxer of all times meaningless?)
Let's say you compiled your toplist. And let's say that the result would be that the #1 toppest boxer of all time is ·Larry Holmes (just to use an example).
It's pretty obvious that most of the boxers on the list (#2-#99) would LOSE against Larry Holmes, the best boxer of all time.
Rocky Marciano would lose, Muhammad Ali would lose (he actually did), Riddick Bowe would lose as would others.
But can you deduct ANYTHING from those losses? The main statement would be "Riddick Bowe lost against the best boxer of all time" but that would be pretty obvious for most others on the toplist, too. So we have again a case where losses don't lead to a conclusion.
Losses dilemma #6 (Avenged losses)
You have heard it all before:
- "He is ATG. He avenged all his losses!"
- "He didn't avenge his KO'loss, he ducks!"
- "It's avenged. Get over it!"
Is a loss that has been avenged not a loss anymore or less of a loss?
Is a non-avenged loss more of a loss?
Is losing (1st fight) and then winning (2nd fight = avenging) better than winning (1st fight) and then losing (2nd fight) (= a loss that technically has not been avenged)?
Does losing (1st fight) and then winning (clean slate) and then winning (3rd fight) equal 1 single win?
Does losing (1st fight) and then losing again (2nd fight) and then winning (3rd fight) equal avenging? Or would you have to avenge 2 times to wipe the slate clean?
Losses dilemma #7 ("He has his house number")
Is losing 2 times to the same opponent (·Oleg Maskaev vs ·Hasim Rahman, ·George Foreman vs ·Joe Frazier) worse than losing only 1 time? Or is it rather a proof that "Maskaev simply had Rahman's number" and that Foreman's style "is all wrong for Frazier who is otherwise an ATG"?
·Sam Langford lost 14x to ·Harry Wills. What do we do with these losses? Are 20 losses as meaningful as 10 losses? Is Harry Wills the best boxer ever because he won 14x against Sam Langford (approximate career record of Sam Langford is 200-50)? Should be count not "How many opponents" but "How many different/unique opponents"?
Losses dilemma #8 ("Moebius Opponents")
But who are Norton and Frazier? And why are they important? Well, it turns out that they're mainly famous for fighting Ali.
Frazier wins against Ali ("Joe Frazier beat Ali! Joe Frazier beat Ali!")
and then Ali beats Frazier ("Ali beat FRAZIAAAH")
The same with Norton:
Ken Norton wins against Ali ("Ken Norton beat Ali! Ken Norton beat Ali!")
then Ali beats Norton ("Ali beat NORRRRTON")
You might say that it's actually the LOSS (of Ali) that first creates the illusion of "top level opposition" and then the win of Ali that creates the illusion of "overcoming the top level opposition". In reality Frazier and Norton may have been nothing special. Frazier (5'10") was blind on his left eye (Frazier's half-blindness and training on raw meat in the butcher's room were the blueprint for the "Rocky" movie) and Ken Norton was easily KO'ed by the first hard punchers he faced (KO2, KO1, KO1).
In other words: The Loss/Avenging-Illusion sometimes disproportionally secures a top position in a toplist.
Losses dilemma #9 (Your win is somebody else's win)
Let's take again the example of Ken Norton and Joe Frazier.
After Foreman exposed Ken Norton and put Frazier on his place, Norton and Frazier wanted no further part of Foreman.
In other words: A badly beaten fighter may choose an easier road and fight an easier opponent against whom he has better chances (Ali). Thus the losses that Foreman inflicted on Norton and Frazier increase Ali's chances to fight them again thus suddenly Ali has 6 signature fights (3x Norton, 3x Frazier) whereas Foreman has only 3 (2x Frazier, 1x Norton). Thus the losses you inflict may lead to fighters ducking you and may lead to a better record for somebody else.
Losses dilemma #1o (The career you end might be your own)
The more violent (KO, dominance) you finish your opponent the more likely it is that he ends his career rather sooner than later.
In other words: If you consider the quality of opposition (e.g. based on the career record) in your toplist calculations then featherfists have an advantage.
Losses dilemma #11 (Losses outside of your prime)
Should a loss be valued less if a boxer was was past-prime? Or pre-prime?
Which, by the way, opens the questions whether a WIN should be valued MORE if past-prime. Or whether a WIN should be valued LESS if in-prime. And how do we define prime?
Some seriously claim that Muhammad Ali's prime was at 25 years of age (prior to the 3-year-ban). And that Tyson prime was at 22 (prior to Buster Douglas). And then whenever you mention some losses of Tyson (Buster Douglas, Evander Holyfield, …) or losses of Ali (Frazier, Norton) they counter with "Oh, he was past his prime" or "He was shot" or "He was not the old boxer anymore" or "The speed was gone" or similar. It also works the other way around: Jimmy Young was "pre-prime" or "mismanaged at the beginning of his career".
The "Prime Problem" can be a huge issue when you assess wins and losses for toplists.
Aside from losses: Draws are also hard to evaluate.
If you think that a draw is "a half win" ("Unbelievable! Jimmy Young DREW with Earnie Shavers! We have to acknowledge Jimmy Young by counting it as 1/2 win") then you basically claim that it's also "a half loss". Then 10 draws on the record (Jack Johnson) would equal 5 losses and 50+ draws (Sam Langford, ·Dave Shade, ·Matty Baldwin) would equal 25 to 30 losses which (since we are comparing top boxers with only little losses on their record) would be very detrimental to a record's worth.
Another problem is that there are several types of draws
- All judges see it draw (draw-draw-draw)
- All judges see it differently (win-loss-draw)
- 2 judges see it draw (draw-draw-win or draw-draw-loss) ("Majority draw")
In cases 1 and 2 it's a 50:50 thing. In case 3 it's not. Thus if you tried to evaluate draws correctly you needed to know the exact score which in most cases is unknown, especially the further back you go in time.
How I see Losses and Draws
Because of all the dilemmas mentioned above I think that draws and losses SHOULD be taken into consideration (to not punish boxers with only little losses) but only as "per-fight-ratios" (e.g. "Win/Fight Ratio", "KO'wins/Fight Ratio")
- without considering the quality of opponent whom you lost/drew to
- without differentiating between the type of KO (RTD, KO, TKO)
- but with differentiating between UD, SD and MD losses (valued as 100%, 83%, 67% loss).
This DIFFERS from how you should value wins: The wins SHOULD DEFINITELY INCLUDE
- the quality of opposition (the better the opposition the better the win)