Ted Sares is back this afternoon with a look at the way your favorite fighters can often break your heart if you let them.
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Never fall in love with a fighter. If you do, he’ll likely break your heart. And try as I may, this is something to which I have never become inured.
When Paul Briggs recently was “waxed” by one of Danny Green’s pawing air shots, many of Paul’s fans were crushed–not so much that he lost, but by the way he lost. Heck, I even took his photo off my website. But having one of your favorite boxer’s break your heart is nothing new. It’s been happening to me since at least 1951.
Joe Louis (1951)
Joe Louis did it in 1951 when he fought Rocky Marciano for purse money with which to pay back his taxes to an unforgiving government. When he was brutally knocked through the ropes in the eighth round, millions wept openly. As a 14-year old, I was one of them.
Earlier, “The Brown Bomber” had done the same thing to Billy Conn in their second fight in 1946 and earned Billy the Associated Press’s annual “Flop of the Year” award. Millions of Irish hearts were broken after that one.
Bob Satterfield (the 1950’s)
“Rapid Robert” was a heartbreaker extraordinaire largely because he was a chill-or-be-chilled type and could get iced at any time in a fight. For example, in 1951, Rex Layne was decked for an eight count in the 1st stanza from a Satterfield right, but then Rex came back to deck Satterfield with a single but hard left hook in the 8th. After Satterfield got up on rubbery legs, referee Mark Conn stopped the bout-and I wept. Hell, Satterfield was beating the hell out of him for the entire fight. Of course; he had done the same to many other fighters (like Lee Oma, Cleveland Williams, and Chuck Hunter) who forgot that Bob could ice them at any time in a fight.
Jerry Quarry (1977)
Irish Jerry was one of my favorites, but when he beat Lorenzo Zanaon in 1977, it was extremely difficult to watch. His reflexes were gone and he was a shell of his former self. Still, he won. But when he fought Ron Cranmer in 1992, it was just plain criminal. It was as heart breaking as anything one could imagine. He deserved better.
Muhammad Ali (1980)
When Muhammad Ali lost to Larry Holmes in 1980, he lost with neither dignity nor grace. And once again, I wept along with millions. My heart had been broken, for I had fallen in love with Ali by then. But like so many before him, he could not resist the call; he could not stay away. And he paid a high price.
Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini (1992)
In 1992, the ultra-popular Ray Mancini made an ill-advised comeback by taking on rugged Greg Haugen. Ray heard the call and foolishly answered it. Haugen fulfilled the role of ring villain perfectly as he took out “Boom Boom” with head snapping shots in the seventh round. Perhaps it was a kind of redemption for what Ray had done to Bobby Chacon in 1984. However, Chacon, unlike Mancini, finished his great career with seven straight wins against stiff opposition. Though Bobby would later experience tragic personal misfortunes, he managed to leave boxing with his head held high.
Terry Norris (1997-98)
Watching this once great light middleweight lose his last three to Laurent Boudouani, Dana Rosenblatt, and Keith Mullings was almost as gut-wrenching as watching him lose two consecutive DQ’s to Luis Santana. Of course he perpetrated a beat down on Sugar Ray Leonard which set Sugar up for a heartbreaking finish against The Macho Man.
Leonard and Duran (1997-99)
Speaking of Sugar Ray Leonard, on March 1, 1997, he made a poorly thought-out comeback and disappointed his legions of fans when he was mugged and mauled by Hector “Macho” Camacho in five rounds in Atlantic City. It was a vicious, neck-snapping l end to a great career. Two years later, Roberto Duran joined Sugar Ray in a heartbreaking episode when he was stopped by William Joppy in three rounds of beat down. This was ugly stuff to watch.
Mike Tyson (2004-5)
After Lennox Lewis KOd Mike Tyson in 2002, “Iron Mike” redeemed himself to some extent with a spectacular KO of Clifford “The Black Rhino” Etienne. However, that set him up for a big fall when he was taken out by a sudden and shocking 23-punch volley by Danny Williams in just four cantos. Hulking Kevin McBride put a finisher on this gut-wrenching process when he bullied the bully and forced Mike to quit on his stool in 2005 in Washington D.C. as a stunned and heartbroken house looked on in disbelief.
Arturo “Thunder” Gatti (2007)
Who can forget how the beloved Arturo Gatti was savaged by Alfonso Gomez in 2007. It was a horrific experience for hard-core Gatti fans to watch as his face was busted up by the younger, albeit relentless fighter who smelled blood and went after it without mercy.
Oscar De La Hoya (2008)
Most recently, Oscar De La Hoya was subjected to a beat down by Manny Pacquiao that surely broke the hearts of his many fans and put a dent in his legacy.
There are many other examples that affirm and punctuate the dangers of falling in love with a boxer. Some might say that Nigel Benn’s first loss to Steve Collins was a heart breaker, but Nigel’s fighting spirit was all but gone after the tragic McClellan fight. If only he had retired right there and then. Chris Eubank also lost to Collins and that was hard to take as well.
Roy Jones, Jr. (2010)
The great Jones had any number of opportunities to get out. He could have retired after beating John Ruiz but no, he decided to fight on despite being weight drained and gaunt. Antonio Tarver proved what a foolish decision that was in their second match. Still, Jones got another solid opportunity by beating Anthony Hanshaw and Tito Trinidad, but he insisted on staying, and in the process, let his legions of fans down as he was humbled and bloodied over twelve rounds by Joe Calzaghe. Incredibly, he had what amounted to a third chance to get out after beating Omar Sheika and Jeff Lacey in 2009. By then, his record was 54-5 and he had the wherewithal to leave on a positive note. But it was not to be. Inexplicitly, he went on to fight Australian Danny Green and Bernard Hopkins and succeeded in breaking hearts from Seoul, South Korea, to Pensacola, Florida.
Ironically, Roy may have done the same thing to Puerto Rican fans when he dominated Tito Trinidad over 12 rounds in Madison Square Garden in 2008.
As for Bernard Hopkins, he appears to be one fight away from either leaving with his great legacy fully intact or in breaking hearts. Let’s hope it’s the former. James Toney, however, seems determined to stick around and finally get that one final beating that many just might remember him by. It doesn’t have to be, but it appears inevitable. Time will tell.
Marciano, Monzon, Lewis, Lopez, Nunn, and Collins
Some broke the mold including Rocky Marciano, Carlos Monzon, Lennox Lewis, Ricardo Lopez, Michael Nunn, and Brian Mitchell. Marvelous Marvin Hagler came oh so close, but Sugar Ray Leonard ruined his going away party. Henry Maske broke German hearts in 1996, but won them back eleven years later with a remarkable redemptive win over Virgil Hill. Dariusz Michalczewski was unable to do the same.
Joe Calzaghe (2008)
Joe joined those who broke the mold when he announced his retirement with a perfect record and a guaranteed legacy as one of the truly great fighters and clearly one of the greatest British boxers ever. His fans have fallen in love with him over the years and rightly so, but will he stay retired or will he too hear that call that says “come on back.” Someone like Chad Dawson or Carl Froch is out there waiting? Will the temptation be too great?
Remember, if you fall in love with a fighter, he’ll break your heart just about every time and Joe Calzaghe will likely not be an exception. Be on guard.