Thursday, December 1, 2016

Was Walters Decision Career Damaging?

One of the topics of discussion with regard to the sport of Boxing over the last week has been the outcome of the November 26th WBO Jr. Lightweight world championship fight between two-division world champion Vasyl Lomachenko and former WBA Featherweight world champion Nicholas Walters. It was a highly anticipated encounter between two of the best fighters in the world. The champion Lomachenko, one of the most decorated amateur boxers in history having finished his amateur career with an incredible record of 396-1 and earned two Olympic gold medals before embarking on a professional career where in only eight previous professional bouts prior to his title defense against Nicholas Walters, had won seven of those eight fights and had already earned two professional world championships in two different weight classes.

The challenger Walters had earned a reputation as a fighter with punching power in either hand having scored knockouts in twenty-one of his twenty-six victories his professional registering a career knockout percentage of 75%. Walters established himself with two devastating knockout victories over former world champions Vic Darchinyan and Nonito Donaire. Walters’ victory over Donaire in October 2014 earned him the WBA Featherweight world championship. Walters reign as champion however, would be short-lived as he failed to make weight prior to what would have been his first title defense against Miguel Marriaga in June of last year.

Normally when a fighter loses a world championship not in the ring, but on the weight scale because that fighter for one reason or another could not make that weight limit for a scheduled title defense, questions in regard to both a fighter’s commitment to training as well as whether or not they can physically compete in a weight class after having trouble making the weight limit are logical to ask. In Walters case, this observer believes it was not a lack of dedication to training, but perhaps naturally outgrowing the 126lb. Featherweight limit as the likely cause of his not making weight for his bout with Marriaga.

After defeating Marriaga under a scenario where he could not retain his world championship, Walters moved up in weight to the 130lb. Jr. Lightweight division in December of last year where he fought a ten round draw against current WBA number one Jr. Lightweight contender Jason Sosa. This set the stage for Lomachenko in Walters to square off for Lomachenko’s WBO Jr. Lightweight world championship at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, NV in a fight that appeared on paper to be a potential Fight of the Year candidate.
As this observer has often said over the years however, sometimes what appears to be a good or even great fight on paper does not always materialize when two fighters face each other in the ring. For seven rounds, the champion Lomachenko dominated the former Featherweight world champion Walters by outworking and out boxing him from the outset in a bout that was one-sided. It was at the end of the seventh round that Walters made the decision to stop the fight.

Although the contest between two was dictated and controlled by Lomachenko from start to finish and Walters did not appear as though he was incapable of continuing the combat, his decision to stop the fight might be seen as a move that could have a serious long-term damaging impact on his career going forward. This is of course not the first time that a fighter has made a choice to stop fighting rather than continue on.

Many remember the second encounter between Boxing legends Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard in November 1980. A fight that will forever be known as “No Mas.” Leonard used hand speed, lateral movement, taunting, and showboating to execute a fight plan that thoroughly frustrated Duran into quitting in the eighth round uttering the words “No Mas” or “No More.” Although Duran had claimed he quit due to stomach cramps, some including this observer, believe Duran’s frustration in not being able to neutralize Leonard’s movement or to stop Leonard from showboating and taunting him ended up getting the best of him resulting in the legend quitting in disgust and surrendering the Welterweight world championship that he had taken from Leonard in their first encounter earlier that year.

Some may also remember former longtime Heavyweight contender Andrew Golota and two fights where he signaled his surrender. The first came in his 1999 bout against then undefeated rising contender Michael Grant, where Golota floored Grant in the first round, only to be knocked down himself in the tenth round where after getting up from the knockdown Golota told Referee Randy Neumann that he did not want to fight resulting in the bout being stopped.  The second fight came nearly a year later when Golota quit after two rounds in his bout against Mike Tyson. A scene that will be remembered for Golota being hit with drinks and other debris as he fled the ring following the fight being stopped.

In both cases, the losses did inflict some damage to both fighters. Duran experienced further struggle after his loss in the second of three fights against Sugar Ray Leonard, losing to Wilfred Benitez and Kirkland Laing before winning the WBA Jr. Middleweight world championship in June 1983 with a knockout win over previously undefeated champion Davey Moore. Even though Andrew Golota would not win a world championship in his career, he did go on to challenge for a Heavyweight world championship on three separate occasions following his losses to Grant and Tyson in a career where he fought for a world championship four times overall.

The question some might ask after Nicholas Walters choosing to stop his fight against Vasyl Lomachenko is will that decision damage his career going forward? For his part, Walters stated after the fight that he had been hurt in the seventh round by Lomachenko and that he had been holding on just to survive the round and that in his words it would have been stupid to come out after that round. Walters also stated that Lomachenko had been more active than himself in terms of how often he fights, which may lead one to believe that Walters, who had not fought in nearly a year may have been affected by ring rust.

Although the crowd who was in attendance voice their dissatisfaction of Walters by booing him as he attempted to give an explanation, one should be impressed with his candor in that he acknowledged that he had been hurt by Lomachenko in the previous round and hinting at the possibility that his inactivity prior to this fight may have worked against him. Whether or not this loss, the first of Walters career and more specifically the way the loss came will ultimately be career damaging is anyone’s guess, but in this observer’s eyes it will only be what Walters does going forward that will determine just how much damage will be done.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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