Last Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints maintained their unbeaten records in the National Football League, hopeful perhaps of attaining an unprecedented nineteen straight victories in a single season/playoff cycle. In College Football, powerhouses Alabama, Texas, TCU, Boise State, and Cincinnati all ended their regular seasons without a loss, and each will be awarded with big-money bowl games. 12-0. 13-0. 19-0. Sports fans and athletes alike seem to have an obsession with the goose egg.
Possibly in no other sport, however, do goose eggs glow as bright as they do in boxing.
Unlike in other sports, a boxer’s record doesn’t reset every season. The record must be tried and tested and tempered again and again, for years and years until its worth is really realized. In the modern age, this principle can reflect a fighter’s progression. 0-0? Throw in some green hams with your goose egg. 10-0? Match prospect for prospect and see what’s what. 20-0? Maybe, if a fighter’s special enough, a respected world titlist can be given the opportunity to crack the record. 30-0? Better start the legacy building after getting that far. Nobody wants another Dmitriy Salita.
Of course, only the truly talented travel such a fast track. But perhaps only the very gifted deserve to bask in the warm glow the goose egg gives off. Undefeated records can be many things. Confidence builders. Marketing tools. Stamps-of-approval. Sheep’s clothing.
For example, does Andre Berto’s 25-0 mark speak more to his talent or to his competition? Shane Mosley wants to know. When Mosley was the proud owner of a goose egg, Oscar De La Hoya wanted to know. Mosley gave him the answer. Can Berto give Mosley his?
These questions are asked all the time of unbeaten fighters. How good are they? I mean, really? And the questions only get louder when a fighter retires. Sven Ottke? He beat whom, again? Joe Calzaghe? Where was he earlier in the era? Rocky Marciano? Where were the guys his age? His size?
It’s almost as if the goose egg becomes a bull’s-eye for some fighters. And when the goose egg is cracked, some believe the loss reveals something significant.
Aaron Pryor? He lost a bout with cocaine. Riddick Bowe? He’ll forever be linked to Evander Holyfield. Naseem Hamed? He lost his heart to Marco Antonio Barrera, who never gave it back. Amir Khan? He has a porcelain jaw that he can never fix. Cris Arreola? He’ll never beat and he’ll never be a Klitschko. Paul Williams? He has problem with slick southpaws, a problem he might always have.
True or untrue, fair or unfair, that’s what was splattered on these fighters after their eggs were cracked. Different from other sports programs and other sports teams, fighters must live with that forever. Few care whom Florida lost to in the 2008 season because they won the national title. But a boxer’s loss shows up at every ring entrance, at every press conference, and at every fighter introduction.
So, which should a fighter prefer? The criticism applied to an unbeaten fighter? Or the stigma created and the lessons learned from a loss?
Some fighters choose neither. Some fighters choose not to care about the sting of loss. And some choose to polish their own goose eggs by cracking the goose eggs of others. It’s something Alabama and Texas will do in the national title game, and it’s something Timothy Bradley and Lamont Peterson will do next Saturday. But unlike the football programs in Tuscaloosa and Austin, Bradley and Peterson will be reminded of what happened between them each and every time they fight in the future.
They will be reminded of who still basks in the glow and who ended up with egg on his face.
- Floyd Mayweather, owner of boxing’s most famous active goose egg, is all but set to face Filipino firebrand Manny Pacquiao in March. I still say have it in Texas at Cowboys Stadium, but odds seem good it’ll end up in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand. But if Jerry Jones can match the money put up by the casino owners (and I think he can), it’d be nice to bring back big-time boxing to an American stadium. There’s no greater modern sports temple than Jerry Jones’ tribute to materialism…
- Seeing promoters and advisors irate on-camera after the Ali Funeka-Joan Guzman and Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez debacles is both funny and sad at the same time…
-I know the likelihood is next to nil, but just imagine if Lucian Bute replaced Jermain Taylor in the Super Six tournament. Bute would immediately be matched with Andre Ward, and a new RING champion would be crowned. Alas, as long as Bute remains unbeaten and out of the tournament, he’s going to hang over the Super Six like a bad cold…
- Roy Jones? Again? Sigh…