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Alone Again, Naturally
By Joe Trabucco (May 29, 2004) 
Everyone knows someone or is someone that is extremely needy when it comes to relationships. As soon as they meet someone, they begin to ask themselves questions like, “are they the ‘one’?” They are so eager for something exciting to talk about in their lives, they will overlook the fact that any meaningful relationship needs to be built up over time. We need that time to appreciate, not only their virtues, but also their faults. The second part is most important, because we are all human, and, therefore, extremely prone to mistakes. Before you begin to think that you accidentally clicked on a dating tips website, please allow me to elaborate.

This is the relationship we see today, between fight fans and fighters. We fight fans have become a pathetic bunch. So yearning for the days of tried and true warriors that we are willing to hop on just about anyone’s bandwagon. Provided they meet one important criterion, they must appear perfect. Our “next big thing” must have the ability, if called upon, to defeat anyone or anything in the universe I truly believe this is why we see so many “soft” opponents for big name fighters. Management teams today know that one big loss can set you back a few years. Patience is not a word I would use to describe boxing fans, but it should be.

Recently, boxers, minus the heavyweight division, are beginning to take some chances, and we are finally seeing the best versus the best. Wright/Mosley, Pacquiao/Marquez, and Jones/Tarver, not to mention many exciting fights lined up for the future. But if we want to continue to see great match ups, fight fans are going to have to get a grip, and let the question of who’s the best be answered in the ring.

Ten seconds after Antonio Tarver’s left hand destroyed the aura of invincibility of Roy Jones, JR., everyone began asking, “who’s the best, pound for pound now?” We were in a panic. Our secure world was shattered, as well. We could, no longer, use Roy Jones, so matter of fact, when the issue came up. The search for someone new was on.

Since that fight, I have seen Antonio Tarver’s face every where. Not that he hasn’t deserved the adulation he has received, but you sense that everyone is trying to replace Roy. We need a new Superman, desperately. Who’s name will we be able to drop to prove our boxing knowledge? We haven’t felt this alone in years.

I’ve got a great idea, though. Let’s not replace Roy with anyone. Why not wait for a guy’s career to wind down or, even better, over, before we start asking questions like, “Is he the best ever?”, or “Where does he rank with other great fighters?” Fighters should have to prove themselves with their fists, not with their mouths. But if we keep buying it, they’ll keep selling it.

This is my great fear with people like Antonio Tarver and Floyd Mayweather, JR. They have the tremendous skills necessary to be great fighter’s. They also lack any modesty. Which, since Muhammad Ali, has also been a trademark of a great fighter. At least, one that wants to make any money. Bear in mind, though, they have 55 fights between them. 55! Harry Greb is rolling over in his grave right now.

For me, the most important ingredient needed to test greatness, is longevity. You need to be great throughout an entire career, before the label of greatness is granted. Not only do we have to see your successes, but also, how you overcome failures. Ali would have never been Ali, without the ups and downs we saw him go through. That’s how you earn respect.

Arturo Gatti is a more recent example. If you look at his fight by fight record on paper, it is less than awe-inspiring. However, over the past decade, fight fans have come to expect something exciting every time he steps into the ring, win, lose, or draw. He doesn’t have to be perfect for us to cheer for him. He just has to be Arturo Gatti. He’ll probably coast these next few years before retiring, but he’s earned it. He’ll be remembered, because we were right there with him through all of his wars.

So here we are, once again, without a universally recognized “Pound for Pound” best. It is an exciting time, because you want to see who establishes themselves, and stands out. But we need to realize that we are coming out of a relationship, and shouldn’t just jump back into another one. A rebound never works out in the long run. It’s a long, hard road to win fan devotion, but as Arturo Gatti can attest, once you have it, you never lose it. That’s more important than people assuming that you’re the best.
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