At the end of the WBO Title Fight at Vector Arena on Saturday night, one of the heavyweight contenders will taste defeat for the very first time as a pro-Boxer. Laauli Joseph Parker or Andy Ruiz Jr will know what defeat is on Saturday evening. The winner will go on undefeated, for a little longer yet.
Everyone gets beaten in the ring. That is as true as the rising of the sun in the morning.
In the modern history of Boxing, there has not been an undefeated heavyweight boxer. Everyone gets beaten sometime. Some great champions of recent times knew defeat long before becoming heavy weight champion of the world.
An example is James Buster Douglas, that great specimen of a boxer, who knocked down, and out the great Mike Tyson in Tokyo (1990).
Before he went to Tokyo to fight the undefeated and heavily favourred Mike Tyson (37-0), Douglas already had three losses to his name.
The first of his four losses was sustained inside his first ten fights (5th, David Bey), then came three close losses in the 21st (Mike White), 25th (Jesse Ferguson) and 29th fights (Tony Tucker).
Douglas rebuilt his career with seven straight wins after that to then face the indomitable Mike Tyson in Tokyo.
Tyson was the undefeated champion of the world. Not only that, Tyson had the longest winning streak in the history of the sport. He was facing Douglas with a 37-0 record. His running streak was even better than the great Muhammad Ali whose first loss came in Ali's 32nd fight against Joe Frazier.
Only British boxer Henry Akinwande is the closest to Tyson’s winning streak with his first loss in the 34th bout against another Brit, Lennox Lewis. But Akinwande did have a draw in his 19th fight (Axel Schulz).
Aside from Tyson, and perhaps Akinwande, everyone else of the modern heavyweight era lost a fight in the mid-20s. Lennox Lewis had his first loss in his 26th fight (Oliver McCall). Vladimir Klitschko had his first loss in his 25th fight. Klitschko’s brother Vitali had his first loss in his 28th fight. Evander Hollyfield in his 29th fight (Riddick Bowe) and again in the 32nd (Michael Moorer).
The point is, Parker and Ruiz will be in good company whoever loses on Saturday. And it is not the end of the boxing world for the loser at Vector Arena.
Although a defeat will be bitter, the loser will learn a lot from that defeat. The foundation for going forward is not in the defeat, but the victories to this point.
A boxer does not have a winning streak like Ruiz (29-0) and Parker (21-0) without knocking over other great fighters along the way.
Buster Douglas is a great example in this regard as someone who had four losses before he knocking out Mike Tyson.
Then there is Vladimir Klitschko who went on to fight 39 more fights (total 64 fights) and remained champion for ten years after his first loss. Lennox Lewis went on to dominate Heavyweight boxing in the late nineties until his retirement in 2003.
He had a rematch with McCall that he won. Lewis' list of victories is impressive –Mike Tyson, Shannon Briggs, Hasim Rahman, Henry Akinwande, Vitali Klitschko, Oliver McCall and others including a win over David Tua in his 40th fight.
He lost to Hasim Rahman in the next fight (41st) but then promptly beat Rahman in the return bout seven months later. Lewis fought twice more with wins over Mike Tyson (43rd) and Vitali Klitschko (44th) before he hung up the gloves and a champion having fought 41 fights with two losses and one draw (Holyfield).
Both fighters are talking confidently of victory on Saturday night. Andy Ruiz said in his Press Conference today that he is not leaving New Zealand without the WBO Belt and that Mexico will have its first Heavyweight Champion of the world yet. Joseph Parker says this is his time and that he will win on Saturday.
Both men are right, but one of them has to take the loss on Saturday. It will not be the end of the world for whoever tastes defeat for the first time.
In my other life, I cover the All Blacks, Boxing, watch the Weather and of course manage Samoa Events