The world’s best boxers all have one very interesting thing in common: their records are incredible. Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward, Sergey Kovalev, Gennady Golovkin, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzales, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez – all of these fighters have more than 30 professional wins, and none of them have more than one professional loss.

This might seem like a coincidence, but it isn’t one.

All of the aforementioned boxers are incredibly talented and deserving of all the praise they receive – there is no refuting this. Their jaw-dropping records, however, cannot be attributed entirely to their talent. The massive win-loss disparity on their records can also be attributed to very favorable matchmaking in the salad days of their respective careers.

Journeyman Boxers

journeyman boxers

In the sport of boxing, fighters that demonstrate significant promise and potential early on are generally shepherded onto the professional circuit with great care and diligence. They are not fed to the wolves right away as they might be in other martial arts like kickboxing, Muay Thai or mixed martial arts.

Instead, they are given the opportunity to hone their skills – and improve their records – against inherently beatable opponents. In fact, they’re often pitted against opponents who are brought in with the sole purpose of losing. In the boxing world, these pre-determined losers are affectionately referred to as journeymen.

This is not to suggest that the journeyman is brought in to eat one punch, put on their acting hat and pretend to be knocked out. No, this is not the way the journeyman operates. If a journeyman fighter steps into the ring with a prospect and overtly pretends to be knocked out, people will smell a fix, and the prospect’s win will be shadowed in illegitimacy and controversy. This would make the win worthless. And so, the journeyman must learn to lose properly.

This is far more complicated than it sounds.

Avoid Being Knocked Out

journeyman

First, the journeyman must avoid actually being knocked out – and not only because repeated knockouts are incredibly damaging to the brain. If a journeyman boxer is knocked out by their opponent, it’s obviously a great look for that opponent. Given that the job of a journeyman is to make their opponent look good, the issue with their losing by knockout is not immediately obvious.

The problem is that when a boxer is knocked out, they’re often issued a medical suspension by the commission that sanctions the fight. A medical suspension can mean they’re not able to fight. An inability to fight means an inability to make money. Ipso facto, the journeyman must be careful to avoid a knockout, so as to avoid prolonged suspensions during which they’re not allowed to fight and make their living.

Furthermore, a journeyman who gets knocked out too many times will stir up worry among sanctioning commissions, whose ultimate goal is fighter safety. If a commission sees a boxer get knocked out too many times, they will doubt that boxer’s competency, and in severe cases, strip that boxer of their boxing license so as to protect them from further harm.

Lose By Judge’s Decision

journeyman boxer

So it is in the journeyman’s best interest to lose by judges’ decision. This may seem like it would be as simple as dialing back the offense, and keeping defenses just high enough to avoid the knockout. Too much complacency in the offense department, however, and suspicion could easily be aroused.

So the journeyman must fight well – but not so well that they accidentally knock their rising foe out, or win on the judges’ scorecards. They must challenge their foe, but they must not cross the line that separates a good challenge from a win. If they were to inadvertently defeat their foe, the promoter that brought them in to lose would almost certainly not give them the opportunity again. That means fewer paydays in the future, which is something nobody wants.

And so, at the end of the day, the journeyman must master the art of losing. To reiterate, here are the loose rules of that art: Don’t fake a knockout. But don’t actually get knocked out either. In fact, it’s probably better to put up a good fight. But not so good of a fight that you accidentally win. Got it? Good.

Efforts of Journeyman

journeyman

If a journeyman boxer is able to do these things, they can actually carve out a respectable living. They will not shatter any boxing records or be inducted into any halls of fame, but they will keep their family fed, and keep a roof over their head.

Next time you see a young boxer with a seemingly impressive 15-0, 18-0, or 20-0, do not doubt their talent. Do not forget, however, that their records would likely not be so impressive were it not for the brain-rattling efforts of the boxing world’s journeymen.

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