Jermell Charlo earned the scorn of many fight fans for fighting to survive, rather than thrive, or win, against Canelo on Sept. 30. That got me thinking about how often this occurs, boxers performing at a certain level when expectations were high.
The sweet science is one of the most challenging sports in the world. In fact, years ago, ESPN produced a study with a panel of experts that included sports scientists, athletes, and journalists that determined, based on an array of factors on a set degree of difficulty, boxing was the toughest sport in the world. It demands the most from its athletes.
It's debatable if that study would look the same in 2023, but the fact remains the same. Boxing is not only extremely difficult but dangerous as well. Unlike getting dunked on in basketball or missing an important catch in football, getting knocked out in front of a large crowd of people broadcast for potentially millions has a much longer staying power.
Now that we are more than a week removed from Saul “Canelo” Alvarez's victory over Jermell Charlo, which was marketed as a battle between two undisputed champions, looking back, it was a waste of everyone's time. We wrote about it.
What Canelo-Charlo showcased to the world with their fighting was a reminder that big events and real fights are not synonymous.
Charlo had all the motivation to perform at his pinnacle against Alvarez as it was the biggest stage he had fought on with history and more significant fights on the horizon should he come out victorious. But what happened inside the ring for Charlo was a silent agreement fighting just to survive.
Canelo Had A Feeling He'd Handle Jermell As He Did
“He's going to feel it,” Alvarez said before the fight. “It's something different, and he's never been in the ring with a fighter like me. You don't experience this kind of level of fight. You will see. You will learn.”
For Charlo, possibly the moment was too much for him. It could have been the inactivity of not having fought since May 2022, the jump in weight, or expectations being too high.
Still, there was a level of apathy in his fighting performance that looked like he resigned to stop trying to win after the knockdown in the seventh round.
The junior middleweight champion didn't FIGHT, unlike how he had in past fights; however, he needed to break out of that mold in order to win. He was either unwilling or unable to.
After the fight, Charlo exhibited a strangely upbeat tone, telling people he was proud of his effort and that it helped proved his excellence as a prizefighter.
We've seen fighters who were overwhelmed and outgunned by their opponent in losing efforts.
Before appearing to accept that there was nothing more he could do, Erik Morales battled tooth and nail with Manny Pacquiao in their third encounter in 2006, where he was stopped in three rounds.
More recently, Charlo's training stablemate Errol Spence fought back by throwing overhand lefts against Terence Crawford in spite of taking a beating and multiple knockdowns.
What goes on in the ring only tells part of the story of how a fight is determined; moreover, the film doesn't lie. Although most fans may not understand everything they are looking at in a boxing ring, one's effort or lack thereof can be clearly seen.
“He didn't knock me out,” Charlo told Jim Gray after the fighting flop. “He knocked all the other guys out.”
Inherently, stating that Charlo essentially choked in the most important fight of his career does take away from Alvarez's performance.
The four-division champion stayed within Charlo's line of sight and tempo consistently throughout the fight and was always ready to counterpunch. Add in his always seemingly granite chin and pressure; maybe only Alvarez pushed Charlo to fight in such a manner.
“I think that happens with a lot of fighters,” Alvarez said to ESPN. “That's not on my mind, to survive that way. So then I did my job. I think he never did something to win.
Charlo's showing earned criticism from some of his contemporaries, including undisputed welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who stated that the junior middleweight champion's performance against Alvarez was so poor he was no longer interested in fighting him.
Fighting Words: Terence Crawford Threw Haymaker At Jermell
“Ok, y'all, I'm over Jermell Charlo, he's no longer on my hit list,” Crawford stated via Twitter/X. “He went out there and laid down and let Canelo spank him like he was his daddy with no type of resistance.”
Charlo may have survived the 12 rounds against Alvarez, but the damage to his brand has taken a bigger hit.
Despite still holding a majority of all the titles at junior middleweight, the Alvarez fight will make him an underdog in the eyes of many fans should he return to 154, not so much for his skill level but for his mental fortitude.
“I think if he fights Tim Tszyu, Tim Tszyu knock him out,” said former two-division titleholder Paulie Malignaggi. “Jermell, at his best, was world-class, but this is not a hungry fighter. This is not a guy who wants to fight. This is a guy who wants to steal the bank and who is looking for a free check.”
Time will heal all wounds should Charlo return and win.
Perhaps, due to recency bias, the reaction towards Charlo's performance has been overblown.
There have been numerous fighters who proverbially ‘shit the bed' when the bright lights were on them. Charlo is just one of many.
7 Offenders Of Fighting Folly, Hurting Consumer Confidence
We'll examine seven of the worst non-efforts and showings in major fights. This isn't a definitive list of crap the bed fighting, as there could be hundreds of examples, just some that stood out over the last three decades. All of these fights won't be on the PPV platform in the main event but in matches that held significance for one of the fighters as either their first or last opportunity at a world title or stardom.
Five of the biggest non-efforts in major fighting events
Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner and Shane Mosley
A two-headed monster ran the PPV market in the previous era of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Post-2008, anytime Pacquiao or Mayweather fought, it was considered one of that year's premier fights and events.
During Pacquiao's peak run between 2008-2010, when he put on stellar performances on a back-to-back basis, there was a rabid clamor for the fight with Mayweather to happen. When it was announced that Pacquiao would be facing the older veteran Shane Mosley in May 2011, it was greeted with more frustration than excitement.
Mosley was still rated as a top-ten welterweight.
But he had recently lost to Mayweather in a one-sided affair where he was able to hurt the defensive wizard in the second round. He followed that match with a draw against Sergio Mora at junior middleweight.
HBO, who had broadcast almost all of Pacquiao's PPVs up to that point, passed on the fight with Mosley. This forced the eight-division champion's promoter, Top Rank, to head over to rival Showtime.
Mosley was no longer in his prime and seemed to have given fans his final premier showing against Margarito in 2009. Still, fans at least expected Mosley to provide an action match against Pacquiao, who was rarely in a dull affair.
Instead, the 39-year-old Mosley fought in an uncharacteristic and puzzling survival mode.
NOTE: Here is how EIC Michael Woods wrote up the Mosley effort.
Because after a few days to mull, I have to say, Mosley did some damage to his legacy on Saturday night. Somewhat appropriate for the locale, which features no shortage of available ladies to engage in untoward behavior for a fee, Mosley basically traded on his reputation and history, and gave it away for a pile of cash. For a fat fee, Mosley allowed himself to be whacked around by Pacquiao, and most shamefully, the “john” in this sordid arrangement, the fans, didn't get any bang for their buck.
I'm not so proud of offering up this analogy, but days later, I'm still feeling a bit dirty for being involved.
Going in, I thought and put it on record that I thought Shane was shot. I thought he'd get beaten down worse than Margarito did against Pacquiao. He showed me little against Mayweather two fights ago, and less against Sergio Mora in his last bout. But I for sure thought he'd give his best effort against the Congressman. I figured, and he'd given me no reason to think otherwise as a future first ballot Hall of Famer, that he'd do his best to win the fight against Pacquiao. I believed him when he said he'd attempt to use his power to touch the Filipino, I believed him when he said, “I’m expecting a very exciting fight on May 7 and a lot of big fireworks.”
Sue me, I believed him.
People can bust my chops if they want, say I'm naive, that I should have known better. But I make no apologies for not assuming everything I hear from a fighter is just hype. Yeah, sorry I haven't transformed into one of the bitter ultra-cynical fightwriters. No, at the very least I presumed Shane Mosley, who I saw as being 3/4 of the way to shot, would try to make an exciting fight. I presumed he would, if not go out on his shield, then do everything in his power to try to win.
From my seat on Saturday, it didn't look like he did that. It looked like he was there to pick up a check, first and foremost, and beyond that, his aim was to not get knocked out.
The fight is remembered just as much for its overly friendly touching of gloves as blows landed.
A third-round knockdown by Pacquiao was the catalyst for Mosley fighting in such a manner. But it was surprising for a fighter who had taken devastating shots from Oscar De La Hoya and Vernon Forrest to see him in such a vulnerable position.
“There were different punches that he threw that didn't seem to be hard, but the impact of it was hard,” Mosley stated after the fight. “So I had to really watch out.”
Mosley would land only 66 punches throughout the 12-round distance, landing in single digits every round. The showing from Mosley made both fighters look bad; with Pacquiao suffering from leg cramps, he was unable to stop the aging veteran.
Pacquiao vs Broner Is A Stink Bomb
Almost a decade later, with Pacquiao now playing the role of the older veteran at 40 years old, he faced the flamboyant Adrien Broner.
Just like Mosley, the four-division titleholder was coming into the fight with the Filipino legend with a loss and a draw in his two previous bouts. But he was 29, not 39 like Mosley, and with the Pacquiao bout on PPV as a main event, it was thought that Broner would, at minimum, bring his A-game. Michael Woods picked up on the feeling that the promotion had a “doin' business” vibe.
Yet, Broner, who has always struggled with volume, put forth a tepid effort, landing a career-low 50 punches over 12 rounds. Broner, just like Mosley, would find himself on the losing end of a decision against the fighting Senator. Since the Pacquiao fight, Broner has only fought twice.
There is an argument to be made that Joshua Clottey could have easily been here. However, Clottey almost doubled both Mosley and Broner in punches landed. He also faced a Pacquiao who threw over 1,200 punches.
Following the fight with Pacquiao, Mosley would be relegated to being a gatekeeper. Broner–and it's interesting to see how Woods brings up how the consumer gets screwed when they believe the pre-fight hype and bluster– went into obscurity with out-of-the-ring actions taking over his time in the squared circle.
Lennox Lewis vs. Henry Akinwande and Oliver McCall 2
The late 1990s was a peculiar time for the heavyweight division. In 1997, all-time great heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis had a pair of fights back-to-back that resulted in memorable yet head-scratching results.
Lennox Lewis faced off against Oliver McCall in a rematch for the WBC heavyweight title in February 1997. The title was vacated by Mike Tyson, whose promoter, Don King, paid a step-aside fee to Lewis. This allowed the famous knockout artist to face Bruce Seldon for the WBA title.
Three years earlier, McCall stopped Lewis in two rounds for the WBC title at Wembley Arena. He would lose that title to Frank Bruno after a title defense against Larry Holmes.
In the summer of 1996, McCall was arrested for possession of crack cocaine and marijuana. He then entered a rehab facility, but in December of that year, he re-entered rehab after throwing a Christmas tree through a hotel lobby. Needless to say, McCall wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind before rematching Lewis.
After three rounds of Lewis out-jabbing and landing right hands on him, McCall refused to return to his corner. Instead, he chose to walk around the ring. 12 years ago, Michael Woods checked in with McCall, and learned more about his then-puzzling actions.
A mental or nervous breakdown proceeded, where McCall began to sob and only threw one or two punches in the fourth and fifth rounds. Realizing that McCall wasn’t in any condition to continue to take blows to the head, the referee, Mills Lane, stopped the fight in the fifth round.
McCall would be fined and have his purse withheld after the bout. It's maybe incumbent on us to note this “other side” of the coin–we are all human, none of us perfect, and sometimes we whiff in the big at bat…but it doesn't wholly reduce our legacy, because yeah, we're human, and contributing factors are complex.
Woods wrote: A man's legacy is too often boiled down to one moment, one sliver of time, when he was unable to summon the reserves to conquer his fears and foe. A résumé can be packed with triumphs and titles, but if a person of note self-destructs on a big stage, his wiki will be reduced to a sad summary of the meltdown.
Is this fair? Probably not. Why this occurs, in this age of naked schadenfreude, in this reality TV era, is best discussed in another forum. But for a man like Oliver McCall, unless he manages to uncork a shocking second-act triumph, it is a virtual certainty that his legacy will be reduced to his actions on the night of Feb. 7, 1997.
On that night, a man who probably should have been, for his own sake, cocooned in a rehabilitation facility, was instead fighting gargantuan Lennox Lewis, one of the most skilled behemoths of pugilism ever, for a heavyweight title.
On that night, during a fight for the vacant WBC crown, Oliver McCall suffered a nervous breakdown in front of boxing fans at the Hilton in Las Vegas.
Should McCall's lasting impact not also include his admirable persistence in fighting a disposition to use hard drugs, most specifically cocaine, and also his exceptional longevity as a ring professional, his 26 years in this dark and dangerous trade?
Shouldn't his legacy to this point include the improbable fact that, at age 46, he is slated on Saturday to fight for the WBC international title against Mariusz Wach? It probably should, but it probably won't be. No; if it bleeds, it leads. Humans are fascinated and preoccupied with dirt, and eagerly we soak up stories of degradation. It is not our finest trait, but it can't be denied, only dealt with.
One month following Mike Tyson’s infamous earbite to Evander Holyfield, Lewis and Mills Lane found themselves in another odd match.
Lewis defended his title against fellow British heavyweight, the undefeated Henry Akinwande. Akinwande, who held the WBO title, vacated to face Lewis in what was then just the second time two British fighters fought for a heavyweight title.
McCall’s performance can be excused and explained by some of his mental struggles. Akinwande, however, decided that holding Lewis was a better strategy than punching him.
Excessive holding and clinching are supposed to be illegal moves in boxing. But usually, fighters are able to get away with holding since most referees don’t heavily enforce it.
Unfortunately for Akinwande, the referee for his fight with Lewis was Mills Lane, who immediately reprimanded him with several warnings, taking a point away as early as the second round.
After a few more rounds of continuous holding from Akinwande, highlighted with a clinch that lasted almost 30 seconds, Lane ended the fight, disqualifying the British fighter. It’s rare for a referee to impose and carry out the rules on excessive holding, let alone disqualify a fighter for it.
Nonito Donare vs. Omar Narvaez
Keeping up your momentum after an outstanding performance or knockout is crucial for most fighters.
Following a tremendous second-round knockout in February 2011 over Fernando Montiel, Nonito Donaire was riding high on top of the boxing world as the unified WBC and WBO bantamweight champion.
To follow up the Montiel knockout, Donaire would face flyweight and super flyweight world champion Omar Andres Narvaez.
The 36-year southpaw Argentinean was undefeated and had made 19 title defenses throughout his career. He made 16 defenses of the WBO flyweight title and 3 of the WBO super flyweight title.
Narvaez was an amateur standout who fought in the Olympics in 1996 and 2000, representing Argentina. He won gold medals at the South American Games in 1998 and the Pan American Games in 1999.
Most of his bouts occurred in his native Argentina, with some title defenses in Spain, France, and Italy.
Against Donaire, it would be his first time-fighting in the United States.
Here's how Michael Woods described the action for TSS. Perhaps Narvaez deserved more scorn for his showing..or maybe it was a matter of expectations and level of anticipation on the part of a watcher-fan.
It was a George Benton special for Nonito Donaire in the main event at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. In other words, as the old Philly sage used to say, Win this one, look good in the next one.
Donaire had in front of him a crafty defender in Omar Narvaez, who was content to keep Donaire from landing, but wasn't too inclined to get offensive. The judges scored it, 120-108 times three for Donaire, who will now exit the bantamweight class, and move to junior feather. He had to cut weight the day of the weigh in, his trainer Robert Garcia said, so he is looking forward to the jump in weights.
Nonito talked to Max Kellerman after. He said sorry to all, as he wanted Omar to come to fight. “He didn't come here to fight today. I expect to do more. I did everything I could.” He said he tried to lure Omar into hitting him, to get him to open up. He said he knew how Pacquiao felt against Joshua Clottey.
The round ended as Donaire fell through the strands trying to end with a bang, the crowd booed. We'd go to the judges.
In front of the biggest television audience of his career, Narvaez overly utilized lateral movement with little to no offense. The strategy paid off in avoiding getting hurt but wasn't effective in winning.
In some ways, Narvaez neutralized Donaire's power, but he offered nothing in return.
Defense is part of boxing's scoring criteria. But it was difficult to give Narvarez rounds without many clean punches landed. Donaire didn't help matters by not being more aggressive.
Although there wasn't much more he could do against a fighter who celebrated like he won the World Cup after avoiding a majority of contact in a boxing match.
The judges' would award Donaire, with every round winning 120-108 on all scorecards. However, some of the shine from the Montiel knockout faded due to the fight's uneventful nature.
It was a non fighting effort based so much on survival that Naoya Inoue's second-round knockout over Narvarez years later is often dismissed as an ordinary victory.
Robert Easter Jr. vs. Rances Barthelemy Fighting Stink Bomb
The age-old boxing adage of styles make fights has proven to be correct more often than not. Sometimes, those styles can cancel each other out.
After losing to Mikey Garcia in a unified lightweight title match, former champion Robert Easter Jr. was provided an opportunity to fight for the division's vacant WBA title against Rances Barthelemy.
Barthelemy was a former champion at super featherweight and lightweight. What occurred between Easter and Barthelemy in April 2019 was a match that barely qualified as a sparring session. Neither man took a real initiative to set themselves apart from the other, with no highlights for either fighter.
When the fight ended, there was a sigh of relief that it was over from the crowd in attendance to those on commentary. Through 12 rounds, both men landed just over 50 punches. The judges scored the fight a split draw, keeping the WBA lightweight title out of both fighter's hands.
“It's justified,” Paulie Malignaggi would say of the judge's scorecards. “Neither guy deserved to win.”
Since the fight with Barthelemy, Easter has only fought twice. An unfortunate incident where Easter was robbed in Cincinnati resulted in him being shot three times in the back. Barthelemy hasn't fought for a world title since his bout with Easter.
The proliferation of world titles in boxing can, at times, make title opportunities seem disposable. That there will always be another one on the horizon.
Easter-Barthelemy fighting showed it's important to take advantage of every championship opportunity as your performance could impact if people want to see you again.
Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Boxing has always had its share of tune-ups or cards that put two fighters together in showcases before they take on one another. The May 2017 match between Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was arguably the most successful infomercial in boxing history.
Somehow, despite numerous previous outings that displayed that Chavez Jr. could not be trusted to come fully prepared, there was interest in him fighting Alvarez. Possibly the same way people watch reality television shows, but unlike Canelo-Chavez, those are at least entertaining.
The all-mexican fighting showdown provided little excitement, with Alvarez dominating almost every second. Whenever Chavez did throw a combination, he went back to his shell when Alvarez responded.
The catchweight of 164.5 pounds didn't help matters, as Chavez offered little resistance in any round. Alvarez would cruise to a unanimous decision, winning all 12 rounds on all three judges' scorecards.
Famously, Chavez Jr. was shown training in his living room for his 2012 middleweight title match against Sergio Martinez. In that fight, he would land over 100 punches more than he did against Alvarez, where he landed just 71 over 12 rounds.
It was a vain attempt at a cash grab for both men, and it worked.
The one-sided waste of time sold over 1 million on PPV. The announcement of a match between Gennadiy Golovkin and Alvarez was the standout moment of the event.
Lastly, Canelo-Charlo fighting highlighted a problem for boxing: its PPV events are often stagnant and boring for most viewers. When fights are sacrificed for events, it’s not always for the better.