The forthcoming middleweight clash between veteran southpaw Winky Wright and Paul Williams, the former Welterweight champion stirred me to contemplate which fighter of the past decade had been the most avoided. Winky Wright makes a strong claim for this unwanted acknowledgement, particularly given his recent enforced inactivity, but ultimately he has secured bouts with Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins to name but two. His advocates would remind me he had to chase Hopkins all the way up to Light-Heavyweight when they spent years side by side in the Middleweight division, both in desperate need of a big payday. Williams too, wouldn’t be without his supporters, but now he has Wright, following victory over Margarito, himself a contender for the tag.
Being avoided, in the traditional sense of the term, was usually bequeathed to fearsome contenders of the Charley Burley or Sonny Liston ilk, who arguably only received a shot because of Presidential pressure on the champion Floyd Patterson – or so the story goes. Other historical factors like skin colour would prevent qualified contenders like Sam Langford or Harry Wills from landing the big title shots too. More recently, the mob would help massage rankings to promote the fortunes of certain fighters above more capable contemporaries and latterly the weight of control exerted by high profile promoters and television networks mean even more avenues for escape exist for champions and favoured fighters to avoid dangerous assignments, or each other.
Now, with such a plethora of sanctioning bodies the plot is even harder to follow and fighters are more than able to enjoy solid remuneration without facing the most obvious and competitive choice of opponent. In short, there are hosts of obstacles to the right fights being made, but it is usually the same types of fighters; the puncher, the slippery southpaw or the poorly connected who suffer. The terms of reference may have changed but the victims remain constant.
Nate Campbell is one such example, he held, unexpectedly, most of the important lightweight belts (forgive the plethora of oxymorons in the sentence) but couldn’t secure the fights with the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera or Manny Pacquiao he yearned for. Even though an old fighter with several defeats on his record, he simply couldn’t get the opponents his status deserved, eventually he failed to make weight, lost the belts on the scales and now heads to Light-Welter as, essentially, just another contender. He’ll have no more fortune making fights at 140 than he did at 135 – though his move away from ebbing influence of Don King will help.
Junior Witter, is another who has repeatedly failed to land the marquee names his talent and form have demanded. He picked up the WBC 140 belt Mayweather dropped but still struggled to find meaningful contests, this on the back of 5 futile years spent chasing Ricky Hatton who repeatedly fought stiffer, more limited foes rather than tackle his domestic adversary in a fight which would have illuminated the British fight scene. Admittedly, Hatton moved on but even as champion Witter couldn’t catch a break. Now ageing he looked jaded in defeat to young buck Timothy Bradley and his opportunities at world-level are unlikely to get any easier to secure.
Antonio Margarito, the giant Welterweight craved a breakthrough contest with one of the division’s many luminous residents, whether it be Mayweather, Mosley, Forrest, Cotto or fleetingly Hatton, Margarito didn’t appear to care. But such was the wait he got outmaneuvered by Paul Williams and then found himself in high-profile bouts, amazing how defeat can open the doors for you. One of several unheralded Internet forum heroes his supposedlly breaththrough victory over Cotto has an unproven and unwelcome shadow following the subsequent suspension for attempting to doctor his straps for the Mosley clash. A fight he was dismantled in.
I’m sure there are many, many more nominees for this title but from a quick minute or two of consideration those are my top 5.
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