BOXING history dictates that both Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue, who grace the cover this week as the leading fighters in the sport, will one day lose a fight. Furthermore, it will likely happen sooner rather than later.
The cover of the first boxing magazine I remember buying featured the best two boxers of the time, Donald Curry and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. It was the March 1986 edition of The Ring and the pink background did nothing to soften the fearsomeness of the cover stars. Hagler, eyeballing the lens, was wearing his famous ‘Destruction and Destroy’ vest and Curry – fresh off a stunning two-round blitzing of Milton McCrory – glistened in a blood-red gown. CO-FIGHTERS OF THE YEAR was the headline.
Curry had won three other fights in 1985, including a savage win over Colin Jones in the UK. Hagler had fought only once during that period but his three-round triumph over Thomas Hearns, in a bout that remains one of the very best of all time, was enough to get a share of the award. There were a few others vying for the top spot, like Michael Spinks and Hector Camacho, but Curry and Hagler were the consensus choice as the leading duo, not only over that 12-month period but in the sport in general – in much the same way as Inoue and Crawford today.
Both Curry and Hagler would only win one more fight each before losing in stunning upsets. After beating Eduardo Rodriguez in a mismatch, Curry would surrender his world welterweight championship to Lloyd Honeyghan via truly shocking sixth round stoppage. Hagler outlasted John Mugabi in a ferocious affair only to then be contentiously outpointed by Sugar Ray Leonard. Curry, though he would win a belt up at light-middle, was never the same again and Hagler turned his back on the sport. That all happened within 14 months of that copy of The Ring being published.
It’s a common theme. The two fighters that followed Curry and Hagler as unofficial leaders were Mike Tyson and Julio Cesar Chavez. Two seemingly unbeatable fighters who would, of course, go on to be stripped of their cloaks of invincibility. Since then, pound-for-pound kings like Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones Jnr, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley and Manny Pacquiao would all experience defeat while riding high. Only one fighter – Floyd Mayweather Jnr – would retire at the mountain top. Joe Calzaghe, too, should get an honourable mention for going out on his own terms.
But by and large, even fighters as good as Inoue and Crawford will experience that sobering sensation of defeat. And it often comes after a period of form so exquisite it makes the subsequent loss impossible to predict. The stocks of Inoue and Crawford have never been higher. The Japanese fighter continues to terrorise everyone he faces in the lower weight classes and, even when he faces boxers deemed to have a chance – like Stephen Fulton Jnr – he makes it all look so easy. The same can be said of Crawford. Following that summer humbling of Errol Spence Jnr, one looks at the welterweight rankings and it’s hard to see who can live with the Nebraskan.
But someone will come along. They nearly always do.