The Perception Of The Puncher: Unbeatable
Man can he hit. Nobody is gonna beat him. Those are some of the comments made after a fight in which a big puncher destroys his foe quickly and decisively. Nobody looks as destructive and unbeatable the morning after a fighter who can really hit has scored an impressive and scary knockout the night before.
In Boxing if a fighter is a true knockout artist, he gets props suggesting that he is unbeatable. How many times has a really good Boxer been mentioned as being unbeatable? In the last 50 years we've had Robinson and Ali. I know there have been others, but Boxers never get the praise and adulation that punchers get. And it's a fact that Ali is the only former Heavyweight Champ who is consistently ranked among the greatest of the greats who wasn't known as a knockout artist. Greats such as Holmes and Holyfield are often overlooked because they never had that aura of invincibility.
I guess this is because in most cases when a big puncher ends a fight, it looks so final and destructive. Like Tommy Hearns drilling Pipino Cuevas and Roberto Duran like they were shot. In fact they fell forward because they were out. How about Bob Foster practically decapitating Dick Tiger, Vincente Rondon, and Mike Quarry. Did any fighters look more scary and unbeatable than Hearns and Foster did the morning after scoring those brutal knockouts.
It's funny how punchers usually always have the perception of being unbeatable. Yet sometimes they've suffered either their first defeat, or a defeat in a big fight coming off of one of their most impressive knockout wins. One that comes to mind is Felix Trinidad versus William Joppy. Trinidad literally devastated Joppy over five rounds. In fact it was Tito's first excursion into the 160 pound class and he looked awesome. However, in his next fight he fought a complete fighter in Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins went on to school Trinidad and show that he was a very one dimensional fighter. All of the sudden that devastating punch didn't look so devastating.
In looking back at some fighters who had the reputation of being big punchers who fought a "Catch an Kill" style, many of them were coming off some of their most impressive knockouts before being defeated. Foreman had just killed Ken Norton before he was beaten by Ali in his next fight. It was thought that no one could survive Foreman's punch, let alone beat him. When Mike Tyson was stopped by Buster Douglas, he was coming off of a one round stoppage of Carl "The Truth" Williams. Tyson, like Foreman was also perceived to be unbeatable.
Why is it that punchers are so often viewed as being unbeatable, when it's really the tough skilled Boxers who have more weapons to be considered unbeatable? Usually in most scenarios, the big puncher has one weapon, his punch and physical strength. They're usually not good boxers nor are they very fast. Sometimes they have a stamina problem, and aren't used to facing many fighters who don't back down from them. They also tend to move right into punches, they stand flat-footed, and they are so focused on offense that they often don't see the punches that knock them out.
A fighter like Evander Holyfield never had the "Killer" reputation of a Foreman, Liston, or Tyson. Yet he had more ways to win fights than they did. When most fans think about what it would be like to face one of the devastating hitters mentioned above, they shutter. However, they never consider that fighters like Ali, Holmes, and Holyfield are the tougher fighters to actually get a win against. A boxer with a great chin who is tough mentally is the hardest type fighter/boxer to try and beat. Even though they can't devastate their opponent like the punchers can.
When facing the Boxer, you are presented with more problems. Opposed to the puncher who if you can survive the onslaught, you're half way there. Fighter's like Ali, Holmes, and Holyfield are easier to survive against because they can't blow their opponents out so quickly and easily, yet they are harder to penetrate offensively. This is because they usually have good defenses and are harder to out maneuver and think along with having excellent stamina. On top of that they are usually super tough mentally and physically. Mainly because they had to be. Not many fighters were overcome by fear staring at Ali, Holmes, and Holyfield. Opposed to many who lost their nerve staring at Liston, Foreman, and Tyson. The Boxer is usually always tested, and fighters tend to fight their best when facing them. Punchers on the other hand have won many fights by just showing up with gloves on.
In the lighter weight divisions, Trinidad and Hopkins are a perfect example of how the puncher overshadows the Boxer/Counter-puncher. Going into their fight, the question most asked was how Hopkins would hold up to Trinidad's punch. When really it came down to what could Trinidad do if his punch wasn't able to knock Hopkins out? The perception of Trinidad being such a killer blinded some so much that even to this day some think he never caught Hopkins flush. Which is totally wrong, because he did. It's just that after seeing so many other fighters go down and out from Tito's power, they couldn't believe their eyes when a fighter took them and fought back.
That's another excuse the puncher is afforded if he doesn't score the big KO over the Boxer. Like Foreman never caught Ali with the shots he did Frazier and Norton. Some figure he couldn't have, if he did how did Ali remain upright and not horizontal? Same thing with Tyson against Holyfield. Some try and convince themselves that if only Tyson had really caught Holyfield, he would've stopped him. The fact is, Tyson did nail Holyfield with his best. Holyfield just took it and then came back with his own assault.
Punchers are great to watch and I love watching them. However, Boxing is much more than just hitting power. If it was, there would be a lot of journeymen who would've won World Championships. I don't care who the fighter is, nobody knocks out all of his opponents. When that Killer puncher comes up against that boxer who can fight and has a good chin, the puncher better have something like a Plan-B in his arsenal, or he's getting beat.
No doubt the perception of the knockout artist will always be a little over-hyped and convince some that he can't be beat. But the fact of the matter is, the overall well rounded Boxer with heart and a good chin is closer to being unbeatable than the exciting knockout artist! At the height of their career, Sonny Liston and Mike Tyson were thought by many to be unbeatable. On the other hand at the height of their career, Larry Holmes and Evander Holyfield were always perceived as being beatable. Yet when history looks back at them, it's Holmes and Holyfield who were actually closer to being unbeatable when they were at their best.