When is enough enough? Or rather, when it is too much?
As a fan of boxing, we all love the wars. Gatti-Ward, Bowe-Holyfield, Corrales-Castillo, and so many others. We want to see fighters give and take. To show what we consider courage, and if they are going to go down, we want to see them do so on their shield.
That’s the nature of the beast and no one needs to apologize for it. Not a fighter, nor a fan. There are thousands of other interests and pursuits one could take up should they be squeamish.
I do however get troubled with how quick some are to label a fighter as a “punk” or a “coward” when they come to the conclusion they simply can’t take any more punishment. I’m not talking about a fighter like Mike Alvarado, who ruined his warrior reputation just after the New Year by showing up woefully unprepared for his third fight with Brandon Rios. Alvarado deserved the boos he received from the crowd in attendance due to his lack of professionalism.
Boxers who don’t take their craft seriously and have to quit on their stool because they didn’t put in the time for training, were out too late the week of the fight, or simply just don’t want to be there are in another category.
What I’m thinking of is a guy like Willie Monroe Jr. and his fight in May against Gennady Golovkin. Going into the bout, no one gave Monroe a chance against the wrecking ball known as GGG. After a fairly ho-hum first round, the disparity between the two fighters became clear, with Golovkin hurting and knocking Monroe down twice in the 2nd. Monroe somehow survived the 3rd and showed enormous resolve by not only making the 4th round competitive, but quite possibly winning it. That effort was soon proven to be just a minor hiccup as Golovkin battered Monroe in the 5th and settled matters in the 6th by sending Monroe to the canvas for a 3rd and final time. Monroe beat the count, but decided he could not continue and the fight was over.
As soon as Monroe accepted his fate, Twitter lit up with claims he had “no heart.” A position quite dubious considering Monroe had already pulled himself off the canvas twice before to take up what most considered a hopeless cause against the vaunted Golovkin. Anyone watching the fight could tell you the only thing that was going to happen over the rest of it was pain. Not Golovkin’s either.
If they had fought 200 more rounds, Monroe was never going to take the lead or put GGG on his back. The fight was not winnable for Monroe. The only question that remained was when would it end and how bad would it be for him when it did.
So Monroe chose discretion. Who knows what goes through a fighter’s mind when they are hurt? Unless we’ve stood in a ring and taken blows from another, how can we truly understand what it’s like to lose confidence, to feel fear, to go dizzy and find your legs weak beneath you? I do not blame Monroe for hastening the inevitable. Willie Monroe Jr. has a child. He derives his income from hitting and getting hit. It’s a proposition fraught with peril. Maybe his calling it an evening with Golovkin will allow him more paydays in a profession with a short life span. Maybe it will allow him more quality time with his son. That makes him a reasonable man, not a cowardly one.
Those of us watching can often forget that “heart” sometimes equals “head injury.” And the fact of the matter is, when the career of a boxer ends, we aren’t around to wipe their mouths, drive them to the doctor, or remind them of who that person in the photograph next to their nightstand is. We are long gone. Oh sure, we might look back on one of their fights and say “remember the time…” and go on ad nauseam about the matches we recall and the times a guy took a beating and showed us all that “heart.” But when you see a video of Meldrick Taylor trying to speak and you can’t understand a word of it without subtitles, or you read about Magomed Abdusalamov only now being able to recognize people he’s known all his life, and communicating in nothing greater than short sentences 19 months after going into a coma from fighting Mike Perez, then you can tell me about “heart.”
Getting hit in the face is one hell of a way to make a living. The risks undertaken are enormous. Just getting in the ring with another person bent on causing you harm takes an unusual level of sack and conviction. Most of us couldn’t do it. That’s a thing worth remembering the next time we question a fighter’s heart.