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Seven Active Boxers – Ibrar Riyaz, a boxer born and raised in England, reached a career milestone on June 25 at the Bellahouston Leisure Centre in Glasgow, Scotland. Appearing in his 108th professional fight, Riyaz hit the centennial mark, incurring his 100th loss.

One hundred is a nice round number, but Riyaz, who fights again on July 8, has a lot of catching up to do if he hopes to achieve the heights of Kristian Laight. Five years older than Riyaz at age 35, Laight has already rung up 227 defeats.

Boxers like Riyaz and Laight are commonly called trial horses or, less diplomatically, human punching bags. Here they are called professional losers.  They exist to fatten the records of their opponents. It’s a role they have grudgingly come to accept. Colonies of professional losers bear witness that professional boxing is an ecosystem of sorts, a system inhabited by different species interacting in a symbiotic relationship.

In the United States, this species has become endangered. There are professional losers out there, but boxing regulators, in the main, are more stringent than their counterparts of earlier generations, so it’s become increasingly difficult for a professional loser to have a long and prolific career. In England, where standards are looser, boxers of this description are everywhere.

Here are seven active members of the professional losers club, all of whom ply their trade in Great Britain. Their records are current as of July 1, 2016.

Seven Active Boxers

KRISTIAN LAIGHT, age 35. Record: 11-227-7

Some boxers enter the pro ranks with a ready-made nickname. Others have to grind away before someone invents a nickname that sticks. Laight was deep into his career before he acquired his nom-de-guerre, Mr. Reliable.

Laight had an entire chapter devoted to him in Mark Turley’s 2014 book, “Journeyman: The Other Side of the Boxing Business.” During one 43-month stretch, he was 0-77-1. On 52 occasions, Laight has looked across the ring at an opponent making his professional debut. Laight’s record in these contests is 2-46-4.

MATT SEAWRIGHT, age 38. Record: 5-136-5

Seawright’s longest losing streak lasted 61 fights. He has been stopped 21 times, a high number for a man in his class. (By comparison Kristian Laight has been stopped only five times in 245 fights; Ibrar Rybaz only three times in 108 fights.) Seawright notes that he always fights in hostile territory and never gets the best of it from the referee/judge if the fight is close. To which we would reply that if we readjusted his record, let’s say shifting 20 losses over into the win category, his record would still be gruesome.

JASON NESBITT, age 42. Record: 10-194-4

In 2009, Nesbitt received a certificate from the British Boxing Board of Control for participating in his 100th contest. We’re not certain if Nesbitt has received any more certificates, but he is fast closing in on his 200th professional loss.

IBRAR RIYAZ, age 30. Record: 4-100-4

The stocky 5’4” Riyaz last tasted victory on April 9, 2010. He’s had 95 fights since then. When properly motivated, however, he’s capable of delivering a robust performance. That was the case in 2013 when he fought eight rounds at a furious pace to outpoint Ideh Ochuku (record 5-11) in a matinee at York Hall billed for International Masters Lightweight Title.

KEVIN McCAULEY, age 36. Record: 11-120-8

A middleweight, McCauley suffered his milestone 100th defeat in July of last year. Undeterred, he was back in action the very next week, losing a 4-round decision to a raw novice that he outweighed by 11 pounds. His last win came in July of 2013. Since that moment, he is 0-73-5.

DONNY DONCHEV, age 40. Record: 6-88-1

Born in Bulgaria, Donchev began his pro career in Spain. His 2015 campaign wasn’t a total loss; he actually won a fight last year. However, his opponent brought a 4-22-2 record.

YOUSSEF AL HAMIDI, age 38. Record: 13-92-3

Of these seven fighters, Al Hamidi is arguably the best of the bunch. A member of the Syrian army before migrating to England, he is the only fighter on this list to have participated in a 10-round bout. Moreover, he won that bout, coming off the deck to do it. Al Hamidi split two fights with Anthony Crolla and went the distance with Ricky Burns and Lee Selby. Those contests, however, are far back in his rear view mirror. Al Hamidi is 1-44 in his last 45 starts.

Should these boxers, like others of their species, be permitted to plod on with their shabby careers? No professional sport, other than boxing, would tolerate such a failure rate says Thomas Hauser who believes that professional losers tarnish the sport.

Hauser has written about the Smith twins, Ernie (13-142-5) and Billy (13-145-2), who committed suicide three years apart, Ernie going first in 2010 at the age of 31. Reading about them, one is left with the impression that as their losses mounted they were drawn inexorably toward the melancholy that led them to take their own lives.

There’s another side to the coin. Professional losers carry on their trade of their own free will. Some have other jobs. Kristian Laight reportedly works for an engineering firm. Youssef Al Hamidi has an ice cream truck. If we admire men who have the gumption to take a second job to earn extra money — perhaps so they can afford to send their children to college — then shouldn’t we also admire the moonlighter who finds work at boxing shows performing the role of a professional loser?

Professional losers, to a man, believe that they serve a valuable purpose. “If it wasn’t for us you wouldn’t have champions,” said Matt Seawright in a 2013 interview with a Birmingham (UK) Mail reporter. “Everything they learned on the way up comes from us guys who will go in there, give a good account of ourselves and teach a lad a thing or two and bring them along. We are the backbone of boxing.”

POSTSCRIPT

Professional losers still bob up in the United States. On June 25 at a PBC show in San Antonio, the local promoter dredged up Anthony Bowman as an opponent for a young up-and-comer, a local welterweight. Bowman, 43 years old, brought a record of 10-59-2 that included 21 losses inside the distance. Bowman had won only one of his previous 32 fights, that coming against a man with a 2-21-1 ledger. (When two professional losers meet, which doesn’t happen very often, both can’t lose.)

Bowman stayed upright but lost a 4-round decision.

photo: Ryan Wheeler vs Ibrar Riyaz | by sophie_merlo

Seven Active Boxers

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