Depending on circumstances, a boxer’s first impression with television viewers is not always the best. As someone who believes in a second chance, this article is dedicated to people improving themselves and making good on second opportunities. It should be noted that losing is not always a bad thing (especially when a boxer learns from it) and fighters should understand that if they lose in an exciting fashion, they still have a place on television. Thus, my list of 10 boxers who debuted with a loss on American television but left a positive impression that kept the door open for a return. In many cases, these boxers have proven their worth in second and third appearances on American TV. The others really should have been invited back already to show their skill sets and value on our airwaves.
This article was inspired by the first person on the list (which is alphabetical), a Selcuk Aydin who swung for the fences but came up short on Saturday against Robert Guerrero. At the very least, Aydin showed he has fighting spirit and sports the confident aura American fans appreciate. Some will notice there are not many American names on this list, mostly because they are local products who are matched soft (unless put on “ShoBox”) their first time on American TV. On the other hand, European, Mexican, South American and African boxers are cherry-picked to defend a title on the road against elite foes or are worn down after being avoided for years. Notable names missing the cut are Vitali Klitschko, Jorge Arce, Felix Sturm, Billy Dib, Cornelius Bundrage, Carlos Molina and Josesito Lopez. Their debut losses took place three or more years ago and I tried to keep the list focused on recent debutants.
Selcuk Aydin – Maniacal mauler is not as menacing after introspective post-fight interview but, to tell the truth, I (and many American boxers) feel a lot safer now that the thunderous Turk has left the country. Aydin flashes the eyes of a serial killer and works in that vein inside the ring, swinging at anything that moves in hopes of incapacitating it. Constantly pushes the limits in and out of the ring, fashioning himself a role as the bigger version of Vic Darchinyan. Against any top-10 welterweight, Aydin would be entertaining and I hope Showtime considers having him back against someone like the winner of the upcoming Randall Bailey vs. Devon Alexander title fight.
Gabriel Campillo – Spanish southpaw travels the world (Germany, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Denmark and America) in search of judges who appreciate and score his awkwardly effective boxing style accordingly. Lost a dubious split decision to Beibut Shumenov on FOX Sports in American TV debut, countering and making the aggressive Shumenov pay with accurate and well-timed counterpunches. Did the same to American Tavoris Cloud in his last fight on Showtime and was similarly shafted by the judges in a widely criticized decision that was hardily booed by the crowd. Move to the NBC Sports Channel for his next fight on September 21st against a tough undefeated Russian, so as usual, nothing comes easy for this unorthodox but entertaining fighter.
Pablo Cano – Talented young Mexican had to ask himself “How did this happen?” when thrown in against legendary countryman Erik Morales on two weeks’ notice. Suffered an entertaining stoppage loss on a pay-per-view card, giving Morales tough early rounds, but fell in the 10th against the more experienced and naturally stronger man. Cano turned pro at age 16 but still managed to score 19 stoppages against mostly grown men. I would not categorize Cano as a “natural” but he is doing things instinctually now that more seasoned pros work hard at perfecting. Cano showed his quality rebounding and winning his last three fights against good opponents, earning him a top-10 ranking at junior welterweight by The Ring magazine. Has signed with Golden Boy Promotions, so there is little doubt Cano will be back on American TV soon.
James DeGale – His grudge match with George Groves (now a top-10 rated super middleweight) aired on EPIX and it was expected to be DeGale’s American coming out party…instead, it was Groves’ unveiling after a split decision win. In the amateurs, Groves defeated DeGale as well but DeGale won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics to surpass Grove until they met again in the pros. The final scores of 115-115 and 115-114 (twice) showed how close their tactical meeting was and DeGale has won his last two fights against good opponents, winning the European title in the process. It is fitting DeGale was born in the London borough of Hammersmith, stopping nine of 12 foes with the hammers at the end of his arms. There are many talented 168-pounders for DeGale to test himself against but I am not sure if he makes it back on American TV until DeGale gets someone like Carl Froch in his sights. Otherwise, he will have to fight his way to a mandatory defense against Andre Ward, something DeGale seems well capable of.
Marco Huck – I have seen many Huck fights via internet stream or YouTube and encourage everyone else to do the same given his entertaining, go-for-broke style. Huck’s debut against Alexander Povetkin, on EPIX in February, still rates as a “Fight of the Year” candidate, in my opinion. I am impressed that two of Huck’s most exciting fights have been losses (my scorecard had Huck beating Povetkin), displaying a huge fighting heart and throwing punches until the point of exhaustion. Huck showed he can take a heavyweight punch against Povetkin and wobble a top-10 heavyweight in return with fast punches and incessant pressure. Not only a legitimate heavyweight threat, for my money, Huck is the most consistently exciting boxer above welterweight. American networks are ignoring one of the most exciting fighters in all boxing; Huck is must-see-TV whenever or against whoever he is fighting.
Lucas Matthysse – Most think the Argentine slugger should have been given the decision in his HBO debut against Zab Judah and that he was similarly jobbed against Devon Alexander in his second American TV fight. However, few doubt Matthysse would have beaten Alexander if their meeting had been scheduled for 12 rounds instead of 10. A measure of fans’ respect for Matthysse is that he is rated the number one junior welterweight above Zab Judah and under champion Danny Garcia after Matthysse destroyed Humberto Soto last month. I have a feeling if Garcia and Matthysse are matched, Vegas oddsmakers might just install Matthysse as the favorite. We can be sure that when this wrecking ball of a boxer fights against another quality opponent, he will be welcomed back on TV to display his cunningly destructive style.
Willie Nelson – Lone American on my list, stands a fantastical 6’3” tall at welterweight, sporting a 76-inch reach, resembling Thomas Hearns physically but boxes like Paul Williams. Nelson showed a lot of heart in his “ShoBox” debut (they rarely match a young gun softly), getting up from three knockdowns by mauling Vincent Arroyo to make the fight competitive on the scorecards yet losing a majority decision. Since then, registered two wins including an upset of Cuban hotshot Yudel Jhonson on “ShoBox.” Nelson describes himself as a boxer-puncher but sometimes forgets to use his length and brawls, which cost him against Arroyo. Nelson’s string bean body hides popping power though as he showed against Jhonson, halting him in his tracks with some long punches. At 25, Nelson has time on his side and we should see him back on ESPN2-level bouts until he establishes himself as a legitimate contender.
Akifumi Shimoda – One massive left hook to the jaw undid seven rounds of impressive boxing by this Japanese trickster who had dominated Rico Ramos until the fateful punch. Shimoda claimed weight-making difficulties were a part of his loss and he has won twice against weak featherweight opponents since his loss a year ago. I liked what I saw from Shimoda (on HBO), who learned the hard way, sparring against elite Toshiaki Nishioka and Alexander Munoz, turning pro after only two amateur bouts. A tricky boxer and counterpuncher, Shimoda uses his legs to aggressively dart at opponents, slashing in to score a two-punch combination, then evaluating if a quick retreat or continued pressure is needed. Against Ramos, was not afraid to use his brawn, sporting imposing physical strength to push foes onto their back foot. In the end, it was not enough but I would still like to see him get a second chance (like many Americans, Shimoda was saved by boxing, dropping out of high school because of anger issues) given Shimoda really only made one mistake.
Adonis Stevenson – Southpaw slugger from Canada had the worst debut possible, stopped in the second round by unheralded Darnell Boone in his debut as a Lou DiBella-managed boxer. As an aside, isn’t it overkill for a fighter whose first name is “Adonis” to adopt the nickname “Superman”? No matter since Stevenson has rebounded, scoring five stoppage wins (against boxers with a combined record of 107-8) under the tutelage of new trainer Emanuel Steward, becoming a player at super middleweight because of highlight reel knockouts. Stevenson officially redeemed himself by registering a first round evisceration of Jesus Gonzales (not shown on American TV) that might still lead the pack for 2012’s “Knockout of the Year.” Returned to ESPN2 and scored a similarly impressive stoppage of Uruguayan strongman Noe Alcoba. At 34, could be running out of time but as we all know, power is the last thing to leave a fighter and is highly desired by TV networks.
Jan Zaveck – Good-natured Slovenian impressed everyone with his cordial demeanor outside the ring as well as unflappable willingness to absorb punches to get his own off against a much bigger (and now steroid-tainted) Andre Berto. Refused to quit, though it was obvious he could not see out of a badly damaged and swollen left eye. The HBO announcers voiced their appreciation of Zaveck’s spirit and hopes that he would get a return date on the network given the way the fight ended. On the surface, looks like a burly brawler but Zaveck has good lateral movement and is able to employ his volume-punching style because of constant contact enabled by quick feet. Zaveck just didn’t have the guns to hurt Berto but refused to relent in his own aggression, pressing the action and forcing Berto backward in spots. At age 36, does not have much time left and scored a good comeback kayo in March, so the hope is HBO can make good on its on-air talents’ wishes to have Zaveck back. Zaveck is still rated number five by The Ring magazine and there are marketable welterweights on HBO’s air, so there is a possibility Zaveck is given the second chance his first performance merited.