Here is something you don't hear often: Boxing's standards are too high. Yes, you heard me right. A sport that seems to constantly disrespect itself, and the loyal fans that follow it, is much too stringent in at least one regard: a fighter's first loss.
This week on ESPN's "Wednesday Night Fights" and "Friday Night Fights" we will feature two such victims of that standard. Both were recently the hottest prospects you could find. They were fodder for Internet message boards. Then they made the one mistake it seems you just can't make any more, they lost.
Allan Green is now 23-1; Joel "Love Child" Julio is now 31-1. Those are very impressive records. However the way boxing media, fans and certain TV executives treat a loss nowadays you would think these two were journeymen filling out a card. Instead they are 20-something prospects still with every single tool to chisel out a championship career.
Julio was ESPN.com's prospect of the year in 2005. Green was among the most feared fighters from 160-to-168 pounds up until this past March.
Now Julio is taking a major risk on "WNF." He is facing the hard-punching, thick-muscled and always awkward Cornelius "K9" Bundrage (ESPN2 11:00 ET). On "FNF," Green is trying to bounce back against veteran middleweight Darrell Woods (ESPN2 9:00 ET). Woods just handed previously undefeated prospect Sam Miller that dreaded first loss.
The old-timers used to say you haven't earned a title shot until you've lost. Facing stiff competition and being matched tough was the way it worked in this game. Now managing a fighter to maintain the goose egg is too often the top priority. Television executives overvalue an unbeaten mark. Fickle fans will hype one and then bask the day after the big L. Even the media will jump off the bandwagon too fast, forgetting just how critical experience is inside those ropes.
Bernard Hopkins and Henry Armstrong lost the first fights of their careers. Good thing the cameras weren't rolling on them back then.
Could you imagine the NFL powers giving up on the Patriots because they dropped a few September games? Would the college basketball TV programmers toss off North Carolina because they stumbled badly in the Maui Invitational? Of course not. It's where the journey ends that matters. Yet in boxing you have to be given the chance to continue on the road to success, the schedule changes.
Julio stepped up and was outboxed by a slickster Carlos Quintana. It happens. Quintana is good. Green goes to Puerto Rico, scores a knockdown, but in the end is outgunned by power punching top-10 ranked Edison Miranda. No shame there. But there also shouldn't be any harm there.
The problem is that if boxing keeps punishing fighters for suffering their first loss, then why would a manager ever take a big chance? I want to see prospects square off against each other. I want to see the fans get good matchups that can't be predicted.
By the way, Green has a legitimate excuse for his loss. In watching Green that night you might have noticed he wasn't firing off and conducting himself with the same energetic bursts he always possessed.
"Before the Miranda fight, I was only eating every three days in camp," Green revealed. "But I really didn't say much about it, I didn't want everybody thinking I was making excuses. Anybody who has seen me fight could tell from the first round that something wasn't right with me."
Green explained: "I had a severe medical problem that I've been treated for. I found out that my colon was paralyzed. What happens is your nerves and your muscles stop working in there. And you got to remember, 70-percent of your energy comes from your colon. If it ain't working, you don't have nothing; you don't get absorption from the food you eat."
The condition forced him out of a scheduled ESPN fight this spring. Now things are under control for Green, which means ring generalship should be out of control for his opposition.
"Love Child" Julio has been getting plenty of love from his team. His adviser Tuto Zabala is confident in the course of action they have taken after the loss in June 2006.
"I was talking to Joel the other day and I said, 'Thank God we lost to Quintana, and it wasn't for big money or nothing like that. It was just an experience, you know? It's better to do it now than when you're blowing away two, three million dollars.' It's better to learn," Zabalas said.
I couldn't agree more. It's all about gaining experience, and working your way to the top. A fighter's record is one of the last things I ever pay attention to. I want to know they can fight, I want to know they have experienced, that they can overcome a tough challenge.
Green and Julio have that experience now. I'm thrilled we are giving them the chance to showcase it.
Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."