Boxers don’t have an old timer’s place, and certainly don’t age like wine.
While some boxers have the privilege of quitting at a ripe old age, looking back on a stellar career, others do so prematurely and with a twinge of regret.
Even now, some boxers who are still currently active are looking set to leave the industry in the latter way, unless fate intervenes drastically.
Here, we look at several boxers who remain underrated, because their achievements have not matched their skills (or vice-versa) and some who were simply overhyped before their time.
Andre Ward: Oh, What Could Have Been
It is rare to see anyone enjoy the same upward momentum that Ward did through the divisions.
Today, there are a few names that stand prominently as potential fast-movers, including that of lightweight sensation Vasyl Lomachenko, who faces Jose Pedraza as favourite in December 2018.
Though he is just one of several men who could be fast movers in the coming years, it may be a whole generation until a man shows such drastic movement towards greater stardom after lesser beginnings.
Back in 2017, ‘model’ boxer Andre Ward called it a day at the age of thirty-three, having retired as the world pound-for-pound number one.
He held three belts at the time, creating the potential for chaos as a perfect flush of undisputed champions across the divisions remains elusive.
Ward also bowed out with a 32-0 record, and while he retired undefeated, it is a record that becomes ever more eclipsed by the men who went into 2018/19 holding the heavyweight titles he once could have targeted.
Instead of being compared to the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya, Ward will be seen by some as a ‘nearly man’ for as long as the Earth revolves around the sun.
In the decade prior to 2017, Floyd Mayweather was unquestionably the major draw for PPV events, and an accomplished headliner.
Though Mayweather was perhaps aided by his status as a heavyweight, Ward’s marketability – particularly in light of his Ring Magazine ‘Comeback of the Year’ in 2016 – was nowhere near sufficiently capitalised upon.
It could well transpire that the residual hype from his knockout win over Sergey Kovalev will sustain his legacy. Defeating a man who dominated the super middleweight division in his day was a fitting end to Ward’s career.
However, the fact that Ward saw the heavyweight division as a step too far indicates that he valued self-preservation over increased recognition.
Though opinions are divided, Ward’s more ardent acolytes will assert that his refusal to make a stab at the top division – or at least take on Adonis Stevenson – made him miss out on a G.O.A.T status that was within grasping distance.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez: Definition Of Overhyped?
From a popularity perspective, Mexican pugilist Alvarez was always doomed to be at a relative disadvantage fighting stateside.
Despite being akin to a national hero on the right side of thirty, with a 50-1-2 record including thirty-four knockouts, some believe that Alvarez has left it relatively late to have the ‘moment’ that truly defines him as a great.
While his defeat of Gennady Golovkin in September 2018 gave him two belts, the fact that he was held to a majority decision keeps his sceptics rich in opinionated ammunition.
Indeed, it was the second successive decision he had been held to by Golovkin, and the first was considered by some experts to be a split decision in favour of Golovkin, rather than a draw.
Going further back, his litany of underachievement includes being held to decision win by the inferior Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, an all-too-easy loss to Floyd Mayweather, and a laboured knockout win over Amir Khan.
There is still some degree of hope that his WBA (Regular) super middleweight fight against Rocky Fielding will be seen as a flashpoint moment in his career many years from now, even if the odds against Fielding in the boxing betting are astoundingly long.
Speaking Of Chavez…
Having a father with a legendary legacy in the squared circle is never easy, and comparisons between sire and son are always inevitable.
While his record is 50-3-1, issues with weight and lifestyle have scuppered all chances that Chavez Jr has of ever being seen as half the boxer his father was.
He is as much a victim of circumstance as his own worst enemy, with the family connections to the sport resulting in him being trained by uncles that were said to have prioritised his desire to impress over his hunger to fight.
Switching to Freddie Roach in 2010 was a step in the right direction, and within a year, Chavez had scalped his first major title, winning the WBC middleweight belt via majority decision from Sebastian Zbik.
There is also a general feeling that his work ethic also looks comparatively contemptible.
In the opinion of some who also share this view, his very name has also swayed judges in some of his less clear-cut decision wins, with his victories over the aforementioned Sebastian Zbik, and his first of two over Brian Vera, being cases in point.
As much as weight and self-discipline has been an issue away from the ring, so too has size been inside it – or, more specifically, the lack thereof in several of Chavez’ notable opponents.
He was shown up as a man incapable of going anywhere in the divisions after his chastening loss to Andrzej Fonfara.
No Room For Tyson?
In strict terms of tangible achievement, men that have previously held three heavyweight titles do not belong in any list of ‘overrated’ or ‘underachieving’ boxers.
However, many believe that Tyson Fury’s win over Wladimir Klitschko was little more than a ‘passing of the torch’, as a much younger man claims an expected win over an elderly – and very lethargic – opponent.
Whatever people make of Fury’s victory on that night, there can be no denying that the fight itself will go down as a relatively mediocre spectacle, which never came close to justifying the hype and its PPV figures.
His enigmatic personality has also prevented him from focusing as much on his hunger to fight as he needs to.
With a long reach and domineering presence against all opponents, it may take something as trivial as a recruitment drive to give Fury any fighting chance of taking Wilder’s place as the reigning WBC heavyweight title holder.
Yet, his weak chin is a haven for classic ‘in-fighters’, and finding the right person to change his mentality takes much more ingenuity that simply hiring the best trainer that money can buy.
Only an unthinkable brace of knockout wins, over Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, could ever hope to change that.
With Wilder being odds-on to beat Fury any time and any place, he and Joshua appear unstoppable in the short-term, and this leaves Fury on the threshold of the A-list, but with no apparent means of getting into the rarified air… yet.