After watching young protégé’s in the last few weeks continue their rise through the ranks it has got me thinking about the all-important ‘journeyman’.
Now for the younger generation that don’t care too much about the journeyman, let me tell you something they are hugely important for the development of our talented prospects and for boxing as a whole.
We need good quality journeymen that have already fought the top level fighters we see today, taking on the next generation. If you look at every fighter’s record you will see a journeyman in there somewhere or even in some cases a few times. Now I’m talking about the very best in the business that would have fought one early in their careers.
In Britain for instance we are running out of good solid journeymen. We used to have 20 or 30 but now we have more like a handful that are durable enough to withstand punishment and not get stopped.
There are a few factors contributing to the dying art of the journeyman over here in Britain, obviously I can’t comment too much on what’s happening in the States but here are my reasons;
1. The current crop are not good enough to give our prospects a decent fight so promoters are hand picking unheard of European fighters.
2. More fights are being televised which is by no means a bad thing but the trouble is fans are fickle and do not want to see a prospect fighting a guy they know has no chance of winning, hence why these European fighters are stepping in their place with padded records. Their records may look good on paper but when you look closely enough their opponents have been terrible.
3. Respectable figures in boxing are making disrespectful comments at journeymen. Former referee Ritchie Davies said in a recent interview last year:
“Journeymen are very brave but unfortunately some of them are very naive. Having 100 fights and winning five or six – where’s your dignity? Getting up there to be a loser just because you’re getting a few quid. I don’t understand it.”
For me that is a complete insult which was clearly directed at Johnny Greaves. What is there not to understand? These guys are not only fighting for the love of the sport but for their families and to make a living. Not every boxer will earn thousands or even millions in their careers so if a feller wants to make a pound note off losing in the ring then good luck to ‘em.
What it takes to be a journeyman
It takes a different mind-set to decide that you want to be an ‘on the road fighter’. These guys fight every week for a decent amount of dosh but need to box clever as the last thing they want to do is win. Winning can ruin your career as a journeyman as it’s bad for business; I mean let’s face it that is exactly what it is. It’s not about winning but it’s not about throwing the fight either, it’s about having a good decent scrap against an up and coming fighter while teaching them some ring craft and getting paid. These guys are professional boxers with skill who could have possibly gone on to collect a couple of belts but the chances are they would not have earned as much money.
Being a journeyman is tough as they need to be super durable and ring smart so they can avoid serious punishment, as the chances are they will be called upon in a week, saving another show at short notice because an opponent has got injured.
They must be thick skinned as they will suffer abuse from the home crowd as they are always cheering on the opponent with the dream of becoming the next big star. The guy that wants to be spotted by a major promoter and maybe one day see their name up in lights on a massive night in Vegas.
Sometimes however the road warrior will pick up an unlikely victory because they haven’t been matched right by the promoter or they have been unexpectedly caught with a knockout punch. These boxers are there to hit back and some can hit harder than their boxing record may reflect.
On more occasions then not they will lose but they will last, which is the most important thing. A successful night would be to last 4, 6 or even 8 rounders, make the other fighter demonstrate their skill-set, not get cut and entertain the home crowd. Continue in that fashion and they will have a fight every week for no less than a grand.
The successful journeymen
Two of the most successful British journeymen are the aforementioned Johnny Greaves (4-96) who was the Londoner that always lost well and ‘Mr Reliable’ Kristian Laight (12-263-8) who will finish his career very soon. Johnny is now a trainer and is currently working with Sonny Whiting (5-25-2) dishing out typical advise like; “You know the drill, son. You’re gonna move about, don’t get hit, get paid and let’s go home.”
On the international seen we had Marion Wilson (12-41-4) ‘The Creep’ from Maryland, USA who was never stopped in 57 fights and the most naturally-gifted journeyman of all ‘The Drunken Master’ Emanuel Augustus (38-34-6). If you ever get the chance to watch Augustus then check out his fight with Micky Ward on YouTube.
But one guy that was a journeyman but has had a dramatic change of fortune is the talented Lolenga Mock (42-14-1) who is still fighting today at the ripe age of 45-years old and looking for a world title shot in the super-middleweight division. The ‘Lumumba Boy’ as Mock likes to me known is the chap that floored an up and coming David Haye and is now on an 11 fight win streak.
A different bread of journeymen
You see, what we are getting now are the other fighters who have been slightly successful, captured a credible title or two and maybe beat a big name during their career. The fighters that end up losing a few but are solid and durable and will give anyone a competitive fight. These guys are the ones who are the next step on the professional ladder after an unbeaten fighter gets to 10/15 professional fights. I’m talking about your Carson Jones (40-13-3) and Breidis Prescott (30-12) who have both become stepping stones for the next generation of fighters and was both present at fights in the last few weeks.
Then we have other fighters that are heading the same way like Dereck Chisora (27-8) and Kiko Martinez (38-8-1) who on their day can defeat any one of the top level fighters in their retrospective weight divisions but have now just become a name on someone’s record rather than a potential contender.
Look no further than Chisora-Whyte on December 2016 and Warrington-Martinez last year. Many felt that Chisora should have got the nod ahead of Whyte in thrilling encounter. The same goes for Martinez when he lost a close decision against Warrington.
What this shows is that even when these guys do end up in very close fights the judges will always favour the other opponent. If it had of gone the other way then Warrington and Whyte would not be headlining in big fights this year. No doubt we will probably see Chisora face Joe Joyce (1-0) and Martinez take on Reece Bellotti (12-0) and even if it’s tight there will only be one winner otherwise it’s bad for business.