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Dettloff: Quitter isn’t necessarily an indelible label

13
Dec

Junior welterweight Victor Ortiz did well enough in his comeback fight against Antonio Diaz on Saturday night to temporarily, at least, give pause to those who leapt so rudely off his bandwagon following his quit job against Marcos Rene Maidana last June.

You can say he looked a little tentative, and that if he hadn’t been in with someone who’s been in this game since the Nixon administration, he might have been in a bit of trouble.

But that might be overly harsh. We tend to get that way with fighters who quit when things get too tough for them, but we do it at our own peril. As much as we equate surrender in the ring with weakness of character and will, there is ample evidence that it is a definitive marker for neither.

Roberto Duran, perpetrator of perhaps the most famous and demoralizing quit job in the history of sport, rebounded to restore his reputation and his Hall of Fame credentials after surrendering to Ray Leonard in their rematch in 1980.



When Duran said to referee Ocatvio Meyran, “No peleo (I won't fight),” (and not “No mas,” Duran has always maintained), he became a pariah in his beloved Panama and a fight game punch line.

Then he won world titles at junior middleweight, middleweight and fought into his 50s. Maybe save for the ghost of Ray Arcel, there is no one who remembers him primarily as a quitter.

To Duran, the surrender was nothing but a sound business decision: He would lose this day but get in better shape for a third match with Leonard. As he told writer Richard Hoffer in 2005, “I would get in really, really great shape and I'd really knock him out. I didn't think the fight would take nine years to make.”

Hall of Famer Max Baer quit unabashedly against a young Joe Louis when they met in 1935 and was unrepentant about it.

“Sure I quit,” Baer told his critics. “He hit me 18 times while I was going down the last time. I got a family to think about, and if anybody wants to see the execution of Max Baer, he's got to pay more than $25 for a ringside seat. … I'm not going to be cutting up paper dolls. I never did like the fighting game, and this proves it.”

Baer was never taken seriously again, but when people talk about him now they recall not his capitulation to Louis, but of his right hand or his loss to Jimmy Braddock.

Hall of Fame featherweights Sandy Saddler and Willie Pep fought four times, with Saddler winning three. Pep quit on his stool in the third and fourth matches, complaining of shoulder and eye injuries, respectively.

Pep is still rated among the top five fighters in history by anyone who takes such things seriously.

There are myriad examples of contemporary fighters quitting and then coming back to re-establish their credibility among the demanding hardcore.

Israel Vazquez, his nose blown up like a small beach ball, surrendered outright in his first memorable match against Rafael Marquez, then proceeded to out slug him in two historic battles that were as good as anything Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano produced.

Vitali Klitschko quit against Chris Byrd, but then fought Lennox Lewis to a standstill with his eyeball all but dangling from its bloody crater. The strength of his will has been as important to his success as has anything else.

Miguel Cotto submitted to Antonio Margarito in their bloody, brutal struggle, but came back to outlast Joshua Clottey in a similarly trying war and then refused to quit in the face of every bit of Manny Pacquiao’s considerable offensive repertoire.

Robert Guerrero took tremendous heat for more or less quitting against Daud Cino Yordan, but looked no worse for the wear in subsequent wins over Efren Hinojosa and Malcolm Klassen.

For every Paul Williams charging into Sergio Martinez or Joe Frazier begging Eddie Futch for one more round, there is Sonny Liston quitting on his stool in Miami, or Andrew Golota, the ultimate quitter, breaking down time after time.

But not all surrenders are created equally. Once a fighter establishes his warrior credentials and is at or near the end of his career, a capitulation is forgivable. Jesse James Leija, who spent the last couple years of his career gauging canvases for the soft spots, is a good example.

So too is Julio Cesar Chavez, who surrendered to Oscar De La Hoya in their second fight, and Kostya Tszyu, whom Ricky Hatton convinced to surrender on his stool in their junior welterweight struggle.

Likewise, you couldn’t blame De La Hoya for staying on his stool against Pacquiao any more than you can blame Muhammad Ali for staying put at the end of his loss to Larry Holmes.

Ortiz has a long way to go before we know for sure what he’s made of. Sooner or later, we’ll find out. And so will he.

Some random observations from last week:

I was a minute or two from wishing someone would blast Vic Darchinyan’s posse of hysterical, middle-aged sycophants with a fire hose for the way they went on after Darchinyan stopped 10-loss Tomas Rojas.

If you’re going to lose it every time Darchinyan knocks out a journeyman, you’re going to have to pace yourself, as there’s no way Gary Shaw lets him anywhere near Nonito Donaire or Joseph Agbeko again. ÔǪ

Got an email from Gale Van Hoy after Paulie Malignaggi’s masterpiece against Juan Diaz on Saturday night. Off TV he scored it 116-112 for Diaz.

I’m joking, of course. He scored it 118-109 for Diaz.

Nah, that was a joke too. Gale doesn’t have email. He does all his corresponding via Pony Express. Because he’s a Texas boy. And he’s really old. Get it?

(Disclaimer: Gale Van Hoy did not email me. It was a joke. Put down the Blackberry, ambulance chasers.)

Gus Johnson really needs to stop being so restrained and let go a little when he’s calling a fight. How are we supposed to know what’s happening if we don’t have some dolt screaming into a microphone? I mean, it’s not like we can see what’s going on. On that big screen. On the, um, television. That’s right in front of us. …

Good for Jermain Taylor for being his own man and deciding to fight again. If he wants to spend his 50s blowing through his ring earnings on private duty nurses, dementia wards and creamed everything, that’s his right. It’s his money. ÔǪ

Shaw is still griping about the Joan Guzman-Ali Funeka score. Good for him. Watch how quiet he is the next time one of his guys gets a gift. It’ll sound like the inside of Lennox Lewis’ headÔǪ

Good news: Timothy Bradley is developing into a heck of a boxer and he and Lamont Peterson put on a cracking good fight. Bad News: I have more fat in my second chin than those two have, combined, in their entire bodies.

Good News II: That the judges in Saturday night’s main events rewarded Bradley and Malignaggi for their boxing skills over their opponents’ aggression proves the art in this game is not dead. Bad News: Cory Spinks. …

I don’t know what the judges in Switzerland were watching, scoring the Vitali Klitschko-Kevin Johnson fight 119-109 and 120-108 (twice) for the big guy. I scored it 1,811 to 4 and that was giving Johnson the benefit of every doubt. ÔǪ

Kevin, Shannon Briggs called. He wants his work rate back. 

Seriously, what is it about Klitschko that makes these guys want to jump out of the ring? He must have the perfect combination of height, strength and really bad garlic breath. I don’t know what else would account for it. ÔǪ

Am I the only one who couldn’t care less where Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather fight? I don’t care if they do it on the set of the Ellen DeGeneres show as long as I can watch it.

Bill Dettloff can be reached at [email protected]

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