The label "most feared fighter" is much too simplistic when talking about the tough-as-nails world of main stage professional prizefighting. Regardless of what gets tossed around on boxing message boards and throughout social media, "fear" is not in the vocabulary of men who spend the vast majority of their time on Earth engaged in a potentially life-threatening profession.
More often than not, what's perceived as fear is merely a business decision. Some fighters offer up too much risk for too little reward. In a bout where a loss is a distinct possibility, the "bigger," more economically viable fighter would like more of a monetary guarantee and/or greater exposure for the risk involved. It's a business decision that, despite some fans' macho fantasies, every top fighter routinely makes.
Here's a look at four fighters who have earned the status of "avoided fighter" due to their tremendous ring ability and the relatively small financial return they can bring to potential main stage foes:
Lucas Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs)
Strong, aggressive, and determined, Argentina's heavy-handed battler showed on Saturday via brutal first round knockout of Mike Dallas Jr. why most of the top junior welterweights in the world would rather not acknowledge his existence. Matthysse's two losses were controversial split decision losses to division elite (Devon Alexander, Zab Judah), but he has steamrolled just about every other opponent put in his path. Saturday's win puts him in line for the winner of the Danny Garcia-Zab Judah clash in February, but rumors have already emerged that Garcia may pull out of the Judah fight and risk losing his belts rather than find himself locked into a bout with Matthysse.
Gennady Golovkin (25-0, 22 KOs)
While it's true that Kazakhstan's middleweight battler has yet to beat an elite-level 160 lb. contender, he certainly looks like the real deal. Golovkin holds the paper WBA middleweight title, but has not been able to leverage that belt into any sort of meaningful bout with a name opponent. Team Golovkin hopes that his migration to the United States and recent status as media darling will lead to some main stage bouts. The middleweight top dogs are likely hoping that Golovkin's defensive liabilities eliminate him from contention before the public demand forces them into a tough battle with the offense-minded fighter.
Andre Ward (26-0, 14 KOs)
It's strange to see a two-belt world titlist on a list of most avoided fighters, but this is precisely where the Olympic gold medalist and WBC/WBA champion finds himself at the moment. Still recovering from shoulder surgery, Ward is having the toughest time finding a suitable opponent for his ring return. Even with two world belts and guaranteed premium cable exposure it has been hard to find big ticket opponents for his post-surgery ring return. Part of the problem is that Ward has beaten most everyone worth beating in the super middleweight division. Former opponents, Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch apparently want nothing to do with him and most of the other challengers are well below his skill level. This means that, for the time being, the Oakland native will have to settle for second tier opposition or imports from other weight classes.
Carlos Molina (20-5-2, 6 KOs)
"King" Carlos Molina is the type of fighter every big shot superstar hates to see as an opponent. He is a tough, hard-working spoiler who knows how to drag an opponent into an ugly fight that will either result in a loss or a career-stalling ring performance. Molina holds upset wins over Kermit Cintron and Danny Perez and met with defeat in controversial screw jobs against James Kirkland and Erislandy Lara. The native of Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico is set to face another spoiler in former champ, Cory Spinks on February 1 in an IBF junior middleweight world title eliminator.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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