On the night that Tony Bellew overcome the odds to upset David Haye there were two fighters who came to the end of the road feeling very different at the end of their fight. Paulie Malignaggi who had just been stopped by Sam Egginton was completely at ease in the post fight interview and later in the night even assumed a role commentating on the main event. Meanwhile Derry Mathews was visibly distressed following his loss to Ohara Davies, realising the end had come for him and it wasn’t on the terms he necessarily hoped for.
Paulie Malignaggi had been a 2 weight world champion, was financially secure & was enjoying the new roles in which he is an analyst for Showtime and Sky. He had long come to terms with the fact he wasn’t what he once was and boxed on for the love of it, knowing he was in the gatekeeper role fighting guys on the way up. He boxed because he wanted to enjoying every moment of it – with the very very small chance he would win one to get a title shot for a “chance to dream again”.
You see Paulie had achieved everything he had wanted to in boxing. At that point a fighter will often enjoy the remainder, and being a boxing man Paulie knew his place was to either expose a new upstart or pass the torch so boxing could thrive. Boxing history shows that elder fighters fight on past their prime & often pass the torch to the prospects coming through.
English title, WBU title, commonwealth, British, WBA continental, & WBA interim are all belts held by Derry Mathews from featherweight to lightweight. He also boxed for the European, WBO European, WBC silver and WBO world each time coming up short. For many fighters that would surpass expectancies, Derry hoped for more, expected more and felt he deserved more.
The WBA interim is an achievement although in boxing circles it is not the dream, no kid dreams of being an interim champion. When he looks down his record he will see he beat Anthony Crolla who has since become a genuine world champion, only for Derry he didn’t get the opportunity at the right time. If the stars would have aligned for Derry to box for said title at his peak or a period where the titlists weren’t as strong as previous years he could well have captured that world title that eluded him.
Sometimes it is the choices made that define a career, Derry opted to vacate his position as WBA interim champion where he would have faced either Crolla or Jorge Linares, to face Terry Flanagan for the WBO. So rather than facing a man he had already beat he opted to face a man who bested him in prizefighter. It is an honourable way to go to try and avenge a defeat though sitting there he would have been thinking what if he had opted the other route.
Derry’s career has been a good one. One would like to think he is financially secure, and if he had been offered this career following a string of losses at the tail end of last decade he would have bitten some ones hand off for it.
Other fighters such as Kevin Mitchell have found themselves in similar positions. He won 6 titles and fought for more but it’s the failed world titles that haunt him. Along with the regret of if he had dedicated himself earlier in his years what would he have achieved? You could see the same emotions etched on the face of Matthew Macklin following his fight with Brian Rose, the realisation he wasn’t to be one of the ones who achieved it.
Some fighters achieve a world title and still end up like this as they then seek pound for pound supremacy. An example of this is Ricky Hatton who having won the world title against Kostya Tszuy then went after Floyd Mayweather & Manny Pacquiao.
Its not all doom & gloom though, Sam Egginton stepped in the gym with the view of being a journeyman and has surpassed every expectation he had of himself so he could retire today being completely content. Shane Mcphilbin turned professional with the hope of fighting for a midlands area title if he is lucky yet ended up British Cruiseweight champion and you have Darren Barker who wins the IBF world title then loses it in his first defence – immediately announcing his retirement completely content as he achieved what he set out to.
The destination people set themselves varies all over the world, some aim for an area title, some aim for a domestic, European or the ultimate being a world. Each of these journeys is littered with people who have suffered disappointment in never reaching it, falling just short or the very few who get there. If you think there are 110 boxers licensed in the welterweight UK division with 50 of them wanting to be British champion then it leaves a large percentage of disappointment.
The disappointment stems right down to amateurs. You have amateurs who dream of just being professionals who realise the ticket selling side of the sport means they would have to be a journeyman and that isn’t the kind of pro they dreamed of being. Boxing is a difficult sport at all levels that eats people up and spits them out.
Whats important to remember is not to look at how far you have to go, or how far you fell short but how far you have come in the first place.
The end goal changes with the journey you take, and in Derry went in to the fight with Ohara still harbouring hopes & dreams of winning a world title only for the realisation to sink in front of a national audience that he isn’t going to reach that destination and will stop just short like many others before him and since him have on the boulevard of broken dreams.