“Lies, dammed lies and statistics,” a phrase popularized by Mark Twain in 1906 is now, over a hundred years on, an apt description of many modern fighters records.
Gone are the days when fearless combatants such as Willie Pep, Henry Armstrong and Sugar Ray Robinson fought all comers. A loss wasn’t deemed a disgrace or the end of their career. As a result their records stand up to scrutiny which is why they are regarded among the best to have ever laced the gloves.
Sadly, nowadays too much significance is placed on a fighter’s “0”. Promoters now carefully hand-pick opponents for their prized prospects chartering the route of least resistance to the top. When these fighters eventually make the step up in the quality of opponent, they are often found lacking. Examples are rife but the cautionary tale of Faruq Saleem is perhaps the most extreme. Heavyweight Saleem had amassed a record of 38-0(32 KO’s) against a series of journeymen when he faced Shawn McLean. On paper McLean, another member of the “have gloves, will travel” brigade was simply meant to be another victim. Yet, he stopped his unbeaten opponent in the fourth. Faruq Saleem has not fought since.
The reverse of course is that there are pugilists whose talent surpasses what their records suggest. You need only look at Orlando Salido or Carson Jones for proof. Both men have suffered multiple defeats yet the Mexican is an alphabet titlist and the American is fringe contender who pushed undefeated Kell Brook to the limit.
Another, less well-known, example is Tony Pace who turned pro with little fanfare and without a promoter in 2011. Deprived of support from a promotional outfit, the Welshman found himself thrown in at the deep-end against some of Britain’s brightest prospect, yet never appeared out of his depth despite amassing a record of 3-4.
The 19-year-old hasn’t been discouraged by his tough start in the paid ranks as he is no stranger to adversity. In last year’s Welsh Amateur Championships, he drew future Olympic silver medallist Fred Evans in the semi-finals. A misunderstanding with his trainer led to former WBU cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli working his corner.
“My trainer came in; he said “Tony I have none of my kit. I’d been sparring down in this other gym quite a lot because I had the championships coming up and he thought I didn’t want him in my corner,” Pace told ThaBoxingVoice.com
The upside of facing many prospects is that “The Snake” has gained national exposure fighting on the undercards WBO light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly’s title defences televised live on dedicated boxing channel, BoxNation. In each of these appearances, Pace’s all-action, come-forward style gained the admiration of fans and pundits alike, particularly veteran broadcaster and journalist Steve Bunce who regularly features the youngster on his show “Bunce’s Boxing Hour”.
“I’ve had a lot of exposure I shouldn’t have had. There’s a lot of people who are 10-0 and people haven’t seen or heard of them. Like Steve Bunce said I’ve lost a couple of fights but I’ve had one of the top 20 fights on that show,” confessed Pace
The youngster’s big break came in May of this year when he out-pointed unbeaten Frank Warren Promotions’ fighter Francis Luke Robinson, far more convincingly than the one point margin awarded by the referee implies. Both fighters were familiar with each other and Pace was confident of victory.
“I sparred him when I was younger and I was always too strong for him even though he was a couple of years older than me.”
Everything the Welshman has achieved to date has been accomplished while working in his local branch of McDonalds. Despite his day job, Pace maintains a strict training regime and manages to travel the length and breadth of the United Kingdom for high quality sparring in places such as the Tibbs’ TKO gym in London and with the Walsh brothers in Norwich.
“I get holidays now so I just book the time off but they make me work rubbish times. Even though I’ve got a couple of sponsors now, I’m looking for a sponsor to cover my insurance so I can train full time. If I had that I’d pack in my job and be on the same step as all the other boxers,” admitted pace
Since the victory over Robinson, Pace has signed with Martin Lyons. The rookie promoter has already had an impact on the Welshman’s career having recently secured him a slot as a reserve on Matchroom Sport’s Prize Fighter and putting Tony in a position to turn down short notice bouts against former world champion Scott Harrison and hotly tipped Central Area titlist Kieran Farrell.
The most significant achievement for Lyons is securing the lightweight a shot at the vacant British Masters strap against Lance Sheehan on December 1st at the Newport Leisure Centre, a title which paces hopes will be the first of many.
“I want to make it right to the top. I’m going to train as hard as I can, I want to be a world champion. I ain’t going to stop till I make it.”