How Three Fighters Dealt with Defeat

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Dealing with a loss isn’t easy—but what's more important is how you bounce back from it, something Julian Williams, Danny Garcia and now Jarrett Hurd have learned.

It happens to most of them, if not all—eventually. They have to face it. No matter how great or insignificant, no matter if they fought the majority of their career in smoky clubs or had their names splashed across marquee signs for pay-per-view events.

It happened to the great “Sugar” Ray Robinson 19 times, and to “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali, five times. It happened to “Smokin” Joe Frazier four times. To Hall of Famer “Sugar” Ray Leonard three times, and future Hall of Famers Bernard Hopkins eight times and Wladimir Klitschko five times.

What happened?

They lost.

Almost every major fighter in every era of boxing had, has or will have to deal with losing. Some fighters curl up and do everything possible to escape boxing for a while after a loss. Others wipe out their whole teams, believing new voices in their camp will raise them to new levels. Some will get right back into the gym and still others will undergo a period of self-reflection and torment, breaking down the minutiae of everything they did wrong.

A loss has forged an even greater career for some, while, regrettably, leaving a resonating blight on the resume of too many all-time greats who weren’t ready to face the inevitability that their careers were over.

There’s no prescribed right or wrong way in dealing with defeat. But there is, however, a universal antidote: Winning.

Some thought Julian Williams was damaged goods when he fought Jarrett Hurd in May. Williams (27-1-1, 16 KOs) was a viable challenger to Hurd’s WBA and IBF world super welterweight titles. There was just one thing hovering over Williams’ distinguished resume that made many mistakenly doubt he could win: A fifth-round knockout loss to then-IBF super welterweight world champ Jermall Charlo three years earlier.

“When Julian lost to Charlo, it really wasn’t a big deal to us as much as it was a big deal on social media and the boxing media,” said Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, Williams’ trainer. “Honestly, after the initial effect of losing, where we got caught with a good shot, in a fight where we thought we were winning, we compartmentalized it. What really worked for us is we didn’t let everyone else’s opinion affect our opinion of the situation.

 “We were fine. I got Julian in camp right away to prepare Gennadiy Golovkin for his first fight with Canelo Alvarez. I wanted to make sure I got Julian in the ring with a puncher. Charlo hit Julian with a one-in-million shot, and I know people think we did this special recovery. We learned and moved on.”

One of the strongest recommendations Edwards has to fighters at any level recovering from a loss is to stay off social media. Social media can often be a festering cesspool of negativity, Edwards warns, without any accountability attached. The moratorium on social media, Edwards stresses, should go beyond twitter trolls searching for their morsel of attention.

“You have guys in the media who will purposely write demeaning things about you, when it seems like they’re trying to give you a compliment,” Edwards said. “There are also guys in the media who are fair and won’t kick you when you’re down. I don’t care what anyone says: If you fight enough good fighters in their prime, you’re going to lose. Floyd Mayweather, obviously, being the rare exception to that rule.

“The Mayweather model is one-in-a-million. You have to control yourself. You have to control what’s around you. That’s really all you can do, and block everything out.”

The first step in overcoming a loss is to face the loss. Former Unified World Super Welterweight Champion - Jarrett Hurd

Williams beat Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) by 12-round unanimous decision, handing Hurd his first loss and his first knockdown in the process. Hurd has already re-upped for a Williams rematch in November or December. He also parted ways with longtime trainer Ernesto Rodriguez after the loss.

“I fought J-Rock’s fight, not my fight,” Hurd said. “It was hard, losing, especially losing at home (in Fairfax, Virginia). I think my situation is different than others. I stepped back a little from boxing to figure things out. I couldn’t have had a better outcome for a homecoming. All I didn’t do was win.

“I’m back working and working as hard as I can. I think with Ernesto, we just weren’t on the same page. I sacrifice every time I fight. I need someone to commit to me fulltime. I think (Rodriguez) took me as far as he could. It’s like I outgrew him.”

Credit to Hurd for how he reacted to his first loss. He was professional, classy, and in a time when old-school manners and sportsmanship are scoffed at, Hurd showed Williams great respect after the fight. He dealt with it like a true pro.

“That’s just me,” Hurd said. “That won’t change. I actually like J-Rock. I respect him and he was the better man that night. The first step in overcoming a loss is to face the loss. I’m not making excuses. I lost. I was knocked down for the first time in my career and I fought more with my heart than my head.

“I have to look more at what I did wrong. That’s my advice to anyone coming back from a loss—don’t make excuses and deal with it. You have to break down what you did wrong and learn from it. I got right back into the gym. I can’t wait for the rematch. I’m not going to dwell on it. I want to gain from it.”

After Danny Garcia lost by split decision to Keith Thurman in March 2017, “Swift” dealt with his first pro setback by getting away for six months and not returning to the ring in almost a year.

“I needed it,” Garcia said before he fought Shawn Porter in September 2018. “I just didn’t feel like I was having any fun boxing anymore. People think getting in the ring is the grind. That’s the fun. Training camp is the tough part. I’ve been boxing since I was six. That’s a lot of training. That’s what beats you down. And when you put all that training in and then lose—it’s depressing. It makes you think.”

Garcia, who’s usually jovial and one of boxing’s good guys, said the grind from boxing made him far more serious than he liked to be. Training became a chore. He needed a boxing vacation, something he felt more compelled to do rather than something he wanted to do.

“I didn’t want to come back to the gym for months,” Garcia said. “That worked for me. It tests you. You ask yourself if you really want to do it anymore and I found out how much I love boxing and doing what I do. Time away helped me. It made me realize how much I missed everything, form the smell of the gym, even though my gym doesn’t stink, to hitting the bag, jumping rope, everything.

Garcia would go on to a lose a razor-thin decision to Porter last September. He returned to the ring in April, stopping the usually-durable Adrian Granados in seven one-sided rounds. It was as good as he's looked in years. 

“Sometimes you have to take a loss to realize what you have and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

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