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When Reputation Exceeds Performance

Boxing Betting: When Reputation Exceeds Performance

By Loot, Boxing Handicapper,

Reputation is a very strong force in boxing. It is an individual sport. The reputations for single entities are more clear than in team sports. Guys are performing solo and it makes it easier to give that athlete more of an undivided form of attention. A possible negative byproduct of this is that their reputations become too entrenched in our thoughts. And when their form starts to no longer match their rep--a lot of people are too slow to make accommodations for that.

Reputations can be built over time or established quickly. In either case, it could lead us astray. When a reputation is forged over the course of years, the shelf-life on said reputation might be limited. Conversely, when a fighter establishes a fearsome rep early, there might not be ample evidence to have warranted it.

You see it all the time in this business--a fighter gets off to a fast start in his career and soon has a reputation as a world-beater. They could be right. A lot of those fighters wind up winning world titles and even making it to the Hall of Fame. Then there are slews of the same high-rep fighters who fall by the wayside and fail to live up to their reputation.

Be especially discerning in determining if a reputation is deserved with a fighter who is early in his career. Some managers and matchmakers are geniuses. They can almost create a mirage by selecting opponents who are just over-the-hill enough and whose styles are perfect for the fighter they are building. Some fighters prove a lot during their formative years--with tough fights against good boxers. Others pick their spots more carefully. With all the subtle variations, it takes an educated eye to really determine what is behind a fighter's record. When able to do it, you will be better equipped to tell if a fighter's reputation exceeds his actual merit in the ring.

Then you have fighters where there is really no issue with their resumes. They proved themselves time and again. They beat a high-quality of opponent and conquered many different styles, sizes, and qualities of different fighters. We sometimes come to a point where the reputation has outrun their actual effectiveness. A fighter's rep always has more legs than his actual prime. The result is that some fighters have star-power that outweighs their actual viability in the ring.

No fighter is the same and it can be costly trying to time a fighter's demise before there is ample proof that erosion in fact exists. It's better, however, to be 1 fight early than 3 or 4 fights too late. Many modern examples exist that have forced boxing observers to recalibrate their understanding of ring longevity. But the fighters who buck the odds and stay at the top forever, however visible they may be, are certainly the exception.


For the most part, a top fighter's days are numbered. The road to the top is a long one. To varying degrees, the rise to the pinnacle of the sport represents the prime of a fighter's career. By the time he is big enough to warrant even having a reputation, his best days might be behind him already. Boxing isn't the sport it used to be. To crack into the consciousness of even marginal fight fans takes a lot of work--a lot of years and many fights. The result is that a lot of fighters develop these great big reputations at precisely the moment where they are no longer totally worthy of it.

The result for those who wager on boxing is that if we bet on fighters based on their reputation, we are likely to get the short of it at the betting window. A good reputation equals popularity and popularity means more people bet on that fighter. The result is that we get inflated odds on that fighter, a low-value number that is based on rep. Making it in this business depends on our ability to find value, to isolate fighters who are being underrated or who are getting favorable odds, and to not fall victim to media and fan-based groupthink.

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