The casual boxing fan probably isn’t aware of what I am about to tell you.
When a "hot" prospect starts his professional career, his managers and promoters will purposefully match him against opponents that he will definitely beat for his first 10-20 bouts (maybe more). This is done to build the fighter's confidence and give him experience without putting him or his "star status" in jeopardy. Basically, it would be unwise to bet on an upset at this stage of a promising fighter's career, because for the most part, promoters and managers know what they are doing. It is their job to know who to match their potential cash cow with. Don't believe me? In several occasions throughout his book, American Son, De la Hoya talks about how managers normally ease a potential “star” slowly up the ranks. He mentions that they usually increase the level of competition at a gradual pace during the early years. For example, De la Hoya says, “Bob Arum and his matchmaker for his Top Rank Boxing organization, Bruce Trampler, were not putting me in against the typical line of stiffs most young prospects get to learn against.” 1
Noted boxing writer, Thomas Hauser quotes Ron Scott Stevens, former Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission as saying to his referees: “These guys are coming in as opponents. Give them a fair chance to win. But if they’re getting hurt, do what you have to do sooner rather than later.” 2 Even the officials know that these popular prospects are being put into less than competitive matches for the learning experience!
Hauser has also written about Bob Arum’s skill with developing fighters and allowing them to learn without putting their records at risk. Hauser writes, “Arum has always had good matchmakers. It’s no accident that, during their rise prominence, Cotto and other Top Rank stars have shared the common denominator of fighting smaller opponents with credible names who were a bit past their prime.” 2
In his definitive biography of the most famous athlete of all time, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times, Hauser says, “[Cassius] Clay versus [Archie] Moore was typical of boxing. A young up-and-coming fighter against an over-the-hill ‘name’ opponent. Invariably, the older man has little chance of winning. He’s being paid for the marquee value of his name.” 3
1. De la Hoya, Oscar. American Son. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.
2. Hauser, Thomas. I Don’t Believe It, But It’s True. Ontario: Sport Media Publishing, 2006.
3. Hauser, Thomas. Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperback, 1991.