Slate's Explainer: Boxing Win-Loss Records

The weekend brought a humiliating defeat for former champion boxer Mike Tyson. Slate senior editor Andy Bowers reports about whether win-loss records mean anything in the world of boxing.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And news from a more aggressive sport now, boxing. Former heavyweight champion and legendary bad boy "Iron" Mike Tyson was defeated on Saturday night during an attempted comeback. Tyson sat down after the sixth round and could not continue. The 38-year-old says he now plans to retire. The surprise victor was Irish boxer Kevin McBride, who was the underdog, even though his win-loss record now stands at an impressive 33-to-4. Well, that got our partners at the online magazine Slate thinking of an Explainer question: Do win-loss records mean anything in boxing? Here is Slate's Andy Bowers.

ANDY BOWERS reporting:

Not really. Having an impressive resume doesn't necessarily mean you're a great fighter. Kevin McBride's record includes a lot of victories over big-time losers, fighters like Lenzie Morgan, with a 14-and-26 record, and Jimmy Harrison, with six wins and 34 losses. Of course, beating Tyson, even if Tyson was well past his prime, will put McBride in a different league.

The real stumblebums are the guys who make a career of losing. In small-time boxing, the less-talented fighter often gets most of the cash. He is, after all, providing a valuable service by losing so reliably and helping other fighters pad their records. In the old days, ringers could boost their income by fighting repeatedly using aliases to conceal their abysmal stats. A fake name also allowed a boxer to get back in the ring a few days after being knocked out, even though state boxing commissions normally require an extended recuperation.

Federal legislation in 1996 made it harder and safer to be a palooka. Now every boxer needs a federally issued photo ID card and the results of every fight are transmitted to a registry certified by the Association of Boxing Commission. Whenever a promoter wants to set up an official bout, he has to supply the state boxing commissioner with up-to-date statistics on the boxers involved. The commissioner looks at each fighter's history and can disallow the fight if it appears to be a dangerous mismatch.

BRAND: Andy Bowers is a senior editor for our online partner, Slate magazine. And that Explainer was researched by Daniel Engber.

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