I take your point about peaking in cycles, that is certainly a valid argument when simply comparing modern vs oldtime fighters as athletes. But this sport is not just about athleticism, it is unlike so many others in that respect.
Fighting ability comes from time in the ring, and that trumps athleticism, or anything else, in my view.You say modern pros spar as much as old time pros. Perhaps that is true, I couldn’t really pretend to know there. However, the fundamental difference between oldtime fighters and modern fighters is in the quantity of high quality opponents they would have fought, right from the amateurs, in every sparring session and every pro fight.
The pro ranks were much larger, back in the day, and most men had boxed in the amateurs during school years. That made for much more competitive practise and more competitive fights, right from an early age, through to the end of a fighters career. Even the guys who were average pros back then had had 100+ pro fights. Those were the kind of guys that the really good guys had to get past(and in much greater numbers) to make it to the top.
I just don’t think a better athletic peak for a modern fighter would come close to reducing the mismatch in experience and ring craftsmanship.
I was playing devil’s advocate to Robert A:
If yesterday’s top boxers had to have a broader arsenal because of a legion of dirty tricks and setups AND they’d have to compete constantly-
I’d say it follows logically.
Less techniques mean you can polish more what remains.
Also, a top athlete that can peak in cycles is in most cases better better.
It’s not like pros spar less today. But they can concentrate on a specific strategy, manage to taper their weight, endurance etc to a point since they don’t have to worry about performing on a top level every few weeks.
Call it a vice or luxury, but it is an advantage for a modern top fighter.[/quote]
It is only an advantage to the “modern” man if he has a “modern ref” and a modern schedule. Otherwise things could start to get “sporty”.
The rules (shorter rounds, 3 knockdown, etc.), gear(taping over the laces, attached thumbs on the gloves), the enforcement(the ref in the Pep Saddler fight was criticized for letting in “get away from him”, today any round would have been a DQ), and even the technology(athletic commissions get instant replay from multiple angles) all make things different.
We can think of how many matches Rocky Marciano would have dropped if they were fought under a 3 knockdown rule, with “modern sensibilities” about cuts.
Again, I am not saying no fighters in 2012 could stand with the greats of the past if they went back in time. But I suspect we would see some “melt downs” by fighters expected to win, simply because they couldn’t take all the “extra” tricks.
I suspect the “pros of the past” would also buy themselves a bunch of DQ’s if they had to face “modern opposition” in todays rings.