Follow The Trace | Cowardice by the Axeman
Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters literally threw down his axe and ran at the end of round seven of his scheduled 12-round super featherweight championship fight against Vasyl Lomachenko over the weekend.
Bewilderment, surprise, disappointment and even anger typified the mood of the boxing fans inside and outside the arena, upon witnessing the bizarre moments in the Axeman's corner immediately after the bell signalled the end of round seven, when the Jamaican beckoned to the ring referee and uttered the infamous words 'no mas', akin to Roberto Duran in his 1980 bout against Sugar Ray Leanard. The Axeman's groan of 'no mas', as was that of Duran 36 years ago, meant 'no more' - no more beating, no more punishment, 'I quit' as the referee signalled the anticlimactic end to the much-publicised fight.
My initial thoughts were that Walters must have been carrying an undisclosed injury into the fight, or sustained a knock during the early rounds that resulted in him being incapacitated, thus his decision to quit. Lo and behold, Walters, in the post-fight interview, simply said he could not go anymore, he could not find his range and could not land his punches as he could not get to the nimble southpaw, Lomachenko. The Axeman said his poor showing was due to his inactivity, having not fought for over a year, and that the long period of inactivity leading up to the fight rendered him unable to compete with the brilliant Ukrainian.
That was indeed confirmation of the worst fears of many, that Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters, the Jamaican warrior, the gladiator, the champion we know, in the biggest fight of his career, had simply QUIT. Walters' corner never actually threw in the towel, the decision looked to be taken by Walters himself in a fight where, admittedly, he was being outclassed, but was certainly not physically hurt or seriously injured. It was simply an old-fashioned act of cowardice.
The fans inside the arena booed the Jamaican for failing to live up to his end of the bargain by bringing his skills, experience, and the heart, to the night's main event.
The truth be told, 'The Axeman' looked timid and nervous from the very first bell. Lomachenko sensed his fear and was as flawless in defence as he was confident and relentless in his attacking execution. It was the very first time in Walters' career that the otherwise confident and brash Jamaican had no immediate answers to a clearly superior fighter.
NOT A GOOD LOOK
Instructively, his response to the first career challenge of this magnitude also saw him quitting rather wimpishly. It was not a good look for Walters and not a good look for Jamaica.
As to what this will mean for his career and his reputation as a prize fighter, we will have to wait and see; but for sure, the way he went out on Saturday night, it will be hard for him to regain the trust and respect of the general boxing public.
It is something of an unwritten rule in boxing - 'champions don't quit' and Walters' expressed inability to breach the defence of Lamachenko was hardly a reason to quit just after the half-way mark in a fight of this magnitude. Walters has come a long way from boxing in an imaginary ring in the streets of Roehampton in rural St James to become the latest on the list of Jamaican world boxing champions. He has had some bumps and bruises along the way, but his decision to quit half way through his biggest fight of his career on the grandest stage, will be a hard bump to recover from, and will leave Walters and all of us wondering what might have been, and what could have been.