Emanuel Augustus (previously known as Emanuel Ya’kov Burton)
Ever since entering the modern day, Floyd Mayweather led era of boxing, fans have become very fickle when it comes to fighters taking losses. As much as the majority of the sport’s fan base like to bemoan the current state of it and yearn for the olden days – which next to none of them actually lived through, incidentally – they still invest in the zeitgeist of the mid-2000’s onward, where prospects are immediately written off after one defeat as they no longer wield the more marketable ‘0’ on their record. Fallibility is now lamented as opposed to celebrated; where it once served to prove the depth of talent in the sport, that any fighter could beat any fighter, it is now used as a stick to beat the current generation with, supposed evidence that their talent does not match up to that of their predecessors.
Needless to say someone who actually seeks to enjoy their hobbies can grow disillusioned with this train of thought. Each to their own, but I’ve never really gotten on board with staying up until 4am on a Saturday night/Sunday morning to watch a fight card with the primary intention being that when it concludes I can take to the internet and tell whoever will listen that I loathe what the sole reason I’ve stayed up until 4am on a Saturday night/Sunday morning to watch has become. It seems counter-productive. Again though, each to their own.
As a consequence of this increasingly pessimistic outlook from the boxing community at large, I began to champion certain fighters whose records did not reflect their true ability in a sort of quiet protestation. Examples from the recent past being the likes of Tomas Rojas, Orlando Salido, Cristobal Cruz etc.
A boxer’s record viewed solely through the prism of its numbers leaves you devoid of any context, and though tools like BoxRec are excellent aids, they should be used as such. Taken in isolation it often doesn’t reflect the actual ability of an individual. The defining personified example of this is ironically a fighter who has previously been widely celebrated – the ”Drunken Master” Emanuel Augustus.
Granted, to claim him as some exception to the rule is a tad disingenuous, as he crossed the threshold into journeyman status rather than a would-be world champion, but it could’ve been so much more for Augutus. A man who proved to be his own worst foe when it came to enhancing his career, he jumped from manager to manager, generally deciding to do what he pleased and not what he was advised, he abused his own talents with his decisions.
He frequently contested in controversial fights, many of which took place in opponents’ hometowns (or at least where they would be considered the ”home” fighter). The oft-perpetuated myth by some is that you could easily disregard approximately a third of his losses due to incorrect scoring from judges, as well as many other defeats of his being attributed to the bizarre schedule he kept up.
For all this disappointment, his fights usually delivered from an entertainment standpoint. He possessed both the grit of a brawler as well as a unique fluidity that lent itself to showboating, both of which would tend to come out with each passing fight and go some way toward building a reputation not customary for one with such a modest resumé. Even when approaching the tail-end of his career, when he was battle-worn to a worrying extent, his ring smarts and instinct alone would keep him competitive against prospects and fringe contenders.
His seventeen year career (1994-2011) is laden with accomplishments for a fighter pigeon-holed into the ‘opponent’ category. The most notable in terms of tangible success being when over the course of 22 days he emerged out of three fights with a record of 2-0-1. Impressive in itself, but what put it into boxing folklore is that those three contests happened in Denmark, America and England respectively. A draw away against Soren Sondergaard was followed by a win over a club fighter in New Orleans, with the unbeaten streak culminating in a victory over Britain’s John Thaxton in September 1998.
The aforementioned Mayweather faced off against Augustus in 2000, and has previously credited him with the title of being his toughest opponent. Such a compliment is to be taken with grain upon grain of salt, but Emanuel did give a good account of himself against the future pound for pound best before being stopped in the ninth round.
Bigger things were to follow, as the Chicago native went toe-to-toe in what ESPN and The Ring Magazine both called 2001’s fight of the year against the similarly heralded Micky Ward.
A similar pattern then began to emerge over the next six or seven years. For every stand-out victory came a disappointing defeat, and for every performance where he appeared to best his opponent there were judges that thought otherwise. During this time frame Augustus actually threatened to compete for a ‘word’ title, jumping to number two in the IBF rankings following an upset victory over Carlos Wilfredo Vilches, only to then suffer four loses in succession and fall back into obscurity.
However he is more known for his near misses than these inconsistent instances of triumph, and as such his robbery suffered at the hands of Courtney Burton is better remembered than the likes of his victory over Vilches, and for understandable reasons…
He saw out the rest of his days with a comparative whimper. Past his best at this point, he spent the ensuing years alternating between defeating relative no-hopers (including redemption against Burton, knocking him out two years after their initial debacle) and losing gallantly to up and comers. He bowed out officially in 2011 after dropping an eight round unanimous decision to Vernon Paris – his fifth loss in succession and his worst streak of defeats.
Emanuel Augustus’ career is in part a testament to a few aspects of what is wrong with boxing, ranging from ones that have existed since the sport’s inception to those that manifested themselves in more recent years. There’s always demand for a competent loser in the sport, but not for one who had his talent.
However there is a silver lining to be taken from this. Being realistic his talent being harnessed correctly would still have only taken him so far, probably as far as the plethora pf precocious young talents that barely edged him in fights did, and ultimately the way events transpired resulted in him achieving one of the most remarkable cult hero statuses boxing has seen.