What is Go the Distance in Baseball & Boxing?

Go the distance, or going the distance, is when a competitor, usually a boxer or pitcher, completes the entire objective that they've been tasked with.

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Two boxers in a boxing ring
It takes a lot to go the distance

In baseball or softball, that's a pitcher throwing a complete game, which is usually nine innings. In boxing, that's remaining competitive in the fight and not being knocked out during the timed rounds.

While it often results in a win, going the distance is impressive for the simple fact of completion in and of itself. Throwing nine innings or going 12 rounds is quite the accomplishment.

With regard to pitching, a pitcher who has thrown nine innings has gone through the lineup at least three times. In general, hitters get better the more they face a pitcher, which makes it increasingly difficult to succeed. Another way to say going the distance in baseball/softball is to say that a pitcher threw a complete game. And yes, extra innings do count.

With regard to boxing, you've thrown all of your punches, you've taken the best of your opponents hits, and it's now up to the judges to score your fight. Going the distance in the ring is a true test of your mental and physical strength, agility, and fortitude.

Partaking of 12 rounds of the Sweet Science is anything but a trip to the candy store. A boxer must remain lucid and capable of fighting. They must not have been knocked out or suffered a technical knockout (TKO) during the bout.

Ray Mancini vs. Duk Koo Kim (15 Rounds to 12 Rounds)

Fun fact, going the distance used to be 15 rounds for a title fight. That all changed after 11/13/82, the night that Ray Mancini fought Duk Koo Kim (Kim Duk-koo). Kim Duk-koo would succumb to his injuries days later, passing away on November 18th, 1982. It was claimed that a punch in the 13th or 14th round caused significant brain injury, one large enough to put the fighter in a coma minutes after finishing the match.

It was an all-around tragedy, with Kim Duk-koo's mother and the fight's referee both committing suicide after his death. Prior to that fight, going the distance was considered to be a 15 round affair.

Women's Boxing Goes 10 Rounds

Unlike the 12 three-minute rounds that Men's Boxing endures, Women's Boxing employs 10 two-minute rounds. In essence, a woman must fight competitively for 20 total minutes to a man's 36 total minutes to go the distance.

Some, like Claressa Shields, a champion boxer, have called for equality within the rules of the sport.

Rocky Balboa (Rocky I)

The most famous example of going the distance is fictional, and that would be the character of Rocky Balboa in the film Rocky. The main character, Rocky, even goes so far as to say that he doesn't care about defeating Apollo Creed, he just wants to go the distance with the champ. For him, it's about proving that he belongs.

Here is the score to that movie below, with the Bill Conti written track, Going the Distance at the ready.

Famous Pitchers Who've Thrown Complete Games With the Longest Distances

Robin Roberts

Perhaps the most famous pitcher example of going the distance on the mound comes from Robin Roberts. Roberts was a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies who became famous for throwing 28 straight complete games in 1953.

"I don’t think anyone was ever able to concentrate in a baseball game any better than I was,” Roberts said. “I stood out there in total isolation, just throwing that ball as well as I could. Nothing bothered me.”

The complete game has gone further and further by the wayside. According to Baseball statistics and data collected over time, 87.6% of pitchers went the distance in 1904 vs just 3.1% in 2004 just a hundred years later.

So good on you, Robin Roberts for doing it 28 times in a row.

Joe Oeschger vs Leon Cadore

Oeschger and Cadore, pitching for the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Dodgers respectively, each tossed a 26 inning complete game on May 1st, 1920. That's nearly 3x "the distance" for a normal game. It's an unfathomable feat in today's game, where relievers are called upon early and often. Nevermind analytics professionals, medical professionals and sports agents would never allow any pitcher to go the distance over 26 innings today.

Kelly Prokupek

Prokupek, a pitcher for Creighton, tossed 51 1/3 innings over 12 hours and never gave up an earned run. She truly went the distance. Truly.

She pitched in two of the three longest college softball games ever, and they were back-to-back. A heroic effort if you will allow heroism to be inserted into sports.

How many innings are in a softball game typically? Glad you asked. That would be 7. Prokupek threw more than 7 game's worth of pitches in her performance.

Wrapping Up

Whether it's boxing, baseball or softball, going the distance is hard. For every Greg Maddux is some five inning boy wonder who runs out of gas early and often.

References & Sources