BoxingWriter.co.uk Fighter of the Month – February 2021

As the world permits hope to smile, like the pale Spring sun of late February, boxing is emerging squinting and yawning from the hibernation of Winter and the grip of the COVID pandemic. Shows and events are beginning to populate the diary, fights are happening and momentum is being wrested from the inertia of lockdown.

There has been chaos too. Boxing isn’t boxing without its signature melodrama, the myopia of judges and the sanctioning bodies’ eternal shenanigans. Certainly, there was enough action committed to record to award another Fighter of The Month to follow in the steps of Ryan Garcia who won the equivalent January prize.

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Change isn’t coming. It’s here. Triller win purse bids for Lopez v Kambosos

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Charles Dawin, Biologist, 1809-1882

I asked, we all asked. It is reflective of the inherent demographics within this sporting perversion that is the boxing industry that we had to. Those of us with teenage children were closest to source, able to access the information required most swiftly. Those of us surrounded by contemporaries had to resort to Google. We’ve grown. Once we would have ‘Asked Jeeves’.

For those still waiting on a definitive answer:

Triller is an American video-making and social-networking service owned by Proxima Media. It allows users to automatically edit and synchronize their videos to background tracks using artificial intelligence. Triller was released for iOS and Android in 2015, and it is currently led by President and CEO Mike Lu.

They will also be broadcasting the Lightweight World Championship fight between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos having won the purse bids to do so with a bid of more than $6m. Almost double the offers submitted by Matchroom Sports, and Top Rank who promote the 23 year old.

Continue reading “Change isn’t coming. It’s here. Triller win purse bids for Lopez v Kambosos”

Sakio Bika returns. In pursuit of one last run at the championship

Aged 41, with three and half years of inactivity laying like a barren field at the end of his otherwise prodigious boxing career, Sakio Bika is a frustrated fighter. Impeccably professional, the Australia based Cameroonian persists. Working to remain in the taut condition of his youth. Boxing is a young man’s game, if it is a game at all, and forty somethings like Sakio, and contemporaries Sergio Martinez and Sam Soliman, should be discouraged.

But in life, as he always proved in the ring, Sakio Bika is a man who is not easily discouraged.

In boxing tradition young contenders usually queue to add the remaining lustre of an old champion’s name to their own. Matchmakers charged with the curation of emerging talent carefully select the worn and the weary to extend, but not derail, the asset. The problem for Sakio, desperate for one more shot at the big time, is that those promoters and matchmakers have long memories. Memories of the discomfort he caused the legends of his generation remain in tact and widely held.

On Friday 26th, Sakio finally has an opponent willing to step between the ropes to face him; local tough guy, Adam Stowe. A thirty-something middleweight with a modest record. Speaking with Sakio this week, it is clear the fight is merely the first step in what he hopes will be one last run at a title: “I try not to name too many names because when I do they tend to go quiet or run away. I’m available for anyone, either 168 or 175, I don’t mind which. Fighters should want to challenge me, but they don’t.”

Continue reading “Sakio Bika returns. In pursuit of one last run at the championship”

Avanesyan has his triumph, Kelly’s loss needn’t be a disaster. If fans rally to his side

One may learn wisdom even from one’s enemies

Aristophanes, Greek Satirist, 445-385BC

It’s traditional to muse on the events of the night before on a Sunday morning. Where once it was the haze of a hangover and wondering what may have been said and done beneath the influence of alcohol, Sundays are now more typically dominated by the injustices and frustrations evoked by Saturday night boxing. In a world of the cynical and sarcastic, of the negative and voyeuristic, being motivated to write by failure, by schadenfreude is a widespread malaise.

Important then, to write when a show has produced entertainment, drama and delivered a large dose of the thunder fight fans all crave. We must, collectively, counteract the all to familiar narratives. For if we don’t, if there is no buzz to compensate fighters and promoters for taking the risk of evenly matched fights, then they will defer to the tried and trusted safety first modus operandi that plagues the sport in the modern day. Their hangover will not be worth the entertainment they share.

Last night’s show, in which the favoured Pretty Boy Josh Kelly was stopped by a 32-year-old Armenian who lives in Newark, David Avernysan, and the loquacious Albanian Florian Marku had to get off the floor to beat Ryan Charlton, there was everything that was good about the fight game.

Please be upstanding for the participants and the matchmaker who compiled such an evenly matched card. There was so much to enjoy.

Continue reading “Avanesyan has his triumph, Kelly’s loss needn’t be a disaster. If fans rally to his side”

Honeyghan destroys Bumphus. 34 years on, the memories remain

Much time has passed since last I was ringside for a boxing match. A break exacerbated by the pandemic of course. The joy of people watching, a pastime inherited sitting besides a Grandad waiting “near the Spinner” in Doncaster, for a Grandma browsing in Marks’, is sweetly fed in a press seat. From those middle-age men assigned to chaperone ring card girls, to the fighter’s moll, tightly wrapped for later, the polo shirt security blinking into the darkness beyond the apron, to the men in silk pyjama jackets, bent noses all, a stray towel flung on their shoulder, boxing employs a diverse troupe of characters.

One of the most glorious attendees at any London event is the former Welterweight champion, Lloyd Honeyghan. The Ragamuffin Man is a man of sartorial individualism. From the fur coat, the spats, to the ‘Chicago’ trilby, to the cane with a leaping cat, his presence is felt the moment he enters a room. Any room. He was once afforded the front row seat directly in ahead of me at a fight card I’ve long since forgotten. Or to rephrase, I was sat behind him. That seems more respectful. Star struck, I failed to speak.

The aura to which I was prisoner that night, began 34 years ago.

Continue reading “Honeyghan destroys Bumphus. 34 years on, the memories remain”

Veterans Bika and Soliman return, Meehan the younger continues

Old age is no place for sissies!

Bette Davis, Actress, 1908-1989

A reader challenged my expressed frustration with the sport this week. Commenting that the incompetence and imperfection I was bemoaning at the time, in the wake of poor officiating on the Warrington v Lara card last weekend, was precisely the reason boxing draws writers to write. That its ugliness is, in truth, its beauty. The pursuit of the ‘right’ contests, of certainty, of a sense of hierarchy and regulation, seemingly abundant in all other sports, is the bittersweet joy of boxing.

There may be a seed of truth in that. Were it as simple as it really ought to be, perhaps some of the high points wouldn’t seem so high?

For now, chaos is the preeminent theme. Within that reality, peculiar storylines, far from the mountain tops of world title fights, are permissible, from the romantic to the deplorable, they add texture to the patchwork eiderdown the sport bunkers beneath. Stories like the return of two stubborn old Australian veterans who really should know better and the son of their contemporary taking another step in his boxing career in New Zealand.

Continue reading “Veterans Bika and Soliman return, Meehan the younger continues”

Adrian Broner and the Peter Pan pipe dream

Inactivity is not a new phenomenon in boxing. Champions, even in those supposedly halcyon days of one division, one champion took extended sabbaticals between fights. Jack Dempsey twice took two years or more off between defences of his crown. Busying himself with the luxuries afforded by success. Safe in the knowledge that only defeat between the ropes could ever separate him from the title. The inactivity of the modern era is a different animal. Evolved from different circumstances.

Failed drug tests, contractual disputes, waiting on mandatory shots are all new prompts the old champions didn’t encounter. A broader church of talent now enjoys larger wages and far more is known about the long term damage accrued through participation in more bouts, more sparring, both discourage activity. Even for the victor, sacrifice is required.

Between the pragmatism of the fewer fights of today and the century old practice of living indulgently between bouts, exist a troop of enigmatic figures. Fighters like Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner.

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‘Bronco’ Lara throws Warrington from the Featherweight saddle

It is hard to know where to start a fight report on Josh Warrington’s contest with unheralded Mexican, Mauricio Lara. The 22-year-old, who catapults himself from anonymity and small purses to the world scene with the victory, remains the same boxer he was on Friday. He is still slow, with wide punches, ponderous feet and a propensity to mark up. But he has, whatever circumstances prove to have been in play, battered the best Featherweight in the world and knocked him out in spectacular fashion.

Congratulations to him for taking the fight and grabbing the chance. Almost everything else about the night felt wrong.

Continue reading “‘Bronco’ Lara throws Warrington from the Featherweight saddle”

Warrington steps down in pursuit of step up.

It is folly to expect men to do all that they may reasonably be expected to do.

Richard Whately, Philospher, 1787-1863

Lurching from the absurd to the ridiculous, from the passing Neon brightness of Leon to the deadly dark of the Panorama expose, boxing will be glad to get back to the business of, well, boxing this weekend. Even if it is the peculiar reality of Josh Warrington fighting an opponent who has a whiff of the unwanted mandatory about him, despite the absence of a world title belt to demand one.

The year begin, and remains, in the grip of a pandemic, but with every jab dispensed the sport, like the wider populous, is loosening its collar and daring to peak out at the Spring yet to come. British boxing’s self imposed hiatus, to relieve pressure on the health service, draws to a close and the popular Leeds born fighter will kick off the high profile schedule.

Of interest, despite the anonymity of the opponent, will be assessing whether Warrington can recapture the momentum lost due to inactivity.

Continue reading “Warrington steps down in pursuit of step up.”

Leon Spinks, 1953-2021 Former Heavyweight Champion of The World

“But I ask Mr. T, ‘Where’s Leon?’ And Mr. T says, ‘I don’t know.’

Butch Lewis, speaking to Thomas Hauser, ‘Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times’

Leon Spinks was The Heavyweight Champion in 1978. He was Olympic Champion in 1976.

Two facts that are indisputable. Representing two mountains tops few stand upon. It was rarified air Leon Spinks was breathing for a time. Grinning through much of it. A young man with the boxing world in the palm of his hand and the rest of it knocking at his hotel room door. He met most of both with love and that unique smile of his. Boxing taught him to trust few of them and his fame was a blessing and a burden in the days beyond 1978.

He will be remembered always, not as the greatest or for enduring greatness, but because for a night in 1978 he ‘put it on Ali’ for 15 rounds and won the title, back when it was still referred to, and was, THE title.

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Benn, Bruno and Nicky Booth, and the lost boys of 2001

Back in 2001, British boxing had meandered into a strange, uncharted hinterland. An odyssey of greed and short-termism in the preceding five years reducing it to a role in the margins, a sporting outcast. Neglected, eroded and far removed from the roaring crowds of the preceding decades. The resurgence of stadium fights had faded to black, dissolving in to the night like the thousands who shuffled, stumbled and strode from the crumbling castles of Wembley and Loftus Road.

Images still lingered in the collective memory. Plumes of warm breath and cigarette smoke drifting on the midnight breeze, the last slurred rendition of ‘Bruno, Bruno’ absorbed by the rattle of taxis and tube trains beneath. In the crowd’s wake, plastic glasses and torn betting slips, the debris of a night, were swept from the aisles. The headaches and penitence of a thousand tomorrows still to unfold for the departing revellers and the fighters they came to see.

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BoxingWriter.co.uk Fighter of the Month – January 2021

The year has begun, though fights have been sparse there has been sufficient highlights among them to rekindle the long since dormant BoxingWriter.co.uk Fighter of the Month. An award with a parade of the great and garrulous among its previous winners, none of whom were aware of their success nor received any prize of garland for the achievement. But don’t let that distract you.

In 2018, the award briefly reemerged in an amalgamated form with MyFightTickets.com, where a three-man panel decided on the winner. However, this latest reboot of the original 2008 concept will return to that simpler myopic format.

There were two performances that caught the eye in January 2021, though I was sad to read Cosme Rivera’s fight was postponed. The 44 year old was a strong contender for this prize regardless of the outcome, for I had a nostalgic yarn to weave about the veteran Welterweight.

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Bad publicity is still publicity. Bryan beats Stiverne in heavyweight hinterland

Championship [noun]

A contest for the position of champion in a sport or game

Any publicity is good publicity the proverb insists. Trevor Bryan’s win on Friday night, KO11 v Bermane Stiverne, secured him the most inauspicious of ‘world’ title belts, in a world awash with inauspicious belts, and tested the age-old notion to the fullest. As well as the credibility of all involved.

The days before the fight, usually the key period of promotional push on a PPV card, were spent navigating a labyrinth of nonsense conjured by the Panama based World Boxing Association (WBA). A largely faceless enterprise seemingly inspired by the imagination of Lewis Carroll and harnessed with a move or two from the Lucky Luciano playbook.

Venerable promoter Don King was the unusual Alice in their dystopian wonderland.

Only in America.

Continue reading “Bad publicity is still publicity. Bryan beats Stiverne in heavyweight hinterland”

Saunders secures his date with destiny. Canelo on Cinco de Mayo

British Super-Middleweight contender Billy Joe Saunders has landed a fight with boxing’s premier star, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, to coincide with Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican celebration of the nation’s victory over the invading French forces in 1862. It is a day now synonymous with boxing and, specifically, whoever is the nation’s biggest star in that calendar year, headlining a US based show.

Saunders’ challenge to Canelo will bring joy to those hipsters who revel in the possibility the Hatfield rascal will prove to be slippery Kryptonite to boxing’s newest and seemingly invincible Superman. For those to whom Saunders is merely a crass irritation, their joy will be found in the presumed evisceration of such a fanciful idea.

The fight offers the Mexican superstar an opportunity to substantiate his status as the division’s king. A crown he earned beating Callum Smith last year. Saunders holds the WBO belt. In truth, it is a decoration. Saunders won the vacated title by beating unheralded Shefat Isufi in May 2019. Two subsequent defences, both abject in their significance and the entertainment provided, added negligible kudos to his reign and the belt stubbornly remains little more than a curio.

Now is Saunders’ moment of truth.

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Oquendo, King and the Game of Thrones

I never got around to watching Game of Thrones. Breaking Bad. I’m resigned to my fate as a person daunted by ‘seasons’, not excited by them. A box set binger I am not. Maybe I’m an outlier. Just a nudge beyond the appropriate demographic.

The idea of playing catch up, of sitting down with 120 hours of plot sprawling out before me holds no attraction. Is that how I want to spend days of my dwindling future and aren’t all tales merely derivatives of just seven stories anyway? I’m 48 this year. I don’t have time.

Fres Oquendo is already 48. In the past six years, the period since he last boxed in a prizefight, the moon faced heavyweight may well have consumed every drama the various platforms had to offer. He may be a TV critic beneath a cryptic pseudonym. A pointed and acidic reviewer as adept at slinging zingers as he once was jabs and left hooks.

One thing is clear, he hasn’t been fighting. He argues he’s tried, but he has an unfortunate habit of choosing fighters who fail pee tests.

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Garcia dares where Spence and Crawford dither

No time like the present

Mrs Manley, Novelist, 1663-1724

On the 17th December Manny Pacquiao became 42. This week marked 26 years since his professional debut. In the period in between he has boxed 71 times. All of these numbers are remarkable. In the modern era, they are other worldly. A pandemic halted his latest run in the Welterweight division and Conor McGregor’s humbling last Saturday has likely cost the Filipino Senator his largest available pay day. Perverse though the idea of their meeting was.

There is now a strong suggestion Pacquiao will face Ryan Garcia, a fighter not born when the first of those 71 contests, a four rounder on 22nd January 1995, took place. It is hoped the match will be the genuine article, a Lightweight upstart venturing to Welterweight to unseat a legend, and not the exhibition tag subsequently tied to the proposition.

Sure, we’d prefer a lightweight round robin and Spence v Crawford, they’re the earnest, timeless match ups boxing craves. But complain about Pacquiao v Garcia? Come on.

Continue reading “Garcia dares where Spence and Crawford dither”

Conor, the boxing conman, departs. Garcia and Pacquiao to reassert boxing’s authority

As blood seeped from his nose, the veneer of alpha stripped from his name and with millions of dollars leaking from his future, Conor McGregor lay prone on the canvas. Pain flooding in beneath the Trojan horse of disorientation that smothered his senses. The Irishman appeared to pause. At first in shock but then with a sense of revelation, of the realisation that he was no longer what he was or what he thought himself to be.

Damage was smeared across his features. The malevolence of his persona hacked out by the fists of a capable opponent. Faces, familiar and new, bobbed into view. McGregor continued gazing toward the lights, perhaps beyond, like a husband outside a shop, staring to the heavens, contemplating whether he’d remembered everything on the list he’d left at home.

Dustin Poirier’s punches had pummelled McGregor’s to defeat. An upset victory that changes much in the world of MMA, and perhaps too, the boxing world McGregor was planning to return to.

Continue reading “Conor, the boxing conman, departs. Garcia and Pacquiao to reassert boxing’s authority”

Can 2020 vision make 2021 boxing’s year of compromise?

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Isle of Beauty, Thomas Haynes Bayly, 1797-1839

Any pursuit elicits frustration and apathy in even its most ardent admirers from time to time. The pursuit and the follower are both a composition of variables that insist their relationship is one of ups and downs. Of sunshine and darkness. Boxing, in all her blood splattered chaos, is inherently inclined to frustrate more than most endeavours.

Among the excitement and wonder boxing engenders, the Cinderella stories and greatness it is crucible too, the ugly sisters of cynicism and sarcasm are the tones struck when otherwise monogamous devotees articulate their despair. A chorus of mismatches, marination and muddle cheats on the affection extended to it by its fans.

No other sport brings together its leading participants together as infrequently as boxing does. As January unfurls and the year’s early schedule is revealed, it is possible fans clamouring for the best to fight the best as well as those willing to moderate their own expectations and embrace the not so goods versus the not so goods, could finally be rewarded.

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Revisited: Quirino Garcia, the elephant and the castle.

We have no time to stand and stare. And stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

W.H. Davies, poet, ‘Leisure’

Parking had been difficult, as was finding the venue itself, and as a result, I was late for the show. It was long since dark and the city still intimidated me despite my tailored attempt to project self-assurance and belonging. I broke into a jog between the pools of street light on my way to the Elephant and Castle Leisure Centre, London. It was late March, 2002. A cool night, I missed the entrance. Twice. No fluorescent signs, no limousines. Just a door, in the shadows, almost turning away from the glare of potential passers by negotiating crossings, blurting horns and the choke of car fumes.

Boxing inhabited a different world twenty years ago. One of Leisure Centres and bootlegged world titles. Smaller. Seedier. And virtually unrecognisable from the gigantic events we now enjoy.

Continue reading “Revisited: Quirino Garcia, the elephant and the castle.”

Dennis Hobson signs Scottish trio, a reward for his innovation in the pandemic

Necessity is the mother of invention

Plato, Philosopher, 428-348BC

For the millionaires in boxing, the pandemic has been difficult, preventing as it does the furtherment of their wealth and for those who punch for pay, it has pried a year of their short career from their grasp. Those not blessed with the talent and opportunity to secure such affluence have been punished much harder by inactivity.

The numbers may be smaller but they represent a greater portion of the whole and they were disproportionally affected as they operate at the end of boxing spectrum where margins are at their tightest. Narrow margins mean less tolerance for absent fans. Ultimately, without television, shows became unsustainable despite the clamour to box by those who frequent these smaller bills.

Dennis Hobson opted to innovate to try and keep his fighters active and preserve their form and standing. This resourcefulness came to prominence twice, firstly in the inception of Drive in Boxing, or Straightener in the Car Park to give it its full title, a format which saw spectators remain in their cars to watch boxing. It was as bonkers as it was brilliant and though the sound of a symphony of car horns distracted more than enhanced, fighters fought, fighters got paid and their career’s ticked on.

Continue reading “Dennis Hobson signs Scottish trio, a reward for his innovation in the pandemic”

Ali v Frazier, March 8th 1971. The Fight of any Century.

I don’t think Clay will want one.

Joe Frazier answers the question of a rematch following his seminal victory over Ali in 1971.

I was born in the summer of 1973. Bawling my way in as a humbled United States left Vietnam, a few weeks before Nixon’s impeachment began and Great Britain joined the EEC it left last week. I arrived broadly equidistant between Muhammad Ali’s back to back encounters with Kenny Norton. I like to refer to Kenny as Kenny, I don’t really know why. Perhaps I hope it implies friendship. On that basis, Mr. Norton would probably be more appropriate, but I digress.

Kenny was of course the strapping enigma the Champ could never quite resolve, in those two fights or in their trilogy bout in ’76. By the time my interest in boxing was stirred, first by the emotive sight of Barry McGuigan walking through the mist and hot breath of Loftus Road to face Eusebio Pedroza in ’85 and then the amalgam of Tyson, Balboa and Herol, Muhammad Ali was no longer an active fighter.

There he remained. Rendered still and out of sight by retirement and remembered only by the words and pictures contained on my grandfather’s book case.

Continue reading “Ali v Frazier, March 8th 1971. The Fight of any Century.”

Agony and ecstasy, Garcia sinks Campbell in 7

Like a pale martyr in his shirt of fire

A Life Drama (1853), Alexander Smith, Poet, 1830-1867

The pain etched across Luke Campbell’s face as he sank, first to one knee, and then to two, drew silence from those who have never experienced the agony his body was submerged in. Prizefighters and pugs watching on, winced. Phantom pangs, recreated by their memory, of an excruciating purgatory similar to that which Ryan Garcia’s whistling left hook had sentenced Campbell to.

A head shot is the more familiar path to a knockout, it draws a roar, an exultation from the gathered as the victim’s eyes roll, their legs fixed or shapeless at the moment of impact. Body shots are a seemingly clandestine conclusion, darker and a more gratuitous coup de grace the pain of which only boxing’s Templar can truly understand.

In landing the shot that inflicted this exclusive hell on the fallen Englishman, Ryan Garcia secured the statement victory his resume needed and substantiated much of the promise he is swathed in.

Continue reading “Agony and ecstasy, Garcia sinks Campbell in 7”

Ryan Garcia, along with his doubters, will discover the truth tonight

The wait in the dressing room before a boxing match — that last hour — would be enough to strip a man that never boxed before of whatever pride, desire and heart he THOUGHT he had.”

‘Iceman’ John Scully, Boxer, 1967-

The period before a fight always strikes me as the most fascinating human experience. Not one I would wish to submit myself too. As someone averse to rollercoasters or any other pursuit in which there is no side door, no coward’s exit, the notion of spending the hours of fight day contemplating the impending confrontation strikes me as the most haunting examination of a man’s psyche.

And your preparation. The truth of whether you’re ready. Not the ready of the press conference answer, the ready that only you, the one who must climb the steps and perhaps the man beside you, really knows.

Tonight, 22 year old Ryan Garcia will make that walk, spend that day, as will Englishman Luke Campbell, both have doubters, both will surely have doubt whispering to them too.

Continue reading “Ryan Garcia, along with his doubters, will discover the truth tonight”

To Hull and back and back and back again. Can Campbell upstage youthful Garcia?

And it’s never really happened to me (it’s happy hour again)

Don’t believe it, oh no

‘Cause it’s never really happened to me (it’s happy hour again)

The Housemartins, Happy Hour (1986)

Headlining this weekend’s Dallas card, boxing’s opening gambit of the New Year, will be British lightweight Luke Campbell versus the unbeaten Ryan Garcia. Campbell will be attempting to win a world title, if we include interim, at the third time of asking. His first two bids, against the exceptional Jorge Linares in 2017 and Vassily Lomachenko in 2019, ended in creditable defeats, the former, narrowly.

Those represented contests against two of boxing’s most ennobled competitors. Fights in which Campbell played the role of the young challenger despite being of contemporary age to both. His fresh face belying his then 30 something years. On Saturday he can no longer hide from the passage of time and if he is to triumph and win the interim WBC title almost 9 years on from his Olympic Gold, he will do so as an ageing contender to the 22-year-old Garcia’s ‘turn’ as the youthful up and comer.

As a son of Kingston-upon-Hull, a place of originality and acute deprivation, he is inherently imbued with the stoicism and spirit to try.

Continue reading “To Hull and back and back and back again. Can Campbell upstage youthful Garcia?”

Canelo leans on Ali and the busyness of old

In fact, you get the face you deserve by the time you’re forty, and one of the keys to looking and feeling younger is being active.

Joan Collins, Actress, 1933-

Saul Alvarez boxed on December 12th. He unified belts and, in all but name, conquered the Super-Middleweight division in the process. He achieved this by beating a disappointing, and disappointed, Callum Smith over 12 rounds. In February, he is lined up for a soft defence of the WBC belt against Turkish slugger Avni Yildrim, before turning his attention to a unification bout with Billy Joe Saunders in May.

Yildrim was flattened by Chris Eubank three years ago. He is a top 20 guy, if his mother was compiling the ratings. A peripheral contender at best, and one who lost his last fight in February 2019. Yes, your maths is correct, he will have been inactive for two years come fight night.

A few have clutched their pearls at the notion of the Mexican superstar facing such an unheralded opponent. There is little to substantiate Yildrim’s legitimacy.

But Yildrim isn’t the key element of the sequence. Neither is the enigmatic Saunders.

Continue reading “Canelo leans on Ali and the busyness of old”

Boxing’s dysfunction is its curse and its salvation

Perhaps it is of little surprise, given its inherent dysfunctionality, that professional boxing, particularly those fighters and promoters operating above the commercial water line, has navigated a path through this most dysfunctional of years.

From drive in car park shows, to behind close doors events and smatterings of fans across larger venues, boxing has adapted. Innovated in order to survive. Amateur boxing and those events beneath the gaze of the television cameras have suffered much more harshly in the bleak economics of a global pandemic.

As in all things, it’s the ‘little guy’ who suffers the most.

Continue reading “Boxing’s dysfunction is its curse and its salvation”

Canelo disarms and dismantles Smith. An education in pressure

There is no pressure at the top. The pressure is being second or third.

Jose Mourinho, Football Coach, 1963-

Many words and phrases enter into boxing’s lexicon. Some pass, like ‘drug cheat’, others linger, hold, like Henry Akinwande, and are as misunderstood as the heavyweight octopus too. Others feel contrived and crash against our senses like finger nails on a chalk board; “downloading data” one unpopular example, “purse split” another. Often these new terms describe something old, something eternal, but the descriptive refreshes and repackages the classic, adds a veneer designed to appeal to a younger audience and infer wisdom in the speaker.

Beneath this modernism, or bullshit as we used to call it, remains the skill, the truth, the meaning. In Saul Alvarez’s performance last night, dismantling a world class fighter six inches taller and with a barge pole reach, the flame haired Mexican added a 2020 definition to the often misunderstood ‘educated pressure’.

If you didn’t know what it meant, nodded bewildered on hearing the term used without appreciating what it looked like, how it could be distinguished from any other type of ‘pressure’, then last night was a definitive exemplar.

Continue reading “Canelo disarms and dismantles Smith. An education in pressure”

Golovkin destroys I.B.F’all Guy

‘Cause I’m the unknown stuntman

Who made Eastwood look so fine

Lee Majors, Unknown Stuntman, 1984

Kamil Szeremata performed admirably last night. He got up. He got up again. He hung tough. He didn’t deviate from the mandatory script. The one he tried not to read. The lines he had were simple enough to learn, they’d been spoken before by others like him across a thousand shows in a hundred countries.

Remain in character. Be obscure. Stay still. Hit your cue. But, crucially, get knocked out.

Continue reading “Golovkin destroys I.B.F’all Guy”

Boxing’s invisible giant, Callum Smith, stands on the shoulders of his brothers

The road is long,

With many a winding turn

The Hollies, 1969

At world level, Liverpudlian Callum Smith is the last man standing from his remarkable family of fighting brothers. Liam boxes on, with a desire to return to the title stage, but brothers Stephen and Paul are now retired and Callum is, as perhaps he has always been, the most luminous hope among the tightly knit siblings. His boxing life is his own, but there is an inescapable sense that Saturday represents the crescendo, the final masterpiece, of their collective careers.

Can Callum deploy all of their accrued wisdom against the toughest foe boxing has to offer him? Can he do the unthinkable, go further than those three brothers he has watched from ringside, consoled and celebrated with, and win the big one? Reach further than Golovkin, Mayweather and an ageing Kovalev could and knock Saul Alvarez out?

As his trainer Joe Gallagher mooted this week, he may need to in order to win.

Continue reading “Boxing’s invisible giant, Callum Smith, stands on the shoulders of his brothers”

Golovkin, the middleweight protagonist, aims to turn back time

 Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?”

Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future

I frequently comment on the foolishness of boxers returning in their forties or the folly of those who box on toward them. Still pursuant of glory and paydays long beyond their grasp. And yet, exceptions prod at the apparent certainty. Tug on the sentimental thread we all have swaying beneath our sleeve.

To ignore such pangs requires of us a dismissal of an ageing hero, one who gave so much, one trying to resist the inevitable tide we all swim against. The romance in our soul, for boxing is a maelstrom of cruelty, cynicism and the poetic, too often indulges the whimsy.

Gennedy Golovkin is one such warrior we wish to excuse. The hope that he can defy the passage of time, inactivity and the conspicuous injustice of his draw (and defeat) to Saul Alvarez to enthrall us again, pummel one more contender, find a pathway back to his nemesis, Canelo, and triumph, is irresistible, if entirely deluded.

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