Boxing sacrifices Cotto, one of Her favourite sons, to remind us She is the only God.

The days and weeks before Miguel Cotto’s final bout were a curious, wandering period. Immersed in nostalgia and solemn reverence, writers and ring side observers seemed to succumb to the narrative that Sadam Ali’s selection, and the sense of underwhelm they felt toward him and duly projected to their own parishioners, would assure Cotto’s career enjoyed a decorative final triumph. Without a perceived threat in the opposing corner, or, as they determined, even the prospect of a competitive bout, they opted to start the party early.

Such was the extent of this homage the actual fight became an inconvenience, an after thought, akin to collecting the discarded paper plates and half-empty champagne flutes when all you want is a taxi or your bed. As the great and good of the written and spoken word laid their respective garlands at Cotto’s feet and fans bowed their heads in respect, Boxing grew tired of this veneration and the disrespect to Her final commandment, that nobody leaves on their own terms, the tsunami of obituary represented. Sincerity was increasingly sacrificed in the media’s quest to draw the most emotionally laden tribute to Cotto’s career, great as it was, slipped into the apocryphal.

Continue reading “Boxing sacrifices Cotto, one of Her favourite sons, to remind us She is the only God.”

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Groves v Eubank Jr. date and venue announced; DeGale still the prize

By J.B. Smithers

Such is the nature of the sport of boxing these days that one has to remember to write George Groves’ name first in any discussion or announcement regarding his World Boxing Super Series Semi-Final clash with Chris Eubank Jr. The tournament has been a huge success in terms of the entertainment provided and threatens to restructure much of what we understand the accepted hierarchy of boxing, it’s matchmaking and promotion, to be too.

The momentum behind Eubank Jr., despite a curiously innocuous period prior to his last two fights, one the quarter-final with Yildirim, is growing. Growing to the point, his name frequently appears to the fore, to the left to use boxing parlance, of releases and public rumination about the bout with Groves, who is, for the casuals who have forgotten, the WBA Super-Middleweight champion. This seemingly trivial faux pas speaks loudly about the potential for Chris Eubank Jr. to transcend, standing on the shoulders of his father and the great names he tangled with, to reach a much loftier and lucrative plateau than the one Groves could reach.

In and of itself, when one considers the enormity of Groves’ rematch with Carl Froch, to believe that is even possible is remarkable. Continue reading “Groves v Eubank Jr. date and venue announced; DeGale still the prize”

Heavyweight David Price on learning from loss, his comeback and Tyson Fury

“I don’t like this myth that I’m a fucking head case!”

Wisdom oft proves an elusive asset. Remaining invisible to subjects unwilling or unable to recognise and embrace the lessons life uses to swaddle it in. These lessons are typically more conspicuous, more tangible, in the loneliness of failure, when your senses are exposed, when life, or, in a heavyweight prizefighter’s case, a seventeen stone opponent, has knocked you down and stripped you of much of what you thought you were. If you pause long enough in that stillness, when the roar of the crowd fades and the platitudes and sycophants dissolve in to the night, wisdom can come flooding forth.

In conversation with former British and Commonwealth Heavyweight champion David Price, I was struck by how much more content and at ease he sounded following a period of soul searching in the aftermath of his stoppage defeat to Christian Hammer in February. He confesses, he contemplated retirement. Continue reading “Heavyweight David Price on learning from loss, his comeback and Tyson Fury”

The grip of nostalgia, the theft of perspective. Fury v Joshua could be Ali and Frazier.

Although age usually brings a degree of wisdom, to those of us blessed sufficiently to accumulate the years and decades, it also brings with it the inherent risk of becoming a nostalgic. A condition without physical pain, but one that can effect your eyesight and reason. Too often we, the royal we, because I’ve succumbed as much as the next man, unless the next man is dear old Colin Hart, apply a rosey exaggerated hue to all things by gone, to the events of history and the heroes and villains who acted in them. This is most virulent around instances and characters we bore witness to in our formative years, but not exclusively so.

Boxing, like every other aspect of life, suffers from this phenomenon. I’ve seen the argument for Harry Greb being the best Middleweight of all time, and read the case for Jack Johnson being the finest heavyweight who ever graced the squared circle to name but two examples. Opinion with merit of course, but based almost entirely on still photographs and a precious few seconds of actual recorded action. More commonplace among those of us with grey at the temples is the summary dismissal of any fighter active today if matched with their historic forefathers. Continue reading “The grip of nostalgia, the theft of perspective. Fury v Joshua could be Ali and Frazier.”

Can Wilder really beat Joshua?

By T.R. Lewison

2017 already feels like a watershed year in the world of boxing, and with discussions underway to conjure further big fights in the New Year, 2018 may yet surpass even the high points of the past twelve months. The best are beginning to realise the commercial benefit of fighting each other; from flyweight to the new generation of giants contesting belts in boxing’s blue riband weight class, the heavyweights.

The rise of Anthony Joshua has been the story of the sport’s heaviest division in recent months, as the Briton has stormed to prominence and sporting superstardom with his efforts in the ring and likeability factor outside of it. AJ’s defeat of legendary fighter and future Hall of Fame world champion Wladimir Klitschko, and the drama contained in the 11th round victory, gave him the platform he needed to propel himself beyond the confines of boxing and become a transcending ambassador for the sport. Continue reading “Can Wilder really beat Joshua?”

Life on the right hand side of the bill; Ian Bailey and the toss of a coin

First published at BritishBoxers.co.uk in November 2016.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are shared by thousands or even millions. Others are more personal; grandfathers with ‘snap’ tins filled with medals and ribbons or a father marching for his community beneath a colliery banner. Usually, their place is earned in endeavour we believe to be beyond us or undertaken in our stead.

Occasionally, a figure enters my consciousness from an apparently innocuous encounter or anecdote or due to the most obscure or seemingly trivial of reasons.

One such occurrence happened six years ago as I witnessed a humble coin toss occur in a boxing dressing room with a potentially career changing prize at stake. The toss was necessary to select one of the two unused reserves to replace an injured finalist in the Featherweight edition of the then popular Prizefighter show and a chance to win £32,000. Continue reading “Life on the right hand side of the bill; Ian Bailey and the toss of a coin”

Nathan Gorman, Hatton’s BFG, begins to shine

Photo: Laura Ayres/Hatton Promotions

Variety is the spice of life they say. In Nathan Gorman, British heavyweight boxing has a markedly different type of prospect to add to the flush of body beautiful contemporaries emerging in the wake of Anthony Joshua. This weekend’s victory over Mohammad Soltby was my first live exposure to the Nantwich prospect, I’ve only seen highlights and clips of his previous contests, and there was enough on display to suggest he will prove more than merely an aesthetic counterpoint to his highly regarded rivals. Continue reading “Nathan Gorman, Hatton’s BFG, begins to shine”

Colin McMillan: The man who defied convention

First published in Knockout London

The tassels dance; folding, bouncing and exaggerating the rhythm of his purposeful, often balletic movement. Pristine white boots travel distances measured in fractions of inches, from arm’s length to harm’s length. Mesmerising hesitant opponents, rendering them inert with speed, and precision, with timing and the bluff of feints and counter punches.

His hands act as gloved rapiers, his brain analysing, identifying weakness, processing the opponents’ ‘tells’. Busy too, these assessments done instantly, conclusions drawn, punches selected to capitalise are thrown naturally, the switch from offence to defence and back again is fluid, instinctive.

This isn’t the best of Sugar Ray Leonard or a delve into the prime of Muhammad Ali, but an attempt to capture the beauty and brilliance of a British Featherweight, a forgotten jewel, Colin ‘Sweet C’ McMillan. Continue reading “Colin McMillan: The man who defied convention”

Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years

“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”

James Todd Smith (aka LL Cool J)

Since I began to write about boxing again, I’ve taken note to appreciate how much has changed and how much has remained the same. The reflection this affords to my own life; the realisation of how much time has lapsed since I was immersed in boxing; attending shows, buying magazines, pay-per-views and inhabiting forums is an uncomfortable one. Representing, as it does, a decade of neglect for my love of the craft of writing and the sport itself; the characters, the light and dark, the sepia past and the high-definition future.

The recurrence of names of similar vintage to my own, those who were pertinent that decade ago, and the realisation so many of them are still pursuing purses and chasing dreams provides a touchstone which is both comforting and disturbing in equal measure.  Continue reading “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years”

Anthony Joshua and the creep of distraction

Perhaps it says more about me than it does Anthony Joshua that I find myself in pursuit of weakness not strength when I watch his fights. Certainly, my wider predisposition for the cause of the underdog influences my perspective more than it should. The sight of late substitute Carlos Takam punching on through a veil of blood, huge physical disadvantages and referee Phil Edwards’ repeated invitations to retire, engaged this inclination.

Continue reading “Anthony Joshua and the creep of distraction”

Joshua set for 20th straight stoppage success against Takam

Anthony ‘AJ’ Joshua had been busy preparing for a mandatory defence of his IBF and WBA heavyweight titles against Bulgarian challenger Kubrat Pulev but that fight was scrapped just two weeks before fight night in Wales. An untimely injury to the visiting challenger has forced  ‘AJ’ to alter his preparations for a last-minute replacement, in the form of French Cameroonian puncher, Carlos Takam.   Continue reading “Joshua set for 20th straight stoppage success against Takam”

That was the boxing weekend that was (22nd Oct. 2017)

The punchers threw punches, opponents ducked and stumbled, people were drawn to their feet, the crowd howled and cheered. Women, and a few men, were heard to gasp and scream as the action, dramatic and fast moving unfolded. Momentum shifted and in the end, as the lights came up, it was hard to determine an outright winner. Inside the ring, British fighters progressed their respective causes, new stories were begun and one or two names, loaded with nostalgia for those of my generation, echoed from Saturday nights of the past.

It was a heady mix, one without the prestige or brutality of the preceding weekend’s knockouts and with the sense of a fistic hors d’oeuvre for bigger nights yet to come. Despite this, there was much to enthral and the fights and their outcomes revealed plenty about the horizons of the combatants. Continue reading “That was the boxing weekend that was (22nd Oct. 2017)”

Joyce challenges a boxing truism and the heavyweight status quo

When events are shifted from their established pattern or place it can cause discomfort for those of us accustomed to a certain way of doing things. People are nervous about such change, preferring the security and assurance of the familiar. It is this familiarity that makes a local, a local. Sitting in mine, watching boxing on Dave, I was drawn to some negative conclusions about the performance of heavyweight Joe Joyce on his professional debut. “Arm punches”, “Slow hands”, “He squares up.” “There is no power in his jab or his right hand.”

I said all of the above, some more than once. With the benefit of reflection and sobriety I’ve grown to be kinder to the effort of the giant Londoner. Continue reading “Joyce challenges a boxing truism and the heavyweight status quo”

Going mainstream. Anthony Joshua, the rogue who charmed your Gran

There was a time when boxing in Britain on Saturday night meant Colin Dunne or Jawaid Khaliq and circuit pros like Rakhim Mingaleyev and Dariusz Snarski. The latter, solid, earnest little scrappers but unknown in their own hometowns, the former, World Champions as the term was cheaply distributed at the time. Heavyweight fights meant a butcher from Chesterfield or an ex-Rugby League player from Featherstone. ‘Event logistics’ amounted to twisting brass handles to lever basketball hoops from vertical to horizontal before Mike and his crew arrived to erect posts, canvas and ropes to the eyrie abyss. Nobody checked train schedules or whether U2 had left town. Continue reading “Going mainstream. Anthony Joshua, the rogue who charmed your Gran”

Takam or leave him; Pulev pulls, Carlos steps in for Joshua bout

Photo credit: Johann Walter Bantz

Such is the enormity of Anthony Joshua fights these days that the withdrawal of Bulgarian heavyweight Kubrat Pulev just two weeks before fight night was never likely to derail the promotion or force a postponement. To recreate the logistics committed to October 28th, within the confines of a packed pay-per-view schedule and Christmas expenditure looming would have been close to impossible.

French Cameroonian Carlos Takam steps from the shadows and two routine encounters in 2017 to save the show. One assumes he had rivals for the post, even at late notice, but the most obvious choice of Dillian Whyte, who appears on the undercard and brings some renown following his first bash at Joshua, will be saved for another day. Continue reading “Takam or leave him; Pulev pulls, Carlos steps in for Joshua bout”

That was the boxing weekend that was (15th Oct. 2017)

Increasingly, I’m losing my nerve when I watch boxing. Maybe it’s fatherhood, maybe its the persuasive refrain of those linking concussion to mental health issues in later life, maybe its just a phase. The weekend was punctuated and illuminated by knockouts and in some instances preceded by a number of blows beyond those usually required to invite a referee to intervene.

Aside from my own, hopefully temporary, philosophical dilemma, several fighters leapt forward in their careers and entertained fans via the short route on cards from The Flash Grand Ballrooms of Manilla to the Hotel Metropole in Mbuji-Mayi. The latter is in Ghana for those of you, like me, not worldly travelled. Continue reading “That was the boxing weekend that was (15th Oct. 2017)”

Archive: Old man Thompson stops Unbeaten Haye in 5

Photo credit: David Clerihew (Men’s Health)

With yet another David Haye comeback appearing on the horizon I’m always nudged to remember the night he lost his unbeaten record. It is staggering to consider 13 years have lapsed since Carl Thompson did what Carl always did better than anyone – survive a shelling and then win by stoppage. It was a pulsating evening, hotly anticipated and perhaps the beginning of the golden era we are now enjoying. For without Audley, Haye, Hatton and Amir, none of the current popularity, nor crop of Amateur starlets may ever have materialised.

David Payne reports from Ringside

Veteran cruiserweight Carl Thompson tore up the script last night, knocking out British boxing pin-up David Haye in the fifth round of a tumultuous, absorbing and…. Continue reading “Archive: Old man Thompson stops Unbeaten Haye in 5”

Groves stops Cox in 4 to set up Eubank Jnr. contest

Photo credit: Tom Jenkins

Thousands of words have been written about George Groves this past decade, I’ve written a few along the way, and I suspect none of them have ever succeeded in defining the enigmatic Super-Middleweight. Whilst writers and fans wrestle to place him in the convenience of a fixed position in our catalogue of stereotypes, the current WBA Super Super-Middleweight champion stays occupied and continues to overcome adversity and collect scalps in entertaining bouts.

In defeating Jamie Cox by fourth round knockout tonight, the 29-year-old Londoner confirmed the much assumed and much anticipated World Series Boxing semi-final against Chris Eubank Junior and delighted a good crowd at the Wembley Arena in the process. Continue reading “Groves stops Cox in 4 to set up Eubank Jnr. contest”

Fighters, like all of our heroes, are just people

In the relative tranquility of midweek, a peace I enforce rather than receive from boxing by default, when the memory of the preceding weekend is flushed of emotion and the fights ahead do not yet submerge them into shadow, I often grow reflective and thoughtful. Boxing’s busyness is welcome, as I’ve written before many of us remember the wilderness years of leisure centres and the WBF, but as with all things in society these days, there is barely time to pause for breath. Continue reading “Fighters, like all of our heroes, are just people”

That was the boxing weekend that was (08th Oct. 2017)

Photo credit: Phil Peterson

As I’ve written recently, these are heady times in British Boxing. The breadth and depth of exposure fighters and events are being afforded is unprecedented. This weekend, a host of shows were available to viewers across various channels and platforms and it was hard to know where to bring your shekels and attention to rest. Within the quietness of Sunday I like to reflect on the high points from the weekend; this one came packed with super-sized lightweights, knees to the nether regions and the arrival of a new fighter to my roundtable of favourites. Continue reading “That was the boxing weekend that was (08th Oct. 2017)”

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