Andrade and the vacant possession

Demetrius Andrade‘s career is, thus far, defined by it’s gaps as much as it’s substance.  Four years ago, aged 26, with the WBO Super-Welterweight title slung over his shoulder, following a successful defence against the over-matched Brit Brian Rose in 2014, he was standing at the gateway to the gold and glory of his physical prime. Alas, a 16-month period of inactivity stole this momentum, and forced the return of his belt to the youngest of boxing’s four main sanctioning bodies.

On his return, in late 2015, Andrade secured the vacant International version of the same title, a pungent confirmation of the ‘two steps back’ he’d taken following the ‘one step forward’. The vacancy of the original WBO belt, the similar status of the WBA version won in 2017 belt, and the vacancy of the WBO Middleweight strap he won on Saturday against Walter Kautondokwa, undermines their value in any fighter’s quest to legitimise his standing.

And, while it is pedantry to point to it now, in light of Andrade’s performance for much of Saturday night, it is nevertheless true. Continue reading “Andrade and the vacant possession”

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“Martin, listen to me.” Bakole stopped by Hunter in 10.

There are people who know far more about boxing than me, there always has been and there always will be. For some this precludes me from forming an opinion of merit and as such, that opinion should be kept private. After all, I’ve never climbed between the ropes. Which isn’t quite true, but my fistic career never progressed beyond some tame sparring at my local ABC in my mid-thirties, I was dropped twice by body shots in the process too, and my street fighting record is, as far as memory serves, 0-1-1.

I’ve have watched a lot of boxing mind you; from Audley to Zolani, Oscar to Choi and most of what lays in between. I’ve seen knockouts that made my stomach flip, one sided beat downs which made we want to turn away or turn off and I’ve seen cornermen cajole and, in the cases of mess’s Francis and Calzaghe, slap their subjects to extract a response.

The exchange I witnessed between Billy Nelson and the Congolese heavyweight Martin Bakole, now fighting out of Scotland, last Saturday night was something I’ve never seen before. And, while there are more forgiving opinions available, from voices many would prefer to listen to, I hope I never do again. Continue reading ““Martin, listen to me.” Bakole stopped by Hunter in 10.”

MyFightTickets.com: Under the Radar award – September

Fighting ‘on the road’ is not the easiest way for a boxer to make a living. While regular work is almost guaranteed, win one too many fights – or upset the wrong applecart – and a journeyman may find the phone stops ringing. The life of a road warrior also involves additional sacrifice, suppressing as it does a level of personal ambition innate to most fighting men and women. Craig Derbyshire seems to be managing this delicate balance with real deft. Continue reading “MyFightTickets.com: Under the Radar award – September”

Ciao Enzo. Another boxing giant departs

Article first appeared in issue 22 of Knockout London Magazine

Biadu quie ischeddat in palas anzenas*

Sardinian Proverb

It is a sign of the passing of time that the heroes we hold most dear are leaving. The great talismanic figures we revere; totems within their chosen landscape, their accomplishments and influence reaching far beyond the lives they physically touch, are, one by one, beginning to depart. Earlier this year, boxing bade a sad farewell to the beloved Irish sage Brendan Ingle and now, with the autumn barely upon us, his death is compounded by the loss of a similarly diminutive colossus; Enzo Calzaghe. Continue reading “Ciao Enzo. Another boxing giant departs”

A little less conversation a little more action please. Saunders stalls again.

There is a lot more waiting involved in boxing these days. A lot more empty hollering. Much more theorising. Greater noise. Less fighting. Fighters have become business men at the expense of their supposed vocation. Many are more familiar to us in tweed tailoring, discussing percentages and the narcissism of their legacy than the blood soaked satin of their trade.

For a sport in such apparent rude health, with many tens of thousands pouring through turnstiles to glimpse heroes in illuminated Lowry dimension, there doesn’t seem to be as much actual fighting. Particularly, by the era’s most exceptional talents.

News Billy Joe Saunders has been stripped of his World Boxing Organisation Middleweight belt, after the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission refused to sanction him to fight in their state in a mandatory defence against Demetrius Andrade due to a failed, if contested, drugs test, once again brought the issue of inactivity back to the fore. Continue reading “A little less conversation a little more action please. Saunders stalls again.”

Beneath the opulence of Wembley the small hall classics remain; Tommy Frank steps up

With every passing stadium fight, with the new disciples boxing attracts through those seminal occasions, the memory of how the boxing landscape used to be seems lodged in ever fewer of us. Which isn’t to begrudge the progress and popularity boxing now enjoys nor eschew the game changing economies of scale available to promoters and fighters a like.

Boxing is a tough enough business without those who clutch the sport closest to their collective bosom resisting this upward trajectory and yearning for the time their own affection for the sport distinguished them; identified them. Continue reading “Beneath the opulence of Wembley the small hall classics remain; Tommy Frank steps up”

MyFightTickets.com Boxer of the Month – September

It is unfair to compare siblings, defying as it does, the uniqueness of all of us. However much we may share of the nature and nurture from which we spring and emerge, there is only one of each of us. This solitude of spirit and story is a reality we often deny to ourselves and submerge in the families and communities we cling and migrate to. But as the old idiom reminds us, in life, rather like the boxing ring in to which our heroes step, you come in alone and you leave alone.

At the end of last month, when Callum Smith dropped to the canvas, overwhelmed by the magnitude of his achievement in stopping George Groves, it was an essentially individual accomplishment. Aided by his trainer Joe Gallagher, who won a battle of his own too, and reward for every punishing pad session, every punch absorbed and delivered and every icy dawn run Callum Smith had completed in twenty years of absolute dedication. Continue reading “MyFightTickets.com Boxer of the Month – September”

Johnson goes around to go a round. Dubois learns much from wily veteran

There is an inherent sadness in the face of a heavyweight gatekeeper, of which Kevin Johnson is currently the foremost practitioner. The brow is heavy, eyes dark and the breathing laboured. Aged 39 now, and with features flattened and softened by years of fists crashing in like waves against a pier, the midriff a little broader, the scales leaning a little further, Johnson cuts a forlorn figure.

In the latest instalment of his decline from unbeaten fringe contender, which he was in 2009 when he fought his only world title fight against Vitaly Klitschko, the grizzlier of the Ukrainian bears, Johnson dipped and rolled to a 10 round shut out defeat to Daniel Dubois. Continue reading “Johnson goes around to go a round. Dubois learns much from wily veteran”

Ohara Davies and the part that can’t be played.

‘All the world’s a stage.’

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

It is received wisdom that a first impression takes just seconds to draw and, more often than not, time only confirms it’s accuracy. Fighters, who must exist in a world where self-belief is paramount, can often exude, or wear like a cloak, an exaggerated confidence. It projects a barrier of protection and is intended to unnerve the opponent. A virtual stand off, a falsehood before the actuality of the physical contest.

The manner or tone of this adopted persona is crucial, not only for its authenticity but also because of its impact on the profile of the fighter, their ability to generate interest and, from that essential metric, their prospects of upward trajectory. If one of the biggest sporting businesses in the world, Manchester United PLC, can sign players based on their Instagram following, it isn’t hard to understand the correlation between opportunity and popularity.

One fighter who has chosen the most precarious version of this script; to gamble on the longer odds of creating dislike and contempt to motivate people to watch him fight, is Ohara Davies. Continue reading “Ohara Davies and the part that can’t be played.”

Waning Groves succumbs to Smith

George Groves’s journey from l’infant terrible to veteran former champion, as he now is, has taken almost a decade and just a baker’s dozen or two of Saturday nights and no little heartache. As he was bludgeoned to the canvas by Callum Smith last Friday night in the seventh round of their Super Middleweight world title fight, it was impossible not conclude that his career was at an end.

An articulate, thoughtful man who has earned lucratively from his ability to box and promote, it was hard to fathom from whom or where any redemption or source of motivation could be summoned. This jars with the loathing we all have for those who write off fighters as a spent force, or spoiled goods, when they encounter defeat I concede, but more experienced viewers also develop a sense for when a fighter’s appetite for battle has gone. Continue reading “Waning Groves succumbs to Smith”

Joshua finds more equality than expected in veteran Povetkin

You don’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just get what you need.

Michael Jagger and Keith Richards (c) 1968

Dominance is an elusive quarry. And in boxing, I maintain, it is unwelcome. I’ve struck upon the notion that only in equality can greatness be forged; Ali needed Frazier, Holmes needed someone he didn’t have. On Saturday night, Anthony Joshua, the type of gentleman champion British fans so adore, emerged victorious from a difficult heavyweight defence with his titles in tact and most of the adoration suckled. The fight revealed a relative equality with his contemporaries that will suit his own quest for historical significance.

For those of us commenting and watching from the safe side of the ropes, his pursuit of that legacy will be all the more enjoyable for the competition. Continue reading “Joshua finds more equality than expected in veteran Povetkin”

Despite the sadness, Golovkin knew the score

I thought Gennady Golovkin won the first fight with Saul Alvarez. People, hipsters usually, partially convinced me there was a case for the draw that the three key observers conjured between them in September 2017. I also thought Gennady Golovkin won on Saturday night in the rematch. Again, I was willing to indulge those who felt it a draw too and more readily than I was the first time around.

However, in twenty four rounds, I’ve awarded Saul Alvarez a total of 7, with 1 even round, a possibility more readily accepted in British rings than for fights occurring in Las Vegas I concede, but nevertheless one which I couldn’t argue were it ticked for the 28-year old ‘Canelo’ as opposed to Golovkin. Still only makes 8 rounds from 24. Continue reading “Despite the sadness, Golovkin knew the score”

MyFightTickets.com Fighter of the Month: August

Almost five years to the day since his professional debut as a starry eyed 18 year old, the supporting bout to a one round knockout win for Swiss Lightweight Nicole Boss, as obscure a beginning as I can recall, Isaac Dogboe flattened Hidenori Otake to defend his WBO Super-Bantamweight title last month.

The victory was a devastating one and the now 23 year old, who has led a nomadic life thus far, emerged with his reputation enhanced and new international interest in his future. Continue reading “MyFightTickets.com Fighter of the Month: August”

Khan, Brook and Buncey’s fear of regret

Many small brooks make a big river.

Swedish Proverb

The boxing podcast from the BBC, presented by Mike Costello and Steve Bunce, is an essential listen and has grown warmer and more meaningful as it has evolved. Such is Steve’s omnipresence across almost every conceivable platform and medium around, his yarns about the loveable rogues and lost souls he’s encountered along his voyage through the boxing world have become ever more entertaining and vital.

Beneath the repartee he clearly enjoys with Mike, there is a genuine care for the sport as a viable and healthy entity but also, and most keenly, for the men, and women, who climb between the ropes. In their discussion of Amir Khan’s future, which has been widely distributed by the BBC website, there was yet more evidence of the duty of care they feel to those who punch for pay and for our entertainment regardless of how well received that opinion might be by those about whom it is aired. Continue reading “Khan, Brook and Buncey’s fear of regret”

Spike O’Sullivan offers value for money to fight fans

Article first appeared at Gambling.com on 31st August.

Death, taxes. Few things in life are certain. Never more true than in the unnecessarily complex world of professional boxing. A humble concept, boxing has become increasingly obscured by a parade of oxymoronic titles conjured by the various bodies charged with her stewardship.

Occasionally, boxing, the brave old show girl that she is, wrestles free from this lecherous embrace to remind fans just how simple it all ought to be.

The middleweight clash between contenders David Lemieux and Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan on Saturday 15th September 2018 is one such example and there are a host of bookmakers eager to offer boxing betting markets on a fight almost guaranteed to be a classic. Continue reading “Spike O’Sullivan offers value for money to fight fans”

Amir Khan returns, but the clock is ticking for the ‘would be’ golden Welterweight era

Amir Khan’s returned to the business of boxing at the weekend, not the virtuality of press conferences, asinine video interviews about future opponents or his new trainer, but the reality of scrapping. And scrapping is something Amir has always been good at.

True, he is an unhealthy commodity for those vested in progressing his career, either emotionally or financially; too often neglecting his natural attributes of speed and movement to indulge in fights more suited to opponents than himself. From the beginning he has been a ‘seat of your pants’ fighter and television gold too, as reports his contest with Samuel Vargas drew the largest SKY audience for a boxing event further confirm.

But for all his previous achievements, and the benefits he will glean from completing twelve tough rounds going forward, there is evidence that the modern fighter’s belief that their physical prime is elastic and can be stretched into their mid-thirties is misplaced. Even for British boxing’s Peter Pan Welterweight.

Continue reading “Amir Khan returns, but the clock is ticking for the ‘would be’ golden Welterweight era”

Fan friendly Kownacki rolls past Martin

“There are few virtues that the Poles do not possess.”

Winston Churchill  1874-1965

Frequently, fights or the entertainment derived from them, is generated by the flaws and weaknesses of its participants. The perfection, or apparent perfection, of Roy Jones, or Floyd Mayweather, could, sometimes leave a vacuum where the entertainment was meant to be. There was always much to admire, to marvel at, to appreciate because, as a boxing fan, you had to. Hit and not get hit, is the founding principle of boxing after all, and few exemplified it better than Jones and Mayweather.

But if offered the prospect of watching a Floyd Mayweather return bout and the opportunity to watch Adam ‘Baby Face’ Kownacki’s, 18-0 (14), next fight, regardless of his opponent, and I would opt for the latter. His victory on Saturday night versus Charles Martin, the former holder of an IBF Championship belt, if only briefly, introduced me to the unbeaten Pole and it was a meeting I, like many fight fans, enjoyed greatly. Continue reading “Fan friendly Kownacki rolls past Martin”

Amir Khan faces Vargas ahead of one last run. Betting tips

Article first appeared on www.gambling.com

Amir Khan’s emergence, the willowy man-child that he was in 2004, to capitalise on the exposure Olympic predecessor Audley Harrison brought to boxing, will one day be considered pivotal in the history of the British fight-game.

His slender frame, flashing fists and boyish face catapulted him in to the hearts and minds of fight fans across the country, and via the broader reach of terrestrial television, to their families too.

Now 14 years later, it speaks to all of the clichés about how swiftly time passes that this weekend’s fight, versus Canada’s Samuel Vargas, will likely prove to be his last before his 32nd birthday. Continue reading “Amir Khan faces Vargas ahead of one last run. Betting tips”

He who dares wins. Mikey Garcia in pursuit of Errol Spence

In the past week or so, as squinting children are wrangled back to the routines of the approaching Autumn and the sporting seasons rejoin our daily discourse, my mind has returned to boxing. As the wizened writers and commentators will tell you, boxing used to have seasons too.

Like our changing climate, boxing in the United Kingdom has evolved and there is but a breath between the last of the Stadium bouts of August and the arrival of the September schedule. The totem events need fine weather, and while Carl Frampton’s much craved fight at the Windsor Park football ground he visited as a boy endured weather that forced the darlings of ringside into 10-bob anoraks, the need for sunshine and the clamour for tickets has realigned boxing’s schedule.

Continue reading “He who dares wins. Mikey Garcia in pursuit of Errol Spence”

Tipping the scales; experts weigh in on boxing’s hydration problem

Boxing, like all things, has evolved to reflect the society it exists in. Knowledge and tragedy led to the end of 15 round bouts; the additional fatigue and trauma accrued in the longer contest determined to be contributory in the damage done to fighters while active and in their decline in retirement.

Simultaneous to this was the advent of ever more minute weight classes, devised to protect fighters from facing opponents with an advantage in heft and to encourage the notion that there was a division to suit every fighter. The net result hasn’t quite matched the lofty ambition, but in the pursuit of optimising physiology to take advantage of these marginal increments between divisions, new risks and unwelcome realities have emerged.

The extreme weight loss, achieved at least partially through dehydration, creates the voyeuristic ritual of ‘zero’ body fat freak shows on a Friday and the alarming spectacle of a fighter becoming essentially re-inflated by Saturday night. It is a fertile area for good and bad practice. Continue reading “Tipping the scales; experts weigh in on boxing’s hydration problem”

BW Archive – Farr: “Ali wouldn’t have hit Joe Louis on the bum with a handful of rice!”

First published August 29th 2008

Tommy Farr said that and who am I to argue? Tomorrow will mark the 71st [Ed – Now 81st] anniversary of his courageous but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to dethrone the newly crowned heavyweight champion Joe Louis. The humble ‘Tonypandy Terror’ is long remembered for giving the legendary ‘Brown Bomber’ an arduous first defence of his heavyweight title and for the unflinching resolve he demonstrated. His effort was so herculean and unexpected some ringside observers, and those hunched around the wireless back in Britain, were moved to believe he’d toppled the great champion. Continue reading “BW Archive – Farr: “Ali wouldn’t have hit Joe Louis on the bum with a handful of rice!””

BoxingWriter Archive: “Hit ‘im wiv the uppercut John!”, Danny Williams prevails

It is now more than 10 years since I began writing here and capturing articles and columns I’d written for the great, good and mediocre platforms that have come, gone and succeeded across print and digital during that time. The words were a little more tangled back then, but they do serve as a wonderful aide memoire for nights I’ve spent at the fights. This piece was a meander through the fight between two of British Heavyweight Boxing’s most recognisable characters; Danny Williams and John McDermott. A controversial affair, fought long before football stadia were the norm and when Leisure Centres were very much the home of British boxing.

First published on 23rd July 2008

Being at the fight is a special experience. True, television coverage offers you multiple camera angles, proximity and the benefit of replays for those crucial moments but no matter how effective your Dolby surround sound is, or crystal clear your high definition LCD presents the pictures, it cannot beat being there.

Danny Williams’ absorbing victory over Big John McDermott last Friday was a classic case in point. The Sky team of Adam Smith and Jim Watt had McDermott clearly winning the bout in their commentary and in doing so illustrated just how subjective scoring a fight can be. Continue reading “BoxingWriter Archive: “Hit ‘im wiv the uppercut John!”, Danny Williams prevails”

From a distance…Smith and Groves Betting

Article first appeared on August 2nd 2018 at gambling.com

On September 29th, British Super-Middleweights George Groves and Callum Smith will finally meet to conclude the World Boxing Super Series that began in September 2017. The venue for their final will be unfamiliar to both fighters and for those of greater vintage too, even the circus that followed the sport’s greatest showman, Muhammad Ali, never pitched tent in Saudi Arabia after all.

Since its inception the World Boxing Series has refused to kneel to the cynics or the financial conventions of the past and has been an integral part of markets at top boxing betting sites. All of the contests have thus far delighted fans with their high quality production, the clarity of the format and the entertainment offered. Illustrating what can be achieved with investment and purpose. Continue reading “From a distance…Smith and Groves Betting”

Fury pivots and the heavyweight division changes direction too

Francesco Pianeta played his part, the 250-pound piñata for birthday boy Tyson Fury’s party. He took his cheque and plodded home safe and well as Fury confessed he hoped he would. Pianeta seemed happy enough. Undamaged, paid and with a tale or two to tell his grandkids. It says much of the heavyweight division we’ve endured this past 10 years that the gallant, if parsimonious, German pug once fought for the title.

But then Joe Louis fought bums too. With the party complete, and with the piñata not opened up in the way one might imagine the Brown Bomber would’ve done following a similar two year absence, Fury’s big present was revealed. Continue reading “Fury pivots and the heavyweight division changes direction too”

Fury, boxing’s Northern Soul, gathers himself for improbable coup

Now my reputation has been one of the fastest men alive
So I’m gonna see how good you are when I count to five.

Archie Bell and The Drells
Gamble and Huff (c) 1969

I don’t ride on roller coasters. Never have. As a kid they terrified me, as most things of the unknown, the uncontrollable usually did. Now decades later, and as fully formed as I’m likely to become, crown exposed and eyes narrowing, the echo of that timid narrator remains as does the preference for control and for certainty. The actions of others, whether my daughter prowling the football fields of Suffolk or unwitting fighters from Feather to Heavyweight, afford me opportunity to marvel at those with the qualities I craved and in this vicarious voyeurism, experience the gnaw of uncertainty and danger without the risk.

There is something of this in my affection for Tyson Fury, the lug from Manchester, with the big heart, bigger appetite and even bigger words. Continue reading “Fury, boxing’s Northern Soul, gathers himself for improbable coup”

MyFightTickets.com Fighter of the Month – July

Boxing can make you cry. Boxing can make you shout. Make you sing. Excite you. Demoralise you. Inspire millions. Save a lonely soul. A single prize-fight can evoke all of these emotions, bring communities together, even unify the divided, if only temporarily. Since the 1950s the pioneers of commercial television realised the potential boxing had to provide enthralling action and, soon after, the draw the men in each corner could become if their stories, their characters were revealed.

It is why, alongside the practicalities of a sport viewed through the monochrome of the early television sets, champions wore white shorts, the challenger black. Just as their contemporary storytellers in Hollywood depicted good guys with white Stetsons and evil landowners in Black ones. Boxing wanted you to care, to ‘pull’ for one guy or the other. And to watch the adverts too of course. Continue reading “MyFightTickets.com Fighter of the Month – July”

Usyk the Ukrainian hero needs no titles

“If there’s one thing I know, it’s never to mess with Mother Nature, mother-in-laws and mother freaking Ukrainians.”

Skinny Pete, The Italian Job, 2003

Sport and politics are not meant to trespass on to each other’s figurative lawns. Far too frequently, they do. From the cricket fields of apartheid South Africa in the 1970s, the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics through to the present day  – a swirl of state sponsored doping, kneeling line backers and the awarding of football World Cups on the basis of stuffed manila envelopes rather than full stadiums. The politicising of sport is neither a new nor uncommon phenomenon. They are perennially entwined.

Boxing is littered with examples, from the persecution of Jack Johnson a century ago to the symbolism of Joe Louis’ rematch with Germany’s Max Schmeling in 1938, it is a rich and luminous seam. Fighters possess power in their actions and their opinions that can reach far beyond the roped square in which they ply their trade and politicians are always eager to manipulate the image or popularism of their pugilistic contemporaries. Continue reading “Usyk the Ukrainian hero needs no titles”

We have not time to stand and stare. The wonder of Vasily Lomachenko

First published by Knockout London magazine’s May 2018 issue.

In these distracted times of ours, in which life is rarely experienced through the entire sensory system, people are too often unwitting passengers in their own existence. A desire to record and share, rather than touch, smell and witness is depriving many of us of the immersion required to properly capture or appreciate an event, however expensive the opportunity to access it proved.

At some future meeting point, when these memories are called upon, where rich descriptions of how it felt to be there once thrived, embellished and enhanced by the retelling, there will remain only video clips and a gallery of vacuous self-portraits. Continue reading “We have not time to stand and stare. The wonder of Vasily Lomachenko”

IBoxingTickets.com’s May Boxer of the Month: Josh Warrington

There is, I believe, something hard wired in to our collective psyche that encourages us to root for the underdog; to cheer for those that seek to overcome, those that rise when knocked down or stretch for a dream apparently beyond them. Perhaps this solidarity is a product of our island status and the ensuing defiance it encourages, all clotted together into a sugary fudge by the echoing sentimentality of a thousand war films and a warped nostalgia for an Empire we now apologise for.

Or maybe it isn’t special to us at all, and is, more truthfully, a simple and innately human response to the plight and peril facing those dwarfed by the assets and advantages of their foes. What ever informs this predilection for the ‘little man’, I’m surprised it didn’t infect my judgement of last month’s Selby and Warrington match. A contest which secured Warrington the IBF Featherweight belt and now the IBoxingTickets.com’s Boxer of the Month for May. Continue reading “IBoxingTickets.com’s May Boxer of the Month: Josh Warrington”

A boxing ring, the old truthsayer, humbles Fury on his return.

I know things that are broken can be fixed. Take the punch if you have to, hit the canvas and then get up again. Life is worth it.

Queen Latifah

Such is Tyson Fury’s unique predisposition for the sublime and the absurd, frequently embracing both within the same interview and occasionally a single sentence, we the onlookers, with our garlands of good will and ‘fag-packet psychology, shouldn’t be surprised that even in the confines of the pre-ordained he continued to defy convention.

Where speed was expected, sluggishness was found, where elusiveness was predicted, vulnerability was evident and where power was anticipated, delivery was flawed.

In preview, I’d mooted a scenario in which Tyson Fury could find simply climbing from the well of despair in to which he’d fallen, following his seminal victory over Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015, back to ground zero, back to a debut, essentially, against an overmatched Cruiserweight – which is where it all began a decade ago – could prove sufficient triumph. There was evidence enough in his return bout to suggest, however unlikely, that the possibility remains.

Continue reading “A boxing ring, the old truthsayer, humbles Fury on his return.”

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