Trio of strong matches support Joshua v Parker

By J.B. Smithers

Even in these heady times of sell out stadiums, monstrous pay-per-views and a host of channels clamouring to show boxing in the UK, there remain critics of the manner with which this demand is created and served.

Increasingly, to the fringes of the swell of goodwill on which Anthony Joshua rides, there remain voices who point to a weakness in the undercards on these Matchroom events and the sense hype, and the desire to feed the ‘event-crowd’ beast, is overwhelming the need for value and legitimate supporting match-ups.

In short, if Joshua is on, the hipster hardcore – they used to be called anoraks when the world was inside a forum rather than on social media – believe too many viewers are interested only in Joshua knocking someone over and are not unduly concerned by the merits of a featherweight clash at 6.25pm. Hardcore fans don’t like that type of ‘casual’ fandom you see. Sometimes, I wonder if they like boxing at all. Certainly, whether they like that so many others like it too. Hardcore fans would, if boxing were a band, always prefer the ‘earlier acoustic stuff’.

I digress. Despite my cynicism, it is refreshing, particularly given Eddie Hearn’s sense that it was necessary to over pay Joseph Parker relative to his true commercial appeal, to contemplate a much stronger selection of undercard features for the event on March 31st in Cardiff. Continue reading “Trio of strong matches support Joshua v Parker”


Unification? What? Simplification? Please. Joshua v Parker is a good fight.

By T.R. Lewison

A good fight is a good fight. Nobody cared for what prize Ward and Gatti battled nor did they fuss that Benn and Eubank contested lightly regarded belts or that they were technically inferior to contemporaries James Toney, Roy Jones Jnr. and Michael Nunn. The equality of fighters make fights great, fighters make belts important. Belts do not a great fighter or fight make. To laud a unification is also to contradict our greater aspiration for a single champion in each of the 17 weight classes.

But, we don’t live in that unreachable nirvana. Nobody appears to have visited the mythical Republic of Boxing Utopia where such clarity is natural and if they have, they’ve not sent so much as a postcard, although Marcus Maidana’s Instagram account suggests he may be living nearby, and we must, therefore, respond to the boxing landscape as we find it. When the World Boxing Organisation’s champion, Joseph Parker, strides across the ring to tackle Anthony Joshua, recognised by the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association as their champion, it will be important.

Continue reading “Unification? What? Simplification? Please. Joshua v Parker is a good fight.”

Bronze Bomber proves his mettle and greatness may yet await

Greatness is a product of many things, without a degree of innate talent the journey to such status is hard to even begin. It is a status that requires resistance, friction. Without a compilation of experiences that burnish and test the qualities of those who chase it, the talent beneath remains undiscovered or unresolved; an intangible or immeasurable ore.

In beating Luis Ortiz, beautifully described as the Cuban ogre by Kevin Mitchell at the Guardian in his preview, the WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder finally, belatedly, took the opportunity to step toward the greatness he craves. Victory polished his record to a pristine 40-0 with 39 knockouts and the seventh round proved he was more than the sum of those shiny statistics. Continue reading “Bronze Bomber proves his mettle and greatness may yet await”

To Kell and back, Brook stops Rabchenko in 2.

Having written much on the possibility Kell Brook would discover he had too little soul left in his old dancing shoes on his return this weekend, I was delighted to see him look both powerful and dynamic in stopping the competent Sergei Rabchenko in the second round of their Super-Welterweight clash in Sheffield tonight.

In doing so the 31-year-old won the WBC’s Silver title at the weight, a festoon for which no plausible explanation for either it’s existence or significance has ever been committed to ink.

Continue reading “To Kell and back, Brook stops Rabchenko in 2.”

Wilder not taking Ortiz too lightly

The news Deontay Wilder weighed in at 214 pounds and the weight of his pants and socks for the 7th defence of his fight with Cuban Luis Ortiz drew a raised eye brow or two. In the modern era, which consensus seems to determine began when Mike Tyson knocked out Trevor Berbick in 1986, or alternatively, when Lennox Lewis overcame Tyson’s nemesis Evander in 1996, we’ve grown accustomed to heavyweights of gigantic dimension.

Beneath the greatness of Lennox and the longevity of Wladimir Klitschko, a procession of giants from the four corners of the globe have tried to impose their own dominance on the division and prove the boxing truism; ‘a good big un always beats a good little un.’

Continue reading “Wilder not taking Ortiz too lightly”

Beauty is only skin deep, yeh, yeh, yeh. Gorman and Dubois win again

My first look at Nathan Gorman last year led me to reminisce about Big Bad John McDermott sitting in the back of a Range Rover eating chicken legs out of Tupperware tubs. Whilst it is clear the young heavyweight has been working hard and improving under the tutelage of Ricky Hatton up in Manchester, his physical definition remains below that associated with a professional athlete.

When viewed in the same ring as Daniel Dubois, a physical specimen of Marvel dimension, it is easy to be dismissive of the fleshy 21-year-old. However, to reach such superficial conclusion is to fail to understand the nuance that exists in the making of a good fighter and the attributes that fighter may possess, i.e. boxing isn’t a beauty pageant. Continue reading “Beauty is only skin deep, yeh, yeh, yeh. Gorman and Dubois win again”

They do Ron, Ron, they do Ron, Ron. Clark beats Barrett.

I don’t know if anyone at ringside could explain what the being the Super-Featherweight champion of the East/West of Europe, as sanctioned by the International Boxing Federation, actually means or define the area it covers nor or how effectively it places the custodian in any regional or global hierarchy. A cynic may ask if the East/West of the title’s, erm, title suggests it doesn’t include Northern Europe and subsequently enquire how Ronnie Clark was fighting for it, given he is a born and bred product of one of the continent’s most Northerly cities.

However, the primal scream the eccentric 33-year-old from Dundee let out at the announcement he’d beaten the highly favoured Zelfa Barrett by split decision to earn the honour illustrated, that to him at least, it meant the world. You’ll have to pardon the awful misappropriation. Continue reading “They do Ron, Ron, they do Ron, Ron. Clark beats Barrett.”

Groves distinguishes himself, and boxing, from the vanity of hype

Twenty out of thirty fight figures in Boxing Monthly thought Eubank would beat George Groves on Saturday night, of the dozen regular writers at Boxing News half drew a similar conclusion and Buncey went for Eubank too. I’ve leaned heavily on those opinions this morning as I wrestled with how close I came to joining them. At the last possible moment, as I watched Gabriel and Michelle interview the two protagonists, my instinct flipped from the hipster pick, Eubank being too quick, too fit and the growing irresistibility of his ‘from the shadow of his father’ narrative to the more obvious, that Groves was simply too big, too clever and hit too hard not to win. And back again.

In the end, at the death as it were, I opted for Groves, just. His presumed method of victory; stay outside, control distance and the pace of the fight with his jab, was hard to be confident in such was the appeal of Eubank’s fast hands, knowing glare and Brook Benton baritone. Adam Abramowitz, an American writer I respect, had inserted a doubt worm too, suggesting that Groves’ boxing ability was being overstated and he had a habit of finding failure when success was abundantly available. Continue reading “Groves distinguishes himself, and boxing, from the vanity of hype”

Elementary Brad Watson

There are few periods in British boxing that stand comparison to the current buoyancy and popularity of the sport. Within this on-going euphoria it is easy to become desensitised to the merits of a good old fashioned ‘scrap’. The Dennis Hobson card which appeared on FreeSports here in the UK, live from Ponds Forge, Sheffield, offered just such an opportunity to remember the value of evenly matched opponents intent on securing a victory over their foe. Small purses, but gallons and gallons of courage, determination or, to make best use of age-old boxing parlance, heart.

Luoa Nassa, the favourite, succumbed in the final round of 10 to a desperate onslaught from Brad Watson. Rallying from a knockdown in the 6th, apparent fatigue and a potentially fight ending cut on the bridge of his nose, Watson eventually overwhelmed Nassa with a series of flush right hands. Continue reading “Elementary Brad Watson”

Whispers getting louder, calling your name

It’s hard to understand why certain fighters become important to you as a spectator, a largely detached, anonymous observer. A football team is a regional affiliation, representative of a people, their values, their history or, at the very least, embraced by default, from father to son and therefore, easier to qualify and understand. Fighters, though their geography can be a thread in the fabric of the union, become important to us for deeply more instinctive and personal reasons. In some instances, this importance lasts beyond their prime, beyond the entertainment they offered or titles they won, beyond, even, their own retirement.

A handful remain entwined in our psyche, sometimes an unwitting avatar of the person we wish we were or a sculpted peg for a hole in the children’s puzzle of our lives. Like the characters of those to whom it is directed, the reason, the motivation, the endearing qualities that engender this adulation is varied, sometimes splintered, unresolved and ill-defined. In middle life, as outlook cedes from the vain and amorous to the mortal and mortgaged, there are moments of pause, even within the cacophony of father hood and the persistence squeal of the interest payments on the roof above, in to which whispers of doubt and reflection echo and haunt.

You know, the ‘Ifs, the buts’, the couldas and the wouldas.  Continue reading “Whispers getting louder, calling your name”

The 5 biggest fights of 2018?

Only the most faithful narcissist could conjure reasons why the current buoyancy of the sport, particularly in Europe, is not unprecedented and, seemingly, irresistible. These mole-eyed killjoys are often compelled to remind the frothy new members of the ‘Fancy’ that stadium fights are not a 21st century invention. Further, they point to different periods of the 18th and 19th century when champions of the prize ring were feted and known around the globe long before their image and actions could be bounced from a satellite or appear in miniature and unfathomable immediacy in your hand.

There was, after all, a John L Sullivan, before there was a Johnson, or a Dempsey or a Louis. An Ali and Tyson before a Joshua, though all too obvious and too topical to reference given the frisson the die-hards feel at confounding the sport’s ‘tanked up’ new casuals with tales of the more obscure and obtuse credentials of Langford and Wills, Briscoe or Lopez. Continue reading “The 5 biggest fights of 2018?”

Will Anthony Crolla get one more shot at the title?

By T.R. Lewison

Anthony Crolla has enjoyed an outstanding career to date and bounced back from previous setbacks to secure incredible success and ensure he adds to the evidence that nice guys don’t always finish last.

The Manchester-born fighter is one of the most popular Britons punching for pay in the modern era and his amazing story has since been published in a new book, a tale of Lazarus like recovery from potentially career-ending injuries to fairytale triumphs before his army of ardent Mancunians. Continue reading “Will Anthony Crolla get one more shot at the title?”

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.”

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 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”

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