Heart

Article first appeared in Big Write Hook Magazine: Round 2

Heart. Every successful fighter must have it. Not the pumping organ of all human kind. The intangible version; heart as the metaphoric adjective for the invisible and yet essential.

Other terms are coined to define this unquantifiable asset; courage, guts, balls. Words you will read and hear in the tumult of a boxing match and in the aftermath, when the cups and broken dreams are swept away. Beneath the spotlight of a more dispassionate scrutiny ‘heart’ proves an elusive quarry. What is it? How can it be proven, can it be measured, developed, lost or restored? Continue reading “Heart”

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Fury returns from the abyss

“when you stare into an abyss for a long time, the abyss also stares into you.”

Nietzsche, 1886

As the thick black oil of sleep flooded through Tyson Fury’s gigantic body, the crackle of nervous energy that had powered his wit and reflex silenced, his senses immersed in unconsciousness; time, possibility and life all fell silent too. His body and mind in a temporal abyss, a place he had travelled close to in the darkness of the past three years, a destination boxing, until that moment, at the fists of her purest puncher, had saved him from.

In those moments, those precarious and precious seconds, Jack Reiss’ two palms and six digits casting a pale shadow over his blank, peaceful expression, something inside the 30-year old former champion stirred. Defining or quantifying the force or personal quality that drew Fury from the depths of the slumber Wilder’s right cross and left hook had plunged him in to is as close to impossible as the act itself. Continue reading “Fury returns from the abyss”

Mundine v Horn betting preview

First appeared at FreeBets.net

In a week when boxing’s most unconventional of prodigal sons, Tyson Fury, returns to the pinnacle of the sport, Anthony Mundine – a man with a meandering story of his own – is in pursuit of his own improbable dream, aged 43.

Mundine’s middleweight clash with fellow Australian Jeff Horn will, naturally, not draw the attention of the potentially seminal clash in Los Angeles later the same weekend.

However, the bout offers a singular curiosity and bookmakers are offering markets for those inclined to see opportunity where others scream ‘farce’. Continue reading “Mundine v Horn betting preview”

Wilder v Fury: How Tyson Fury can beat the odds

By Hector T. Morgan

The wait is almost over, anticipation has grown steadily since the fight announcement and with the drama of the final press conference fresh in the mind, fight fans are just a day or two out from seeing undefeated heavyweight behemoths Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury trade leather in their WBC title fight in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

Wilder is the odds-on betting favourite to claim his 41st career win and, if he is to fulfil that expectation, it is assumed it will be inside the distance and Fury will become Wilder’s 40th knockout victim too. Anyone counting out the self-styled “The Gypsy King” would be greatly underestimating the giant Brit, his penchant for the improbable and a host of advantages he has going into the fight. Continue reading “Wilder v Fury: How Tyson Fury can beat the odds”

Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury betting preview

First appeared at gambling.com

Despite a lifetime of following boxing it is hard to summon memory of a fight in which the imponderables were as unfathomable as they are in Deontay Wilder’s clash with Tyson Fury on Saturday night.

The lack of convention in both of their careers and in the styles they’ve deployed in the compilation of them is arguably unprecedented and could leave investors, looking for betting value with the leading bookmakers, frustrated.

But how could any self-respecting sports fan tune in to the biggest heavyweight fight of the year, and perhaps since Lennox Lewis’ retirement in 2003, and not be vested in the fortunes of one of the towering participants? Continue reading “Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury betting preview”

Maurice Hooker v Alex Saucedo betting preview

First appeared on gambling.com

Boxing is awash with many things, much of it desirable, some less so.

The politics created by the sport’s myriad governing bodies an omnipresent example of the latter. Since the shiny flotsam and jetsam of these organisations began to beach on the shores of the world’s oldest sport in the 1970s and 80s, the phrase ‘fighters make belts’ has become one of a flood of unwanted idioms in boxing parlance.

Often invoked to justify and explain the presence of a ‘world-title’ belt around the waist of a fighter few would recognise as the real champion, the phrase is an apology in itself.

The WBO Light-Welterweight belt Maurice Hooker (8/5 best price with William Hill)and Alex Saucedo (8/13 best price with Coral) will fight for on Friday night is just such a piece of boxing driftwood. Continue reading “Maurice Hooker v Alex Saucedo betting preview”

Usyk v Bellew betting preview

First appeared on gambling.com

On Saturday night, in the hothouse of the Manchester Arena, Tony Bellew will tackle Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk for the unified Cruiserweight championship.

A fight that offers Bellew the chance to etch his name alongside predecessors in British Boxing folklore with whom the self-effacing “fat lad from Liverpool” will be the first to insist he has no right to be compared.

It has been this paradox, the deeply held certainty of victory despite simultaneous acknowledgement that the other guy holds all the advantages, that has been the narrative of his rise from peripheral domestic fighter to pay per view attraction and, albeit briefly, world champion. Continue reading “Usyk v Bellew betting preview”

Fury disappoints

There was a cut, he’s young, he was away from home, his opponent is a wily veteran. All true. All verifiable reasons Hughie Fury’s attempt to secure a mandated shot at Anthony Joshua failed. Those protecting their interest or adopting an especially thick monocle of pragmatism through which to view the result will point to the experience gained, the rounds navigated and the narrowest of the three cards.

It would be understandable and, as the days turn in to weeks, that narrative may well take hold and become the hazy recollection of a bout otherwise willingly forgotten by those that endured it. For Fury to succeed on the world ‘stage’, rather than merely exist as an awkward facsimile of his more talented cousin, the flaws that run much deeper in his performance than the cut eye lid he sustained last night must be addressed.

Must.

Continue reading “Fury disappoints”

Glory days. Can boxing reclaim the flagship American market?

By Hector T. Morgan

Dedicated boxing fans who have stayed attentive to the sport may resent the notion that it needs restoring to its former glory, and where do we pitch these romaticised glory days in the landscape of our memories anyway? Perhaps, The Four Kings of the 1980s, Ali and his great rivals in the 1970s or perhaps the era when Boxing was America’s premier sport along side Horse Racing and Baseball? All, in truth, with flaws of their own.

Mass popularity ebbs and flows after all, but there’s still something pure about boxing that loyalists remain appreciative of regardless of ebbing TV ratings, which led HBO, for so long the ‘King’ of boxing in America to abdicate its throne. Despite the passion of it’s most ardent followers, the complexities of the sport; multiple sanctioning bodies with their myriad champions has disenfranchised the casual fan. Boxing in America lost it’s way.

Paradoxically, it remains capable of creating huge piques from the valleys of apathy inhabited by most general sports fans. The right narrative, the right mix of characters and skills and boxing still appeals more widely than almost all of its contemporaries. Continue reading “Glory days. Can boxing reclaim the flagship American market?”

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”

Andrade v Kautondokwa betting preview

First published at gambling.com

On Saturday night Demetrius Andrade, the middleweight from Rhode Island, will face the unheralded Namibian, Walter Kautondokwa for the World Boxing Organisation’s vacant middleweight title.

It wasn’t meant to be this way; Andrade was scheduled to fight Billy Joe Saunders in a contest designed, unofficially at least, to serve as a qualifier for a match with the winner of Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin’s rematch.

Unfortunately, the British fighter was found to have a banned substance in his system. Despite the change, the leading bookmakers are still offering a range of odds on the contest. Continue reading “Andrade v Kautondokwa betting preview”

“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”

Catterall v Davies betting preview

First appeared at gambling.com

On Saturday night, in the lull between the attention seeking totems of Anthony Joshua’s knockout win last month and Tyson Fury’s WBC title fight with Deontay Wilder in December, Jack Catterall and Ohara Davies face off in a bid to step out of those shadows and on to the world scene themselves.

There are plenty of betting opportunities in the fight, promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and broadcast on BT Sport in the UK.

The clash between the two British Super Lightweights, or Light-Welterweight as traditionalists will know them, pitches polar opposite personalities and contrasting styles into a contest for the World Boxing Organisation’s InterContinental title. Continue reading “Catterall v Davies betting preview”

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”

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