“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”
Samuel Beckett [Murphy 1938]
Amir Khan is a frequent interviewee. As a fighter in the modern communication age he’s fielded more questions, or perhaps half a dozen repeated infinitum, than a hundred of his predecessors, even those of greater luminosity than his. None of those fighting forefathers shone so brightly they needed to wear sunglasses inside as Khan has a predisposition to, certainly not when the extent of their preceding exertion was a mere fall out with their spouse. One might presume only Johnny Tapia could have made a case for an exception.
The ever present microphone and video camera, often wielded by a barely coherent amateur too thrilled to be in-situ to base their question on the preceding answer, has deadened meaning. Perhaps, the problem is not in the interviewer or their subject, maybe it is in me, us, we as the audience. We simply consume too much.
One suspects even the eternally original Muhammad Ali would struggle to summon fresh gems to satisfy every new demand and that his lyrical delivery could prove repetitive if subjected to the incessant, saturation coverage afforded everyone, from headliner to the promoter’s manicurist.
For followers of the fight game, and for most other industries and pursuits I presume, this tsunami of information deadens our senses, encourages blah, blah responses and in Amir’s case encourages, I believe, a type of detachment from what he’s saying. It could be argued it is this vastness of available platforms, and the vacuous nature of responses that creates the need for the scripted, profanity laden solos endured in the Mayweather v MacGregor promotion. If you’ve lost the ability to say anything interesting to get people’s attention. Shout. Or better, shout swear words.
In a wide ranging and entirely more intentional interview with Boxing News, a publication rejuvenated and purposeful in the new Editor’s hands, Amir Khan offered much to confirm his detachment. All the ‘enemies’ he felt he had in the Spring, were now the necessary elements for his return to former glories. Delivered with barely a note of self-awareness.
However, the responses that prodded my slumbering senses, among the vagueness of answers on his next fight, who he will be trained by and inevitable mention of his spat with Anthony Joshua, was the notion he could return at world title level, or, specifically, the liberal availability of them:
I don’t know if it would be a title fight but nowadays there are so many titles out there – the silvers and all that – it might be. I don’t think it will be for a main world title but maybe for a No.1 position with the WBC or the WBA or whatever.
Amir Khan, speaking to Boxing News [Click Here]
So much of boxing’s ills are contained in the contradictions and complexity Khan tries to navigate here and it isn’t his fault those factors exist. His conclusion, that there are so many titles out there nowadays “the silvers and all that”, was the most indicative or our numbed acceptance to some of the absurdities and oxymorons boxing subjects us to. Or perhaps, if you prefer to think of the sport as a living, breathing entity, is herself, subjected to.
As an aside, there will be plenty who noted with mirth the irony in his summary of Kell Brook’s current demeanour compared to his own:
That’s the difference between a professional sportsman and someone [Kell Brook] who is just f****** about and wants that big payday fight.
Not bad for a fighter who turned down title shots and pay-days to sit on his sofa praying for the Mayweather or Pacquaio fights to be offered to him, and if I were to interested enough to research and reference the swirl around his private life, perhaps not even on his own sofa.
Having recently gorged on new content as I feel my way back into the sport, I sought refreshment in a return to the first boxing book I ever read; Nat Fleischer’s The Heavyweight Championship published in 1949. Fleischer, the founder of Ring magazine in 1922, is a clean writer and conjures for me an image of boxing, smoke filled halls and a press row filled with pencils, paper and narrowed eyes. Stay with me.
The book itself is inherited, it still has my Grandad’s capitalised handwriting on his bookmark – a recycled Christmas card – carefully inserted on ‘Lewis v Louis’. A frequent comfort read and great for flushing the mind of the dirge my begrudging embrace of social media subjects me too. I’ve read it more than once this past thirty years.
By chance I opened the book at the seminal 1860 fight between Tom Sayers and John C Heenan. Their clash was the first time the recognised champions of Britain and America had ever faced each other.
For the uninitiated, the fight lasted thirty seven rounds, including a handful of rounds after the referee disappeared into the masses when the ring ropes were cut. A full two hours and twenty minutes passed before a draw was called. One could assume Sayers and Heenan would’ve appreciated, and earned, dark glasses in the weeks after such a bruising encounter had they been invented.
Such was the respect each man gained from the contest, Sayers for his bravery against the taller, heavier and younger man and Heenan for his aggressiveness, that agreement was reached that both men would be given a Silver championship belt. A concept with no modern echo the last time I ambled through its pages and as such, barely noted.
According to Fleischer the Sayers v Heenan fight also represented a breakthrough into mainstream media:
Magazines that had always shunned fight items now found it convenient for circulation purposes to come to the aid of Heenan and attack the British for their failure to observe fair play.
Nat Fleischer, The Heavyweight Championship p.1949
So, whilst the modern era, and the vast array of media demands and oxymoronic world title belts Amir Khan has to contemplate, from Twitter fall outs to long-lensed paparazzi, boxing can seem far removed from the presumed simplicity of its ancestral pioneers.
The truth is, Silver belts and mainstream media has been entwined with the sport since Sayers and Heenan answered the call of time at 7.30am April 17, 1860.
Proving the adage, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’,
But keep the shades on anyway Amir.
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