Lucas Browne demonstrated incredible bravery on Saturday night. As the saying goes, courage is feeling the fear, and doing ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is, anyway. If the Australian giant wasn’t feeling fear, having arrived at the first bell heavy and with precious little craft and even less tactical acumen with which to win, it speaks only of blissful ignorance as to the pain of the ‘bloody good hiding’ he was about to receive.
He frequently admonished himself when caught by single jabs he should’ve avoided, pulling the wry expression of man who’s dropped the buttered toast again to acknowledge his failing. People often say the journey to escape from a destructive habit, like smoking, gambling or getting hit in the face repeatedly, must start with self awareness. There are no published white papers on the success rate of those making this emotional break through in the opening round of a prize fight, but as an early indicator in the research, Browne’s epiphany doesn’t bode well.
What was inescapable was the blush his evidently flawed technique and preparation caused those who’d entertained the notion his heft and power could prove decisive. Those not present at the o2 Arena, and watching in the comfort of their own homes, will confirm his shots often appeared quicker on between round slow-motion replays than ever they were in real time.
But he was brave, by my definition at least, as he marched forward through some heavy clips, a horrid cut to his left lid and with a face a more colourful wordsmith may have compared to a butcher’s offal bin were it not unduly cruel on such a galant effort. Whyte barely missed, and following the repetitive punishment of a thudding jab it was an arcing left-hook that turned the room black for the man from Sydney.
In many ways this was a fight Dillian Whyte didn’t really want. He is, after all, already the number one contender in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) rankings, with something called the Silver belt apparently bestowed to illustrate the fact. This status, in a world which boasts multiple sanctioning bodies offering multiple belts via which fighters consider themselves to be ‘a champion’, despite the conspicuous paradox of the statement, doesn’t appear to be forcing the WBC’s actual champion, Deontay Wilder, in to facing the Londoner any time soon.
As a contest, it appeared a valuable and competitive one in the narrative of Whyte’s development and, with the benefit of victory on a show he led, on prime-time SKY broadcast in the UK and HBO in America no less, it has succeeded in elevating his public renown significantly too. In short, technically, the bout shouldn’t be necessary to land the big title shot, but the nature of his triumph undoubtedly puts him much nearer the front of the queue that will form once the realisation Joshua v Wilder isn’t the next fight dawns on the waiting masses.
Within the action on Saturday we saw an improved jab from Whyte and some genuine spite in his combinations too, he was calm, organised and decisive in everything he did. Lucas Browne was a disappointing benchmark against which to make these assessments; he was ponderous in his movements and punched with his not inconsiderable weight but zero velocity. I’m not sure even had he landed one, or more, of his lumbering hooks they would have impacted on the direction of the fight. The truth of Whyte’s improvement and subsequent elevation in to many observer’s top 10 lists must be contextualised by the lack of threat or elusiveness the Australian presented.
Browne is 39 next month, and although this was his first career defeat, it is hard to fathom how he can return to this pseudo-world title level. Which doesn’t mean he will retire, nor necessarily should, but one would hope those that care about him will demand more than a financial imperative as to why he wants to.
Like all those who watch boxing as an entertainment, who witness fights in which fighters slice away hidden layers of their whole every weekend, it was a relief to hear Browne is well following a precautionary visit to the hospital. When he lay motionless, immersed in a private darkness few of us ever have to contemplate or experience, those seconds before his consciousness returned seemed to last minutes.
And for all his limitations, the baying of the crowd and the failed drugs tests of his past – which are a topical blight on the sport’s voyage back to mainstream popularity – he is, first and foremost, just a man chasing a dream, seeking validation, purpose and the financial security of those he hopes to love and protect.
Life isn’t black or white, sometimes its just Browne.