In 2004, in the illuminating The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker proposed there were only seven scenarios on which the incalculable number of books we read are based. Most of the seven, with perhaps the exception of comedy, unless pith and sarcasm make you smile, are told and retold in the pages of boxing history.
From the bare knuckle savagery and steam boats of the 1800s, to the sepia, black and white and technicolour of the 20th century and on to to the high definition and pay per view of the modern day, those half a dozen narratives have echoed through the ages. A constant set of storylines in an endeavour dripping with the fool’s gold of nostalgia and more deeply entwined with the human stories of it’s protaganists than many contemporary pursuits. More is risked, more is lost, more is gained.
The news Steve Forbes, one of the sport’s nice guys, is making a comeback offers further evidence that fighters, no matter how well told the story of failed returns has been, always believe they will find a new ending, a plot twist, success where others perished.
Despite their will, they’re invariably wrong.
The seven stories Brooker proposes; Overcoming the Monster, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Rebirth, Comedy and Tragedy, could easily bring forward memories of leading players’ perhaps Muhammad Ali, Danny Jacobs, Tommy Farr, Tyson Fury and Johnny Owen. Each of us may conjure different characters to fit the story but regardless of the names, Brooker’s titles would cover most of what we love and loathe about the grand old sport.
On Saturday night, Steve Forbes, who won the IBF Super Featherweight belt in 2000 but was unable to defend it successfully, returns to competitive action at the age of 42 and five years removed from his last fight. The motivation for the return doesn’t appear to be directly financial. A partial relief in a troubling tale.
Despite presumed wealth, Forbes boxed professionally for 18 years and flew close enough to the heights to have earned well, not least in a fight with Oscar DeLaHoya in 2008, the oldest motivator of all appears to remain fixed as the villain of the piece.
Specifically, Forbes is attempting to apply the same strategy former foe Oscar DeLaHoya employed building Golden Boy Promotions. Using the remaining remnants of his own name to draw attention to his Oregan based promotion, 2Pounds, and capture the attention of observers like me, otherwise far removed from the names on the card.
I wish the former title holder the best for his April 6th show. He will tackle the modest Tavores Teague, 6-25-4 (3ko) but whilst there is an expectation Forbes would still win, I hope the bout proves to be little more than an exhibition and Forbes emerges content, healthy and with a buoyant crowd secured.
Whilst there isn’t the same intrigue afforded others who have sought to tread the path Forbes is on, and 9 defeats in his last 11 contextualise his 35-14 (11ko) record, a man of 42 who is five years retired from a career as a technician, not a puncher, is taking a gamble here, even with someone as modest as Teague.
Comebacks like this are more likely to fall in to the category of tragedy than ever be liberated by the sense of rebirth he is chasing.
There are too few happy endings in boxing.