And though hard be the task,
Keep a stiff upper lip.’Phoebe Cary, American poet (1824-1871)
Super-Middleweight is a relatively new division, pitched like a mobile phone mast between the ancient spires of the 160 and 175 weight classes in 1984. It was then, a time of Terrible Tim Witherspoon, Nicaragua and the British Miners’ strike, that Scot Murray Sutherland defeated Ernest Singletary for the freshly foiled IBF world title.
168 pounds had been a contested weight on the almost invisible fringes of the sport long before the widely under appreciated Sutherland stepped between the ropes. Since the late sixties an organisation called the WAA had toiled alone in trying to establish the half way house between the classic divisions. But it was a story that only truly came to life in that low key promotion in Atlantic City. Since then, despite Sutherland’s loss of the belt to Chong-Pal Park in his next fight, the weight class has been home to a parade of British boxing greats.
Benn, Eubank, Froch and Calzaghe were the most illustrious, accompanied along the way by Watson, Catley, Reid, Groves, DeGale, Graham and Irishman Steve Collins too. The latest, Liverpool’s Callum Smith, has this week landed an opportunity to etch his name into the very particular folklore reserved only for Calzaghe and co.
It isn’t outlandish to suggest winning the fight with boxing’s richest cash-cow, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, on December 19th, certainly in terms of profile, would eclipse any individual victory those four secured. Heresy though that will appear for many nostalgic observers.
Announced as a surprise to most, in a sport of few such secrets, the fight will offer a thrilling and potentially momentous conclusion to an otherwise dreadful year for boxing. A welcome lurch toward common sense and the old fashioned pursuit of finding out who is the best fighter at the weight. Hopefully, it is an old phenomenon with new life, it will please ageing observers if it does.
As well as the spectacle it should offer, it encourages the idea further marquee bouts could once again be within the grasp of matchmakers. If we are to assume their motives are the health of the sport. Apologies, perhaps Evil Knieval or Bob Beamon can help us with that leap of faith.
Spence and Crawford, Fury and Joshua are the two glowing beacons in any such refreshed modus operandi. Canelo and Smith, in terms of singular fights determining a unanimous king in any division, probably appears third if fans were to start a list. And boxing fans do love a list.
On that basis, however the agreement was reached, for only the obsessed really care, it should be embraced warmly.
These types of fights aren’t commonplace.