The scrap between Ted Cheeseman and J.J. Metcalf for the British Light-Middleweight title was fought in Gibraltar. It was screened, for this writer, in high definition on a 42 inch television via the internet. It would have been equally at home had it been available on a Bakelite wireless only or fought at the Mile End Arena in the 1950s.
Two hard men, bent noses, flinty eyes sunken beneath prominent brows. One entered the ring with a ruby welt beneath his eye the other started seeping claret from his nose in the second. Cheeseman wore the white shorts, Metcalf, son of Shea Neary, a throwback fighter himself, wore the black. Just like the days of old.
A vacant British belt, the oldest in the sport, though the division is only of the modern era, the prize for the victor. The gold, the Union Jack coloured ribbon, the history, the tradition. A crown worn by Herol, Jamie Moore, Maurice Hope. It was all there.
Both had stories and both were willing to sacrifice the quality of their tomorrows for the glory of the night.
Enormous credit must be lavished on both men. Cheeseman for the quality of his all round performance. It wasn’t without mistakes, without pain or blood and there were moments, as late as the half a minute that preceded the late knockout in which Cheeseman seemed hurt, but he is a dogged, durable man. How Metcalf survived the 4th round, when Cheeseman appeared to make the breakthrough with his right hand landing at will, is a testament to his own stubbornness and resilience.
That he was then able to box his way back, to hurt Cheeseman and cause distress, was remarkable and in the minute before he was felled in the 11th he almost broke through again.
For Cheeseman, the ceiling is unchanged, he gets hit too much to go beyond this domestic level, but he is a capable and brave man. Willing to listen to tactical advice and works hard to employ the ability he has. Metcalf will return, though his father didn’t linger when defeat came. Certainly, there is a fair portion of his prime dissolving into the warm Gibraltar night and Cheeseman, he too leaves a little of himself behind.
They are both a credit to boxing and themselves. The sparkle and glow of Cheeseman’s eyes, the wobble in his voice spoke of the sacrifice and the difficulties he’s overcome to return to this level. Cheeseman will likely never win a world title, though he is well connected enough to get a chance, he will be an entertaining British champion and should be embraced for what he is, rather than what he isn’t.