Usyk the Great uproots the Joshua tree

And so it was, the giant visited by defeat once more. Anthony Joshua lost for the second time and the collection of party garlands he’d hoped to parlay into an undisputed clash with Tyson Fury at some future point were passed to a new custodian. The fight proved revelatory for those trusting in the age old adage “a good big un beats a good little un.” and, further, revealed limitations in Joshua’s technical competence and confirmed Oleksandr Usyk’s unquestionable superiority.

As night follows day, the dissection of Joshua’s performance began before it had even ended. Sport in the spotlight insists all losers are finished, all conquered champions exposed. It is an incessant and usually unqualified scrutiny. True, problems have grown like weeds around and within Joshua’s performances; where once there was a youthful vigour and self belief, knots of indecision and timidity now prevail.

Joshua remains a dangerous heavyweight and there is scope still for improvement on the disappointment of Saturday,. Boxing fans must be wary of dismissing those who venture to fight their peers, and lose. He took his lumps and bumps, his defeat, with humility and grace.

They too, are admirable qualities.

Continue reading “Usyk the Great uproots the Joshua tree”

Joshua and the legends we chase

The notion boxing can ever be brought to heel, conform to the norms at work in other sports is a Camelot many still yearn for. Every fan, writer and concerned bystander would like boxing to pitch its best versus its best more frequently. Noble? Yes. Futile? Entirely. It is akin to trying to make a ruler from a snake. A Freudian analogy, given the snakes that rule the game.

There is no utopia, and the unwelcome truth, as it was for the Arthurian legend of Camelot, there never was.

A heavyweight contest between Anthony Joshua and the Ukrainian, Aleksander Usyk, being fought before a gathering of 60,000 of London’s most lubricated inhabitants represents an intriguing and important reality.

And while not the eternal fantasy of Tyson Fury v Joshua, it boasts the players and the stage to forge a new legend, possibly two.

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“I coulda had class”. Fighters, films and the fix

For cinema goers, the image of a boxer being coerced into losing a fight or consoled in the aftermath, is all too familiar. A convenient vehicle deployed by film makers since the advent of ‘talkies’ in the 1920’s. From John Wayne to Charlie Chaplin, actors have been knitting their brows as earnest pugs buckling beneath the guilt that ensues. Electing to forgo the integrity they cherished, in exchange for easy money or the promise of richer fruit down the line, is a choice much easier to reject in theory and detached from the starkness of life as a prizefighter from the 1930s to the late 1950s.

As Brando immortalised in The Godfather, fighters, like others in position of influence and value, were made offers they couldn’t refuse.

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And the band played on. Boxing’s voyage to the abyss

Rogers Morton, a prominent figure in American politics in the 1970s, once said, while serving as Campaign Manager for Gerald Ford’s ailing push for the White House and pressed on how he intended to salvage lost momentum; “I’m not going to re-arrange the furniture on the deck of the Titanic.” A quote that would outlive the Statesman, both in political influence and life, he would succumb to cancer in 1979, and one that became synonymous with actions deemed superficial and redundant in the face of impending disaster.

As a 58-year-old Evander Holyfield clambered back down the ring steps in Florida this weekend, a state which withdrew his license to box 17 years ago on the grounds of his diminished ability, it is easy to clamour for boxing to do something, to intervene. Thousands added their voices to the cause in the days before the ‘fight’, screened by Triller (no, me neither) and commentated on by former president and the doyenne of delusion, Donald Trump. They urged ‘boxing’ to change course, to come to its senses.

Gratefully, it took but a few seconds for Holyfield to be separated from his, if he wasn’t detached from them, or at least reality, when he arrived.

Continue reading “And the band played on. Boxing’s voyage to the abyss”

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