Cheeseman and the deal with the devil

Every fighter has a relationship with sacrifice. Offering something of their unseen tomorrow for the conspicuous glory of today. As a witness to the transaction, boxing fans marvel at the willingness of those inside the ring who make the exchange for our entertainment. Light-Middleweight Ted Cheeseman, who succumbed to the fists of the Troy Williamson and relinquished his British title last night, is a man that embraces this truth.

Not for the first time, the courageous former champion departed from the stage a little less than he’d entered it. The crowd and the audience at home staggered by the action Cheeseman and Williamson had provided in 10 gruelling rounds of thudding combat.

Cheeseman’s tumultuous encounter with Williamson evoked memories of those in whose footsteps they trod, Jamie Moore and Matt Macklin most prominent among them, and proved a fitting prelude to the night’s main attraction over in Las Vegas, where a fellow brother in arms willingly gave a piece of his future self in the pursuit of his own glory.

Williamson deserves acclaim for pushing on through more than one crisis to win the classic British belt, a prize that often summons special performances from fighters. There are riches beyond the shores of the UK and belts with more global significance contested and won in British rings too, but few consistently deliver in the way British title fights do. Cheeseman and Williamson the latest in a rich history of blood and thunder contests with the Lonsdale belt at stake.

From the first bell to Cheeseman’s eventual demise from a fight ending sequence of hooks and uppercuts, the momentum had swung from fighter to fighter, both within rounds, from round to round and from punch to punch. The champion seemed to have weathered the best of Williamson, who hadn’t travelled the championship distance before, and was beginning to edge the exchanges. This despite Cheeseman’s face appearing to have been hit by an ACME anvil. Brow and cheeks thickened with swelling, blood seeping from his flattened nose and his pale watery eyes squinting through the pain, Cheeseman probably looks beaten up after a haircut.

But he can fight. It would be derogatory to throw the term slug fest at the fight. This was far more. Adjustments were tried, attacks were considered and both worked to set up their shots behind a jab in different phases of the fight. There was quality here. Uppercuts, hooks, attacks to body and head, combinations. It was thrilling to see. And with so many of Cheeseman’s fights, perhaps too many if he is to extend his career much further, moments where the grim vines of the end clung to his legs, but he resisted their grip and the whispers of doubt that must enter every fighter’s head in times of crisis. Williamson too, legs stiffened by jolting uppercuts frequently looked close to sinking in the deep waters Cheeseman promised to take him too.

Deep water. It is an old metaphor, and never more fitting than here.

Incredibly, the fight was marred by slippages caused by the sponsor’s logo in centre ring. Several times both fighters lost their footing, and in the moments before the end, Cheeseman again lost balance and not for the first time the momentary distraction preceded a period of success for the challenger. For a fight in which both men gave and took so much it would’ve been a travesty had such an intervention proved decisive.

Williamson will be a stronger fighter for this fight despite the sacrifices Cheeseman demanded of him to get the win and take the belt. For the fallen champion, a rest is a necessity, and though it may be imperceptible even to him, he must be made aware of the cumulative effect of his courage and defiance.

It is compelling entertainment he provides but there is a price only he has to pay.

Boxing opinion and insight by David Payne

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