Defeat is not the end, until it is. Saturday night with Quigg and Kownacki

“And go on until you come to the end, then stop”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

I don’t know why Robert Helenius’ knockout victory of Adam Kownacki, the doughy faced Brooklynite by way of Poland, pleased me so much. After all, I had begun to appreciate Kownacki’s simple but effective modus operandi as exposure to the unbeaten heavyweight grew. Recognising him for what he was, rather than what he wasn’t was key to enjoying his progress.

Perhaps the joy I felt at Helenius’ success is merely the reminder it provided of the inherent uncertainty in the fight game, particularly in the heavyweight division, and that no sport does plot twists quite like boxing.

It was hard to digest the aggressive ‘bomber’ Helenius became on Saturday given the passivity of his performance against Dillian Whyte in a bout with equivalent opportunities for the victor 30 months ago. But the puncher he unquestionably was.

Proof, if proof is still required, that no performance, in isolation, can ever define a fighter’s capacity or potential. As the saying goes, sometimes, it just isn’t your night.

And sometimes it is.

Continue reading “Defeat is not the end, until it is. Saturday night with Quigg and Kownacki”

Chocolatito, a champion in old money

The truth is rarely pure and never simple. 

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

Truth has become an elusive quarry in boxing, perhaps the truth about truth is that it has always been so or that its very existence and supposed purity is, itself, merely a fable. A fantasy. Things, people, events, facts, can only exist in the perspective from which they are viewed after all. And with a meritocracy suffocated by the destructive ingenuity and self interest of those appointed to provide it, many of the old ways have been lost too.

Last weekend, Birmingham’s Khalid ‘Kal’ Yafai discovered one truth that boxing’s chameleons and racketeers, with their prisms of subterfuge and bullshit, have yet to obscure or subvert. That being; within the ropes, whatever the path to the steps, however loud the fan fare or shiny the garb, there is no hiding place and the higher quality fighter, if prepared, will always prevail. Continue reading “Chocolatito, a champion in old money”

Wilder, the sense of loss and the loss of sense

We are the hollow men,
We are the stuffed men.
Leaning together
Head piece full of straw.

T.S. Eliot

As weary eyed guests checked out of the MGM Grand hotel and post fight podcasts sieved through the detritus of the weekend like a hopeless gold rush miner searching for an undiscovered nugget, veteran reporter Lance Pugmire revealed deposed champion Deontay Wilder’s claim that the weight of his ring entrance outfit had stolen the sap from his legs and contributed to his downfall.

To the average Joe, it was a line without precedent and one met with universal dismay or good old fashioned laughter. Quite how above average Joes; Louis, Walcott and Frazier, would’ve greeted the revelation one can only speculate. Consensus might reasonably assume any responses that were printable would’ve been light on empathy.

Spare a thought for Don Rickles too, who will be fuming to have missed the chance to pen an entire 20 minute Roast at the former WBC champion’s expense.

Continue reading “Wilder, the sense of loss and the loss of sense”

Sergio Martinez and the fairytales of our forties

Every Friday, however unpleasant the weather that greats me as I step through my front door, clad in an assortment of frayed and tattered kit, I head toward the lights on the hill for an hour of six-a-side football. Outdoors, albeit on artificial grass, it is, nevertheless, a sufficiently accurate facsimile of the twenty years I spent playing local league football to connect me, through the worn sensory pathways and the yearning of nostalgia, to the mediocrity of my pomp.

It is a trope echoed all too frequently in the middle age of our heroes too. Success, wealth, damage, offer little protection against the pull of those lights. Continue reading “Sergio Martinez and the fairytales of our forties”

Deontay Wilder and his battle with truth and nostalgia

“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.” 
 Virginia Woolf

In a world of fake news, to which all facts become refutable, where opinion matters more than truth and being right is a state of mind rather than a resolved conclusion, it becomes ever harder to remain objective in our summation of fighters. Fighters like Deontay Wilder. These modern ills encourage closed thinking, nostalgia for times passed and the methods and ways that made them.

To crave that past is natural, to canonise those who loomed large within it likewise, but it is a flawed benchmark with which to measure those who swim in their wake. It is a story as prevalent in boxing as any other facet of life. The hurricane of content we are subjected to in the age of social media does tug at the anchor points of these beliefs but amid the din of those gales, we can all be guilty of becoming extremist in our view in order to be heard, clinging ever more tightly to the rigidity of our thinking. Continue reading “Deontay Wilder and his battle with truth and nostalgia”

It’s not your night. Why Jake LaMotta had to lose to Billy Fox in ’47

Article first appeared on Gambling.com

June 14th 1960. A warm summer’s day in Washington DC. The air is sweet with the city grind and the hustle of a country racing toward adolescence and the associated rebellion.  Chatter spills from sidewalks, shoes are shined, a soft percussion to the chaotic jazz horn of taxicabs and the last of the capital’s iconic street cars. Morning sunshine glints from a mile of Buick chrome. 

This commercial idyll and the blue sky of the American dream belies the pulse of political tension that throbs beneath the surface. Impatient for ignition. It is a time of ideology, the battle for civil rights, of JFK and crusaders for truth and equality. 

Former Middleweight champion Jake LaMotta is in town. A name from the smoke and shadows of the monochrome America wrestling against technicolour progress and the dawn of an age more recognisable to us today. Continue reading “It’s not your night. Why Jake LaMotta had to lose to Billy Fox in ’47”

Spoiling for a fight: The Arv Mittoo story

Article first appeared in Boxing News (£) 30th May 2019

There are no easy lives in the boxing business. Even among those changed for the better, the ones saved, the ones directed away from the darkness, from the cells, from the ground. Every professional fighter complicit to boxing’s unspoken truth; that something of themselves must be sacrificed, perhaps only temporarily, perhaps permanently, in order to access the financial and emotional benefits derived from success, however modest or fleeting they may be.

This grittier reality swiftly overwrites those cinematic show reels, composed in the imaginings of their adolescence, that novice professionals may still cling to when they enter the paid ranks. The dream is nevertheless important, prizefighters are not enticed to lace up the gloves as willowy ten-year-olds, or encouraged to punish and curate their bodies into adulthood, with the expectation of losing or moreover, choosing to, being paid to.

But losing is half of the boxing story. Continue reading “Spoiling for a fight: The Arv Mittoo story”

Joshua excels, Ruiz rues excess

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection; second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Confucius

Anthony Joshua’s victory last night revealed much about the character of the man, and the capability of the fighter. In a career which has seemed preordained as success followed success, endorsement battled endorsement, as millions were stacked upon millions, the ‘Stay Humble’ hashtag Joshua hung on every action and endeavour had begun to irritate rather than soothe those of us craving that defining match up with Deontay Wilder.

Last night, and in the corrective steps Joshua took in the prelude to the fight, he secured redemption for the nightmare of defeat in June, but demonstrated a humility in the process to match the much worn sound byte. Continue reading “Joshua excels, Ruiz rues excess”

To be or not to be. Joshua seeks a truth only a rematch can dispense

As a man who often speaks in the couplets and chiasma of a Californian self-help guru and pursues enlightenment among the slings and arrows life as a prizefighter affords him, Anthony Joshua will surely embrace the truth his rematch with Mexican Andy Ruiz should provide. The British giant is likely to learn more about his mettle as a fighter this weekend than in any of his preceding encounters and, whether victorious or not, will also reveal much about his own character to those, like me, who questioned his ability to reinvent himself following such a humbling defeat.

Irrespective of the outcome of the rematch there will be a satisfaction, a solace or consolation at least, in the clarity of the result. Providing controversy doesn’t visit, Joshua’s boldness in seeking redemption when more pragmatic options were available will be lauded. For there are many fighters who would’ve sought a more circuitous route back to the top and many of us watching from the ringside or the comfort of our sofas who would have accepted the pragmatism it would’ve represented.

Continue reading “To be or not to be. Joshua seeks a truth only a rematch can dispense”

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