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”

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”

Archive: Colin McMillan – the man who defied convention

From November 2017 – First published in Knockout London to accompany a video interview featurette

The tassels dance; folding, bouncing and exaggerating the rhythm of his purposeful, often balletic movement. Pristine white boots travel distances measured in fractions of inches, from arm’s length to harm’s length. Mesmerising hesitant opponents, rendering them inert with speed, and precision, with timing and the bluff of feints and counter punches.

His hands act as gloved rapiers, his brain analysing, identifying weakness, processing the opponents’ ‘tells’. Busy, perpetual movement, these assessments imperceptible, conclusions drawn, punches selected to capitalise are thrown naturally, the switch from offence to defence and back again is fluid, instinctive.

This isn’t the best of Sugar Ray Leonard or a delve into the prime of Muhammad Ali, but an attempt to capture the beauty and brilliance of a British Featherweight, a forgotten jewel, Colin ‘Sweet C’ McMillan. Continue reading “Archive: Colin McMillan – the man who defied convention”

Taylor and Prograis push each other to their peak

Note to self. Remember to watch the boxing.

Note to boxing. Remember to make fights like Taylor v Prograis.

Boxing is a remarkably simple premise. One for whom meritocracy should be its preeminent mode of governance. Instead, as it has always been, it is widely subverted by the politics of television and the opportunism of oily raconteurs.

The sweet science, like the lost and vulnerable it attracts, is too willing to comply to their whims and persuasion. Lowering its lofty brow from the high theatre it is capable of to the tawdry soap opera fighters and fans endure in order to unearth gems like Josh Taylor v Regis Prograis hidden beneath. Continue reading “Taylor and Prograis push each other to their peak”

Benn faces a nightmare in pursuit of an ill-advised dream

I wrote about Sakio Bika once. He’s the type of prize fighter you perhaps only write about once. Which is not to say he isn’t a boxer of note, or a person of depth and interest, the former Super-Middleweight belt holder has performed at world level for much of his professional career after all.

However, the challenge of defining his fighting style, to fall on the closest cliché boxing has to offer regarding awkward opponents, is hard to look good against.

The news this week that Nigel Benn had convinced himself he can recapture a significant proportion of the fighter he once was brought only one happy thought to mind. I now have a go to phrase to describe Sakio Bika that conveys some of what made him difficult for men as talented as Joe Calzaghe, Markus Beyer and Anthony Dirrell to overcome in their prime. It isn’t catchy, but it gets the job done.

If you’re 55 and planning a return to boxing having not fought in 23 years, the last person you want to fight is Sakio Bika.

Thank you Nigel. Continue reading “Benn faces a nightmare in pursuit of an ill-advised dream”

The pen is mightier than the sordid

Boxing, like every sporting undertaking, has developed a glossary of terms that for many seem like a foreign language. Evolving through a century and half of the gloved era, the words can feel like a device for exclusion to those wishing to penetrate the niche. Some of the vernacular used by those of us confined to boxing’s obtuse sanatorium are timeless, worn like old slippers, others are necessary and pertinent, a few newly minted and, unfortunately, there is a stocked quiver of the entirely disingenuous.

By way of example, even boxing’s simplest premise is layered with nuance; a jab, isn’t always a jab. Sometimes a jab is a heavy jab, a straight jab, a lead hand, a pitter-patter jab, a range finder, piston-like or ram rod? Away from the technicalities that help fight fans discriminate between the merits of Larry and Audley, within the linguistically creative departments of promotion and regulation, the use of language becomes ever more political in style. Designed to distract the audience, the questioner and cloak the issue in hand beneath a cavalcade of obfuscation.

This week’s revelation that Dillian Whyte had failed a pre-fight test for Performance Enhancing Drugs brought the importance of words, and their use in the deception and distraction of the unwitting, into sharper focus. An outcome not without irony given Whyte’s fight with Oscar Rivas, which took place three days after the first notification of his failed test, was for an Interim belt to secure a mandatory shot against a fighter likely to be installed as a Franchise champion and, therefore, be relieved of the obligation to fight Whyte.

Are you keeping up? Scream if you want to go faster.
Continue reading “The pen is mightier than the sordid”

Boxing, the precipice few dare to gaze over

Boxing is an arduous and often merciless undertaking. It rescues souls, the broken, the lost and plucks the willing from chaos and poverty. This is the romantic trope we swaddle the sport in. The fable those vested in the sport’s continuation dispense in response to difficult questions in the aftermath of a boxer’s death. Like many mantras or acts of faith, repeated enough, the conviction in it’s validity can grow. Manipulating the meaning of events, seeking out evidence to fit the convenience of the narrative and in the doing so, soothe the twitching needle of our collective moral compass.

There is truth within the fables of course. Pugilistic folk lore is laden with examples of those who found a pathway to self-respect, control and, occasionally, financial security but even their stories barely conceal the reality of the long term damage fighters accrue. Boxing, the sport, the game, the occupation, is, at its core, a transaction. Give and take. An inescapable yin and yang. Success for x, means pain for y.

The deaths of Maxim Dadeshev, 28, and Hugo Santillan, 23, following punishing contests last weekend brought the eyes of the world and a tsunami of familiar disdain to boxing’s door. Visitors to our peculiar eco-system should be embraced, not eluded or dismissed, for their potential for objective perspective could be cathartic for a sport betrothed to ‘snake-oil’ salesman and spivs. Continue reading “Boxing, the precipice few dare to gaze over”

Dillian Whyte v Oscar Rivas betting tips

First appeared on Freebets.net

On Saturday 20th July, in the lull between the unexpected crescendo of Andy Ruiz’s victory over Anthony Joshua last month and the return of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder in September, Dillian Whyte will tackle Colombian rival Oscar Rivas in yet another dangerous ‘qualifier’. It is a fight of unusual character; no belt is currently attached to the fixture, as is customary in the current scene, and it features two top 10 heavyweight contenders in their physical prime.

Jamaican born contender Whyte, 25-1 (18kos), has been a conspicuous buck to this otherwise soporific trend. In Rivas, 26-0 (18kos), the London-based fighter faces an opponent who poses risk to his health and status but with the knowledge victory will reward him by cementing his position as the most worthy challenger to the division’s leading attractions.

The best bookmakers are intrigued by the bout too and offer match odds alongside markets for the chief support bout between fellow Heavyweights Dave Allen and David Price. Continue reading “Dillian Whyte v Oscar Rivas betting tips”

All that glitters is not coal; Doncaster heavyweight Dave Allen and a century of struggle

By David Payne

When popular British heavyweight Dave Allen ambles to the ring on Saturday as the unofficial headline act in a show far removed from his Doncaster home, he will, as all of us do in some shape or form, seek to step in to the spotlight and beyond the shadow cast by his forefathers and the whisper of self-doubt amplified by their deeds.

Across the ring will stand the Liverpudlian giant, David Price. A man who denies the presence of such demons, with fighting pedigree the Yorkshireman can not yet requite and tangible advantages of height, reach and experience too. The O2 Arena in London plays host to this battle of could, would and should. A venue repurposed from inauspicious and self-conscious beginnings as the Millennium Dome and therefore an apt stage for the pair to find out a little more about each other, themselves and the realism of their respective ambitions.

It is a heavyweight contest with much to endear it to the boxing fraternity, the thousands promoters Matchroom Sports will urge to make the pilgrimage to the gate and the wider public too. Fighters like Allen and Price, flawed, with the bruises of life’s slings and arrows evident but not ruinous, with opportunity or obscurity waiting for the victor and the vanquished, often provide more entertainment and are more relatable heroes than those garrulous fellows of untainted preserve. We can admire Floyd, but we love Arturo. Continue reading “All that glitters is not coal; Doncaster heavyweight Dave Allen and a century of struggle”

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