Boxing, is it still a young man’s game?

I wrote earlier this week about the questions posed to boxing fans by Manny Pacquiao’s continued career. Pacquiao ploughs on at an age when the leading lights of every preceding generation were long retired, whether in good health or bad, destitute or comfortable. Where once fighters were considered ‘shop-worn’ or ripe for the plucking, we now find the perennially untested, underachievers and those still punching to prove themselves.

The volume of shows, the quantity of fighters and the plethora of platforms fans can now access to consume boxing creates a script in which the characters, and the weeks and months, are dragged across the stage with increasing speed.

In the thrall of this often breathless narrative and the surge of popularity fuelling it, certainly in the UK, themes and large scale ‘set-changes’ can be harder to notice. Pacquiao’s 40th birthday provided this observer with the necessary illumination to the shift in fighter demographics that has occurred in the past twenty years.

Fighters appear to believe their prime is an infinite or elastic resource and, as a state of mind, it can’t help to bring the best available together.  After all, ‘there is always next year’.
Continue reading “Boxing, is it still a young man’s game?”

Advertisements

KATIE – The acclaimed story of women’s boxing’s biggest star

“I never put limits on myself.”

Boxing remains a rich seam for those who enjoy mining for stories of glory, triumph, loss or redemption. It is a world inhabited by the colourful and paradoxic, from the magnanimous hero to the loveable villain and a fair smattering of everything in between.

Occasionally, for those immersed in boxing’s culture, in her truths and philosophies and her lies and darker corners too, it is possible to become desensitised to the virtue of most of her participants and to the greatness she can draw from people.

In November 2017, in the unspectacular surroundings of Wembley Arena, on an otherwise forgettable card notionally headlined by a van glorious Light-Welterweight, Katie Taylor made her professional debut and, in doing so, woke the gathered.

A special fighter, perhaps a special person, was among them. And, like me, years from that night they would be able to say they were there when it all began.

Continue reading “KATIE – The acclaimed story of women’s boxing’s biggest star”

Kid Galahad mandated for Warrington’s IBF belt

IBF Featherweight champion, Josh Warrington, may be forced to abandon, at least temporarily, the pursuit of unifications with the three other ‘champions’ recognised in his weight class and face Sheffield’s Kid Galahad instead.

Following the positivity of the preceding article on BoxingWriter.co.uk, in which Warrington’s manager Steve Wood revealed the intention to “better 2018” by pitching the unbeaten 28-year-old in with one of Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell Jnr. or Oscar Valdez.

There was much to admire in the aspiration, but just a few days later, the sobering hand of boxing appears to have suffocated this would be plan. Continue reading “Kid Galahad mandated for Warrington’s IBF belt”

Warrington will remain urgent and ambitious as champion

Josh Warrington, the IBF Featherweight champion, has enjoyed proving people wrong this past twelve months. Firstly, and most potently, to the two world-class fighters he has faced in 2018; Lee Selby and Carl Frampton. Both were outworked and outthought to first win and then defend the title he now boasts. The suspicion Selby and Frampton felt they were superior pugilists and, therefore, consciously or otherwise, dismissive of the Yorkshireman was hard to supress.

Warrington explained their mistake with his fists in qualitative and quantitative terms. Neither Selby or Frampton could discourage or dissuade him.

In pursuing Frampton at all, despite acknowledging he represented the richest prize he could snare, Warrington showed an intent to fight the best available competition and not follow the more customary practice of a ‘soft’ first defence following the title win.

Warrington’s manager, Steve Wood assures fans, the aim is to continue chasing gilded rivals and not settle for simple defences. [4 min read]

Continue reading “Warrington will remain urgent and ambitious as champion”

BoxingWriter.co.uk Fighters of the Year 2018

It is said that time feels increasingly fleeting with the passing of every year. A lament often aired during the Christmas frivolities, as the day itself ‘cannonballs’ in whilst our minds are still fresh from collecting spent rockets and eating the last of the Halloween Haribo. Certainly for those of us wrestling with middle life, the sticky toffee that holds the melange of children, grandparents and other assorted acquaintances together, the reflection brought on by year end arrives all too quickly.

Add in an interest in the world of boxing, a niche within the Venn diagram of human existence once obscure and peripheral but now experiencing a population boom, and the pace is quickened still further. No weekend in the boxing fan’s diary is ever clear, perhaps save the one forthcoming, and the platforms and mediums for indulging their passion grows by the day. There is barely time to pause for breathe between a Spring time heavyweight showdown in a football stadium and a Featherweight dust up on the brink of New Year.

But, just as the charity pleas that interrupt our Christmas viewing and draw us back from the excess of our indulgence and before we dare to complain, gratitude should be our only sentiment.

Continue reading “BoxingWriter.co.uk Fighters of the Year 2018”

Warrington overwhelms Frampton

As I imagined the seats slapping back to rest, the discarded plastic glasses being brushed along the aisles and the last heels clip-clopping from the arena into the Manchester night, the electricity of Josh Warrington’s performance still charging the air, there was time to recognise a first flush of empathy for his vanquished foe, Carl Frampton.

Frampton has been a fantastic fighter and though he may yet accomplish further before retiring, the weight of the ‘has been’ in this sentence is a burden he has been stubbornly resistant to but can no longer contest. In Yorkshireman Warrington, Frampton was forced to face the ripeness of his career by a fighter of unrelenting intensity and aggression. As had been the suspicion of the small band of Warrington believers, he represented the worst type of opponent for Frampton at this stage of his career.

Whatever the headlines of today and tomorrow, it was a performance of great skill and tactical acumen by Warrington, not just the fervour and volume that caught the eye; though all were key ingredients to the ‘pudding of proof’ he provided.

Continue reading “Warrington overwhelms Frampton”

Whyte versus Chisora – betting preview

Preview first appeared at gambling.com

This weekend’s clash between Dereck Chisora and Dillian Whyte at the O2 Arena in London, a rematch of their 2016 encounter, reveals much about their respective characters and perhaps particularly Whyte’s, who has the greater career momentum and the higher rankings to risk.

In fact, if Whyte succeeds, and places himself at the front of the ‘Not Deontay Wilder’ queue for Anthony Joshua in April, it will be the latest in an impressive sequence of qualifying victories that began with the contested points verdict over Chisora.

In the two years since, Whyte has added the scalps of American trial horse Malcom Tann and Finnish giant Robert Helenius to his resume, before then brutalising Lucas Browne in quick time and outpointing former WBO World Champion Joseph Parker this year.

As with all heavyweight prize fights, leading boxing bookmakers are extending a range of markets for the contest. Continue reading “Whyte versus Chisora – betting preview”

Bet on Warrington to surprise Frampton

Article first appeared on gambling.com

The featherweight division has provided a platform for many of British boxing’s most noted prize fighters.

From Jim Driscoll a century ago, who lost much of his prime to the First World War, to Welshman Howard Winstone in the 1960s and the braggadocios Prince Naseem Hamed of the 1990s, the 126-pound weight class has been rich in world-class operators from Great Britain.

On Saturday night, at the raucous Manchester Arena, two more British featherweights will seek to carve their names alongside their prestigious predecessors. Continue reading “Bet on Warrington to surprise Frampton”

Fielding and the liberation of defeat

When Rocky Fielding retires from boxing, which may be before you read this or at some much more distant juncture, he will, like a long sequence of British fighters before him, be able to say he fought one of the best fighters of his generation. Beyond the financial security he presumably secured in his defeat to the irresistible Saul Alvarez on Saturday night, there was something less tangible than the purse but no less essential to his story and his prospects of contentment in retirement.

Simply put, at least Fielding now knows. Like the four British fighters that fell to Canelo before him; Ryan Rhodes, Matthew Hatton, Liam Smith and Amir Khan, Fielding found a definitive benchmark against which he could measure his ability.

It is a question several of his illustrious predecessors failed to resolve before their careers were complete and one which still hangs over a number of Fielding’s contemporaries too.

Continue reading “Fielding and the liberation of defeat”

‘The kid got heart’

Article first appeared in Big Write Hook Magazine: Round 2

Heart. Every successful fighter must have it. Not the pumping organ of all human kind. The intangible version; heart as the metaphoric adjective for the invisible and yet essential.

Other terms are coined to define this unquantifiable asset; courage, guts, balls. Words you will read and hear in the tumult of a boxing match and in the aftermath, when the cups and broken dreams are swept away. Beneath the spotlight of a more dispassionate scrutiny ‘heart’ proves an elusive quarry. What is it? How can it be proven, can it be measured, developed, lost or restored? Continue reading “‘The kid got heart’”

Fury returns from the abyss

“when you stare into an abyss for a long time, the abyss also stares into you.”

Nietzsche, 1886

As the thick black oil of sleep flooded through Tyson Fury’s gigantic body, the crackle of nervous energy that had powered his wit and reflex silenced, his senses immersed in unconsciousness; time, possibility and life all fell silent too. His body and mind in a temporal abyss, a place he had travelled close to in the darkness of the past three years, a destination boxing, until that moment, at the fists of her purest puncher, had saved him from.

In those moments, those precarious and precious seconds, Jack Reiss’ two palms and six digits casting a pale shadow over his blank, peaceful expression, something inside the 30-year old former champion stirred. Defining or quantifying the force or personal quality that drew Fury from the depths of the slumber Wilder’s right cross and left hook had plunged him in to is as close to impossible as the act itself. Continue reading “Fury returns from the abyss”

Wilder v Fury: How Tyson Fury can beat the odds

By Hector T. Morgan

The wait is almost over, anticipation has grown steadily since the fight announcement and with the drama of the final press conference fresh in the mind, fight fans are just a day or two out from seeing undefeated heavyweight behemoths Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury trade leather in their WBC title fight in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

Wilder is the odds-on betting favourite to claim his 41st career win and, if he is to fulfil that expectation, it is assumed it will be inside the distance and Fury will become Wilder’s 40th knockout victim too. Anyone counting out the self-styled “The Gypsy King” would be greatly underestimating the giant Brit, his penchant for the improbable and a host of advantages he has going into the fight. Continue reading “Wilder v Fury: How Tyson Fury can beat the odds”

Usyk v Bellew betting preview

First appeared on gambling.com

On Saturday night, in the hothouse of the Manchester Arena, Tony Bellew will tackle Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk for the unified Cruiserweight championship.

A fight that offers Bellew the chance to etch his name alongside predecessors in British Boxing folklore with whom the self-effacing “fat lad from Liverpool” will be the first to insist he has no right to be compared.

It has been this paradox, the deeply held certainty of victory despite simultaneous acknowledgement that the other guy holds all the advantages, that has been the narrative of his rise from peripheral domestic fighter to pay per view attraction and, albeit briefly, world champion. Continue reading “Usyk v Bellew betting preview”

Fury disappoints

There was a cut, he’s young, he was away from home, his opponent is a wily veteran. All true. All verifiable reasons Hughie Fury’s attempt to secure a mandated shot at Anthony Joshua failed. Those protecting their interest or adopting an especially thick monocle of pragmatism through which to view the result will point to the experience gained, the rounds navigated and the narrowest of the three cards.

It would be understandable and, as the days turn in to weeks, that narrative may well take hold and become the hazy recollection of a bout otherwise willingly forgotten by those that endured it. For Fury to succeed on the world ‘stage’, rather than merely exist as an awkward facsimile of his more talented cousin, the flaws that run much deeper in his performance than the cut eye lid he sustained last night must be addressed.

Must.

Continue reading “Fury disappoints”

“Martin, listen to me.” Bakole stopped by Hunter in 10.

There are people who know far more about boxing than me, there always has been and there always will be. For some this precludes me from forming an opinion of merit and as such, that opinion should be kept private. After all, I’ve never climbed between the ropes. Which isn’t quite true, but my fistic career never progressed beyond some tame sparring at my local ABC in my mid-thirties, I was dropped twice by body shots in the process too, and my street fighting record is, as far as memory serves, 0-1-1.

I’ve have watched a lot of boxing mind you; from Audley to Zolani, Oscar to Choi and most of what lays in between. I’ve seen knockouts that made my stomach flip, one sided beat downs which made we want to turn away or turn off and I’ve seen cornermen cajole and, in the cases of mess’s Francis and Calzaghe, slap their subjects to extract a response.

The exchange I witnessed between Billy Nelson and the Congolese heavyweight Martin Bakole, now fighting out of Scotland, last Saturday night was something I’ve never seen before. And, while there are more forgiving opinions available, from voices many would prefer to listen to, I hope I never do again. Continue reading ““Martin, listen to me.” Bakole stopped by Hunter in 10.”

MyFightTickets.com: Under the Radar award – September

Fighting ‘on the road’ is not the easiest way for a boxer to make a living. While regular work is almost guaranteed, win one too many fights – or upset the wrong applecart – and a journeyman may find the phone stops ringing. The life of a road warrior also involves additional sacrifice, suppressing as it does a level of personal ambition innate to most fighting men and women. Craig Derbyshire seems to be managing this delicate balance with real deft. Continue reading “MyFightTickets.com: Under the Radar award – September”

Ciao Enzo. Another boxing giant departs

Article first appeared in issue 22 of Knockout London Magazine

Biadu quie ischeddat in palas anzenas*

Sardinian Proverb

It is a sign of the passing of time that the heroes we hold most dear are leaving. The great talismanic figures we revere; totems within their chosen landscape, their accomplishments and influence reaching far beyond the lives they physically touch, are, one by one, beginning to depart. Earlier this year, boxing bade a sad farewell to the beloved Irish sage Brendan Ingle and now, with the autumn barely upon us, his death is compounded by the loss of a similarly diminutive colossus; Enzo Calzaghe. Continue reading “Ciao Enzo. Another boxing giant departs”

A little less conversation a little more action please. Saunders stalls again.

There is a lot more waiting involved in boxing these days. A lot more empty hollering. Much more theorising. Greater noise. Less fighting. Fighters have become business men at the expense of their supposed vocation. Many are more familiar to us in tweed tailoring, discussing percentages and the narcissism of their legacy than the blood soaked satin of their trade.

For a sport in such apparent rude health, with many tens of thousands pouring through turnstiles to glimpse heroes in illuminated Lowry dimension, there doesn’t seem to be as much actual fighting. Particularly, by the era’s most exceptional talents.

News Billy Joe Saunders has been stripped of his World Boxing Organisation Middleweight belt, after the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission refused to sanction him to fight in their state in a mandatory defence against Demetrius Andrade due to a failed, if contested, drugs test, once again brought the issue of inactivity back to the fore. Continue reading “A little less conversation a little more action please. Saunders stalls again.”

Beneath the opulence of Wembley the small hall classics remain; Tommy Frank steps up

With every passing stadium fight, with the new disciples boxing attracts through those seminal occasions, the memory of how the boxing landscape used to be seems lodged in ever fewer of us. Which isn’t to begrudge the progress and popularity boxing now enjoys nor eschew the game changing economies of scale available to promoters and fighters a like.

Boxing is a tough enough business without those who clutch the sport closest to their collective bosom resisting this upward trajectory and yearning for the time their own affection for the sport distinguished them; identified them. Continue reading “Beneath the opulence of Wembley the small hall classics remain; Tommy Frank steps up”

MyFightTickets.com Boxer of the Month – September

It is unfair to compare siblings, defying as it does, the uniqueness of all of us. However much we may share of the nature and nurture from which we spring and emerge, there is only one of each of us. This solitude of spirit and story is a reality we often deny to ourselves and submerge in the families and communities we cling and migrate to. But as the old idiom reminds us, in life, rather like the boxing ring in to which our heroes step, you come in alone and you leave alone.

At the end of last month, when Callum Smith dropped to the canvas, overwhelmed by the magnitude of his achievement in stopping George Groves, it was an essentially individual accomplishment. Aided by his trainer Joe Gallagher, who won a battle of his own too, and reward for every punishing pad session, every punch absorbed and delivered and every icy dawn run Callum Smith had completed in twenty years of absolute dedication. Continue reading “MyFightTickets.com Boxer of the Month – September”

Johnson goes around to go a round. Dubois learns much from wily veteran

There is an inherent sadness in the face of a heavyweight gatekeeper, of which Kevin Johnson is currently the foremost practitioner. The brow is heavy, eyes dark and the breathing laboured. Aged 39 now, and with features flattened and softened by years of fists crashing in like waves against a pier, the midriff a little broader, the scales leaning a little further, Johnson cuts a forlorn figure.

In the latest instalment of his decline from unbeaten fringe contender, which he was in 2009 when he fought his only world title fight against Vitaly Klitschko, the grizzlier of the Ukrainian bears, Johnson dipped and rolled to a 10 round shut out defeat to Daniel Dubois. Continue reading “Johnson goes around to go a round. Dubois learns much from wily veteran”

Catterall v Davies betting preview

First appeared at gambling.com

On Saturday night, in the lull between the attention seeking totems of Anthony Joshua’s knockout win last month and Tyson Fury’s WBC title fight with Deontay Wilder in December, Jack Catterall and Ohara Davies face off in a bid to step out of those shadows and on to the world scene themselves.

There are plenty of betting opportunities in the fight, promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and broadcast on BT Sport in the UK.

The clash between the two British Super Lightweights, or Light-Welterweight as traditionalists will know them, pitches polar opposite personalities and contrasting styles into a contest for the World Boxing Organisation’s InterContinental title. Continue reading “Catterall v Davies betting preview”

Ohara Davies and the part that can’t be played.

‘All the world’s a stage.’

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

It is received wisdom that a first impression takes just seconds to draw and, more often than not, time only confirms it’s accuracy. Fighters, who must exist in a world where self-belief is paramount, can often exude, or wear like a cloak, an exaggerated confidence. It projects a barrier of protection and is intended to unnerve the opponent. A virtual stand off, a falsehood before the actuality of the physical contest.

The manner or tone of this adopted persona is crucial, not only for its authenticity but also because of its impact on the profile of the fighter, their ability to generate interest and, from that essential metric, their prospects of upward trajectory. If one of the biggest sporting businesses in the world, Manchester United PLC, can sign players based on their Instagram following, it isn’t hard to understand the correlation between opportunity and popularity.

One fighter who has chosen the most precarious version of this script; to gamble on the longer odds of creating dislike and contempt to motivate people to watch him fight, is Ohara Davies. Continue reading “Ohara Davies and the part that can’t be played.”

Waning Groves succumbs to Smith

George Groves’s journey from l’infant terrible to veteran former champion, as he now is, has taken almost a decade and just a baker’s dozen or two of Saturday nights and no little heartache. As he was bludgeoned to the canvas by Callum Smith last Friday night in the seventh round of their Super Middleweight world title fight, it was impossible not conclude that his career was at an end.

An articulate, thoughtful man who has earned lucratively from his ability to box and promote, it was hard to fathom from whom or where any redemption or source of motivation could be summoned. This jars with the loathing we all have for those who write off fighters as a spent force, or spoiled goods, when they encounter defeat I concede, but more experienced viewers also develop a sense for when a fighter’s appetite for battle has gone. Continue reading “Waning Groves succumbs to Smith”

Joshua finds more equality than expected in veteran Povetkin

You don’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just get what you need.

Michael Jagger and Keith Richards (c) 1968

Dominance is an elusive quarry. And in boxing, I maintain, it is unwelcome. I’ve struck upon the notion that only in equality can greatness be forged; Ali needed Frazier, Holmes needed someone he didn’t have. On Saturday night, Anthony Joshua, the type of gentleman champion British fans so adore, emerged victorious from a difficult heavyweight defence with his titles in tact and most of the adoration suckled. The fight revealed a relative equality with his contemporaries that will suit his own quest for historical significance.

For those of us commenting and watching from the safe side of the ropes, his pursuit of that legacy will be all the more enjoyable for the competition. Continue reading “Joshua finds more equality than expected in veteran Povetkin”

MyFightTickets.com Fighter of the Month: August

Almost five years to the day since his professional debut as a starry eyed 18 year old, the supporting bout to a one round knockout win for Swiss Lightweight Nicole Boss, as obscure a beginning as I can recall, Isaac Dogboe flattened Hidenori Otake to defend his WBO Super-Bantamweight title last month.

The victory was a devastating one and the now 23 year old, who has led a nomadic life thus far, emerged with his reputation enhanced and new international interest in his future. Continue reading “MyFightTickets.com Fighter of the Month: August”

Khan, Brook and Buncey’s fear of regret

Many small brooks make a big river.

Swedish Proverb

The boxing podcast from the BBC, presented by Mike Costello and Steve Bunce, is an essential listen and has grown warmer and more meaningful as it has evolved. Such is Steve’s omnipresence across almost every conceivable platform and medium around, his yarns about the loveable rogues and lost souls he’s encountered along his voyage through the boxing world have become ever more entertaining and vital.

Beneath the repartee he clearly enjoys with Mike, there is a genuine care for the sport as a viable and healthy entity but also, and most keenly, for the men, and women, who climb between the ropes. In their discussion of Amir Khan’s future, which has been widely distributed by the BBC website, there was yet more evidence of the duty of care they feel to those who punch for pay and for our entertainment regardless of how well received that opinion might be by those about whom it is aired. Continue reading “Khan, Brook and Buncey’s fear of regret”

Spike O’Sullivan offers value for money to fight fans

Article first appeared at Gambling.com on 31st August.

Death, taxes. Few things in life are certain. Never more true than in the unnecessarily complex world of professional boxing. A humble concept, boxing has become increasingly obscured by a parade of oxymoronic titles conjured by the various bodies charged with her stewardship.

Occasionally, boxing, the brave old show girl that she is, wrestles free from this lecherous embrace to remind fans just how simple it all ought to be.

The middleweight clash between contenders David Lemieux and Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan on Saturday 15th September 2018 is one such example and there are a host of bookmakers eager to offer boxing betting markets on a fight almost guaranteed to be a classic. Continue reading “Spike O’Sullivan offers value for money to fight fans”

Amir Khan returns, but the clock is ticking for the ‘would be’ golden Welterweight era

Amir Khan’s returned to the business of boxing at the weekend, not the virtuality of press conferences, asinine video interviews about future opponents or his new trainer, but the reality of scrapping. And scrapping is something Amir has always been good at.

True, he is an unhealthy commodity for those vested in progressing his career, either emotionally or financially; too often neglecting his natural attributes of speed and movement to indulge in fights more suited to opponents than himself. From the beginning he has been a ‘seat of your pants’ fighter and television gold too, as reports his contest with Samuel Vargas drew the largest SKY audience for a boxing event further confirm.

But for all his previous achievements, and the benefits he will glean from completing twelve tough rounds going forward, there is evidence that the modern fighter’s belief that their physical prime is elastic and can be stretched into their mid-thirties is misplaced. Even for British boxing’s Peter Pan Welterweight.

Continue reading “Amir Khan returns, but the clock is ticking for the ‘would be’ golden Welterweight era”

Tipping the scales; experts weigh in on boxing’s hydration problem

Boxing, like all things, has evolved to reflect the society it exists in. Knowledge and tragedy led to the end of 15 round bouts; the additional fatigue and trauma accrued in the longer contest determined to be contributory in the damage done to fighters while active and in their decline in retirement.

Simultaneous to this was the advent of ever more minute weight classes, devised to protect fighters from facing opponents with an advantage in heft and to encourage the notion that there was a division to suit every fighter. The net result hasn’t quite matched the lofty ambition, but in the pursuit of optimising physiology to take advantage of these marginal increments between divisions, new risks and unwelcome realities have emerged.

The extreme weight loss, achieved at least partially through dehydration, creates the voyeuristic ritual of ‘zero’ body fat freak shows on a Friday and the alarming spectacle of a fighter becoming essentially re-inflated by Saturday night. It is a fertile area for good and bad practice. Continue reading “Tipping the scales; experts weigh in on boxing’s hydration problem”

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑