Fury, Wilder and the third act

“Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.”

Truman Capote, Novelist (1924-1984)

Trilogies, in an era when the first fight is all too often hard to make, are a rare spectacle. Particularly among heavyweights. The third of the series is typically only required to settle the argument as to who is the better fighter following shared outcomes in the opening bouts. Ali v Frazier, Bowe v Holyfield the most famous examples in the modern age, if the 1970s and 1990s still count as the modern age. Both pairings were notable for the equality of the protagonists and for the career best performances drawn from all four.

As the days and hours tick down to the third fight between Fury and Wilder, there should be, given this scarcity, the iconic nature of those illustrious predecessors and the tumultuous events of the first two encounters, more enthusiasm for the fixture than there is. Remarkably, considering the dramatics of those two fights, the mandate behind their third meeting is not driven by the appetite of fans or the quest for resolution as to who is the superior fighter, it is compelled only by contractual obligation and the stubbornness of Deontay Wilder.

Fury v Wilder III, until last week merely an irritating obstacle to greater prizes, is now upon us. As boxing’s various troubadours, fixers and mystics descend on Las Vegas, the memory of Joshua’s dethronement as fresh in their minds as the jet lag and neon lights will permit, the fight in prospect has become entirely more intriguing.

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Posturing, greed and the loss of Fury v Joshua

By Hector T. Morgan

Anthony Joshua’s humbling defeat to Oleksandr Usyk didn’t steal a unification bout from him, or his contemporary, Tyson Fury despite the persuasive narrative that it did. Boxing’s usual follies and the greed of one or both parties deprived the fans of the most enticing fight available several months ago. The two protagonists will one day look back wistfully to the moment, or moments, when they allowed the fight to slip away in the pursuit of an ever larger purse they will never have time to spend. Hipsters will point to the overdue Welterweight pairing of Errol Spence and Terence Crawford as the bout boxing actually needs the most, and there is merit in the argument, but heavyweights remain the premier attraction and the measure by which most eras are judged.

A fact that informs the greed that enveloped the potential fixture and permitted the contracted trilogy bout between Fury and Wilder to encroach and supersede the richest fight boxing could make.

And though fans may one day witness the two face each other, it will forever be diminished by the passage of time and the two defeats Joshua has now collected.

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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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Saunders arrives at the moment of truth. Canelo on Cinco de Mayo

First published on January 29th 2021

British Super-Middleweight contender Billy Joe Saunders has landed a fight with boxing’s premier star, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, to coincide with Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican celebration of the nation’s victory over the invading French forces in 1862. It is a day now synonymous with boxing and, specifically, whoever is the nation’s biggest star in that calendar year, headlining a US based show.

Saunders’ challenge to Canelo will bring joy to those hipsters who revel in the possibility the Hatfield rascal will prove to be slippery Kryptonite to boxing’s newest and seemingly invincible Superman. For those to whom Saunders is merely a crass irritation, their joy will be found in the presumed evisceration of such a fanciful idea.

The fight offers the Mexican superstar an opportunity to substantiate his status as the division’s king. A crown he earned beating Callum Smith last year. Saunders holds the WBO belt. In truth, it is a decoration. Saunders won the vacated title by beating unheralded Shefat Isufi in May 2019. Two subsequent defences, both abject in their significance and the entertainment provided, added negligible kudos to his reign and the belt stubbornly remains little more than a curio.

Nevertheless, without it Saunders would probably not have landed the fight and be facing his moment of truth.

Continue reading “Saunders arrives at the moment of truth. Canelo on Cinco de Mayo”

Conor Benn, the gatekeeper and the history at his shoulder

On Saturday night a British Welterweight, Conor Benn, will face a Colombian out of Canada called Samuel Vargas. Sufficiently endowed with a past, a sliver of remaining future to sustain belief in his motivations and the keys to the top 20 in the division, Vargas is the perennial nearly man and now 31-years-old. He retains respect for the toughness he’s demonstrated in a 10-year career and for being competitive with those Benn aspires to meet. In this weekend’s contest he will be playing the part of the gatekeeper.

For fans of a certain age Conor Benn continues to be a touch stone for memories of a youth long since passed. His swagger, his instinctive, spiky words transport many viewers back to the halcyon days of the early 1990s. Specifically, the time of Conor’s father, Nigel, and his nemesis Chris Eubank, their mutual rival Michael Watson and the five battles they shared between 1989 and 1993. All of which are seared into the consciousness of those of us who witnessed them.

This is the legacy Conor Benn carries. It opens doors but it cannot sustain him. Against Vargas, Benn will continue his quest to establish a place of his own in the Welterweight landscape. One rich in opportunity and decorated by some of the sport’s most gifted fighters.

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Time waits for no man, can weight add time for Frampton?

Carl Frampton, a 34 year old former champion at Super-Bantamwright and Featherweight, will attempt to win a portion of the world title at his third weight this weekend when he tackles Jamel Herring for the American’s WBO 130 pound belt. History presents little precedent for the challenge.

Fighters at the smaller weights don’t tend to prevail chasing their youth. Reflex, punch output and speed are necessary qualities simply to compete in the lands beneath, perhaps, Welterweight, where single shot power, fight ending power tends to be rare. There are exceptions, one of boxing’s biggest superstars, Naoya Inoue, has been cracking heads from Flyweight to Bantamweight in the last few years and there were others before him, but the fights are usually won and lost with technique, busyness and the cumulation of punches.

As the old boxing adage suggests, ’34 is old for a Featherweight”.

That is the truism Frampton must dispel if he is to succeed.

Continue reading “Time waits for no man, can weight add time for Frampton?”

Dillian Whyte v Alexander Povetkin Rematch, The Big Fight Weekend Podcast Preview

Always a pleasure to talk to TJ Rives and to guest alongside Marquis Johns and BoxingScene’s Manouk Akopyan as the team discuss the weekend’s biggest fixtures. From Whyte and Povetkin in closest focus, along with some notes on Fabio Wardley and Campbell Hatton.

The link is included below, the Big Fight Weekend podcast has been running for two or more years and is frequently decorated by the great and good of the boxing world, guests have included Sergio Mora, Keith Idec and Winky Wright in recent weeks.

An enjoyable mix of voices. Subscribe via your usual outlets.

Continue reading “Dillian Whyte v Alexander Povetkin Rematch, The Big Fight Weekend Podcast Preview”

Povetkin, a nomad from another decade, rides again

Welterweights, lightweights, feathers, they’re all better technically, quicker, busier. But it’s impossible not to be drawn by the old dreadnoughts, the big bruisers, the heavyweights. This weekend fight fans can indulge the oldest of their pugilistic persuasions, as Russian veteran Alexander Povetkin offers Dillian Whyte a second opportunity to add his rusting hull to his resume.

Both men will hope to parlay a victory into a world title shot, the first for Whyte, the 27th for Povetkin. I exaggerate of course but there is a feeling of the perennial about the heavy-handed 41 year old. Briefly, he excited those searching in the detritus of the 1990s for a successor to the thrown abdicated by Iron Mike. For a moment or two it was a hefty clubber from New Zealand with a Don King do and then it was Povetkin.

Neither fulfilled the destructive promise of their youth. Tua grew ripe on the vine waiting for his mandated shot at Lennox and Povetkin, having first turned down a shot at Wladimir under the tutelage of Teddy Atlas, then slowed, thickened, like an over cooked borscht, and by the time he decided to say yes he wasn’t the threat he would have been when fresher and quicker.

If he beats Whyte again, he may get one more shot. And with his power, some natural, some acquired, one shot could be enough.

That’s the heavyweight appeal.

Continue reading “Povetkin, a nomad from another decade, rides again”

Necessity is the mother of invention, Bika to face Soliman

Two weeks ago I had the good fortune to speak to Sakio Bika ahead of his return to the ring against Australian middleweight Adam Stowe. Bika was bright, confident and determined to project himself toward bigger targets by winning convincingly in his first fight in 40 months. It was a practical stepping stone for a pragmatic former world-champion with a shrinking window of opportunity.

Within the week, pragmatism was replaced by disappointment as an administrative oversight by the Cameroon born Super-Middleweight left his fight with Stowe in tatters. The waiting crowd, eager to see a fighter of Bika’s calibre, were hard to placate when the realisation Bika wouldn’t be able to fight began to break. As a result, trouble ensued. Where Bika had hoped for a knockout and a new beginning, he found police dogs and pepper spray, fist fights and discontent.

It was a sobering episode in a long career. As with all things in boxing, from disaster grew opportunity.

Continue reading “Necessity is the mother of invention, Bika to face Soliman”

In the name of the father. Cosme Rivera Jnr. steps up this weekend

As I trawl through the upcoming fight schedule, as has been my habit this past twenty years, looking for an angle, a name, a story, I realised I have borne witness to the arc of a thousand careers. Watched young, fresh-faced fighters climb from the foot of the bill, to their personal mountain top, however modest it may prove, and then succumb to the inevitable descent. Back to the darkness and all too frequent anonymity that waits beyond the glare of the lights. Old, tired and damaged.

On one low-key card in Mexico on Friday night (12th March), I was intrigued to note the name of Cosme Rivera. A 19-year-old professional with an embryonic 3-0 record it turns out. The name doesn’t hold the same resonance as Benn or Hatton or Tsyzu, all of whom have sons who now punch for pay, but for this writer, it brought back to mind a rugged and capable Welterweight of the same name who once came to England to box James Hare.

Cosme Senior.

Continue reading “In the name of the father. Cosme Rivera Jnr. steps up this weekend”

Undisputed Heavyweight Championship clash close to becoming reality

By Hector T. Morgan

Fantasy fights have long been a source of debate among boxing fans. Cross generational contests divide followers; Ali and Tyson, Mayweather and Leonard, the idea never ages, the passions evoked never cool. In the modern era, a time of fewer fights between the sport’s great and good, boxing fans are often left with only the fantasy debate to decide who is the best between two fighters who co-exist. Politics, money, broadcast platforms, sanctioning bodies, fear, they all play their role in keeping the best prize fighters apart.

The news Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, the best two heavyweights active today, are on the brink of signing to box each other this summer is, therefore, a subject of both excitement and cynicism among those same boxing fans. Excitement about the contest, the all too uncommon clarity it will provide for the heavyweight division duels with the enduring suspicion that fate or politics will intervene once more.

It is a tantalising fight, but dare we believe?

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Oscar Rivas, a rare Colombian heavyweight, talks about his return to the ring

Heavyweights aren’t supposed to look like Oscar Rivas anymore. A nudge over six feet tall. 230 pounds. He is a compressed anomaly in a forest of giants. From Fury to Joshua and back to Wladimir, heavyweights have got bigger, taller, heavier. Not necessarily better, but bigger. For every Gypsy King there is an Alexander Ustinov after all.

Heavyweight contenders don’t tend to emerge from Colombia either. It is birthplace for skilful Light-Welters like Antonio Cervantes or Flyweight greats like Fidel Bassa and Irene Pacheco, not heavyweights. True, Bernardo Mercado laid Trevor Berbick out flat in ’79, and overcame Earnie Shavers a year later, but the hard head from the cattle ranch capital of Colombia, Monteria, never did land the title shot, losing to Neon Leon in a final eliminator in late 1980. Heavyweights do, however, come from Canada, the scene for Mercado’s upset win over Berbick, the home of Tommy Burns, who held the title a century or more ago, and Sam Langford, the greatest fighter never to land a shot at the championship. It also where a then 21-year-old Rivas settled 12 years ago, having left the Amateur vest of his homeland to begin a career in the paid ranks.

His journey as a prize fighter continues next week against former foe, and deposed Canadian Cruiserweight champion, Sylvera Louis. I had the chance to speak to Oscar this week about his long overdue return to the ring, that Dillian Whyte fight and the possibility of contesting a Bridgerweight title this summer.

Continue reading “Oscar Rivas, a rare Colombian heavyweight, talks about his return to the ring”

Sakio Bika returns. In pursuit of one last run at the championship

Aged 41, with three and half years of inactivity laying like a barren field at the end of his otherwise prodigious boxing career, Sakio Bika is a frustrated fighter. Impeccably professional, the Australia based Cameroonian persists. Working to remain in the taut condition of his youth. Boxing is a young man’s game, if it is a game at all, and forty somethings like Sakio, and contemporaries Sergio Martinez and Sam Soliman, should be discouraged.

But in life, as he always proved in the ring, Sakio Bika is a man who is not easily discouraged.

In boxing tradition young contenders usually queue to add the remaining lustre of an old champion’s name to their own. Matchmakers charged with the curation of emerging talent carefully select the worn and the weary to extend, but not derail, the asset. The problem for Sakio, desperate for one more shot at the big time, is that those promoters and matchmakers have long memories. Memories of the discomfort he caused the legends of his generation remain in tact and widely held.

On Friday 26th, Sakio finally has an opponent willing to step between the ropes to face him; local tough guy, Adam Stowe. A thirty-something middleweight with a modest record. Speaking with Sakio this week, it is clear the fight is merely the first step in what he hopes will be one last run at a title: “I try not to name too many names because when I do they tend to go quiet or run away. I’m available for anyone, either 168 or 175, I don’t mind which. Fighters should want to challenge me, but they don’t.”

Continue reading “Sakio Bika returns. In pursuit of one last run at the championship”

Veterans Bika and Soliman return, Meehan the younger continues

Old age is no place for sissies!

Bette Davis, Actress, 1908-1989

A reader challenged my expressed frustration with the sport this week. Commenting that the incompetence and imperfection I was bemoaning at the time, in the wake of poor officiating on the Warrington v Lara card last weekend, was precisely the reason boxing draws writers to write. That its ugliness is, in truth, its beauty. The pursuit of the ‘right’ contests, of certainty, of a sense of hierarchy and regulation, seemingly abundant in all other sports, is the bittersweet joy of boxing.

There may be a seed of truth in that. Were it as simple as it really ought to be, perhaps some of the high points wouldn’t seem so high?

For now, chaos is the preeminent theme. Within that reality, peculiar storylines, far from the mountain tops of world title fights, are permissible, from the romantic to the deplorable, they add texture to the patchwork eiderdown the sport bunkers beneath. Stories like the return of two stubborn old Australian veterans who really should know better and the son of their contemporary taking another step in his boxing career in New Zealand.

Continue reading “Veterans Bika and Soliman return, Meehan the younger continues”

Adrian Broner and the Peter Pan pipe dream

Inactivity is not a new phenomenon in boxing. Champions, even in those supposedly halcyon days of one division, one champion took extended sabbaticals between fights. Jack Dempsey twice took two years or more off between defences of his crown. Busying himself with the luxuries afforded by success. Safe in the knowledge that only defeat between the ropes could ever separate him from the title. The inactivity of the modern era is a different animal. Evolved from different circumstances.

Failed drug tests, contractual disputes, waiting on mandatory shots are all new prompts the old champions didn’t encounter. A broader church of talent now enjoys larger wages and far more is known about the long term damage accrued through participation in more bouts, more sparring, both discourage activity. Even for the victor, sacrifice is required.

Between the pragmatism of the fewer fights of today and the century old practice of living indulgently between bouts, exist a troop of enigmatic figures. Fighters like Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner.

Continue reading “Adrian Broner and the Peter Pan pipe dream”

Warrington steps down in pursuit of step up.

It is folly to expect men to do all that they may reasonably be expected to do.

Richard Whately, Philospher, 1787-1863

Lurching from the absurd to the ridiculous, from the passing Neon brightness of Leon to the deadly dark of the Panorama expose, boxing will be glad to get back to the business of, well, boxing this weekend. Even if it is the peculiar reality of Josh Warrington fighting an opponent who has a whiff of the unwanted mandatory about him, despite the absence of a world title belt to demand one.

The year begin, and remains, in the grip of a pandemic, but with every jab dispensed the sport, like the wider populous, is loosening its collar and daring to peak out at the Spring yet to come. British boxing’s self imposed hiatus, to relieve pressure on the health service, draws to a close and the popular Leeds born fighter will kick off the high profile schedule.

Of interest, despite the anonymity of the opponent, will be assessing whether Warrington can recapture the momentum lost due to inactivity.

Continue reading “Warrington steps down in pursuit of step up.”

Oquendo, King and the Game of Thrones

I never got around to watching Game of Thrones. Breaking Bad. I’m resigned to my fate as a person daunted by ‘seasons’, not excited by them. A box set binger I am not. Maybe I’m an outlier. Just a nudge beyond the appropriate demographic.

The idea of playing catch up, of sitting down with 120 hours of plot sprawling out before me holds no attraction. Is that how I want to spend days of my dwindling future and aren’t all tales merely derivatives of just seven stories anyway? I’m 48 this year. I don’t have time.

Fres Oquendo is already 48. In the past six years, the period since he last boxed in a prizefight, the moon faced heavyweight may well have consumed every drama the various platforms had to offer. He may be a TV critic beneath a cryptic pseudonym. A pointed and acidic reviewer as adept at slinging zingers as he once was jabs and left hooks.

One thing is clear, he hasn’t been fighting. He argues he’s tried, but he has an unfortunate habit of choosing fighters who fail pee tests.

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Garcia dares where Spence and Crawford dither

No time like the present

Mrs Manley, Novelist, 1663-1724

On the 17th December Manny Pacquiao became 42. This week marked 26 years since his professional debut. In the period in between he has boxed 71 times. All of these numbers are remarkable. In the modern era, they are other worldly. A pandemic halted his latest run in the Welterweight division and Conor McGregor’s humbling last Saturday has likely cost the Filipino Senator his largest available pay day. Perverse though the idea of their meeting was.

There is now a strong suggestion Pacquiao will face Ryan Garcia, a fighter not born when the first of those 71 contests, a four rounder on 22nd January 1995, took place. It is hoped the match will be the genuine article, a Lightweight upstart venturing to Welterweight to unseat a legend, and not the exhibition tag subsequently tied to the proposition.

Sure, we’d prefer a lightweight round robin and Spence v Crawford, they’re the earnest, timeless match ups boxing craves. But complain about Pacquiao v Garcia? Come on.

Continue reading “Garcia dares where Spence and Crawford dither”

Ryan Garcia, along with his doubters, will discover the truth tonight

The wait in the dressing room before a boxing match — that last hour — would be enough to strip a man that never boxed before of whatever pride, desire and heart he THOUGHT he had.”

‘Iceman’ John Scully, Boxer, 1967-

The period before a fight always strikes me as the most fascinating human experience. Not one I would wish to submit myself too. As someone averse to rollercoasters or any other pursuit in which there is no side door, no coward’s exit, the notion of spending the hours of fight day contemplating the impending confrontation strikes me as the most haunting examination of a man’s psyche.

And your preparation. The truth of whether you’re ready. Not the ready of the press conference answer, the ready that only you, the one who must climb the steps and perhaps the man beside you, really knows.

Tonight, 22 year old Ryan Garcia will make that walk, spend that day, as will Englishman Luke Campbell, both have doubters, both will surely have doubt whispering to them too.

Continue reading “Ryan Garcia, along with his doubters, will discover the truth tonight”

To Hull and back and back and back again. Can Campbell upstage youthful Garcia?

And it’s never really happened to me (it’s happy hour again)

Don’t believe it, oh no

‘Cause it’s never really happened to me (it’s happy hour again)

The Housemartins, Happy Hour (1986)

Headlining this weekend’s Dallas card, boxing’s opening gambit of the New Year, will be British lightweight Luke Campbell versus the unbeaten Ryan Garcia. Campbell will be attempting to win a world title, if we include interim, at the third time of asking. His first two bids, against the exceptional Jorge Linares in 2017 and Vassily Lomachenko in 2019, ended in creditable defeats, the former, narrowly.

Those represented contests against two of boxing’s most ennobled competitors. Fights in which Campbell played the role of the young challenger despite being of contemporary age to both. His fresh face belying his then 30 something years. On Saturday he can no longer hide from the passage of time and if he is to triumph and win the interim WBC title almost 9 years on from his Olympic Gold, he will do so as an ageing contender to the 22-year-old Garcia’s ‘turn’ as the youthful up and comer.

As a son of Kingston-upon-Hull, a place of originality and acute deprivation, he is inherently imbued with the stoicism and spirit to try.

Continue reading “To Hull and back and back and back again. Can Campbell upstage youthful Garcia?”

Canelo leans on Ali and the busyness of old

In fact, you get the face you deserve by the time you’re forty, and one of the keys to looking and feeling younger is being active.

Joan Collins, Actress, 1933-

Saul Alvarez boxed on December 12th. He unified belts and, in all but name, conquered the Super-Middleweight division in the process. He achieved this by beating a disappointing, and disappointed, Callum Smith over 12 rounds. In February, he is lined up for a soft defence of the WBC belt against Turkish slugger Avni Yildrim, before turning his attention to a unification bout with Billy Joe Saunders in May.

Yildrim was flattened by Chris Eubank three years ago. He is a top 20 guy, if his mother was compiling the ratings. A peripheral contender at best, and one who lost his last fight in February 2019. Yes, your maths is correct, he will have been inactive for two years come fight night.

A few have clutched their pearls at the notion of the Mexican superstar facing such an unheralded opponent. There is little to substantiate Yildrim’s legitimacy.

But Yildrim isn’t the key element of the sequence. Neither is the enigmatic Saunders.

Continue reading “Canelo leans on Ali and the busyness of old”

Boxing’s invisible giant, Callum Smith, stands on the shoulders of his brothers

The road is long,

With many a winding turn

The Hollies, 1969

At world level, Liverpudlian Callum Smith is the last man standing from his remarkable family of fighting brothers. Liam boxes on, with a desire to return to the title stage, but brothers Stephen and Paul are now retired and Callum is, as perhaps he has always been, the most luminous hope among the tightly knit siblings. His boxing life is his own, but there is an inescapable sense that Saturday represents the crescendo, the final masterpiece, of their collective careers.

Can Callum deploy all of their accrued wisdom against the toughest foe boxing has to offer him? Can he do the unthinkable, go further than those three brothers he has watched from ringside, consoled and celebrated with, and win the big one? Reach further than Golovkin, Mayweather and an ageing Kovalev could and knock Saul Alvarez out?

As his trainer Joe Gallagher mooted this week, he may need to in order to win.

Continue reading “Boxing’s invisible giant, Callum Smith, stands on the shoulders of his brothers”

Golovkin, the middleweight protagonist, aims to turn back time

 Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?”

Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future

I frequently comment on the foolishness of boxers returning in their forties or the folly of those who box on toward them. Still pursuant of glory and paydays long beyond their grasp. And yet, exceptions prod at the apparent certainty. Tug on the sentimental thread we all have swaying beneath our sleeve.

To ignore such pangs requires of us a dismissal of an ageing hero, one who gave so much, one trying to resist the inevitable tide we all swim against. The romance in our soul, for boxing is a maelstrom of cruelty, cynicism and the poetic, too often indulges the whimsy.

Gennedy Golovkin is one such warrior we wish to excuse. The hope that he can defy the passage of time, inactivity and the conspicuous injustice of his draw (and defeat) to Saul Alvarez to enthrall us again, pummel one more contender, find a pathway back to his nemesis, Canelo, and triumph, is irresistible, if entirely deluded.

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Joshua tackles the patient giant

In the three years since the Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev fight was first scheduled, the Bulgarian contender has grown risk averse, as investors and stockbrokers might call it.

At 39 years of age, with his stock as high as it needed to be to secure the shot at Joshua, he remained only sufficiently active to preserve his lofty rating with the governing bodies.

Evidence as to Pulev’s remaining ambition, condition and punch resistance is therefore undermined by the quality of his opposition. He’s been winning, but only against tier 3 and 4 big men.

For all the qualification, it remains an intriguing contest.

Continue reading “Joshua tackles the patient giant”

But it’s Mike F****** Tyson

Take it from me,

It’s hip to be square

Huey Lewis, Songwriter, 1967-

I’ll have to whisper. So come a little closer. Now, look, this thing Saturday. Yer know, the fight. No, not that one. The other one. Yeh. That one. Well, I know all the hipsters have had their say and I know it’s all a bit silly, but, well, how can I put this?

I’m a little bit excited.

I know it’s wrong. I know I’m meant to rise above it. Look down on it. Reject it. Yeh, yeh, 54, I know. I know. But it’s Tyson.

Mike ******* Tyson.

Don’t tell me you’re not watching it.

Continue reading “But it’s Mike F****** Tyson”

Mike Tyson and Roy Jones; an exhibition of shadows

Even as your body betrays you, your mind denies it.

Sarah Gruen, Writer, Water for Elephants

On Saturday night, which is the 27th day of the 11th month of the 20th year of the 21st century, two of the most luminous talents of the preceding century, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jnr., will climb between the ropes for an 8 round exhibition. The boxing world, in all its enduring schizophrenia, will pray neither are the destroyer of men they once were, for fear of the damage they may still impart on each other, while simultaneously hoping that they are both exactly what they once were. The latter, for the affirmation such Peter Pan deliverance would offer those voyeurs who’s vintage they share.

What began as little more than the whimsical nostalgia of those older viewers, who digested the curated footage of Iron Mike training, to maintain fitness and ego, in the midst of their mindless morning scroll, has now taken on its own life force. Plucking Roy Jones Jnr. from a retirement he didn’t seem to accept he had to enter, despite a catalogue of hellacious knockout defeats noisily encouraging the step, has added steam to the push. Now boxing has an event, the inherent risk of which, to the two relics in the ring and the sport they graced in their youth, can not be truly assessed until the first bell rings.

Or maybe the last , or maybe for whom it tolls.

Continue reading “Mike Tyson and Roy Jones; an exhibition of shadows”

Dubois and Joyce clash in the heavyweight foothills

Don’t be afraid to take a big step, you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.

David Lloyd George, Politician
1863-1945

It is all too rare for unbeaten prospects to fight while still in the foothill stages of their climb toward boxing’s mountain top. So numerous and divergent are the paths to boxing’s summit; and the world titles to be found there, a prize broader and less elusive than the zenith it once represented, that exciting contenders often progress in isolation of each other. The fear of falling back from the trail tends to prove more persuasive than the rewards found in victory or the lessons of defeat.

On Saturday night, British heavyweights Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce will dispense with the unsatisfactory custom of cosmetic record padding and pitch their unresolved potential against one another. The fighters, the division, boxing fans and the sport itself will benefit from the nobility of trying to authenticate their standing as a potential world title challenger in the old fashioned way.

Continue reading “Dubois and Joyce clash in the heavyweight foothills”

Callum and Canelo, boxing as it should be

And though hard be the task,

Keep a stiff upper lip.’

Phoebe Cary, American poet (1824-1871)

Super-Middleweight is a relatively new division, pitched like a mobile phone mast between the ancient spires of the 160 and 175 weight classes in 1984. It was then, a time of Terrible Tim Witherspoon, Nicaragua and the British Miners’ strike, that Scot Murray Sutherland defeated Ernest Singletary for the freshly foiled IBF world title.

168 pounds had been a contested weight on the almost invisible fringes of the sport long before the widely under appreciated Sutherland stepped between the ropes. Since the late sixties an organisation called the WAA had toiled alone in trying to establish the half way house between the classic divisions. But it was a story that only truly came to life in that low key promotion in Atlantic City. Since then, despite Sutherland’s loss of the belt to Chong-Pal Park in his next fight, the weight class has been home to a parade of British boxing greats.

Benn, Eubank, Froch and Calzaghe were the most illustrious, accompanied along the way by Watson, Catley, Reid, Groves, DeGale, Graham and Irishman Steve Collins too. The latest, Liverpool’s Callum Smith, has this week landed an opportunity to etch his name into the very particular folklore reserved only for Calzaghe and co.

It isn’t outlandish to suggest winning the fight with boxing’s richest cash-cow, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, on December 19th, certainly in terms of profile, would eclipse any individual victory those four secured. Heresy though that will appear for many nostalgic observers.

Continue reading “Callum and Canelo, boxing as it should be”

Kell Brook and his glorious quest

That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage.
To fight the unbeatable foe.
To reach the unreachable star.

The Impossible Dream, Andy Williams

There is a thread that ran through the careers of those that soared highest from the Winconbank Gym in Sheffield within which Kell Brook learned his trade. A course, irritating interloper in an otherwise beautiful, if unconventional, fabric. Woven in to Naseem’s robe of almost greatness, the elusive silk of Herol nearly man cape and the off-beat otherness of Junior, that thread, of the ‘if only’, cannot be unpicked. Continue reading “Kell Brook and his glorious quest”

Martinez running toward a mirage

Tis but a blink since I wrote on the fairytales we whisper to ourselves on entering our forties. The type former champion Sergio Martinez has, alas, succumbed to, adding Instagram filters to the truth of his middle age. In actuality, several months passed before the 45 year old ducked between the ropes for a thankfully tame encounter with Joes Miguel Fandino. Continue reading “Martinez running toward a mirage”

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