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 on 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 was 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 inflicted on the legends of his own 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.”

Saunders secures his date with destiny. Canelo on Cinco de Mayo

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.

Now is Saunders’ moment of truth.

Continue reading “Saunders secures his date with destiny. Canelo on Cinco de Mayo”

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.

Continue reading “Oquendo, King and the Game of Thrones”

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.

Continue reading “Golovkin, the middleweight protagonist, aims to turn back time”

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”

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”

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”

Joshua v Ruiz rematch preview and tips

Saudi Arabia is the controversial theatre for the latest act in the grand old opera of heavyweight boxing on Saturday 7th December. A purpose built stadium plays host and offers an unwelcome echo from the original golden age of boxing when eager investors brought the great Jack Dempsey and Tommy Gibbons to Shelby, Montana and almost bankrupt the entire town in 1923.

The 15,000 open air arena outside Riyadh is unlikely to trouble the infinite wealth of those who built it and invited boxing to its exclusive back garden. It will be an unlikely stage for Anthony Joshua to try and reclaim the belts he lost in New York to the same American, Andy Ruiz Jnr, he faces on Saturday.

For all the historic significance of the titles the two will battle for, the fight means more than just the prizes to Joshua. It is about the restoration of the truth he still believes, that he is best heavyweight on the planet and his defeat in June was an aberration. A fluke.

Victory would certainly reassert his place among the highest echelon of the division and reignite interest in potentially defining fights with Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder in 2020. A second defeat to the previously unheralded Ruiz may prove a blemish too far and forever extinguish Joshua’s hopes of transcending the sport’s history and diminish the notion the trio could yet create a new golden era in the flag ship weight class.

It really is, all on the line for the 2012 Olympic Champion. Boxing betting sites are thankfully eager to offer markets. Continue reading “Joshua v Ruiz rematch preview and tips”

Deontay Wilder v Luis Ortiz rematch preview and tips

First published on Gambing.com 

This Saturday, among the fountains and neon of Nevada’s ‘Sin City’, WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder defends his title against Cuban veteran Luis Ortiz in a rematch of their 2018 fight. A tumultuous encounter befitting the historic championship they were contesting, and one the boxing betting world has had its eye on.

Wilder eventually triumphed via 11th round knockout. If he succeeds again, it will be the 10th defence of the belt he won at the same MGM Grand venue in January 2015. Leading boxing bookmakers are offering markets on this heavyweight clash, though margins are tight for investors. Continue reading “Deontay Wilder v Luis Ortiz rematch preview and tips”

Sliding doors; Donaire and Burnett move on

There is no luck in life. Things happen. Things don’t. Some expected. Some not. Fighters don’t always get what they deserve, sometimes they get things they don’t – if anyone is qualified to make the determination.

If there are individuals of the required integrity and absence of ego to adjudicate, as yet, they haven’t found employment amid the racketeers running the sport’s sanctioning bodies, but I digress.

The coincidence of Ryan Burnett retirement announcement, a unified champion at 118 pounds before injury stole his prime, aged just 27, in the same week Nonito Donaire boxes Naoya Inoue in the final of the World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight competition seemed inescapable. But boxing is too cold a science to contemplate the ethereal presence of a hand of fate or any misplaced sense of destiny. Continue reading “Sliding doors; Donaire and Burnett move on”

Podcast: Big Fight Weekend – Canelo Kovalev

Always a pleasure to catch up with TJ Rives, “the somewhat capable host” of the Big Fight Weekend Podcast. Naturally, this episode is in preview mode as the boxing world turns its attention to the sport’s biggest star; Saul Alvarez and his Light Heavyweight debut against gnarly veteran Sergey Kovalev.

Conversation always wanders a little, both into the history of the noble and not so noble art and other fights forthcoming. This particular episode was further enriched by the presence of Antonio Tarver as the star attraction and the irrepressible Marquis Johns to round off proceedings.

The very special prospect of Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis in the final of the WBSS is also covered.

Continue reading “Podcast: Big Fight Weekend – Canelo Kovalev”

Boxing: Canelo seeking greatness an asterisks may deny him

I wonder whether it is harder for fighters to etch their legend into our collective psyche these days. The saturation of coverage helps build brands, invites us to know our heroes better, to co-exist beside them. An invited voyeurism that can reveal struggle and educate fans to the risk and reasons that motivate prize fighters but also homogenise those we would otherwise propose possess special powers.

The price of this exposure, if there is one, is this puncturing of a fighter’s mystique, their sense of otherworldliness. Unfettered access has removed the robe of mythology we once wrapped our kings in. I’m not sure even Marvellous Marvin Hagler’s solemnity would have outlasted the chatter of video courtiers every pug with a pair of gloves is now exposed to.

Even the words; Hagler, or Tyson or Duran, still provide a frisson of the electricity fans once felt when they caught the first glimpse of their walk to the ring. Or when their hero’s eyes locked on to his prey.

It is harder for their modern day counterparts to leverage the same awe in their less active careers and, in the case of Saul Alvarez, one of this generation’s most gifted fighters, with the burdensome asterisks of a failed drug test forever attached to his name. Continue reading “Boxing: Canelo seeking greatness an asterisks may deny him”

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”

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”

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