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”

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