Defeat is not the end, until it is. Saturday night with Quigg and Kownacki

“And go on until you come to the end, then stop”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

I don’t know why Robert Helenius’ knockout victory of Adam Kownacki, the doughy faced Brooklynite by way of Poland, pleased me so much. After all, I had begun to appreciate Kownacki’s simple but effective modus operandi as exposure to the unbeaten heavyweight grew. Recognising him for what he was, rather than what he wasn’t was key to enjoying his progress.

Perhaps the joy I felt at Helenius’ success is merely the reminder it provided of the inherent uncertainty in the fight game, particularly in the heavyweight division, and that no sport does plot twists quite like boxing.

It was hard to digest the aggressive ‘bomber’ Helenius became on Saturday given the passivity of his performance against Dillian Whyte in a bout with equivalent opportunities for the victor 30 months ago. But the puncher he unquestionably was.

Proof, if proof is still required, that no performance, in isolation, can ever define a fighter’s capacity or potential. As the saying goes, sometimes, it just isn’t your night.

And sometimes it is.

Continue reading “Defeat is not the end, until it is. Saturday night with Quigg and Kownacki”

Chocolatito, a champion in old money

The truth is rarely pure and never simple. 

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

Truth has become an elusive quarry in boxing, perhaps the truth about truth is that it has always been so or that its very existence and supposed purity is, itself, merely a fable. A fantasy. Things, people, events, facts, can only exist in the perspective from which they are viewed after all. And with a meritocracy suffocated by the destructive ingenuity and self interest of those appointed to provide it, many of the old ways have been lost too.

Last weekend, Birmingham’s Khalid ‘Kal’ Yafai discovered one truth that boxing’s chameleons and racketeers, with their prisms of subterfuge and bullshit, have yet to obscure or subvert. That being; within the ropes, whatever the path to the steps, however loud the fan fare or shiny the garb, there is no hiding place and the higher quality fighter, if prepared, will always prevail. Continue reading “Chocolatito, a champion in old money”

Wilder, the sense of loss and the loss of sense

We are the hollow men,
We are the stuffed men.
Leaning together
Head piece full of straw.

T.S. Eliot

As weary eyed guests checked out of the MGM Grand hotel and post fight podcasts sieved through the detritus of the weekend like a hopeless gold rush miner searching for an undiscovered nugget, veteran reporter Lance Pugmire revealed deposed champion Deontay Wilder’s claim that the weight of his ring entrance outfit had stolen the sap from his legs and contributed to his downfall.

To the average Joe, it was a line without precedent and one met with universal dismay or good old fashioned laughter. Quite how above average Joes; Louis, Walcott and Frazier, would’ve greeted the revelation one can only speculate. Consensus might reasonably assume any responses that were printable would’ve been light on empathy.

Spare a thought for Don Rickles too, who will be fuming to have missed the chance to pen an entire 20 minute Roast at the former WBC champion’s expense.

Continue reading “Wilder, the sense of loss and the loss of sense”

Joshua excels, Ruiz rues excess

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection; second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Confucius

Anthony Joshua’s victory last night revealed much about the character of the man, and the capability of the fighter. In a career which has seemed preordained as success followed success, endorsement battled endorsement, as millions were stacked upon millions, the ‘Stay Humble’ hashtag Joshua hung on every action and endeavour had begun to irritate rather than soothe those of us craving that defining match up with Deontay Wilder.

Last night, and in the corrective steps Joshua took in the prelude to the fight, he secured redemption for the nightmare of defeat in June, but demonstrated a humility in the process to match the much worn sound byte. Continue reading “Joshua excels, Ruiz rues excess”

Wilder flattens Ortiz. Fury next for the ultimate prize

Deontay Wilder’s demolition of Ortiz, having lost the first six rounds on every score card other than those of his eight children and Terry O’Connor, proved that he is the division’s, and maybe the entire sports’, purest puncher. Wilder has the power of Zeus in his right hand and the one that pierced Ortiz’s guard, leaving the talented Cuban crumpled in a heap like soiled clothes on a wash room floor, had all the meta required for the viral age.

Wilder has become a box office fighter, just in time for the most lucrative box office era of them all. Continue reading “Wilder flattens Ortiz. Fury next for the ultimate prize”

Boxing legend Donaire surely retires, happily untethered from regret

At journey’s end, life is about the moments, the impression made on those closest to us and perhaps too, the fulfilment of our own potential. The peace provided by the sense of completion, as opposed to the artifice of possession, is life’s richest reward.

For those of us without the skill, or dedication to develop one sufficiently definitive to draw a crowd, this sense of completion can be humble and pass by all but our own scrutiny. And we are often our own harshest critic. This mundanity makes the pursuit of fulfilment no less important but it is done without the glare of the spotlight.

For fighters, with their careers compressed into a decade, perhaps two, there is precious little time to waste, nor latitude for misteps. It is the waste and the missteps which keeps fighters fighting too long and burdens those who fail with the demon of regret.

In what will surely prove to be the final performance of a gilded career, Nonito Donaire’s natural humility and dedication to his craft was rewarded. He left the ring as the loser, beaten on points by the Japanese phenomenon Naoya Inoue, but with his legacy enriched, the figurative embrace of the crowd and a warm hand shake from his future self, unshackled from the ghosts of could, would or should have. Continue reading “Boxing legend Donaire surely retires, happily untethered from regret”

Canelo takes the Kovalev castle

“He has a child’s face, with brown hair and a freckled face, but his fists are just as devastating as a sailor.”

Rodolfo Rosales writing for El Universal in March, 2010

14 years on from his debut as a fresh faced 139 pounder, Saul Alvarez, now 29-years-old and boasting a 53-1-2 (36ko) professional record, holds a portion of the Light-Heavyweight crown. He knocked out a grizzled old champion, Sergey Kovalev, in the 11th round of an otherwise muted battle for the WBO’s belt.

The coupling of those sentences is remarkable. To denigrate the credibility of that achievement by demeaning Kovalev’s credentials, as some have, speaks more of the critic than Alvarez. There are those who’ve have developed a negative myopia toward the Mexican attraction because of the decision gifted to him in the first Golovkin fight or his failed drug test, the latter of which I too refuse to ignore, or are simply too lodged in their version of the past that the merits of the modern era will never be sufficient to draw praise.

I’ve been guilty of that too. But whatever the premise or subtext behind your view of the world, whether you recognise or deny its influence, I encourage you to appreciate the significance of Alvarez’s performance this weekend.

Continue reading “Canelo takes the Kovalev castle”

Taylor and Prograis push each other to their peak

Note to self. Remember to watch the boxing.

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

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

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

Usyk cuts out your heart Witherspoon

Those pruning the previously lustrous blooms of their expectations of Oleksandr Usyk are very obviously still reading from a script the Ukrainian long since tore up and rewrote. Despite the interest surrounding his heavyweight debut and the apparent modesty of opposition, Usyk was never likely to win this fight by early stoppage.

To expect him to comply with the traditions of heavyweight debuts, given his  personality and the nature of his boxing style was a misguided notion. True, Chazz Witherspoon was a less dangerous opponent than widely anticipated when Usyk opted to move up to the more lucrative division, but, like any man North of 200 pounds, he still represented risk. Usyk, for all his formidable ability and gargantuan self-belief remains a studious and respectful prize fighter.

Seven rounds with Chazz Witherspoon, although essentially semi-retired, was more valuable than two, despite the bolder font a quicker win would have earned in the ensuing coverage.

Continue reading “Usyk cuts out your heart Witherspoon”

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