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”

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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”

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”

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”

MyFightTickets.com Fighter of the Month – July

Boxing can make you cry. Boxing can make you shout. Make you sing. Excite you. Demoralise you. Inspire millions. Save a lonely soul. A single prize-fight can evoke all of these emotions, bring communities together, even unify the divided, if only temporarily. Since the 1950s the pioneers of commercial television realised the potential boxing had to provide enthralling action and, soon after, the draw the men in each corner could become if their stories, their characters were revealed.

It is why, alongside the practicalities of a sport viewed through the monochrome of the early television sets, champions wore white shorts, the challenger black. Just as their contemporary storytellers in Hollywood depicted good guys with white Stetsons and evil landowners in Black ones. Boxing wanted you to care, to ‘pull’ for one guy or the other. And to watch the adverts too of course. Continue reading “MyFightTickets.com Fighter of the Month – July”

Usyk the Ukrainian hero needs no titles

“If there’s one thing I know, it’s never to mess with Mother Nature, mother-in-laws and mother freaking Ukrainians.”

Skinny Pete, The Italian Job, 2003

Sport and politics are not meant to trespass on to each other’s figurative lawns. Far too frequently, they do. From the cricket fields of apartheid South Africa in the 1970s, the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics through to the present day  – a swirl of state sponsored doping, kneeling line backers and the awarding of football World Cups on the basis of stuffed manila envelopes rather than full stadiums. The politicising of sport is neither a new nor uncommon phenomenon. They are perennially entwined.

Boxing is littered with examples, from the persecution of Jack Johnson a century ago to the symbolism of Joe Louis’ rematch with Germany’s Max Schmeling in 1938, it is a rich and luminous seam. Fighters possess power in their actions and their opinions that can reach far beyond the roped square in which they ply their trade and politicians are always eager to manipulate the image or popularism of their pugilistic contemporaries. Continue reading “Usyk the Ukrainian hero needs no titles”

We have not time to stand and stare. The wonder of Vasily Lomachenko

First published by Knockout London magazine’s May 2018 issue.

In these distracted times of ours, in which life is rarely experienced through the entire sensory system, people are too often unwitting passengers in their own existence. A desire to record and share, rather than touch, smell and witness is depriving many of us of the immersion required to properly capture or appreciate an event, however expensive the opportunity to access it proved.

At some future meeting point, when these memories are called upon, where rich descriptions of how it felt to be there once thrived, embellished and enhanced by the retelling, there will remain only video clips and a gallery of vacuous self-portraits. Continue reading “We have not time to stand and stare. The wonder of Vasily Lomachenko”

A boxing ring, the old truthsayer, humbles Fury on his return.

I know things that are broken can be fixed. Take the punch if you have to, hit the canvas and then get up again. Life is worth it.

Queen Latifah

Such is Tyson Fury’s unique predisposition for the sublime and the absurd, frequently embracing both within the same interview and occasionally a single sentence, we the onlookers, with our garlands of good will and ‘fag-packet psychology, shouldn’t be surprised that even in the confines of the pre-ordained he continued to defy convention.

Where speed was expected, sluggishness was found, where elusiveness was predicted, vulnerability was evident and where power was anticipated, delivery was flawed.

In preview, I’d mooted a scenario in which Tyson Fury could find simply climbing from the well of despair in to which he’d fallen, following his seminal victory over Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015, back to ground zero, back to a debut, essentially, against an overmatched Cruiserweight – which is where it all began a decade ago – could prove sufficient triumph. There was evidence enough in his return bout to suggest, however unlikely, that the possibility remains.

Continue reading “A boxing ring, the old truthsayer, humbles Fury on his return.”

Hip to be square; Parker the hipster pick

The advent of social media has provided a platform for everyone should they desire one and magnified the good and bad of people within the three ring circus of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – if omitting Periscope, Snapchat and others I don’t even know doesn’t demean my conclusion too unduly.

Within this duopoly of love and hate, good and bad, the imperative to gather behind a message of cynicism or forge an individual path in the pursuit of notoriety consumes its devotees.  In reaching for an unconventional conclusion or opinion, those who divorce themselves from the received wisdom of the group are often motivated by the accumulation of the kudos they require in their quest to be considered ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ by people they’ve never met. Occasionally, this bears fruit and the minority view is proved to be correct or insightful, but usually, and by definition, more typically, its just misguided attention seeking.

Over the past week or two, as the muscular Matchroom Sports press machine limbered up to promote and process the unification bout between their charge, Anthony Joshua, and New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, it didn’t take long for a ‘hipster’ view to be aired. That opinion being that Parker, who holds the most lowly regarded of the four available belts, the World Boxing Organisation’s, and has failed to impress in any of his three 12-round fights for that strap, has the necessary tools to unseat Joshua. Continue reading “Hip to be square; Parker the hipster pick”

Trio of strong matches support Joshua v Parker

By J.B. Smithers

Even in these heady times of sell out stadiums, monstrous pay-per-views and a host of channels clamouring to show boxing in the UK, there remain critics of the manner with which this demand is created and served.

Increasingly, to the fringes of the swell of goodwill on which Anthony Joshua rides, there remain voices who point to a weakness in the undercards on these Matchroom events and the sense hype, and the desire to feed the ‘event-crowd’ beast, is overwhelming the need for value and legitimate supporting match-ups.

In short, if Joshua is on, the hipster hardcore – they used to be called anoraks when the world was inside a forum rather than on social media – believe too many viewers are interested only in Joshua knocking someone over and are not unduly concerned by the merits of a featherweight clash at 6.25pm. Hardcore fans don’t like that type of ‘casual’ fandom you see. Sometimes, I wonder if they like boxing at all. Certainly, whether they like that so many others like it too. Hardcore fans would, if boxing were a band, always prefer the ‘earlier acoustic stuff’.

I digress. Despite my cynicism, it is refreshing, particularly given Eddie Hearn’s sense that it was necessary to over pay Joseph Parker relative to his true commercial appeal, to contemplate a much stronger selection of undercard features for the event on March 31st in Cardiff. Continue reading “Trio of strong matches support Joshua v Parker”

Heavyweight David Price on learning from loss, his comeback and Tyson Fury

“I don’t like this myth that I’m a fucking head case!”

Wisdom oft proves an elusive asset. Remaining invisible to subjects unwilling or unable to recognise and embrace the lessons life uses to swaddle it in. These lessons are typically more conspicuous, more tangible, in the loneliness of failure, when your senses are exposed, when life, or, in a heavyweight prizefighter’s case, a seventeen stone opponent, has knocked you down and stripped you of much of what you thought you were. If you pause long enough in that stillness, when the roar of the crowd fades and the platitudes and sycophants dissolve in to the night, wisdom can come flooding forth.

In conversation with former British and Commonwealth Heavyweight champion David Price, I was struck by how much more content and at ease he sounded following a period of soul searching in the aftermath of his stoppage defeat to Christian Hammer in February. He confesses, he contemplated retirement. Continue reading “Heavyweight David Price on learning from loss, his comeback and Tyson Fury”

Joshua set for 20th straight stoppage success against Takam

Anthony ‘AJ’ Joshua had been busy preparing for a mandatory defence of his IBF and WBA heavyweight titles against Bulgarian challenger Kubrat Pulev but that fight was scrapped just two weeks before fight night in Wales. An untimely injury to the visiting challenger has forced  ‘AJ’ to alter his preparations for a last-minute replacement, in the form of French Cameroonian puncher, Carlos Takam.   Continue reading “Joshua set for 20th straight stoppage success against Takam”

Joyce challenges a boxing truism and the heavyweight status quo

When events are shifted from their established pattern or place it can cause discomfort for those of us accustomed to a certain way of doing things. People are nervous about such change, preferring the security and assurance of the familiar. It is this familiarity that makes a local, a local. Sitting in mine, watching boxing on Dave, I was drawn to some negative conclusions about the performance of heavyweight Joe Joyce on his professional debut. “Arm punches”, “Slow hands”, “He squares up.” “There is no power in his jab or his right hand.”

I said all of the above, some more than once. With the benefit of reflection and sobriety I’ve grown to be kinder to the effort of the giant Londoner. Continue reading “Joyce challenges a boxing truism and the heavyweight status quo”

Going mainstream. Anthony Joshua, the rogue who charmed your Gran

There was a time when boxing in Britain on Saturday night meant Colin Dunne or Jawaid Khaliq and circuit pros like Rakhim Mingaleyev and Dariusz Snarski. The latter, solid, earnest little scrappers but unknown in their own hometowns, the former, World Champions as the term was cheaply distributed at the time. Heavyweight fights meant a butcher from Chesterfield or an ex-Rugby League player from Featherstone. ‘Event logistics’ amounted to twisting brass handles to lever basketball hoops from vertical to horizontal before Mike and his crew arrived to erect posts, canvas and ropes to the eyrie abyss. Nobody checked train schedules or whether U2 had left town. Continue reading “Going mainstream. Anthony Joshua, the rogue who charmed your Gran”

Takam or leave him; Pulev pulls, Carlos steps in for Joshua bout

Photo credit: Johann Walter Bantz

Such is the enormity of Anthony Joshua fights these days that the withdrawal of Bulgarian heavyweight Kubrat Pulev just two weeks before fight night was never likely to derail the promotion or force a postponement. To recreate the logistics committed to October 28th, within the confines of a packed pay-per-view schedule and Christmas expenditure looming would have been close to impossible.

French Cameroonian Carlos Takam steps from the shadows and two routine encounters in 2017 to save the show. One assumes he had rivals for the post, even at late notice, but the most obvious choice of Dillian Whyte, who appears on the undercard and brings some renown following his first bash at Joshua, will be saved for another day. Continue reading “Takam or leave him; Pulev pulls, Carlos steps in for Joshua bout”

Clinton McKenzie; one of a neglected generation

Since I picked up the pencil again last month the invitations to contribute to other outlets have arrived much quicker than I anticipated. One such venue is the digital publication Knockout London. The concept of digital magazines was not something I’d encountered during my last ‘run’, however, the opportunity to frame the career of Clinton McKenzie for readers was too good an opportunity to turn down. Continue reading “Clinton McKenzie; one of a neglected generation”

Audley Harrison. The importance of the man who wouldn’t be King.

Photo: Dave Shopland

Lennox Lewis strode, languidly down the aisle,. The glow of certainty and phosphorous bulbs surrounding him. Assurance screamed silently from his tall, imposing frame.  That famous stillness, the type which led him to sleep in the dressing room before a big fight,  serving to multiply the latent power beneath.

Lewis the lion, on a high rock stealing shade behind dark glasses and verifying the significance of proceedings merely by being present. Continue reading “Audley Harrison. The importance of the man who wouldn’t be King.”

Boxing: Haye, Ron Boddy and all that Chazz

September 10th 2004 was a seminal night in British Boxing. For the curious, this was the day David Haye learned the priceless lessons only defeat can impart in his stoppage loss to the venerable Carl Thompson. Without a loss at that juncture, one wonders if Haye would have rallied to hit the heights he did. Had the loss come later, it may have been too late for the rededication he employed post-Thompson. It was a memorable event for those in attendance too. My own enjoyment of proceedings was enhanced by a chance introduction to a stalwart observer of the fight game, and now regular on Steve Bunce’s BBC London show, Ron Boddy. Continue reading “Boxing: Haye, Ron Boddy and all that Chazz”

Boxing: A sport of humans, not robots; chin up Tony Jeffries

I met British Super-Middleweight champion Paul Smith at the weekend, Paul and I have exchanged opinions, messages via various internet methods for a year or two but there is no facsimile for meeting someone in person. True, Paul proved as generous and humble with his time as the virtual discourse had suggested he would but putting the flesh to the on-screen skeleton of that connection reminded me of two things. Continue reading “Boxing: A sport of humans, not robots; chin up Tony Jeffries”

Boxing: Harrison v Haye – why it should happen

Despite David Haye’s protestations to the contrary the prospect of this unlikely heavyweight prizefight remains the talking point of the day in the dungeons of the internet’s boxing forums. Audley Harrison has, afterall, already sacrificed the European title in the belief that he will secure the all-British world heavyweight title fight he and television network Sky Sports appear to crave. Debuting his guest column, John Cascells reflects on the fight; why it may prove to be more challenging than the cynics presume and why he is sure it will make for must-see television. Continue reading “Boxing: Harrison v Haye – why it should happen”

Boxing: Long and winding road. Six years since the BBC dumped Audley

Precious few heavyweights polarise opinion in the way Audley Harrison does. Maybe that is part of the fascination with him. Maybe that enigmatic quality is what draws observers back to the story despite a series of tame defeats to mediocre fighters. The Mona Lisa is neither the most beautiful subject nor the most technically perfect painting but it endures as the most famous artwork in history (arguably) because of the interpretation her expression is open to. It isn’t definite. It has depth beyond the brush strokes da Vinci swabbed across the canvas. Much like Harrison, who has conjured few moments of brilliance during his own career on the canvas and yet holds a depth of fascination few others can match. However, despite the critics and the years completed since his first low point of being dropped by the BBC he is on the brink of the title shot he told us all along he would get to. Continue reading “Boxing: Long and winding road. Six years since the BBC dumped Audley”

Harrison, Haye and Klitschko. Among the madness, bluff and silence is there a fight to be found?

In an era before nutritionists, public relations and conditioners, during that simplistic period when heavyweights ran, hit-bag, sparred, chopped wood and often took a stiff drink or three the night before a fight it is hard to imagine how they would have viewed the flimsy media battle being contested by heavyweight trio David Haye, Klitschko and heaven help us Audley Harrison. It may be nostalgic romanticism to suggest fighters like Jack Dempsey or Jim Jeffries simply signed to fight an opponent, trained and then settled it in an often gruelling, unforgiving fight, but it is with some confidence that I propose they wouldn’t have been comfortable with the shallow misinformation all parties appear to be peddling even if avoiding opponents is an oft-overlooked aspect of boxing at the beginning of the 20th century too. Continue reading “Harrison, Haye and Klitschko. Among the madness, bluff and silence is there a fight to be found?”

Feted, hated, fated? Is Audley stepping closer to defining Haye fight?

There has been something of the David Icke about Audley Harrison throughout his decade as a prominent heavyweight. Fuelled and demonstrated by a paradoxical cocktail of delusion, acute self-awareness and paranoia. Qualities which ostracised him from the boxing public and allowed the media to portray him as the villain, the idiot and the clown in his own one-man pantomime. But like all cabaret shows, it aint over til the fat lady sings and maybe, just maybe, said fat lady is back stage sipping honey and lemon as talk of a Harrison v Haye contest gathers pace.  Continue reading “Feted, hated, fated? Is Audley stepping closer to defining Haye fight?”

Irish eyes are smiling; McCullough fights on

WaynePrecious few combatants evoke the same swell of good will that will greet Wayne McCullough when he strides to the ring for the 35th time in a fortnight’s time. The former Super-Bantamweight world title-holder has had a frustrating Autumn to his career, with the shadow of an overturned suspension for irregular brain scans thwarting his attempts to regain momentum in his ebbing trajectory. A retirement six rounds in to a fight he appeared to be winning last June, on the back of a doctor’s intervention during the rematch with Oscar Larios, remain his only meaningful action of the past 40 months.

Continue reading “Irish eyes are smiling; McCullough fights on”

Jennings v Cotto; Setanta coverage unconfirmed

JenningsTo many, this fight is of little less than passing interest. Miguel Cotto predictably rebuilding from his shattering loss to Antonio Margarito with a regulation comeback fight against Michael Jennings – a fighter with a pretty record and precious little experience at elite level. Its an industry standard tactic for the Puerto Rican Welterweight. However, to me the fight holds far more appeal.

Continue reading “Jennings v Cotto; Setanta coverage unconfirmed”

Guest Article: A score needs settling in the Olympic ring

Guest writer Andrew Mullinder gets hot under the collar about the peculiarities and weaknesses of scoring in Amateur boxing, suggesting the quest to eradicate the blatant favouritism displayed in Seoul 88 has actually diluted the sport to such an extent it has become little more than a be-gloved version of fencing. As always, Andrew thinks its time somebody did something about it.

Continue reading “Guest Article: A score needs settling in the Olympic ring”

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