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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

Joshua v Ruiz Junior – Preview and Tips

Article first appeared at Gambling.com on 31st May 2019.

This Saturday, at one of sport’s greatest venues, Madison Square Garden, Britain’s Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 knockouts) bids to win the support and engagement of the lucrative American market – and pick up the baton of popularity from Deontay Wilder following the latter’s knockout victory on May 18.

Joshua’s American debut is the latest step in a long-standing business plan compiled by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport, accelerated by Joshua capturing the IBF belt in 2016, and has been executed with Hearn’s assured touch. Jarrell Miller withdrew from this fight against Joshua after failing drug tests for three separate banned substances.

But even after a protracted search for a replacement, the Garden is expected to be full by the time Joshua strides to the ring to defend his WBA Super, IBF and WBO championships.

Commercially, it remains to be seen whether a fight with Andy Ruiz Jr. encourages new subscriptions to DAZN in the US, but there are certainly a wide range of UK boxing betting markets available for you to glean a little commercial return of your own. Continue reading “Joshua v Ruiz Junior – Preview and Tips”

Moving on up. Ali, Mayfield and Joshua’s all too familiar crossroads

“We planned and worked hard, from the very start
Tried to make him better, than all the rest
But the brother proved to be so much less.”

‘Eddie Should Know Better’ by Curtis Mayfield (1972)

Curtis Mayfield would’ve been 77 today, like his friend Muhammad Ali he was born in 1942, and the “gentle genius”, as he was often referred, passed away on Boxing Day in 1999. His legend, as one of the greatest musicians, songwriters and innovators of the century, was secured long before being struck by falling rigging while performing in Brooklyn in 1990. An accident that would paralyse him from the neck down.

He and Ali were both powerful social commentators, transcending their area of excellence in lives in the public eye that ran in parallel and through some of the most turbulent episodes in modern American history. In 1958 a 15 year-old Mayfield joined The Impressions a short two years before the then Cassius Clay flew off to the Rome Olympics, the musical pioneer’s passing came just three years after Ali’s iconic opening of the 1996 Atlanta games. An event that marked the beginning of the end for the century’s most famous face, for one last time he was able to demonstrate his courage and defiance, fighting, inch by inch, the symptoms of Parkinsons to deliver the Olympic flame.
Continue reading “Moving on up. Ali, Mayfield and Joshua’s all too familiar crossroads”

Joshua and the pursuit of undisputed

“The struggle is my life.” 

Nelson Mandela (written in 1961)

Accepted wisdom proposes that heavyweight boxing is in rude health.  The simultaneous primes of Deontay Wilder, the WBC’S champion, Anthony Joshua, recognised by the WBO, IBF and WBA and Tyson Fury, the somewhat contested custodian of the lineal championship offer the promise of a new golden age.

Were there a PowerPoint presentation to pitch this notion to investors, it would suggest, repeatedly, that Heavyweight boxing is stronger now than it has been at any other point in the past 20 years.

Graphs, pie charts and slick video clips of vast crowds and packed football stadiums  would be used to convince the doubting audience. And boxing wouldn’t be short of salesman capable of taking up this thread, but as a summary of the sport’s blue ribbon division, it does host an obvious omission. Continue reading “Joshua and the pursuit of undisputed”

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