Canelo disarms and dismantles Smith. An education in pressure

There is no pressure at the top. The pressure is being second or third.

Jose Mourinho, Football Coach, 1963-

Many words and phrases enter into boxing’s lexicon. Some pass, like ‘drug cheat’, others linger, hold, like Henry Akinwande, and are as misunderstood as the heavyweight octopus too. Others feel contrived and crash against our senses like finger nails on a chalk board; “downloading data” one unpopular example, “purse split” another. Often these new terms describe something old, something eternal, but the descriptive refreshes and repackages the classic, adds a veneer designed to appeal to a younger audience and infer wisdom in the speaker.

Beneath this modernism, or bullshit as we used to call it, remains the skill, the truth, the meaning. In Saul Alvarez’s performance last night, dismantling a world class fighter six inches taller and with a barge pole reach, the flame haired Mexican added a 2020 definition to the often misunderstood ‘educated pressure’.

If you didn’t know what it meant, nodded bewildered on hearing the term used without appreciating what it looked like, how it could be distinguished from any other type of ‘pressure’, then last night was a definitive exemplar.

Continue reading “Canelo disarms and dismantles Smith. An education in pressure”

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”

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”

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