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”

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”

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”

A muddy fight clears the Middleweight waters

Monday 6th May 2019 and boxing is a little closer to ‘home’ than it was before Saturday night. Saul Alvarez allowed Daniel Jacobs to hand over his IBF belt with out forcing the Miracle Man to delve too deeply into the reserves of energy his gigantic rehydration had presumed to afford him. The fight was a disappointment in the sense of the entertainment the two afforded those gathered at ringside or perched, as I was, on the sofa with the sparrows and starlings stirring in the background.

It shouldn’t detract from the significance of the unification Mexico’s favourite son accomplished on Saturday, placing the three most historic belts above one mantlepiece is progress after all. And in the absence of perfection, 17 weight divisions, 17 champions – for that particular status quo wouldn’t prove the hierarchical utopia fans presume it to be – progress should be boxing’s only objective. Continue reading “A muddy fight clears the Middleweight waters”

Fielding and the liberation of defeat

When Rocky Fielding retires from boxing, which may be before you read this or at some much more distant juncture, he will, like a long sequence of British fighters before him, be able to say he fought one of the best fighters of his generation. Beyond the financial security he presumably secured in his defeat to the irresistible Saul Alvarez on Saturday night, there was something less tangible than the purse but no less essential to his story and his prospects of contentment in retirement.

Simply put, at least Fielding now knows. Like the four British fighters that fell to Canelo before him; Ryan Rhodes, Matthew Hatton, Liam Smith and Amir Khan, Fielding found a definitive benchmark against which he could measure his ability.

It is a question several of his illustrious predecessors failed to resolve before their careers were complete and one which still hangs over a number of Fielding’s contemporaries too.

Continue reading “Fielding and the liberation of defeat”

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