Boxing embraces the ‘two headed snake’ of nostalgia and celebrity

“‘Remember when’, is the lowest form of conversation”

Anthony Soprano (James Gandolfini), The Sopranos Season 6

The news Felix Sturm, once a credible middleweight, will fight again this month, aged 41 and a full four years after his final bout, albeit successfully for a title at the time, comes as no great surprise. Just another unnecessary swansong from a chorus line of by-gone prizefighters who can’t quite let go.

It is a timeless fable for grizzled pugs. From Jack Johnson to Sugar Ray, Tommy Farr to Smokin’ Joe, fighters have always returned, financially or emotionally motivated far beyond the reach of their prime. And for those that don’t, the comeback is never far from their mind, or the lips of an inquisitor. Whether champion or chump, intact or broken, there is always one more fight. As another old heavyweight out of Philadelphia, himself no stranger to punching for pay in his fifties, lamented to his confidant, Paulie; “There is still some stuff in the basement.”

Continue reading “Boxing embraces the ‘two headed snake’ of nostalgia and celebrity”

But it’s Mike F****** Tyson

Take it from me,

It’s hip to be square

Huey Lewis, Songwriter, 1967-

I’ll have to whisper. So come a little closer. Now, look, this thing Saturday. Yer know, the fight. No, not that one. The other one. Yeh. That one. Well, I know all the hipsters have had their say and I know it’s all a bit silly, but, well, how can I put this?

I’m a little bit excited.

I know it’s wrong. I know I’m meant to rise above it. Look down on it. Reject it. Yeh, yeh, 54, I know. I know. But it’s Tyson.

Mike ******* Tyson.

Don’t tell me you’re not watching it.

Continue reading “But it’s Mike F****** Tyson”

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”

‘The kid got heart’. Boxing’s most important but least tangible asset.

Article first appeared in Big Write Hook Magazine: Round 2

Heart. Every successful fighter must have it. Not the pumping organ of all human kind. The intangible metaphor; heart as the mythical adjective for the invisible and yet essential quality all fighters are assumed to possess.

Other terms are coined to define this unquantifiable; courage, guts, balls. Words you will read and hear in the tumult of a boxing match and in the aftermath, when the cups and broken dreams are swept away in search of the reasons and excuses for success and defeat.

Beneath the spotlight of a more dispassionate scrutiny, away from the heat of the moment, from the promoters hyperbole, ‘heart’ proves a more elusive quarry.

What is it? How can it be proven, can it be measured, developed, lost or restored?

Continue reading “‘The kid got heart’. Boxing’s most important but least tangible asset.”

Wilder not taking Ortiz too lightly

The news Deontay Wilder weighed in at 214 pounds and the weight of his pants and socks for the 7th defence of his fight with Cuban Luis Ortiz drew a raised eye brow or two. In the modern era, which consensus seems to determine began when Mike Tyson knocked out Trevor Berbick in 1986, or alternatively, when Lennox Lewis overcame Tyson’s nemesis Evander in 1996, we’ve grown accustomed to heavyweights of gigantic dimension.

Beneath the greatness of Lennox and the longevity of Wladimir Klitschko, a procession of giants from the four corners of the globe have tried to impose their own dominance on the division and prove the boxing truism; ‘a good big un always beats a good little un.’

Continue reading “Wilder not taking Ortiz too lightly”

Boxing: “Just wave Joe, you’re beautiful baby. God bless ya champ.”

Lennox Lewis simply isn’t celebrated enough. Now before you depart, mistaking this statement as a prelude to a tired hit-chasing argument about Lennox always beating Tyson – even in 1993 – or whooping Vitali in the never seen rematch, it points instead to his well timed retirement; faculties in tact, money safe and talent fulfilled.

Too few have the wisdom and foresight to resist the public or personal clamour to continue or, worst still, return. Great, good and those no more than game very rarely depart from boxing on their own terms, and if they do, they are frequently drawn back. Invited or not.

Joe Louis, for some the greatest heavyweight of all, was reduced to welcoming tourists to Caeser’s Palace before an equally humble turn as a wrestler and wrestling referee following his second retirement. For fifty years it remained the most visible and documented example of a fall from greatness. Until now.

Continue reading “Boxing: “Just wave Joe, you’re beautiful baby. God bless ya champ.””

Exclusive: Tyson will not fight Holyfield says David Payne

I’ve consulted with my much ignored common sense, accessed with the help of a strong mug of Yorkshire tea and low-lighting, and I can confirm that this fight is not going to happen, I’d encourage you all to breathe, take stock and have a similar internal conversation. It will save you time and energy for other more credible activities, like washing the car or painting the back-bedroom. And please don’t read or believe anyone who tells you different because they’ve probably got an accomplice entering your home through the back door to rifle through your purse. In other news, Prince Naseem Hamed will not be returning to fight Justin Timberlake at catchweight,  Joe Calzaghe will not be fighting Robert De Niro (though he is old enough) at Light-Heavy and Ricky Hatton is as likely to share a ring with Floyd Mayweather again as he is to play wide-right for England on Friday.  I think my work here is done. Continue reading “Exclusive: Tyson will not fight Holyfield says David Payne”

Boxing: Say what you like, but Holyfield v Botha caught your eye, didn’t it?

Francois Botha has tried many things to stay relevant and keep earning including a hapless foray into that form of combat that needs no introduction beyond its initials.  The veteran South African is in the Autumn, arguably Winter, of his fluctuating career. A career, lest we forget, which has variously included Michael Moorer, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and shortly, Evander Holyfield too.  For some reason his proposed match with fellow heavyweight grandfather Evander Holyfield has me intrigued. Regulars will know I have some curious vices.

Continue reading “Boxing: Say what you like, but Holyfield v Botha caught your eye, didn’t it?”

Holding out for a hero, is a new dawn really here?

There was a time, not so long ago, when boxing fans were entitled to wonder if a next generation of top-level fighters were ever to materialise. The class of the 90’s hung on, clung on and drove back any upstarts hoping to push them down the stairs and claim the house as their own.

Television networks stuck with the veterans, providing platform to those who reflected back the ageing demographic still pursuant of their boxing fix. Boxing, in a tale almost as old as the sport itself, is struggling for survival. Nefarious sanctioning bodies slowly dissembling its inherent hierarchy from within while the interloper from below stairs, the UFC, grew its appeal with the younger audience.

Boxing stuck with what it knew. Hopkins. Mosley. Oscar. Roy.

Maybe, almost a decade too late, the new class is here. I hope a rejuvenated Kelly Pavlik is among them.

Continue reading “Holding out for a hero, is a new dawn really here?”

John Ruiz v David Haye will be a thriller

johnruizIt will not prove as easy for newly crowned WBA Heavyweight champion David Haye to sell tickets to his mandated clash with American John Ruiz in the spring as the David v Goliath showdown proved last weekend. But for all the doubters, I’d like to encourage everyone to visit YouTube and refresh their preconceptions about the 37 year old former two-time WBA champion. In short Ruiz is a different beast to the much maligned jab and grab merchant he’s often described as. Continue reading “John Ruiz v David Haye will be a thriller”

The art of attracting web hits: Put Tyson in the title

tysonbandwHe remains a media phenomenon, even now two whole decades removed from the last of his boxing peak and with a whole generation of boxing fans for whom he was never a consensus world-champion now fully grown. The time when the word Tyson was part of the language of the playground, of bars, of water-coolers (not that they were present in Blighty til after he lost) alongside Rocky Balboa is a distant memory. Tyson’s name became short-hand for power, speed, aggression, brutality and pain. Today’s vague, shallow and generally transparent suggestion that the 43 year-old may yet return to the ring only serves to prove the fascination with Iron Mike has proven timeless. Continue reading “The art of attracting web hits: Put Tyson in the title”

You know the game is up when you’re dressed as Captain Hook

I don’t wish to demean Roy Jones Jnr, one of the finest fighters of his, or any, generation, but the publicity shots circulated today showing the once pound for pound king of the sport dressed as Captain Hook, the infamous pirate from the Peter Pan stories made me laugh out loud.  Easy to muse whether the Light-Heavyweight great had a moment of self-awareness either before, during or after the shots were taken. Here is a man who whipped McCallum, Hill, Hopkins, Toney and more – who was arguably the purest athlete the sport has seen -reduced to wigs, props and gimmicks.

Surely, he caught a glance of his reflection and posed the question to himself; “what the f*** am I doing?”.

Continue reading “You know the game is up when you’re dressed as Captain Hook”

Resizing the big men; Jack Johnson the 240lb killer?

The spectre of a new debate about the potential outcome of clashes between the modern day heavyweight and his predecessors will fail to entice those for whom the discussion is a tired exchange of old arguments.

However, Andrew Mullinder has found a new mathematical angle which proves far more thought provoking than you might presume. Using the standard physiological growth of the human populous, Mullinder extrapolates the weights of the bygone legends to create, among others, a 240 pound Jack Johnson.

A formidable prospect and one likely to strike fear into all but the greatest of greats.

Continue reading “Resizing the big men; Jack Johnson the 240lb killer?”

Archive: Holyfield ignores the lessons of King Canute

August 23rd 2005

Three years on from the first publication of this article on thesweetscience.com, its hard to comprehend that the career of Evander Holyfield should still be an active topic. He had been consigned to the scrap heap innumerable times already by 2005 and yet still steadfastly refused to yield to the dieing of the light. At the time of release the first formal steps to forcible retire the proud warrior had been taken, they proved pointless and rightfully so.

Continue reading “Archive: Holyfield ignores the lessons of King Canute”

The three ages of boxing romance

FallenfighterRemember, remember. John Gotti was found guilty of murder, Canary Wharf was bombed, Dolly the clone sheep was born and Bill Clinton re-entered the White House. It was also the last time a fight between Dariusz Michalczewski and Graciano Rocchigiani meant something. The year? 1996. It didn’t stop them staging a 2000 rematch and it wont stop both retired parties facing off for a third time next year. Heaven help us. Continue reading “The three ages of boxing romance”

Holyfield; Please, Please Continue

Evander5Evander5Instantly noticeable in the aftermath of Evander Holyfield’s, 42(27)-9-2, latest attempt to annex a portion of the fractured heavyweight title was the lack of demand for his retirement. Ronnie Shields and Freddie Roach both spoken openly of their preference for the 45 year old to hang up his gloves, it’s becoming a habit for Roach who distanced himself from his own charge, James Toney in recent months too, but the en mass clamour for his retirement hasn’t reached the fever pitch it did following his slam-dunk losses to Larry Donald, in 2004, and the aforementioned Toney in 2003. Continue reading “Holyfield; Please, Please Continue”

Pugilistic Dementia; Something old, something new?

MikeQFew writers met the news of Oscar DeLaHoya intention to continue fighting with the type of disappointment expressed by Bill Dwyre at the LA Times. Is every other writer too entrenched in the hushed, unspoken agreement to keep boxing relevant, to comment objectively? Is Bill the sole voice of reason? Recycling the last remaining superstars of the 1990’s is a tired but reliable format after all. Continue reading “Pugilistic Dementia; Something old, something new?”

Boxing: American heavyweight hope Kevin Johnson wins

GrantThe American quest to find a legitimate heavyweight champion continues, last night Atlanta’s Kevin Johnson took another step toward contendership with victory over Damian Wills in a ten round bout. According to Marc Abrams at 15rounds.com, Johnson appeared eager to please the attendant crowd.  Continue reading “Boxing: American heavyweight hope Kevin Johnson wins”

Boxing: Achieving the Unachievable? Holyfield Gets The Shot

Evander3In truth Evander Holyfield’s status as a boxing legend is already assured. Any fighter who has clashed with Holmes, Bowe, Foreman, Lewis and Tyson, irrespective of their age and form at the time, is clearly a world-class operator and the manner of Holyfield’s performances during his pomp endeared him to a generation, or two, of boxing fans. His latest run at the title, as a forty something has on occasion looked capable of undermining all of his preceding achievements, but Evander, the most irrepressible of men, may yet have the last laugh. Thanks to the withdrawal of Ruslan Chagaev, he has his shot. Continue reading “Boxing: Achieving the Unachievable? Holyfield Gets The Shot”

Archive: The Final Curtain – Tyson, Holyfield & Jones Jnr.

Jones JnrI penned this article toward the end of 2004 for thesweetscience.com, intended to be the first to provide obituary on the careers of three of the modern era’s finest fighters it now seems premature as only Iron Mike has listened to his body and given up trying to fool opponents and fans that he can still reclaim his unfulfilled youth and potential.

Continue reading “Archive: The Final Curtain – Tyson, Holyfield & Jones Jnr.”

Boxing: The inevitability of boxing

SavareseIn the present era of heavyweight mediocrity and the longevity it affords heavyweight veterans, there are certain fights which seem inevitable despite the respective retirements, health scares, defeats and divergent paths of the two combatants. The forthcoming clash between the 74 year old Evander Holyfield and 62 year old Lou Savarese is another telling example.

Continue reading “Boxing: The inevitability of boxing”

Tyson To Work Sultan’s Corner

tyson2Boxingtalk.com report Mike Tyson will be a fully fledged member of Sultan Ibragimov’s corner for his challenge to breathless WBO champion Shannon Briggs this weekend. Hopefully, it represents more than a cheap publicity stunt because a place for Mike Tyson’s knowledge of the sport should really be found. Articulate and a once keen student of the sport it would be shame if he doesn’t grasp the olive branch, it would certainly be more dignified to see Tyson passing on his wisdom to young fighters than see him feature in the glorified boxing booth he did late least year. Continue reading “Tyson To Work Sultan’s Corner”

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