BW Archive – Farr: “Ali wouldn’t have hit Joe Louis on the bum with a handful of rice!”

First published August 29th 2008

Tommy Farr said that and who am I to argue? Tomorrow will mark the 71st [Ed – Now 81st] anniversary of his courageous but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to dethrone the newly crowned heavyweight champion Joe Louis. The humble ‘Tonypandy Terror’ is long remembered for giving the legendary ‘Brown Bomber’ an arduous first defence of his heavyweight title and for the unflinching resolve he demonstrated. His effort was so herculean and unexpected some ringside observers, and those hunched around the wireless back in Britain, were moved to believe he’d toppled the great champion. Continue reading “BW Archive – Farr: “Ali wouldn’t have hit Joe Louis on the bum with a handful of rice!””

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BoxingWriter Archive: “Hit ‘im wiv the uppercut John!”, Danny Williams prevails

It is now more than 10 years since I began writing here and capturing articles and columns I’d written for the great, good and mediocre platforms that have come, gone and succeeded across print and digital during that time. The words were a little more tangled back then, but they do serve as a wonderful aide memoire for nights I’ve spent at the fights. This piece was a meander through the fight between two of British Heavyweight Boxing’s most recognisable characters; Danny Williams and John McDermott. A controversial affair, fought long before football stadia were the norm and when Leisure Centres were very much the home of British boxing.

First published on 23rd July 2008

Being at the fight is a special experience. True, television coverage offers you multiple camera angles, proximity and the benefit of replays for those crucial moments but no matter how effective your Dolby surround sound is, or crystal clear your high definition LCD presents the pictures, it cannot beat being there.

Danny Williams’ absorbing victory over Big John McDermott last Friday was a classic case in point. The Sky team of Adam Smith and Jim Watt had McDermott clearly winning the bout in their commentary and in doing so illustrated just how subjective scoring a fight can be. Continue reading “BoxingWriter Archive: “Hit ‘im wiv the uppercut John!”, Danny Williams prevails”

Fury, boxing’s Northern Soul, gathers himself for improbable coup

Now my reputation has been one of the fastest men alive
So I’m gonna see how good you are when I count to five.

Archie Bell and The Drells
Gamble and Huff (c) 1969

I don’t ride on roller coasters. Never have. As a kid they terrified me, as most things of the unknown, the uncontrollable usually did. Now decades later, and as fully formed as I’m likely to become, crown exposed and eyes narrowing, the echo of that timid narrator remains as does the preference for control and for certainty. The actions of others, whether my daughter prowling the football fields of Suffolk or unwitting fighters from Feather to Heavyweight, afford me opportunity to marvel at those with the qualities I craved and in this vicarious voyeurism, experience the gnaw of uncertainty and danger without the risk.

There is something of this in my affection for Tyson Fury, the lug from Manchester, with the big heart, bigger appetite and even bigger words. Continue reading “Fury, boxing’s Northern Soul, gathers himself for improbable coup”

Boxing: Tyson Fury and the impossible search for context

Fury2True, there were those who hoped, a few stifled an instinctive inclination and one or two were willing to believe, rarely publicly for fear of the subsequent denouement of their opinion, but on the whole the consensus among the great and good of the boxing reportage was – ‘Fury is out of his depth.’ It was the obvious patter. Continue reading “Boxing: Tyson Fury and the impossible search for context”

Boxing: The Ali Files by Norman Giller – A review

The-Ali-Files-1

Within the pages of The Ali Files, from the pen of the prolific Norman Giller, there is a gift for boxing fans young and old. Particularly those for whom Muhammad Ali is an experience afforded by the proxy of film or television interview or those of us desensitised to his brilliance by time and the ensuing mythologising and marketing of his story.

In The Ali Files, Giller has returned Muhammad to his rightful home. The ring. The place where the story began and where his legend was hewn. It serves to refresh us all, including the great man himself.   Continue reading “Boxing: The Ali Files by Norman Giller – A review”

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.”

Wladimir Klitschko, dominance and the burden of proof

Historically, dominance is a fleeting experience in the heavyweight division. Perhaps, thankfully fleeting. In the last century we’ve seen a number of periods in which one fighter reigned over the sports blue ribbon division. Louis, Marciano, Holmes, Tyson. An exalted list of greatness. Once in a generation fighters who destroyed their contemporaries and illuminated their respective eras. Something else unified those luminaries; the lack of a defining opponent.

Wladimir Klitschko, who turns 38 ahead of his next defence, is in the Autumn of a career even by today’s extended measure. Like those illustrious greats he finds himself searching for an opponent who will offer triumphant definition to his manicured statistics or risk being remembered for a defeat to Lamon Brewster in 2004 or a slew of moribund victories similar to the one he will accumulate in April when he tackles over-matched Alex Leapai.

Continue reading “Wladimir Klitschko, dominance and the burden of proof”

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.””

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”

Boxing: Whats wrong with boxing? Adding the letters P, P and V to Tua v Barrett.

I like David Tua. I shared the dream once. I threw him up as another fighter Tyson ducked in his shambolic 1990’s reincarnation. He shook up heavyweights; he was fast, dangerous and busy. Obviously, that was all before he got his mandatory ranking, hibernated and then froze versus Lennox Lewis – since then he’s been dormant, injured, uninterested – but is now repackaged, remotivated and back in the lucrative American market, or so he hopes we believe. But Pay-Per-View at $24.95 against Monte Barrett, the guy who lives in a tent in front of the heavyweight top 25 towers, is available on 24 hour call out and has a key emblem on his nightwear? Really? Continue reading “Boxing: Whats wrong with boxing? Adding the letters P, P and V to Tua v Barrett.”

Boxing: David Haye in Orwellian about turn; Audley not Vitali or Wladimir next?

It was meant to be different. That was the tag-line. The sedentary waters of the heavyweight division were to be purified. David Haye wanted to fight the best heavyweights straight away, he didn’t want to procrastinate, to manoeuvre. He just wanted to know if he was the best, prove it or fail. Money was secondary. Challenge was everything. Boxing’s downtrodden masses craved the Utopia Haye was selling. He evangelised about bypassing promoters, side-stepping sanctioning bodies and the established order. Boxing is about the fighters not men in suits he might have said. He founded this alternate reality. Hayemaker. Fighters flocked to his rallying cry. Pretty girls flushed, forums hummed, fans cheered. Now, with a portion of the establishment in his possession – the WBA belt – and an unexpected level of renown that now enables him to accumulate £1-3 million pay-days for the type of rudimentary defence he once denounced, the urge to corner a Klitschko in a ring, or even at the top of an elevator has evidently subsided.

Continue reading “Boxing: David Haye in Orwellian about turn; Audley not Vitali or Wladimir next?”

Maloney: “As far as we know, Tyson Fury is OK for the fight”

Throughout Tyson Fury’s embryonic boxing career he has embraced and wrestled with more media attention than his exploits in the ring have thus far merited. In part due to his eye-catching name, part due his back-story as a 6 foot 7 inch giant from travelling stock and in no small part to the potential he showed. On the surface, Fury has revelled in the attention and seemed naturally quotable whenever a camera was pushed in his face. Youthful charisma or an arrogance waiting to bite him on his not inconsiderable posterior? Depends how you like your fighters, respectful and humble or brash and loquacious? In the run up to his much required rematch with John McDermott the normally omnipresent Fury has been uncharacteristically quiet. A cause of some concern to Frank Maloney, who has to sell tickets for the clash and for fans, who want to buy them. Continue reading “Maloney: “As far as we know, Tyson Fury is OK for the fight””

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”

Flying over the cuckoo’s nest for the last time? Oliver McCall defeated

Anyone with a passing interest in heavyweight boxing over the past twenty years will hold a mental image of one sort or another of heavy punching former champion Oliver McCall. Whether it be the crunching right-hand which felled Lennox Lewis, his emotional implosion in the rematch or the various drug fuelled episodes which have blighted his attempts to construct another run at the championship he lost to a grateful Frank Bruno in 1995. Last night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel he dropped a clear decision to peripheral contender Timur Ibragimov spelling the end of any residual potential the now 45-year-old could claim. Continue reading “Flying over the cuckoo’s nest for the last time? Oliver McCall defeated”

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?”

Larry Olubamiwo to face Big Dave Ferguson on June 25th

Likeable, affable heavyweight Larry Olubamiwo announced overnight that his opponent on the big Maloney bill later this month, June 25th at Brentwood, will be the North East’s Dave Ferguson in a cracking contest that serves as a title Eliminator for the British and Commonwealth titles. Great news for both fighters and a boom for Frank Maloney who now manages or promotes a crop of the division’s most viable talents. Continue reading “Larry Olubamiwo to face Big Dave Ferguson on June 25th”

John McDermott: “I don’t want any favouritism, just whoever WINS, wins!”

I met John McDermott once. He was standing at the back of the press rows the night David Haye got beaten by Carl Thompson. An evening more notable for him because he saw Mark Krence flattened by an imported journeyman that looked likely to rule the boxing butcher out of their proposed Eliminator, a contest, John lamented, for which he’d already sold £10,000 of tickets. And that snatched conversation typifies the kind of circumstantial misfortune he has laboured under for his entire professional career. In his forthcoming rematch with Tyson Fury I have a growing suspicion the genial giant may yet have his moment in the sun and overcome that sense of never being in the right place at the right time once and for all. Continue reading “John McDermott: “I don’t want any favouritism, just whoever WINS, wins!””

Ricky Hatton, Danny Williams and the search for common sense

Contrasting stories surround two of British boxing’s favourite sons this week. Firstly, and most satisfactorily, is Ian McNeily’s piece at BoxRec News dutifully reporting Ricky Hatton difficulty in summoning the will to commence training while the same site also records a summer fixture for Danny Williams on the other side of the world. News of this proposed clash comes just days after the genial Londoner promised retirement in the aftermath of his capitulation to Derek Chisora.   Continue reading “Ricky Hatton, Danny Williams and the search for common sense”

Old? Check. Fat? Check. Unambitious? Check. Brian Nielsen next for Vitaly?

Did you hear the one about Vitaly Klitschko and the hungry, young contender? No, nor did I. Admittedly, Vitaly Klitschko hasn’t fought during a particularly glowing period for heavyweights. His tenure, interrupted by a now mysteriously cured knee problem, as the leading heavyweight began when Lennox Lewis retired and has continued through soporific contests with Danny Williams, Kirk Johnson, Corrie Sanders, Sam Peter, Juan Carlos Gomez, Chris Arreola and latterly Albert Sosnowski. So maybe, the revelation Danish pastry Brian Nielsen is making a comeback aged 45 will be welcome news in the Klitschko castle if nowhere else. Continue reading “Old? Check. Fat? Check. Unambitious? Check. Brian Nielsen next for Vitaly?”

Sosnowski, Subbuteo, Sanders, Snooker and me

I’ve always found an attic or loft to be a fascinating place. It probably originates from the joyous isolation it provided me as a child, resplendent with snooker table, dart board, train set and Subbuteo it was a place of dreams, solace and make-believe. On the baize I was Davis AND Higgins, on the Astropitch I was everyone from Peru to Peterborough and with darts in hand I was toothless Jocky Wilson and the Crafty Cockney.

Continue reading “Sosnowski, Subbuteo, Sanders, Snooker and me”

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?”

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?”

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”

David Haye, boxing’s new Barnum, continues to sell

valuev9If promoting a fight is craft, then David Haye has used every tool in the box to generate interest in this Saturday’s fight with Nicolay Valuev. He is an effervescent self-promoter who has used eye-catching gimmicks, distasteful commentary about Valuev’s personal hygiene, appeared on every talk-show, press event and personal appearance in order to force this fight to transcend the confines of the boxing audience. And, glory be, its working. Continue reading “David Haye, boxing’s new Barnum, continues to sell”

No electricity like Tyson electricity

miketysonblackandwhite2During the dim days of his post Buster Douglas career, I would maintain in the face of often fervent opposition that Mike Tyson was over-rated. That he succeeded in a weak era and through the many attempts to recycle the myth he tip toed around any of the risk-laden contenders of the 1990’s. Fighters like Ray Mercer, George Foreman, Shannon Briggs, David Tua were all punchers and held a shot** – Tyson wasn’t allowed near them. Evander Holyfield and latterly, Lennox Lewis further undermined the theory in emphatic triumphs over the ageing former champion. Continue reading “No electricity like Tyson electricity”

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”

Look beyond the smiles; the Haye v Valuev build up begins

ValuevvHayeI wrote yesterday of Frankie ‘El Gato’ Figueroa’s unique ability to self-promote through the multitude of outlets the modern world of communication affords a fighter, contemporary David Haye is another advert for the power of a fresh approach to promotion. He was conspicuous in his use of the MySpace platform a year or two ago, collecting a rich bounty of busty twenty-somethings as friends on the premise of recruiting ring card girls, and blessed with good looks and an exciting, hard punching style his refreshingly candid manner in front of camera and his willingness to challenge giants on the top of elevators has rushed him into the consciousness of fight fans around the globe. But boy has he talked himself into a fight now. Continue reading “Look beyond the smiles; the Haye v Valuev build up begins”

The brainwash is almost complete, I’m hooked on Tyson Fury

ARC_0229064.jpgYou have to concede it has worked. Firstly, the day in June 1988 when former heavyweight battler John Fury decided his son would be called Tyson, a reflection of Fury senior’s love of the then unbeaten Heavyweight champion Iron Mike, and secondly the day now 6ft 9inch Tyson Fury became Hennessy Sports’ most promising signing. Those two events have led the 6-0 (6ko) heavyweight prospect to become one of the most talked about fighters in the modern game. Continue reading “The brainwash is almost complete, I’m hooked on Tyson Fury”

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