The grip of nostalgia, the theft of perspective. Fury v Joshua could be Ali and Frazier.

Although age usually brings a degree of wisdom, to those of us blessed sufficiently to accumulate the years and decades, it also brings with it the inherent risk of becoming a nostalgic. A condition without physical pain, but one that can effect your eyesight and reason. Too often we, the royal we, because I’ve succumbed as much as the next man, unless the next man is dear old Colin Hart, apply a rosey exaggerated hue to all things by gone, to the events of history and the heroes and villains who acted in them. This is most virulent around instances and characters we bore witness to in our formative years, but not exclusively so.

Boxing, like every other aspect of life, suffers from this phenomenon. I’ve seen the argument for Harry Greb being the best Middleweight of all time, and read the case for Jack Johnson being the finest heavyweight who ever graced the squared circle to name but two examples. Opinion with merit of course, but based almost entirely on still photographs and a precious few seconds of actual recorded action. More commonplace among those of us with grey at the temples is the summary dismissal of any fighter active today if matched with their historic forefathers. Continue reading “The grip of nostalgia, the theft of perspective. Fury v Joshua could be Ali and Frazier.”

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Golovkin v Alvarez: Boxing returns to its Middleweight touchstone

“Every man’s got to figure to get beat some time.”

Joe Louis –  (1914-1981)

The weekend super-fight between Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez from the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas returns the sport of boxing to the bosom of those who embrace it through the good times and the bad. The type of ardent disciple who nods and purses lips at the mention of James Toney or smiles and rub his or her hands together at the memory of Smokin’ Bert Cooper or Paul ‘Scrap Iron’ Ryan*.

*Other ‘win some, lose some’ brawlers are available. Continue reading “Golovkin v Alvarez: Boxing returns to its Middleweight touchstone”

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”

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: Povetkin still looking for the World but now without an Atlas.

Muhammad Ali was 32 years old when he Rumbled in the Jungle in 1974. His victory considered all the more miraculous given his veteran status and the power of youth presumed to reside with George Foreman.  There are many who feel he should have retired at that zenith. How times change. On Saturday night another 32-year-old, Alexander Povetkin, he of the callow face and quiet demeanour, will belatedly try to step from the shadows of the brothers Ukraine. Continue reading “Boxing: Povetkin still looking for the World but now without an Atlas.”

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”

Boxing: Mayweather, the showmen who leaves them wanting more

Presently, there is no hotter commodity in boxing than Floyd Mayweather. Fresh off a crushing victory over Shane Mosley I can no longer summon an obstacle which bears scrutiny to the now overwhelming argument that Floyd Mayweather deserves to take a place among the sport’s all time greats. Mayweather’s name can sit snugly among the Ali, Armstrong and Leonard’s as one of the finest prizefighters ever seen. In fact, the only thing which could be more commercially desirable than the Pretty Boy right now…is a retired Pretty Boy. Continue reading “Boxing: Mayweather, the showmen who leaves them wanting more”

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?”

Manny from Heaven set for fair-weather Floyd

So the scene is set. Boxing has risen from the canvas to offer the viewing public a fight of such dramatic potential it already draws comparison with the magnetic contests boxing was once able to supply from a position of long forgotten significance on an annual basis.

Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino with the smile and an entire people in his corner, neutralised Miguel Cotto with such aplomb last weekend he is now widely projected as the sport’s pound for pound number one. That most unhelpful of yardsticks. And in Floyd Mayweather, he has an opponent of equal brilliance and renown against whom to push his abilities to their limit and in doing so, just maybe, entice and ignite a whole new generation of prize fight followers.

Continue reading “Manny from Heaven set for fair-weather Floyd”

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”

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”

Audley, Audley, Audley

Love him, hate him, ignore him, beat him, write him off, mock him, chastise him, heck, tie an anvil to each ankle and drop him in the Thames. It wouldn’t matter, Big Audley would still be believing, still fighting, still chasing the dream. I’m beginning to think Harrison has special powers, the hide of a Rhino, the defiance of the Black Knight and will of Arnie’s Terminator.  Despite being jeered to and from the ring, despite failing to overwhelm a man he outweighed by 3 stone and despite the proximity of his 37th birthday, Audley will not give up. Continue reading “Audley, Audley, Audley”

Don King signs Barrera, does it still matter?

In any consideration of those who transcended boxing over the past 30 years and found a place in the consciousness of the general public; Ali, Foreman and Tyson would surely stand head and shoulders above even Sugar Ray Leonard, Prince Naseem Hamed and Oscar DeLaHoya. Though not strictly a sporting figure, having never seen combat inside the ring, I think the man who stood between Ali and Foreman back in 1974 and who oversaw much of the money-making period of Mike Tyson’s career is arguably boxing’s fourth most recognisable face, Don King. Does this week’s signing of Barrera show an ebbing significance or  the beginning of a renaissance for boxing’s most infamous promoter?

Continue reading “Don King signs Barrera, does it still matter?”

“Ali wouldn’t have hit Joe Louis on the bum with a handful of rice!”

Tommy Farr said that and who am I to argue. Tomorrow will mark the 71st 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 and for the unflinching resolve he demonstrated. His effort was so herculean and unexpected that some ringside observers and those hunched around the wireless back in Britain felt he’d toppled the great champion. Continue reading ““Ali wouldn’t have hit Joe Louis on the bum with a handful of rice!””

Boxing: Acquiring a taste for Rocky Marciano

Rewind five years; amid the period of heavyweight history dominated by Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko, with towering contenders like Jameel McCline, Wladimir Klitschko, Michael Grant, Henry Akinwande, Hasim Rahman, Nicolay Valuev and Andrew Golota and it was increasingly easy to dismiss the chances of bygone greats like Rocky Marciano and Gene Tunney, or even through to Joe Frazier, emerging victorious in any fantasy match-up. Continue reading “Boxing: Acquiring a taste for Rocky Marciano”

Boxing: Usain Bolt, Muhammad Ali and the impossible comparison

The astonishing performances of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt broke the consciousness of almost the entire population of the world this week. Only the Olympics and perhaps the football World Cup offer such global exposure [alas the heavyweight championship has long lost this broad appeal], and though I doubt he could run backwards as fast as his contemporaries in the Olympic boxing ring, the question of his place amongst the greats of the track is unquestionable. The clock doesn’t lie. Bolt is faster than anyone who ever lived. Such cross generation comparison in boxing, provides no such clarity.

Continue reading “Boxing: Usain Bolt, Muhammad Ali and the impossible comparison”

Boxing: Behind the smile, Ali Nuumbembe

First published at TheSweetScience.com

14th November 2005

AliIf it’s true that boxing sold its soul to television networks a generation ago, eagerly snatching pay-per-view’s 30 pieces of silver and prostituting itself on the behest of an array of clandestine figures and their grubby titles. The story of Ali Nuumbembe, a Namibian welterweight, and philanthropic publican Chad Parker with whom he plots a path to boxing glory from the obscurity of a refitted caravan in Glossop, England, will help remind fans that for all its faults, boxing remains the sport “to which all other sports aspire.”

Continue reading “Boxing: Behind the smile, Ali Nuumbembe”

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