Benn, Bruno and Nicky Booth, and the lost boys of 2001

Back in 2001, British boxing had meandered into a strange, uncharted hinterland. An odyssey of greed and short-termism in the preceding five years reducing it to a role in the margins, a sporting outcast. Neglected, eroded and far removed from the roaring crowds of the preceding decades. The resurgence of stadium fights had faded to black, dissolving in to the night like the thousands who shuffled, stumbled and strode from the crumbling castles of Wembley and Loftus Road.

Images still lingered in the collective memory. Plumes of warm breath and cigarette smoke drifting on the midnight breeze, the last slurred rendition of ‘Bruno, Bruno’ absorbed by the rattle of taxis and tube trains beneath. In the crowd’s wake, plastic glasses and torn betting slips, the debris of a night, were swept from the aisles. The headaches and penitence of a thousand tomorrows still to unfold for the departing revellers and the fighters they came to see.

Continue reading “Benn, Bruno and Nicky Booth, and the lost boys of 2001”

Conor Benn, remember HIS name

The shadows, some hide others reveal

Antonio Porchia, 1885-1968

Conor Benn is an excellent Welterweight. Furthermore, he is a television friendly fighter in a talent rich division. On Saturday night he distinguished himself. Distinguished himself by both of those measures but also as an entirely different prospect to the man-child who flailed and windmilled through an early career beneath a spotlight his surname, rather than the merit of his ability, had provided.

Continue reading “Conor Benn, remember HIS name”

Benn faces a nightmare in pursuit of an ill-advised dream

I wrote about Sakio Bika once. He’s the type of prize fighter you perhaps only write about once. Which is not to say he isn’t a boxer of note, or a person of depth and interest, the former Super-Middleweight belt holder has performed at world level for much of his professional career after all.

However, the challenge of defining his fighting style, to fall on the closest cliché boxing has to offer regarding awkward opponents, is hard to look good against.

The news this week that Nigel Benn had convinced himself he can recapture a significant proportion of the fighter he once was brought only one happy thought to mind. I now have a go to phrase to describe Sakio Bika that conveys some of what made him difficult for men as talented as Joe Calzaghe, Markus Beyer and Anthony Dirrell to overcome in their prime. It isn’t catchy, but it gets the job done.

If you’re 55 and planning a return to boxing having not fought in 23 years, the last person you want to fight is Sakio Bika.

Thank you Nigel. Continue reading “Benn faces a nightmare in pursuit of an ill-advised dream”

‘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.”

Ohara Davies and the part that can’t be played.

‘All the world’s a stage.’

William Shakespeare, As You Like It

It is received wisdom that a first impression takes just seconds to draw and, more often than not, time only confirms it’s accuracy. Fighters, who must exist in a world where self-belief is paramount, can often exude, or wear like a cloak, an exaggerated confidence. It projects a barrier of protection and is intended to unnerve the opponent. A virtual stand off, a falsehood before the actuality of the physical contest.

The manner or tone of this adopted persona is crucial, not only for its authenticity but also because of its impact on the profile of the fighter, their ability to generate interest and, from that essential metric, their prospects of upward trajectory. If one of the biggest sporting businesses in the world, Manchester United PLC, can sign players based on their Instagram following, it isn’t hard to understand the correlation between opportunity and popularity.

One fighter who has chosen the most precarious version of this script; to gamble on the longer odds of creating dislike and contempt to motivate people to watch him fight, is Ohara Davies. Continue reading “Ohara Davies and the part that can’t be played.”

Archive: Big Fight Live – Boxing returns to ITV

nEWBON15/07/2005

As the first contract between British broadcaster ITV and promoter Frank Warren draws to a close and negotiations begin on a new contract, it seemed relevant to pause and remember how the news ITV were to return to professional boxing was greeted. In an article for thesweetscience.com, I took an optimistic view of the partnership’s potential and revelled in the nostalgia of hearing that famous theme tune one more time. As Nigel Benn once famously said “I preferred boxing when it was on ITV”. Continue reading “Archive: Big Fight Live – Boxing returns to ITV”

Best of Big Fight Live: Michael Watson, the forgotten gem

watsonA rare treat on ITV4 last night, Jim Rosenthal and Barry McGuigan hosted a wander down memory lane. Using footage from ITV’s impressive archives, action from Hagler v Hearns, Mark Kaylor, Benn, Eubank, Tyson and Hamed were inter-spersed with ‘talking head’ contributions from Colin Hart, John Rawling, Duke McKenzie, a very nervous Ron Lewis from the Times and most treasured of all, Reg Gutteridge. I miss Reg’s wisdom on the mic. However, for me, the biggest thrill was being reminded of Michael Watson’s excellence. Continue reading “Best of Big Fight Live: Michael Watson, the forgotten gem”

Boxing is a brave man’s sport

And the sky is blue, grass is green. An obvious statement of course, but the weekend corner retirement of Acelino Freitas brought down the curtain on a distinguished career and it would be sad if the hard-punching Brazilian is remembered only for quitting versus Diego Corrales and young Juan Diaz at the weekend. It would be unjust to overlook his longevity and the knockout streak of his youth.

Continue reading “Boxing is a brave man’s sport”

Boxing: Witter Just Wouldn’t Let It Lie

WitterThe on-going PR campaign being waged by Junior Witter’s irrepressible promotional team, Hennessey Sports  is beginning to take on a life of its own. Perpetual and persistent, the endless supply of challenges made to Ricky Hatton is slowly returning the long-overdue Hatton v Witter clash to the top of most boxing fans’ list of must-see engagements.

True, Hatton’s clash with Jose Luis Castillo takes on greater meaning for the intangible ‘legacy’ to which it seems all boxer’s attribute every matchmaking decision of their career – though precious few selections actually the deliver the validation they claim to crave – and for the lucrative American market for whom Junior Witter represents… Continue reading “Boxing: Witter Just Wouldn’t Let It Lie”

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