Saunders arrives at the moment of truth. Canelo on Cinco de Mayo

First published on January 29th 2021

British Super-Middleweight contender Billy Joe Saunders has landed a fight with boxing’s premier star, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, to coincide with Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican celebration of the nation’s victory over the invading French forces in 1862. It is a day now synonymous with boxing and, specifically, whoever is the nation’s biggest star in that calendar year, headlining a US based show.

Saunders’ challenge to Canelo will bring joy to those hipsters who revel in the possibility the Hatfield rascal will prove to be slippery Kryptonite to boxing’s newest and seemingly invincible Superman. For those to whom Saunders is merely a crass irritation, their joy will be found in the presumed evisceration of such a fanciful idea.

The fight offers the Mexican superstar an opportunity to substantiate his status as the division’s king. A crown he earned beating Callum Smith last year. Saunders holds the WBO belt. In truth, it is a decoration. Saunders won the vacated title by beating unheralded Shefat Isufi in May 2019. Two subsequent defences, both abject in their significance and the entertainment provided, added negligible kudos to his reign and the belt stubbornly remains little more than a curio.

Nevertheless, without it Saunders would probably not have landed the fight and be facing his moment of truth.

Continue reading “Saunders arrives at the moment of truth. Canelo on Cinco de Mayo”

Necessity is the mother of invention, Bika to face Soliman

Two weeks ago I had the good fortune to speak to Sakio Bika ahead of his return to the ring against Australian middleweight Adam Stowe. Bika was bright, confident and determined to project himself toward bigger targets by winning convincingly in his first fight in 40 months. It was a practical stepping stone for a pragmatic former world-champion with a shrinking window of opportunity.

Within the week, pragmatism was replaced by disappointment as an administrative oversight by the Cameroon born Super-Middleweight left his fight with Stowe in tatters. The waiting crowd, eager to see a fighter of Bika’s calibre, were hard to placate when the realisation Bika wouldn’t be able to fight began to break. As a result, trouble ensued. Where Bika had hoped for a knockout and a new beginning, he found police dogs and pepper spray, fist fights and discontent.

It was a sobering episode in a long career. As with all things in boxing, from disaster grew opportunity.

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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.”

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Archive: The Dragon That Cried Wolf

Originally published in 2005.

The on-going ‘will they, wont they’ soap opera between the camps of Mikkel Kessler and Joe Calzaghe is not a new phenomenon. Debate on the relative merit of Calzaghe’s career and whether the veteran Welshman will ever have opportunity to deliver on his immense ability in signature bouts has been running ever since he floored Chris Eubank in 1997. It certainly feels that way anyway. Nobody could doubt the courage of Calzaghe the fighter but finding him the type of illustrious opponents his talent needs has become a weapon for the doubters.

Does Calzaghe really want the big fights?

Continue reading “Archive: The Dragon That Cried Wolf”

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