Avanesyan has his triumph, Kelly’s loss needn’t be a disaster. If fans rally to his side

One may learn wisdom even from one’s enemies

Aristophanes, Greek Satirist, 445-385BC

It’s traditional to muse on the events of the night before on a Sunday morning. Where once it was the haze of a hangover and wondering what may have been said and done beneath the influence of alcohol, Sundays are now more typically dominated by the injustices and frustrations evoked by Saturday night boxing. In a world of the cynical and sarcastic, of the negative and voyeuristic, being motivated to write by failure, by schadenfreude is a widespread malaise.

Important then, to write when a show has produced entertainment, drama and delivered a large dose of the thunder fight fans all crave. We must, collectively, counteract the all to familiar narratives. For if we don’t, if there is no buzz to compensate fighters and promoters for taking the risk of evenly matched fights, then they will defer to the tried and trusted safety first modus operandi that plagues the sport in the modern day. Their hangover will not be worth the entertainment they share.

Last night’s show, in which the favoured Pretty Boy Josh Kelly was stopped by a 32-year-old Armenian who lives in Newark, David Avernysan, and the loquacious Albanian Florian Marku had to get off the floor to beat Ryan Charlton, there was everything that was good about the fight game.

Please be upstanding for the participants and the matchmaker who compiled such an evenly matched card. There was so much to enjoy.

Continue reading “Avanesyan has his triumph, Kelly’s loss needn’t be a disaster. If fans rally to his side”

Honeyghan destroys Bumphus. 34 years on, the memories remain

Much time has passed since last I was ringside for a boxing match. A break exacerbated by the pandemic of course. The joy of people watching, a pastime inherited sitting besides a Grandad waiting “near the Spinner” in Doncaster, for a Grandma browsing in Marks’, is sweetly fed in a press seat. From those middle-age men assigned to chaperone ring card girls, to the fighter’s moll, tightly wrapped for later, the polo shirt security blinking into the darkness beyond the apron, to the men in silk pyjama jackets, bent noses all, a stray towel flung on their shoulder, boxing employs a diverse troupe of characters.

One of the most glorious attendees at any London event is the former Welterweight champion, Lloyd Honeyghan. The Ragamuffin Man is a man of sartorial individualism. From the fur coat, the spats, to the ‘Chicago’ trilby, to the cane with a leaping cat, his presence is felt the moment he enters a room. Any room. He was once afforded the front row seat directly in ahead of me at a fight card I’ve long since forgotten. Or to rephrase, I was sat behind him. That seems more respectful. Star struck, I failed to speak.

The aura to which I was prisoner that night, began 34 years ago.

Continue reading “Honeyghan destroys Bumphus. 34 years on, the memories remain”

Adrian Broner and the Peter Pan pipe dream

Inactivity is not a new phenomenon in boxing. Champions, even in those supposedly halcyon days of one division, one champion took extended sabbaticals between fights. Jack Dempsey twice took two years or more off between defences of his crown. Busying himself with the luxuries afforded by success. Safe in the knowledge that only defeat between the ropes could ever separate him from the title. The inactivity of the modern era is a different animal. Evolved from different circumstances.

Failed drug tests, contractual disputes, waiting on mandatory shots are all new prompts the old champions didn’t encounter. A broader church of talent now enjoys larger wages and far more is known about the long term damage accrued through participation in more bouts, more sparring, both discourage activity. Even for the victor, sacrifice is required.

Between the pragmatism of the fewer fights of today and the century old practice of living indulgently between bouts, exist a troop of enigmatic figures. Fighters like Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner.

Continue reading “Adrian Broner and the Peter Pan pipe dream”

Garcia dares where Spence and Crawford dither

No time like the present

Mrs Manley, Novelist, 1663-1724

On the 17th December Manny Pacquiao became 42. This week marked 26 years since his professional debut. In the period in between he has boxed 71 times. All of these numbers are remarkable. In the modern era, they are other worldly. A pandemic halted his latest run in the Welterweight division and Conor McGregor’s humbling last Saturday has likely cost the Filipino Senator his largest available pay day. Perverse though the idea of their meeting was.

There is now a strong suggestion Pacquiao will face Ryan Garcia, a fighter not born when the first of those 71 contests, a four rounder on 22nd January 1995, took place. It is hoped the match will be the genuine article, a Lightweight upstart venturing to Welterweight to unseat a legend, and not the exhibition tag subsequently tied to the proposition.

Sure, we’d prefer a lightweight round robin and Spence v Crawford, they’re the earnest, timeless match ups boxing craves. But complain about Pacquiao v Garcia? Come on.

Continue reading “Garcia dares where Spence and Crawford dither”

Spence outworks Danny Garcia in Dallas

On Saturday night, in his home town, Errol Spence Jnr. defended the WBC belt and in the process confirmed his status as one of the best two Welterweights in the world. His rehabilitation from the injuries accrued in a car crash in 2019 appears complete and in beating leading contender Danny Garcia, he returned in tougher company than he could have been excused after a long lay off.

Continue reading “Spence outworks Danny Garcia in Dallas”

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”

Kell Brook and his glorious quest

That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage.
To fight the unbeatable foe.
To reach the unreachable star.

The Impossible Dream, Andy Williams

There is a thread that ran through the careers of those that soared highest from the Winconbank Gym in Sheffield within which Kell Brook learned his trade. A course, irritating interloper in an otherwise beautiful, if unconventional, fabric. Woven in to Naseem’s robe of almost greatness, the elusive silk of Herol nearly man cape and the off-beat otherness of Junior, that thread, of the ‘if only’, cannot be unpicked. Continue reading “Kell Brook and his glorious quest”

Martinez running toward a mirage

Tis but a blink since I wrote on the fairytales we whisper to ourselves on entering our forties. The type former champion Sergio Martinez has, alas, succumbed to, adding Instagram filters to the truth of his middle age. In actuality, several months passed before the 45 year old ducked between the ropes for a thankfully tame encounter with Joes Miguel Fandino. Continue reading “Martinez running toward a mirage”

Steve Forbes and a tale as old as time

In 2004, in the illuminating The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker proposed there were only seven scenarios on which the incalculable number of books we read are based. Most of the seven, with perhaps the exception of comedy, unless pith and sarcasm make you smile, are told and retold in the pages of boxing history.

From the bare knuckle savagery and steam boats of the 1800s, to the sepia, black and white and technicolour of the 20th century and on to to the high definition and pay per view of the modern day, those half a dozen narratives have echoed through the ages. A constant set of storylines in an endeavour dripping with the fool’s gold of nostalgia and more deeply entwined with the human stories of it’s protaganists than many contemporary pursuits. More is risked, more is lost, more is gained.

The news Steve Forbes, one of the sport’s nice guys, is making a comeback offers further evidence that fighters, no matter how well told the story of failed returns has been, always believe they will find a new ending, a plot twist, success where others perished.

Despite their will, they’re invariably wrong. Continue reading “Steve Forbes and a tale as old as time”

Garcia the loser, but Spence still lost in the Welterweight maze

Let not the hindsight of the ensuing days beguile you and lead you toward the cowardice of cynicism. For those who held the required insight to recognise the inevitability of Spence’s victory, don’t belittle your wisdom with memes today. Garcia came, tried, lost and whilst he may have sacrificed the Autumn of his career in one bout, only time can try to prove that conclusion, he did at least distinguish his character in the process.

The frustration we feel at the lack of progress in the Welterweight division shouldn’t be laid on Garcia’s shoulders. He’s already wearing enough unproductive baggage without carrying the burden of a weight class luxurious in millionaires and starved of ‘he who dares’.

Continue reading “Garcia the loser, but Spence still lost in the Welterweight maze”

Garcia stands at the gateway to greatness

“History, faced with courage, need not be lived again”

Maya Angelou (1928- )
American novelist and poet

In some ways, analysis of this weekend’s Welterweight fist-fight between Errol Spence Junior and Mikey Garcia depends which end of the binoculars you want to look down. Influences abound. Those of recent memory, the annihilation of Amir Khan, the breaking of Kell Brook, to the asinine and unfathomable; the ‘side of the bed you rose from’, the craving to be heard in a gale of voices or the need to gamble an opinion in the pursuit of  distinction. All impose themselves. Continue reading “Garcia stands at the gateway to greatness”

Not fighting; the new fighting

In my preparation of notes for this weekend’s clash between Welterweights Keith Thurman and Josesito Lopez I was struck by the inactivity of both men; Thurman returns from a prolonged sabbatical following elbow surgery and Lopez fights for the first time in almost a year. As the attraction in the fight, Thurman’s absence has been well documented and largely explainable but their respective inactivity is reflective of a broader trend in boxing, particularly among those who have punched and parried their way to the top of their division.  

Not fighting has become customary. This ‘resting’, as old thespians may have once termed these periods of unemployment, is a point of frustration for many of us who remember a time when champions and contenders fought three, four and more times per calendar year. True, training has evolved. Accruing new voices from the doctrines of science, nutrition as well as a disparate parade of sorcerers and snake oil salesman from the grey-scale in between. A boxer’s ‘camp’ has now become an umbrella beneath which this entourage of analysts and soothsayers restore the abandoned physique to optimum and, in doing so, too frequently devour large swathes of calendar too.   Continue reading “Not fighting; the new fighting”

Boxing, is it still a young man’s game?

I wrote earlier this week about the questions posed to boxing fans by Manny Pacquiao’s continued career. Pacquiao ploughs on at an age when the leading lights of every preceding generation were long retired, whether in good health or bad, destitute or comfortable. Where once fighters were considered ‘shop-worn’ or ripe for the plucking, we now find the perennially untested, underachievers and those still punching to prove themselves.

The volume of shows, the quantity of fighters and the plethora of platforms fans can now access to consume boxing creates a script in which the characters, and the weeks and months, are dragged across the stage with increasing speed.

In the thrall of this often breathless narrative and the surge of popularity fuelling it, certainly in the UK, themes and large scale ‘set-changes’ can be harder to notice. Pacquiao’s 40th birthday provided this observer with the necessary illumination to the shift in fighter demographics that has occurred in the past twenty years.

Fighters appear to believe their prime is an infinite or elastic resource and, as a state of mind, it can’t help to bring the best available together.  After all, ‘there is always next year’.
Continue reading “Boxing, is it still a young man’s game?”

The extraordinary and ancient Pacquiao makes accomplices of all of us

It is the way of things that the fresh-faced heroes of our youth, who once charged the ramparts of boxing’s established names in our stead, now find themselves clinging to the last castles of their own generation. A month ago, notification Manny Pacquiao’s December birthday cake now required 40 candles spilled in to my consciousness and caused momentary pause in the day’s proceedings.

For so long, Pacquiao’s dancing feet, blurring fists and relentless aggression represented the new, the urgent, the usurper of the established. Overcoming and occasionally wrecking totems of pay-per-view, Pacquiao swatted aside the Mexicans Featherweights (more often than not) and a series of champions presumed to be too big or too strong for the diminutive Philippine.

This success vaulted him beyond the vanquished, planted him in the Hall of Fame and encouraged us to overlook the fact the one time Flyweight was now into his thirties and far beyond his beginnings. [3min read] Continue reading “The extraordinary and ancient Pacquiao makes accomplices of all of us”

Pacquiao to prevail; Broner can’t be trusted

First appeared on freebets.net on 14/01/19

On Saturday night, at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Manny Pacquiao seeks to extend an astonishing career, already longer in years and bouts than those of any of his contemporaries, by beating the enigmatic contender Adrien Broner for the WBA’s Welterweight title.

It is an intriguing contest in prospect for fight fans, in part because of the contrast of the career journeys to date and in the potential for their styles to blend well as a spectacle.

Beyond Saturday, their fight also represents the ‘starting gun’ for a sequence of clashes among a generation of Welterweights within which greatness could yet be achieved.

As you would expect, their respective profiles ensure all the leading bookmakers are offering markets on the fight. Pacquiao is 2/5 with Paddy Power for the outright win and also offer a competitive 21/10 on a Broner win by any means. Continue reading “Pacquiao to prevail; Broner can’t be trusted”

KATIE – The acclaimed story of women’s boxing’s biggest star

“I never put limits on myself.”

Boxing remains a rich seam for those who enjoy mining for stories of glory, triumph, loss or redemption. It is a world inhabited by the colourful and paradoxic, from the magnanimous hero to the loveable villain and a fair smattering of everything in between.

Occasionally, for those immersed in boxing’s culture, in her truths and philosophies and her lies and darker corners too, it is possible to become desensitised to the virtue of most of her participants and to the greatness she can draw from people.

In November 2017, in the unspectacular surroundings of Wembley Arena, on an otherwise forgettable card notionally headlined by a van glorious Light-Welterweight, Katie Taylor made her professional debut and, in doing so, woke the gathered.

A special fighter, perhaps a special person, was among them. And, like me, years from that night they would be able to say they were there when it all began.

Continue reading “KATIE – The acclaimed story of women’s boxing’s biggest star”

Mayweather piques my disinterest still further

“Your love made a slave of me,
But the love you gave you took away from me.”

Why When The Love Has Gone,
Isley Brothers 1967

Floyd Mayweather will be 42 in February. Full on middle age. Irrespective of what he does in the squared circle from this point on he will forever remain one of the finest prize fighters to ever lace ’em up. Fast, elusive and a diligent and instinctive reader of opponent’s weaknesses and ‘tells’, Mayweather’s mastery of the conventional was so complete, so absolute, he could bend and manipulate the old standard tunes with frills and trills in the way Whitney might when faced with a number from the American Songbook. And yet. And yet. And yet.

He still leaves me cold. It is ironic, given his desire to chastise those who follow in his financial wake, that he remains entwined with the sport, however spuriously, in the pursuit of spotlight, of easy money, despite retirement and record breaking earnings. Continue reading “Mayweather piques my disinterest still further”

A little less conversation a little more action please. Saunders stalls again.

There is a lot more waiting involved in boxing these days. A lot more empty hollering. Much more theorising. Greater noise. Less fighting. Fighters have become business men at the expense of their supposed vocation. Many are more familiar to us in tweed tailoring, discussing percentages and the narcissism of their legacy than the blood soaked satin of their trade.

For a sport in such apparent rude health, with many tens of thousands pouring through turnstiles to glimpse heroes in illuminated Lowry dimension, there doesn’t seem to be as much actual fighting. Particularly, by the era’s most exceptional talents.

News Billy Joe Saunders has been stripped of his World Boxing Organisation Middleweight belt, after the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission refused to sanction him to fight in their state in a mandatory defence against Demetrius Andrade due to a failed, if contested, drugs test, once again brought the issue of inactivity back to the fore. Continue reading “A little less conversation a little more action please. Saunders stalls again.”

Catterall v Davies betting preview

First appeared at gambling.com

On Saturday night, in the lull between the attention seeking totems of Anthony Joshua’s knockout win last month and Tyson Fury’s WBC title fight with Deontay Wilder in December, Jack Catterall and Ohara Davies face off in a bid to step out of those shadows and on to the world scene themselves.

There are plenty of betting opportunities in the fight, promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and broadcast on BT Sport in the UK.

The clash between the two British Super Lightweights, or Light-Welterweight as traditionalists will know them, pitches polar opposite personalities and contrasting styles into a contest for the World Boxing Organisation’s InterContinental title. Continue reading “Catterall v Davies betting preview”

Khan, Brook and Buncey’s fear of regret

Many small brooks make a big river.

Swedish Proverb

The boxing podcast from the BBC, presented by Mike Costello and Steve Bunce, is an essential listen and has grown warmer and more meaningful as it has evolved. Such is Steve’s omnipresence across almost every conceivable platform and medium around, his yarns about the loveable rogues and lost souls he’s encountered along his voyage through the boxing world have become ever more entertaining and vital.

Beneath the repartee he clearly enjoys with Mike, there is a genuine care for the sport as a viable and healthy entity but also, and most keenly, for the men, and women, who climb between the ropes. In their discussion of Amir Khan’s future, which has been widely distributed by the BBC website, there was yet more evidence of the duty of care they feel to those who punch for pay and for our entertainment regardless of how well received that opinion might be by those about whom it is aired. Continue reading “Khan, Brook and Buncey’s fear of regret”

Amir Khan returns, but the clock is ticking for the ‘would be’ golden Welterweight era

Amir Khan’s returned to the business of boxing at the weekend, not the virtuality of press conferences, asinine video interviews about future opponents or his new trainer, but the reality of scrapping. And scrapping is something Amir has always been good at.

True, he is an unhealthy commodity for those vested in progressing his career, either emotionally or financially; too often neglecting his natural attributes of speed and movement to indulge in fights more suited to opponents than himself. From the beginning he has been a ‘seat of your pants’ fighter and television gold too, as reports his contest with Samuel Vargas drew the largest SKY audience for a boxing event further confirm.

But for all his previous achievements, and the benefits he will glean from completing twelve tough rounds going forward, there is evidence that the modern fighter’s belief that their physical prime is elastic and can be stretched into their mid-thirties is misplaced. Even for British boxing’s Peter Pan Welterweight.

Continue reading “Amir Khan returns, but the clock is ticking for the ‘would be’ golden Welterweight era”

Amir Khan faces Vargas ahead of one last run. Betting tips

Article first appeared on www.gambling.com

Amir Khan’s emergence, the willowy man-child that he was in 2004, to capitalise on the exposure Olympic predecessor Audley Harrison brought to boxing, will one day be considered pivotal in the history of the British fight-game.

His slender frame, flashing fists and boyish face catapulted him in to the hearts and minds of fight fans across the country, and via the broader reach of terrestrial television, to their families too.

Now 14 years later, it speaks to all of the clichés about how swiftly time passes that this weekend’s fight, versus Canada’s Samuel Vargas, will likely prove to be his last before his 32nd birthday. Continue reading “Amir Khan faces Vargas ahead of one last run. Betting tips”

He who dares wins. Mikey Garcia in pursuit of Errol Spence

In the past week or so, as squinting children are wrangled back to the routines of the approaching Autumn and the sporting seasons rejoin our daily discourse, my mind has returned to boxing. As the wizened writers and commentators will tell you, boxing used to have seasons too.

Like our changing climate, boxing in the United Kingdom has evolved and there is but a breath between the last of the Stadium bouts of August and the arrival of the September schedule. The totem events need fine weather, and while Carl Frampton’s much craved fight at the Windsor Park football ground he visited as a boy endured weather that forced the darlings of ringside into 10-bob anoraks, the need for sunshine and the clamour for tickets has realigned boxing’s schedule.

Continue reading “He who dares wins. Mikey Garcia in pursuit of Errol Spence”

Tipping the scales; experts weigh in on boxing’s hydration problem

Boxing, like all things, has evolved to reflect the society it exists in. Knowledge and tragedy led to the end of 15 round bouts; the additional fatigue and trauma accrued in the longer contest determined to be contributory in the damage done to fighters while active and in their decline in retirement.

Simultaneous to this was the advent of ever more minute weight classes, devised to protect fighters from facing opponents with an advantage in heft and to encourage the notion that there was a division to suit every fighter. The net result hasn’t quite matched the lofty ambition, but in the pursuit of optimising physiology to take advantage of these marginal increments between divisions, new risks and unwelcome realities have emerged.

The extreme weight loss, achieved at least partially through dehydration, creates the voyeuristic ritual of ‘zero’ body fat freak shows on a Friday and the alarming spectacle of a fighter becoming essentially re-inflated by Saturday night. It is a fertile area for good and bad practice. Continue reading “Tipping the scales; experts weigh in on boxing’s hydration problem”

Trio of strong matches support Joshua v Parker

By J.B. Smithers

Even in these heady times of sell out stadiums, monstrous pay-per-views and a host of channels clamouring to show boxing in the UK, there remain critics of the manner with which this demand is created and served.

Increasingly, to the fringes of the swell of goodwill on which Anthony Joshua rides, there remain voices who point to a weakness in the undercards on these Matchroom events and the sense hype, and the desire to feed the ‘event-crowd’ beast, is overwhelming the need for value and legitimate supporting match-ups.

In short, if Joshua is on, the hipster hardcore – they used to be called anoraks when the world was inside a forum rather than on social media – believe too many viewers are interested only in Joshua knocking someone over and are not unduly concerned by the merits of a featherweight clash at 6.25pm. Hardcore fans don’t like that type of ‘casual’ fandom you see. Sometimes, I wonder if they like boxing at all. Certainly, whether they like that so many others like it too. Hardcore fans would, if boxing were a band, always prefer the ‘earlier acoustic stuff’.

I digress. Despite my cynicism, it is refreshing, particularly given Eddie Hearn’s sense that it was necessary to over pay Joseph Parker relative to his true commercial appeal, to contemplate a much stronger selection of undercard features for the event on March 31st in Cardiff. Continue reading “Trio of strong matches support Joshua v Parker”

The Entertainer – Bradley Pryce back at Welterweight against Bami

The curtain’s up and

Your audience is waiting out there

Now walk on stage, boy

Like you don’t have a care

Tony Clarke, Singer/Somgwriter, ‘The Entertainer’, 1940-1971

Bradley Pryce is arguably the United Kingdom’s best value for money fighter. A telling attribute in these austere times and he will next month return to something approaching his most productive weight class when he will tackle veteran former European champion Ted Bami at the classic 147 pound limit. Despite his less than pristine personal life as a young professional, Pryce has always left everything he has in the ring come fight night.

From his days as a string-bean Lightweight, a fatigued victory over Gavin Down at 140 pounds, to the compulsive dust-up with Michael Jennings, and his dismantling of loud-mouth Anthony Small at Light-Middleweight, the Welshman has dug deep countless times, snapped unbeaten records when ‘booked’ for defeat and at 29, still has time to do more with his talent.

Continue reading “The Entertainer – Bradley Pryce back at Welterweight against Bami”

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”

Inevitable Mayweather comeback growing closer; July 11th or sooner

floyd3Still too early to suggest Joe Calzaghe will stay retired but instinctively I believe he will, but contemporary Floyd Mayweather Jnr was never likely to remain retired irrespective of the wealth he has accumulated, throwing hundred dollar bills from nightclub balconies has a way of dwindling the coffers. It has to be enforced doesn’t it? After all, the mooted Oscar DeLaHoya match up of last year would have earned him another multi-million purse and a thick wedge of associated earnings.  He retired not needing that pay day. Something changed. Continue reading “Inevitable Mayweather comeback growing closer; July 11th or sooner”

Silent Assassin Nuumbembe back on track

namibian-flagNamibian Welterweight Ali Nuumbembe became something of an iconic figure during his six years in the hilltops of Derbyshire. His wandering life story, from war torn Africa to sleepy Glossop warmed the hearts of the entire town and all those who met him. His return to Namibia didn’t bring to an end his fighting career and I’m pleased to report Ali added his 21st victory to his professional slate over the weekend. Continue reading “Silent Assassin Nuumbembe back on track”

Not to be or not to be, Jennings falls to Cotto in 5.

cottowallIt is a while since I’ve perched on the end of the sofa to watch a fight, a while since I’ve felt the rush of a heart-felt connection to a fighter but on Saturday night, as 31-year-old Michael Jennings strode to the ring, that familiar surge of anxiety raced through me. I recall this was a feeling I had when Frank Bruno retreated toward the ring for his rematch with Tyson and I felt it when Dennis Andries kept rising from the canvas against Thomas Hearns. When Brian Hughes asked between the 4th and 5th rounds if the twice floored Jennings was okay, Mick’s response of “Sound, yeh” it just warmed this fan’s heart a little more. Continue reading “Not to be or not to be, Jennings falls to Cotto in 5.”

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