February 20, 2012
Posted: 1438 GMT
It’s been a long time since anyone referred to boxing as a gentleman’s sport. Or, at least, a long time since they did it with a straight face. Any lingering pretensions of pugilism as an honorable and noble pursuit have vanished forever following the ugly press conference brawl between Dereck Chisora and fellow Briton David Haye in Germany.
As the quality of boxing’s heavyweight division has declined, so the outrageousness of pre and post-fight “stunts” has increased. But all the experts I have spoken to insist this was not a set-up. It was a genuine outbreak of madness that has demeaned a sport already, metaphorically, winded and hanging on for the bell. Read the rest of this entry »
January 30, 2011
Posted: 1224 GMT
To be the best you’ve got to beat the best, so the saying goes. But in professional boxing it seems to be the best you’ve only got to avoid the best.
There is no doubt that the Klitschko brothers are two of the biggest attractions in boxing right now. Wladimir holds the IBF and WBO heavyweight crowns, while Vitali is the WBC belt holder.
Each lays claim to being the world’s best heavyweight, though they will never fight each other to answer the question once and for all. That’s understandable, as fighting is obviously a hurting game and the fight would be a sham, because who wants to hurt their own flesh and blood?
November 16, 2009
Posted: 945 GMT
A "human typhoon" is how one commentator described Manny Pacquiao's demolition of former welterweight champion Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas on Saturday, where, akin to the seasonal storms that have battered his Philippines' homeland recently, the Pac-man rained down powerful punches on his Puerto Rican opponent in a manner that left devastation in the ring.
Pacquiao has long been revered for his speed, stamina and range of hits, but under the lights of the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the man from Kibawe entered the pantheon of greats with his WBO-title victory.
The win was impressive for a number of reasons. Firstly, Pacquiao was fighting at welterweight for only the second time in his career. There are always doubts whether the strength to win can be maintained when a fighter moves up the weight divisions, so it was remarkable that a man who has gone from super featherweight to welterweight in two years - and who has now fought at nine different weight divisions having started as a light-flyweight - not only had the harder punches, but absorbed the onslaught of a bigger man so easily.
There have been greats who have been multi-weight champions before too (Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Thomas Hearns and Floyd Mayweather), but Pacquiao now has seven world titles to his name - if IBO and Ring magazine belts are included - a mark that beats the record of six set by De La Hoya.
The 30-year-old, who was born in poverty, has also captured his glory the hard way. The twelfth-round stoppage against Cotto gave the world's best pound-for-pound boxer a career record of 50 wins, three defeats and two draws - 55 fights in total. Compare this number of grueling bouts to Mayweather's 40 undefeated, De La Hoya's 45 career fights, Joe Frazier's 37 bouts, Lennox Lewis's 44 or Leonard's 40.
Not only has Pacquiao fought and beaten the best around - including Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez and ending De La Hoya's career - he has endured a greater number of fights than many of his peers.
Bob Arum, a man who has managed some of the biggest names in boxing over the last forty years told reporters: "I've promoted Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, and Manny Pacquiao is the best fighter I have ever seen."
A sentiment that Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach agreed with: "Compared to all those names, he's as good as any of them. He's the greatest fighter of his era, for sure. 100 percent."
Like Ali, Pacquiao too has a popularity that transcends his sport. His story of rags to riches has captured the imagination of a legion of fans around the world, he was the first Filipino athlete to appear on a postage stamp and was named as one of the world's most influential people of 2009 by Time Magazine. He also has a keen interest in politics, a passion that should see him run successfully for congress in the Philippines in 2010. If the fight with Floyd Mayweather happens it is expected to be the highest grossing of all-time.
The title of "great" is often used cheaply, but with Pacquiao it is richly deserved.
November 8, 2009
Posted: 1458 GMT
The 2009 re-run of David versus Goliath may not have included the slingshot prop of the biblical bout, but the Russian world heavyweight champion, Nikolai Valuev, was felled using the same approach as that which downed the talismanic Philistine: brains outwitted brawn.
David Haye gave away more than seven stone to WBA titleholder Valuev, but though much had been made of the difference in bulk between the two boxers beforehand, when fight-night came, challenger's game-plan ensured he became the first British heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis with ease.
Comfortable and relaxed from first bell to last, it is even more remarkable and demonstrative of the rising star of Haye that the former cruiserweight champion secured a points win with a right hand that had been broken in the second round.
Valuev's technique was shown to be slow and one-dimensional. Though the 36-year-old had a fearsome reputation, his straight left jab was his only means of meaningful attack, and when Haye showed that pinning him down with such a blunt instrument would be like trapping oil with a colander, Valuev was left stumped and without a plan B.
The 29-year-old Haye was so effective at avoiding the line of attack from the "Beast from the East" that Valuev was left groping the shadows and spaces the Londoner's lean shape had left in the air prior to moving, a recurring event that morphed the aura of Valuev from fearsome colossus to bemused behemoth in a matter of rounds.
Haye stuck to the script - to hit and not be hit - slipping and sliding around the slow-motion Russian before returning fire with well-placed hooks and humdingers. Prior to the fight, much of the talk was whether Haye would be able to go the distance if required, but in truth the Briton finished with energy to spare, saving the most bombastic combination for round 12.
If fights were still fought over 15 rounds, it was hard to see any other outcome than more punishment for the now lumbering giant, Haye's lifetime dream was minutes away from being realized.
Once crowned, Haye admitted the bout had gone as he had hoped: "I had to make him miss so much that he started thinking twice about what he was going to throw. Once that happened it gave me more room to do my thing."
Haye must face America's John Ruiz in the mandatory defense of his newly-acquired crown for his next fight, but Vitali Klitschko (the WBC champion) has already said that, if Haye comes through unscathed, he is keen to fight to unite the belts.
The victory secured in Nuremburg, Germany may ultimately only prove the first step in a career that will see the unification of the belts by a personality that could light up a division bereft of bums-on-seats characters, but if nothing else it proved once again that the little man can triumph over seemingly unbelievable odds with a little bit of thought.
September 28, 2009
Posted: 1829 GMT
“Big boys don’t cry.” That was the mantra we were raised on back in the days when the web was something you found in the dark corners of a garden shed.
So when we bumped our heads, skinned our knees, or didn‘t win the sack race on school Sport‘s Day, we were expected to grin and bear it without the need for fluids.
We had good role models too, especially in sport, where our heroes were stoic, stiff upper lip, take it on the chin types, who, to quote Kipling, “met Triumph and Disaster, and treated those two impostors the same.”
Well, times have changed and I’ve got kids of my own now. And there’s absolutely no way the “big boys don’t cry” mantra will fly, because everywhere you look someone is wailing.
The latest example came on Saturday night, when Mexican-American heavyweight boxer, Chris Arreola, a 6'3", 251 pound bruiser with a face only a mother could love, (and then only in dim light), bawled his eyes out after failing to relieve Vitali Klitschko of his WBC world title.
It didn’t help that Klitschko is the very definition of stoic so that Arreola looked like a big cry- baby by comparison.
But all the same, watching the self-styled “Nightmare” from East L.A, dripping on the shoulder of his coach after his title-dream was convincingly shattered was uncomfortable to say the least.
But then I started to think about it, and realized that while he might have looked like a bit of a grizzle-guts to Generation-X’ers like me, the 28-year-old was only doing what comes naturally to those born in Generation Y.
Crying in public has become as common among role models as scandals and bling, and sports stars who blubber in front of the cameras are just complying with the social norm.
Look at the more recent examples. Roger Federer loses to Rafael Nadal in this year’s Australian Open final, and weeps like he’s just lost his favorite uncle. Granted, Roger is a serial sobber, but this was his finest hour and he took next to no flak for it.
And so it continued. NBA legend, Michael Jordan, marks his induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame, with a tear-stained acceptance speech.
Habitual retiree, Brett Favre, departs the NFL, for the first time, in a flood of tears. John Terry misses a penalty to lose Chelsea the 2008 UEFA Champions League final, cue the waterworks.
Now obviously, there’ve been notable incidents of crying in sport in the more distant past. 17-year-old Pele howling when he won the FIFA World Cup with Brazil in 1958; Paul Gascoigne welling up when he was yellow carded in the 1990 World Cup semis; Oliver McCall blubbering so hard during a heavyweight bout with Lennox Lewis in 1997 that the referee stopped the fight!
But these were exceptions to the rule. And, in the cases I’ve mentioned, easily explained away by youth or mental instability that became apparent later.
However, in today’s society it seems you don’t need to be young or bonkers to turn on the taps, you just have to be human. And I’m still not sure whether that’s a good thing or bad thing.