Hope is a dangerous thing. We hear all the time from a political class who promise us the world and time after time they fail to deliver but we still choose to continuously self harm with hope because there is no alternative. Boxing is now a place where hope is not a desirable trait.
Back in December the world was treated to one of the best Heavyweight fights in years when Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder locked horns in the ring for the WBC Heavyweight Crown. The fight ended in a draw but it far exceeded the expectations of most fight fans beforehand. Since then boxing fans have been left wanting to see it all over again, living in hope that this would be one of the few times common sense would prevail in boxing. News broke this week that dashed all of our hopes not only of seeing this rematch but there is now a very strong chance that the top three fighters in the division will not meet in the ring for the foreseeable future.
The Heavyweight landscape is already a minefield of party allegiances but with the latest news that Tyson Fury has now nailed his colours to the ESPN/Top Rank mast in a big money multi fight deal, it has made an already complicated situation ……Well all the more complicated. This is not due to the fighters themselves but the money men and powerhouse platforms behind them.As i sit here writing this I still live in hope. I hope ESPN and Showtime pull together for the good of the sport. I hope Bob Arum and Al Haymon can now finally bury their hatchet and work together to bring fans another great night of Heavyweightboxing. I hope that Eddie Hearn, Al Haymon and Bob Arum do what’s right and leave the path open for their respective fighters to finally get in the ring and fight it out and see who is No1 in the division, after all that what all boxing fans want. The sad reality is that what boxing fans want and what boxing fans get is two very different things, we are now further away from any of these big fights happening than we ever have been.
Remember that feeling when you first start out in your new career as a trainee or an apprentice. Do you remember how you stumbled and fumbled your way through those early years never really sure what you were doing or even if you were doing to right. With every year that passed all you wanted to do is get better at your job, the thought of actually progressing your career never enters your mind, you just want to get to a qualified level and eventually you get there. The years pass like they always do and suddenly you start to look up the way, you are no longer satisfied with where you are, you want to take that next step up the ladder, this is where Dillian Whyte is now at in his career.
Whyte may not be everyones cup of tea but no one can deny that “The Body Snatcher” is now one of the UK’s biggest boxing stars. As years go 2018 was an absolute blinder for the 30 year old Brixton man beating former World Champions Lucas Browne and Joseph Parker whilst becoming a PPV star along the way, something of a dying breed now in the UK.
Whyte may have done everything asked of him in the ring but his success was only made possible due to the opportunities Eddie Hearn and Matchroom got him. With the lack of PPV fighters now at Matchroom and Sky demanding Eddie Hearn fill PPV dates Whyte and Hearn needed each other and it paid off big time. There has always been a problem lurking on the horizon that was sure to come to the fore eventually.
Ever since Olympic Gold Medalist Anthony Joshua turned pro he has teamed up with Eddie Hearn and together they have taken British boxing to a whole new level. When it comes to boxing there are few bigger names than the 29 year old Watford man in the sport. Selling out stadiums, massive PPV sales, hundreds of endorsements deals with major brands, Joshua truly is a promoters dream and that leaves Dillian Whyte in an awkward position.
It is human nature that with success comes an inflated ego. That thing that goes past self confidence and becomes an overbearing feeling of self worth. We are now seeing cracks appearing in the Whyte/Hearn relationship. The Brixton man has been open about the idea of leaving Eddie Hearn, even admitting he was flirting with other promoters whilst in the US for Pacquiao/Broner fight. Whyte is at a cross road in his career. He must decided if he is happy to plod along with Eddie making good money but always being the bridesmaid, never the bride or is it time to let his ego fly. At 30 years old Dillion may never be in this strong position again and it is imperative that he plays the right hand here. Eddie Hearn has made Dillian Whyte a very wealthy man, Is Whyte willing to risk all that for a shot at glory.
There are thousands of ways too judged a boxer on fight night. You can watch the way in which he/she moves around the ring, you can look out for how they get their shots off or even see how he or she avoids getting hit or reacts after taking a shot.
Last weekend we seen one of matchroom’s top prospects Ted Cheeseman fall way short of the mark in his step up to European Title level against an all but unknown Spaniard Sergio Garcia. Cheeseman who is just 23 years old has taken a lot of criticism in the wake of his first defeat, most of which has been unjust if you ask me. There is nothing boxing fans loath more than a protected fighter, We lose all respect for boxers who will chase mismatch after mismatch to keep the losses on their record at zero. All to often the sport now seems to wrongly put far to much stock in a fighters “0”…..Why?.
I have been lucky enough to interview some great boxers past and present over the past couple of years. One of my favourite interviews I have done is when i had the pleasure of talking to fellow Scotsman and boxing ensyclopedia Alex Arthur. In that Interview Alex tells me that he learned more in in his losses than in any of victories. No boxer really knows just what he/she is made of until they have had the type of fight “Amazing” Alex Arthur had with Michael Gomez.
When watching Ted Cheeseman come up against a more skilled, a more refined and better boxer I couldn’t help but get flashbacks of Arthur/Gomez. Cheeseman stepped up and fell short but I don’t see how that leaves him open to criticism. There is no doubt that Cheeseman was ill equipped to deal with Garcia on Saturday night but no one will know that more than Cheeseman himself. “The Big Cheese” may have lost his “0” but he has traded it for priceless experience at a very good level. Ted has seen where he needs to get to if he wants to take the next step in his career trading that “0” should be something more young fighters are willing to do. I have no doubt this lad will be back looking to fight for the European Title soon but lets wait and see what adjustments this lad makes before we line up to criticise him.
Like most of you reading this I am from working class stock. I was brought up in a rough housing scheme (council estate) in the poverty stricken town of Paisley. Like most working class families I had it installed in me at an early age that you need to work hard to get anywhere in life, to avoid the temptations that are everywhere which can so easily derail persons journey through. In every town, in every City, in every country around the world their are people just trying to get ahead in life. Now as we all know chasing the dream is an endless, thankless task, which usually see’s our dreams diminish. As we get older we move the goal posts closer, we let the world beat a sense of realism into us and as the Richard Ashcroft say’s “Your a slave to the money then you die”. To escape the mundane regimented routine of life we turn to sports. As children this is where so many of our outlandish dreams begin and stay with us throughout our lives. We become emotionally invested in sport, we feel like our team/player is an extension of ourselves, we literally get our enjoyment seeing other people live out their dreams, or tales that is what i thought a fans job was.
Boxing is a very unique sport in the way that fights are made. Unlike most other sports boxing doesn’t have a seasonal structure, the sport does not live by anyones schedule. There is no one figure head of the sport, there is no god. We put our faith in promoters and managers to put on the best fights, the fights the fans want to see but all too often we are being let down badly, and better still their are some who applaud it.
The past week has felt a little bit like Groundhog Day as we found out Team Fury had knocked back a derisory offer from Eddie Hearn to make the biggest fight in boxing Fury vs Joshua, a story that is becoming all too familiar when talking bout Hearn. Fury and his team have demanded a 50/50 split which once again has split fans down the middle but I for one am not falling into these murky waters again. I don’t think it is outrageous to suggest that Fury/Joshua will be the highest grossing fight in British boxing history. The fan fair and media frenzy in the build up to this fight would be like nothing we have ever seen before, it would break all UK PPV records, it would pack out 90,000 inside Wembley and with both having such big followings the atmosphere in the arena would be unique. Every major brand in the world would want its logo attached somewhere to this fight. Just thinking of how much money this fight will generate really does make the mind boggle. With all this in mind am I the only one that finds absurd that this fight is not happening due to a dispute over money.
All too often I see on social media boxing fans argue over who deserves what. I see tweets daily by fans who are all too happy that fights have not been made because they think a fighter is over valuing himself. I see tweets by fans who would rather see fights not happen because they believe so firmly that the A-side boxer should call all the shots. Greed is the most detrimental thing to boxing. There are times when greed robs fans of the best fights at the right time, there are times when greed robs fighters of the biggest night of their lives and most importantly greed is slowly killing the sport. In todays world boxing is nowhere near as powerful as it once was as people can get their blood lust elsewhere like the UFC. Whilst boxing has spent decades shooting itself in the foot time and time again. UFC has given it’s fight fans the best fights possible time after time which has its popularity soar.
Boxing is littered with stories of broke former pro’s that didn’t get their fair share of the pot and are now potless. Boxers put their lives at risk every time they step in the right for a fight, these guys are literally risking it all and should be rewarded for it, no one is disputing that. Where the full thing leaves a sour taste in my mouth is I cannot support multi millionaires arguing over a couple of million pounds when their is tens of millions on the table. What I cannot do is support the biggest and best fights not being made. Once again boxing fans are being taken for granted that’s why this should never be applauded, just like in every professional sport the fans are the life blood that keeps the sport going, We are King.
We have all been in that near intolarable position when we have been completely caught off guard. A time when a situation has you completely rattled and searching your brain to find you a way out. Now anyone who has found themselves in this position will tell you it is your immediate reaction that will make or break how you recover from it. Some take it in their stride never really letting anyone know the panic and dismay hidden behind their poker face whilst others get flustered, ramble maybe even get a little embarrassed as the situation gets the better of them. This week we seen Anthony Joshua may have just found himself in one of the afore mentioned kind of situations.
In the crazy world of boxing the top fighters may only fight three times per year so it is imperative that fans are kept entertained in the long spells between fights. With the help of technology and fans thirst for instant information we have created a kind of WWE type soap opera which keeps fans in the loop and entertained. The emergence of personalities like Eddie Hearn has seen boxing revitalised in the UK. Hearn is a master at exploiting social media and instant news outlets in a way that no other promoter can, but over the past few months we have seen Hearn take a few L’s in the boxing the media with his lies leaving poor old AJ in a tough position.
Anyone who has seen a deposition on TV or a police interview tape will know once something has been recorded it cannot be taken back. We have all seen a courtroom drama where a witness or a suspect may say something which contradicts a previous statement, this is usually the final nail in the coffin in the movies where the the tower of lies come crashing down. In boxing terms it isn’t the the final nail in the coffin, it’s much worse for a promoter, it means fans will now scrutinise every word you say on the situation past, present and future and that’s something no salesman wants.
For the last year the AJ/Wilder saga has played out in the boxing media. At the start it was entertaining seeing all these big characters go at it on a daily basis but as it became clear that no fight was not forthcoming it became more of an annoyance trying to keep up with the who said what. The more time past the more it seemed to me that Eddie Hearn was on the back foot starting with him banning Wilder from entering the ring to call out AJ after Joshua had beaten Parker, then we had him shouting about proof of funds when Wilders team made an offer of $50m after Joshua had publicly demanded that sum. Team Wilder played their ace card when they agreed to fight former unified champion Tyson Fury. Once announced Hearn said the fight would not happen, he said it would be a snooze fest and as it turned out he was wrong on both accounts. Wilder vs Fury was a great fight and ended up doing well commercially and will more than likely do even bigger numbers in the rematch which looks like it could happen next year, leaving AJ locked out.
This week we have seen Anthony Joshua appear on US TV in an attempt to regain the initiative in the AJ/Wilder saga, but with one hand tied behind his back I think he failed miserably. The problem Anthony Joshua had was that his team have made so many contradictory claims in the past that he didn’t really have anywhere to go. For the first time I thought AJ looked frustrated and a little out of depth. In the interview when talking about a unification with fellow Brit Tyson Fury, Joshua says he has never heard anybody talk about being lineal champion and that people when starting out wanted to be IBO,WBA,IBF,WBO and WBC Champion, which is a bizarre statement to make especially when he used the IBO title to discredit the Lineal title. He also said something along the lines that they had booked Wembley for the Wilder fight, but again that just isn’t true as only a couple of months ago Team AJ set a deadline for Wilder to sign to fight AJ at Wembley, the deadline was BEFORE Wilder fought Fury in the biggest fight of his a career.
I have to admit I did feel sympathy for AJ as his trip to the US seemed like a forced attempt at damage control for the AJ brand. He came across very transparent on US TV and it looked to me like his team that have turned him into a superstar have really let him down on this instance. Where could Joshua go after the countless Eddie Hearn IFL interviews with different claims and counter claims each week. What could he say that wouldn’t see him dig an even bigger hole and be dragged into the abyss of contradictions. I have said time and time again that I have no doubt that Anthony Joshua the man, the fighter wants to fight the best. The problem AJ has is that he is commodity with many shareholders who are not willing to risk there asset in a fight…..not yet anyway.
There is a saying “In life nobody and nothing will help you until you start to help yourself.” On Saturday night boxing again refused to help itself. We all watched on as Deontay Wilder defended his WBC Heavyweight Title against Tyson Fury in LA’s Staples Centre. This was the biggest fight in the heavyweight division for years and as far as both fighters are concerned they delivered a great fight but, once again a big fight night ended with a sour taste in most spectators mouths but This time it was something we were willing to swallow. This got me thinking, are we now immune to the shock of poor judging ?
There really is no feeling like the build up to a big fight night for boxing fans. Your hardcores will lose sleep going over every possible outcome of a fight whilst your more casual fan will get caught up in all the media hype and pre fight banter which sets us all up for nicely to come together and enjoy the show. These big fights become social events, an excuse to meet up with friends and gather round a TV casting aside our football rivalries and other divisions for one night and have everyone talking about boxing. We will have drinks and food, we will fire our superior boxing knowledge about the upcoming fight and pass it as fact in discussions and if the fight is in the US we will sit up to 5AM (In the UK) waiting on the main event to start, drinking all the while i might add. What makes big fight nights special is that it’s something for everyone to enjoy. There really is no other sport like it.
During the Fury vs Wilder fight I found myself second guessing the judges all the way through the fight. I was saying things like “Judges in the US usually give the guy on the front foot the nod in close rounds” and “Its hard to get a decision boxing off the back foot in the US” but when you step back and think about it that is all rubbish. Yes the points I made were valid but it isn’t as simple as that. All judges around the world use the same criteria for scoring a bout which are Ring Generalship, Effective Aggression, Clean Punching and Defence. Now i do understand that due to human nature these judges will have preferences to to certain styles but if they stay true to this criteria they should never be too far away from the correct result, so can anyone tell me how one judge could have seen 115-111 for Wilder on Saturday ?. We are now seeing incompetent judging creeping in at more and more big PPV Fights. It is now becoming clear that some of these score cards are a deliberate attempt to sabotage fights. In recent years we have seen very questionable score cards at Ward vs Kovalev I, GGG vs Canelo I as well as Fury vs Wilder, and that’s only the cards that we have needed there have been plenty more blushes saved by a fighter taking it out of the judges hands and win by KO.
On big fight nights gone bye the house would have been in uproar, the rage of seeing a judge rob someone of a clear victory would stay with you. The sense of betrayal would go with you to work in the days that followed, even leading to a rage driven declaration of “I will never buy another PPV again.” Things seem a little different now. When the score card of 115-111 Wilder was read out, it was met with smirks and the odd lighthearted “No Way”. When the decision was announced as a draw it wasn’t met with shouts of rage but more a little laugh which suggests most never even doubted this would happen.
Both Wilder and Fury deserve massive credit for the show that they put on as it was a great fight. I have been a long time critic of the Heavyweight Division but now I have found optimism has replaced scepticism. Now we have some top Heavyweights who could all trouble each other and all are young enough to carry the division for some time yet, but this kind of judging will take away from these potential super fights when they are finally made. Nobody likes to see fights being scored wrong but what is more worrying to me is that without an outcry from fans there is very little chance that this will ever change.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.”
We have all heard this epic speech from the sixth instalment of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Movies. This speech features in countless motivational videos on youtube, every few months it appears then reappears on social media and time and time again we will sit back and listen to every word and adapt it to our own lives. I doubt when Stallone wrote this famous scene he knew he was telling the story of the struggles so many fighters endure to chase their dream.
Since I started this website around three years ago I have had the privilege of meeting and interviewing some great characters within boxing . I have been a guest in Boxing Gym’s around the country which has gave me the opportunity to see what the life of a boxer is away from the plaudits and bright lights. Yes, i have always known that these guys are finely tuned fighting machines, but i had never seen the sacrifices and dedication to the sport boxers have up close. I had never sat in a gym and watch these guys do two hours of drills before they go to work and then again after work. I had never looked into a fighters eyes and seen their chilling determination to reach their goal. I had also never seen the pressure applied on a boxer to sell tickets, pay for training camps and the work that goes in behind the scenes to try and secure sponsorship.
On Saturday night I came across a post on social media by IBF European Champion Ronnie “The Shark” Clark saying he had put his IBF belt up for sale on eBay. On closer inspection Ronny says that due to his fight being cancelled for a third time he was in financial trouble and with Christmas just around the corner he had decided to sell his belt to raise cash for his kids Christmas presents. The night Ronny beat Zelfa Barrett to win that title he also won me over as a fan. He was brought in to test an up and coming prospect in Barrett but ultimately he was meant to lose, but Ronny tore that script up and wrote a whole new one. That night in the ring Ronny won over a country. After serving time in prison it looked like this guy had got a second chance at life and took it, but boxing again proves it is no Hollywood movie.
We hear from media outlets like Sky Sports and BT that British Boxing is booming but sadly this just isn’t the case. Just like in society the vast majority of wealth stays at the very top of the sport. The sad facts are that small hall boxing is living hand to mouth and it’s to the detriment to its boxers all over the country. I know for a fact there are small hall promoters who pull fights on the day of the event because a fighter hasn’t sold his quoter of tickets. I also know there are some promoters who pay fighters a low flat rate when they have sold well over there quoter by thousands of pounds. I have spoken to fighters who have fell into depression due to the sheer pressure that is put on them before they have even laced up a pair of gloves. I know boxers who have decided to work a 9 to 5 and settle down with their family rather than deal with extra burden that comes with the professional game.
Now here is a scary thought for you to ponder on. How many boxers with the god given talent and potential right to the very top of the sport lose heart and give up the sport due to the stress and constants battles just get in the ring.