Wilder v Fury II

When Tyson Fury rose from the canvas 15 months ago to somehow beat the count after a debilitating combo from Deontay Wilder, few thought the calendar would have to turn twice before we saw a rematch.

Boxing is not linear though, it rarely provides the fans with what they want and it is only when the big promoters and broadcasters have been fed that the fights logic dictates should occur, actually do.

2018 ended on a crescendo, its pedigree stamped by this absorbing heavyweight contest and bell-to-bell thriller between Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton in Elland Road.

2019 promised to be an exceptional year and yet there are few, even the ever ebullient and enthusiastic Steve Bunce, who would argue that the year was anything other than a damp squib.

Yes, Andy Ruiz caused one of those upsets that made the entire sporting world sit up and take note but his disappointing defeat in the rematch with Anthony Joshua in December proved that Ruiz was probably the one hit wonder many feared.

Eddie Hearn did his best to suggest Joshua reinvented the wheel in Saudi Arabia but the reality is he finished the job in December that should have been seen to in May. Joshua, of course, can’t be faulted for the nature of his victory in the rematch but the point is there have been few quality contests at the top weight this year.

That said, the one man in the top division willing to take on a truly difficult contest in 2019 was Deontay Wilder, the WBC heavyweight champion, when he faced the underrated, always feared, Cuban, Luis Ortiz.

Ortiz, who defies age on the basis that nobody has clue what age he is, has proved an intriguing prospect over the last few years. He’s a very proficient fighter, technically sound and very awkward, basically the type of fighter Anthony Joshua has taken a wide berth of at the behest of Eddie Hearn.

Wilder, though, overcame ‘King Kong’ twice, once in an enthralling back and forth fight and more recently in October with a devastating right hand, when the Alabaman had trailed on any score card compiled through sound judgment.

The debate still rages, though perhaps views will be formed more uniformly come Sunday, as to whether Wilder is, in fact, a good boxer.

Wilder has held the title for almost five years, his record in this time 9-0-1, with all nine victories coming inside the distance. Indeed, after next weekend, Wilder will have faced both Tyson Fury and Ortiz twice in just under two years. That is as tough a slate as any heavyweight fighter during that period, indeed it would stand up in any era of heavyweight boxing.

Boxing aesthetes, many self-proclaimed, suggest that Wilder has got his far through not much more than a combination of that prodigious right hand and luck. This is absolute nonsense. Perhaps in no discipline more than heavyweight boxing will an overmatched competitor be cruelly found out. Luck might get through one night unschathe, not 41.

Wilder does get tagged, more than most champions do, but all the while he is measuring the distance, establishing the distance he needs to set the feet and then, it ends.

Right-hand, rinse, repeat.

Having said all this, Wilder’s quality of opponent has elevated considerably in the past two years. The reason, though many would not acknowledge it, is that American heavyweights ceased to be a major draw after the retirement of Evander Holyfield and the end of the last great era of heavyweight boxing.

Indeed, the rise of the Klitschkos, remarkable in so many ways as they were, coincided with the demise of heavyweight boxing in America. It would be stretching credulity to suggest that the two are interconnected but whatever the case, the U.S. struggled to produce a top weight of note for more than a decade.

Then along comes the rangy Wilder, an olympic bronze medallist in 2008, who tore through a path of mostly no names until his WBC title victory in 2015.

Outside of boxing circles, Wilder remained largely unknown until his first victory over Ortiz yet it’s difficult to understand why. Bunce and Mike Costello raised this question on the excellent, Five Live Boxing Podcast earlier this week and, like many, they came to the conclusion that Wilder’s star would have shone brighter and earlier had he been handled by an old-school promoter like Bob Arum.

The Alabaman interviews extremely well, and unlike the last American to dominate boxing, Floyd Mayweather, Wilder is a straight-up, decent and compassionate family man.

Most perplexing, though, is that Wilder has everything you want in a heavyweight boxer distilled into the most alluring weapon in this savage sport – a night-ending right hand. His knockout rate is the best in heayweight history and should he prevail in Las Vegas, his stretch of defences of the WBC heavyweight title will surpass that of his, and many other people’s, hero, the incomparable Muhammad Ali. How is this man not box office gold?

Opposite him on Saturday night is a man who has never endured difficulty in courting attention. Tyson Fury is one of the most charasmatic and enigmatic characters to emerge, not just from boxing but any sport, this century.

The Englishman has not always endeared himself to the public with his highly offensive old-testament pronouncements but after a tumultuous period following his excpetional defeat of Vladimir Klitschko in 2015, he has won over many with his candour and willingness to acknowledge his past misgivings.

Moreover, Fury showed true grit and resilience in recovering from the dark psychological hole he found himself in not long after that famous victory. There are those who will never warm to Fury, and so be it, but it’s hard to deny his wit and intelligence when effortlessly engaging with the boxing media.

Further, and this is not hero-building, simply a relfection of the facts, Fury’s return from the precipice, as a man as much as a boxer, was hugely impressive.

However, in keeping with the wildly unpredictable Gypsy King’s actions, just months ago he parted ways with Ben Davison, his former trainer. Davison is widely credited with taking Fury from his lowest ebb, reinvigorating and returning him to a position, both mentally and physically, whereby he could challenge once more for heavyweight gold.

Still, boxing perhaps more than any sport, largely treats loyalty with utter disdain. It’s a violent sport, its protagonists are volatile and once a fighter feels they’re getting stale, they usually look to point the finger elsewhere. This, to be fair, is totally understandable as certain gyms focus on very specific traits.

The Ingles in Sheffield came to prominence in honing crafty fighters, focused on timing and elusiveness, their most famous protegee bing, the most exicting fighter of our childhood, Prince Naseem Hamed.

Davison himself seems an unsually astute boxing brain for a man of just 27 but he was openly criticised by Fury’s father, John, after the lineal champion’s last victory over Otto Wallin. The party line seems to be that Fury is going for a knockout in the rematch and Davison is not the man to prepare him for this outcome.

With staleness setting in on Fury, a man who you suspect needs to work constantly on staying focused, his eyes turned to Javan ‘Sugarhill’ Steward. Javan is the nephew of the legendary Emmanuel Steward, founder of the world renowned Kronk gym in Detroits in the 1970s.

The Kronk has seen countless men enter its humble environs as novices and emerge as world champions: Milton ‘Ice Man’ McCrory, Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns and Limerick’s own, Andy Lee, all wore the famed red and gold with distinction.

Fury becomes the latest man to commit himself to the ways of the Kronk, the result of a phone call with Lee at the end of 2019. That he will be joined in camp by Kronk acolyte, Lee, gives a sense of grandeur to the type of night “Manny” Steward lived for.

The Kronk as Lee, Hitman Kearns and many others can attest trains its fighters for one true outcome – the knockout. Fury has a reasonably decent record for finishes insde the distance but as the quality of opponent increases so his ability to close it out diminishes.

While he tagged Wilder a few times in the first fight, you could never say the champion was ever truly rocked. To be fair to Fury, he was comprehensively outboxing Wilder until the first kncokdown in the ninth and had it not been for the thunderous knockdown in round 12, he would be the defending champion tonight.

Round of the year – 2018

Therein lies the stark contrast between the two fighters: Fury can pick angles, defend almost perfectly, lean in on the far lighter Wilder in close exchanges, pick him off with the jab and create an insurmountable lead as early as the eight round. Wilder, in the meantime, seems only to need to work the jab and wait for one opening before pouncing.

If a road map to succss was being drawn out, Fury’s is infinitely more sustainable and yet, 41 fights later, Wilder is still working that erratic style of his and then finishing his opponent in the latter half of the fight.

There is no way Wilder wins a decision and it’s extremely difficult seeing Fury knock Wilder out, let alone put him on the canvas.

Wilder’s once-in-a-generation power is finally getting the recongition it deserves but pay attention to the ring smarts he employs to set up the shot.

Fury to dominate, Wilder to end it late in a thriller.

SUS Prediction – Deontay Wilder by KO

Tip – Wilder to win in rounds 10-12 @8/1

#Boxing, Boxing

The Legend of the Garden Continues

Hall of famer, Marvin Hagler, once said, “It’s tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5am when you’ve been sleeping in silk pajamas (sic)”. Amongst the many theories abounding after Anthony Joshua’s shock defeat to Andy Ruis Jr. last Saturday night, this one may ring most true.  Entourages 20 deep and luxury apartments in Dubai sound great but at some the hunger must wane, the ruthless desire must dim just a little.

In any event, after the massive upset in the vaunted main hall in Madison Square Garden, heavyweight boxing is back to its equilibrium state of chaotic uncertainty. Ruiz Jr, a man you would quite frankly never mistake for an athlete, destroyed an over-confident Joshua to throw the division into disarray and, more importantly, secure his family’s future.

Usually, on nights like this, the champion is caught by an unexpected haymaker – think Hasim Rahman over Lennox Lewis – a one-off punch that cements the underdog’s status in the annals of shock victories. However, Ruiz Jr, whose physique had made him the easy butt of jokes throughout fight week, regrouped after a third-round knock-down to pummel Joshua into submission and shock not just the Garden but the entire sporting world.

Ruiz Jr had the now deposed champion down on four separate occasions, the first of those in the third round being particularly devastating, and the question marks over Joshua’s defence and jaw that have abound since his wild victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2016 resurfaced.

Boxing, and particularly the heavyweight division, has the ability to frustrate and thrill in equal measure, often simultaneously. The events of the last few months have been no different. Joshua had been slated to make his American debut against Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller, the latter a loud-mouthed, New Yorker who seemed a perfect fit for Joshua.  However, Miller, a 22 stone behemoth, whose stamina somehow endured into the later rounds was found guilty of balls out doping – perhaps in a nod to late 90s Tour de France –  failing tests for HGH, GW1516 and EPO, costing himself millions in the process and leaving Matchroom, DAZN and Eddie Hearn with a huge void to fill.

While it may be hard to believe now, it turns out that Jarrell Miller took all the drugs.

Apparently a $5,000,000.00 purse was placed on the table but the uptake was slow, with the tricky Cuban, Luis Ortiz, reportedly rejecting more money that has ever been placed before him. Enter Ruiz, who made his desire to fight Joshua known to Eddie Hearn via a message on Instagram.  Ruiz had only last fought in April – notably against Alexander Dimitrenko, a perfect tune-up for Anthony Joshua – and was out of camp for only six weeks before returning to work with Manny Robles. Even with this, the experts gave the Mexican American little chance.

Mike Costello and Steve Bunce of the BBC Five Live Boxing Podcast had noted the surprising hand speed of the challenger during last week’s workouts, allied to the fact that Ruiz’ only defeat had come by split decision at the hands of New Zealander, Joseph Parker, two years ago in Auckland. No one viewed Ruiz, to borrow from boxing vernacular, as a bum but he also was barely cracking the major division’s top ten.

Joshua had not been slow to speak of his plans for 2020 when interviewed midweek, not least when his arch-nemesis, Deontay Wilder, had been quick to announce his own rematch with Ortiz and then the much anticipated super-fight with Tyson Fury in February 2020. While it is unquestioned that Joshua allowed his attention to slip just slightly – that’s all that’s required when gigantic men are swinging for you – rumours have swirled about in the fight’s aftermath of the Briton’s preparation to the fight, with some suggesting that he was sparked in sparring less than a fortnight before fight night.

For those who love boxing, the mythos and conjecture form a large part of the post-fight synopsis, and rumours will swirl around until such time as Joshua gloves up and fights again. Until then, questions of a flu, the now infamous sty in the eye, alleged anxiety attacks and a perceived gun shyness will be prevalent.

What is unquestionable is that the tables have turned drastically on Joshua and the braggadocio Hearn in the last six months. Fresh off his stoppage of the tricky but aging Russian, Alexander Povetkin in September, Joshua was issued what appeared to be a legitimate offer – reputed to be worth north of $35,000,000.00 – to face Deontay Wilder in a unification bout for the four recognised heavyweight titles. While Matchroom and Premier Boxing Champions/Al Haymon, Wilder’s promoter, are equally flexible with the truth, it does seem that team Joshua were happy to milk the sold out stadiums in the UK, while basking in the glory of the defeat of the 40 year-old, Klitschko.

When Wilder and Fury sprang their surprise date in L.A. last December, the sense was that Hearn and Joshua had been caught unaware, this time by the wily, Frank Warren. That fight provided one of the best final rounds in heavyweight boxing history and it seemed the big three – Fury, Wilder and Joshua – would engage in a de facto round robin for the next 18 months.

The thrill and anticipation for these fights was frustratingly pierced by ESPN’s move to sign Fury to an exclusive US deal separating him, in a broadcasting context, from Joshua (DAZN) and Wilder (Showtime/Fox). With Fury now in the money, Joshua in possession of three belts and Wilder’s promoters loathe to give up the remaining belt, it felt as if boxing fans would be held hostage to three ridiculously rewarding and divergent financial arrangements.

However, due to fate and the unforeseen intervention of stupidity, drugs and Ruiz’ earnest appeal to Hearn, the division has been flushed wide open once more. And, more importantly, in a twist of fate that no one could have anticipated, Haymon’s PBC signed Ruiz to their stable a mere matter of months ago. PBC has gone from protecting one belt to now possessing all four. Ordinarily, possession is nine tenths of the law, however, in boxing possession is the only show in town.

Joshua may be the most marketable face in boxing – you’ve definitely seen him smiling at you from a bus stop or billboard over the last two years – but if he doesn’t win the rematch with Ruiz later this winter, then the opportunities will dry up almost instantly, unless Haymon and Warren decide otherwise.

In the wake of the drama in the Garden, it has become evident that America is alive to boxing for the first time in years. Sure, Floyd Mayweather’s fights were popular events but there was little of the mystique and the obscure, raw magic that surrounded the sport in the middle of the 20th century. Hard core fans always cared, predominantly the Central American community, but casual fans – the ones who can really effect pay-per-view numbers – are intrigued again.

Even if you are a Joshua fan, there’s something eminently appealing in seeing the quietly-spoken, endearing underdog prevailing over a corporate darling who had arrived on US soil to announce himself to the masses. Ruiz says he has been bullied since he was six over his weight, though you suspect plenty of his tormentors have received the appropriate justice in the years since. More to the point, Ruiz is now at the top table with Fury and Wilder, while Joshua must regroup and prepare for his rematch with Ruiz – announced for November or December – in the knowledge that his career is at a major crossroads.

The suggestion was that Joshua would take Ruiz to the UK but the already unconvinced US crowd will become even more sceptical if Joshua decides to take his ball home after one tough night in boxing’s most revered venue.

Money can surely no longer be an issue, so, if Joshua still wants to create the legacy he has spoken of, he must do so in Vegas or Los Angeles this winter. Steve Bunce thinks the fight will take place in Los Angeles and if Joshua really is the banger he says he is, this shouldn’t be a problem.

While a mega fight between two undefeated champions would have done incredible numbers, the fans will come in droves to see Joshua versus either Fury or Wilder in 2020, not to mention the Ruiz rematch later this year. And, while this sounds incredible, an undefeated record is no prerequisite for greatness. Ali, Foreman, Hopkins, De la Hoya, Pacquiao – all unquestioned hall-of famers with multiple defeats on their resume.

HBO and Sky Sports are as guilty as anyone of promoting the much lauded undefeated versus undefeated contests but the problem is most fighters will enjoy countless easy victories on the way to a 30-0 record. Thus, you get a vacuum where the two or three best in the division circle each other for years until a generally unsatisfactory showdown takes place long after the public’s appetite has piqued.

The 60s, 70s and 80s were a bloodbath, where it would have been quite literally impossible to escape with respect, money and an unbeaten record.

A recurring theme as discussed recently by Kris Mannix and Max Kellerman is that boxers and fans want two different things. Boxers want to make as much as money as possible while, understandably, putting themselves through as little punishment as possible. Fans, however, want the best fights, and for the majority of fans, the best fights are brawls. It’s easy for fight fans to forget that the boxers ultimately want to get out of there in tact mentally and physical and avoiding the best fighters is conducive to this.

The promoters and broadcasters have to deal with the double edged sword they create when lionising their undefeated fighters. Fury v Wilder is theoretically the best fight out there as neither man has tasted defeat but the next instalment of Joshua v Ruiz is, in many ways, more compelling. Ruiz is about to walk away with €20 million plus – and will be subject to patronising platitudes for the next five months. Should he win again, though, he cements his place at the top of the division. Meanwhile, Joshua, who has worked so hard to create the persona of a carefree destroyer now must ignore all his fly by night, celebrity pals, knuckle down with Rob McCracken and reintroduce his brutal side.

Fans had become irked at the reticence of Matchroom to make the Wilder fight. Now, faced with adversity for the first time in years, Joshua can endear himself to the boxing, and general sporting, public by coming back against Ruiz and then potentially putting himself in line for a contest against the winner of Fury-Wilder II.

It’s virtually impossible to chart the course of something so volatile as the heavyweight division. Only weeks ago, conversations on the division were fraught with frustration and irritation. However in the space of seven dynamic rounds, the powerful hands of Andy Ruiz Jr – the most unlikely king of the giants – have suddenly filled the next 12 months with infinite promise.

#Boxing, Boxing, Tyson Fury

Fury v Wilder: A Turning Point?

Heavyweight boxing rises from the canvas

From the 1920s to the 1990s, boxing’s heavyweight division was to the forefront of not just sports but popular culture, particularly in America.  

The list of great heavyweights includes men who were giants of popular culture in their era: Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis – all names that have carved their way into sporting lore. For decades, the heavyweight champion of the world was the most famous sportsperson on the planet.

Even when avarice ensued in the 1980s and new governing bodies – WBO, IBF, WBC – were established, the best heavyweight enjoyed the adulation of the masses. However, towards the end of the last century, a number of events occurred, leading to the gradual demise of the heavyweight division.

Mike Tyson’s thrilling, sometimes depraved, journey lurched towards a sickening halt in the late 1990s and Evander Holyfield retired shortly thereafter. With Lennox Lewis’ outstanding career nearing its finale, heavyweight boxing came to be dominated by a pair of robotic behemoths from Ukraine who offered none of the flair or fanfare of their immediate predecessors.

Those men were the Klitschkos – Vitali and Wladimir – and they enjoyed a decade of dominance built on monumental physiques and relentless, metronomic left jabs. Their styles had little aesthetic appeal and they failed to engage with an American audience who still harboured historic bias towards Eastern Europe.

Big and Boring: The Klitschkos

Though Oscar de la Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Roy Jones Jr were wowing boxing fans a few weight divisions down, the heavyweight division was always relied on to attract the casual fan. And, with a paucity of quality big men, the division descended into relative obscurity.

In all sports, the idiom states that a good big man will beat a good small man. Well, in boxing, the most enthralling sight is two huge men colliding in an eighteen by eighteen feet ring with just a 10 ounce glove for protection. Last Sunday morning, Tyson Fury,took on WBA heavyweight champion of the world, Deontay Wilder, in the Staples Centre, Los Angeles – two men attempting to win back the attention of a once rapt American audience.

The boxing community in America, together with promoters and network executives, were aware that a dull contest would represent a missed and potentially final opportunity to seize the attention of today’s demanding, impatient television audience. Remarkably – as nostalgia tends to mask the sheer number of dull heavyweight clashes – Wilder and Fury were involved in a wild contest that escalated in the final four rounds. The climax of the saw bout saw Fury rise – Undertaker-like- from the canvas in the 12th round after a devastating combination from Wilder looked to have ended the contest.

Indeed, with the exception of Larry Holmes in 1978 against Ernie Shavers, it’s unlikely that anyone has ever beaten the referee’s count after absorbing what Fury did. Wilder’s face showed both bemusement and grudging respect and though a contentious split draw decision followed minutes later, those in attendance or watching at home knew they had just witnessed something special.

The events in Los Angeles would have been keenly observed by Anthony Joshua – WBC, WBO and IBF champion of the world – and his team, led by silver-tongued promoter, Eddie Hearn. Since winning Olympic Gold in London 2012, Joshua has gone on to become the golden boy of British sport. His charisma, power and extraordinary physique have made him extremely popular with the British public and he is an advertiser’s dream.  Joshua enjoyed a narrow escape from a drug conviction in 2011, when a judge told him, ‘prison–or boxing’. Joshua took his chance and hasn’t looked back.

Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions built Joshua up as the novice destroyed all comers. While Joshua’s hype machine gathered momentum, Fury – always a divisive character –went to Dusseldorf in 2015 and defeated Wladimir Klitschko, in the process becoming the lineal heavyweight champion of the world.

However, before their rematch could take place, Fury was banned and ultimately spiralled into a deep hole of alcohol and drug abuse, very nearly taking his life in the process. The British Board of Boxing Control (BBBC) was left with little option but to ban Fury after he admitted to prolonged cocaine abuse.

With Fury suspended, Joshua defeated a Klitschko in decline and became the world’s pre-eminent heavyweight. But, champions are only as good as their rivals. Tyson had Holyfield, while Ali, Foreman, Liston and Frazier all engaged in enthralling contests in the 1960s and 1970s. New Zealand’s Joseph Parker – since proven to be an average fighter-  held the WBO title, while the Alabaman, Deontay Wilder, was relying on an ungainly but hammer like right hand to lead him to an undefeated record and possession of the WBA championship.

Joshua v Klitschko was a brilliantly even fight, not a fight between two brilliant boxers.

The problem,though, was the glaring absence of Fury from the heavyweight scene. Joshua is an immense talent but when people like Eddie Hearn unearth a man both as talented and marketable as Joshua, there is a hesitancy to put him in a ring with a man as unorthodox and dangerous as Wilder. Sportswear companies, watch manufacturers and airlines don’t respond well when the face of their billboard campaigns has been sparked in front of millions of viewers.

If there is a paucity of quality challengers – as was case when the Klitschkos ruled – then promoters can largely do as they please but audiences are wise and predictable fights will not do big office numbers. With Fury absent though, and offering little beyond pithy soundbites, Hearn knew it was his prerogative to mine Anthony Joshua’s cross-generational appeal and make some real money. Admittedly, that is the very essence of professional boxing.

Boxing enjoys a most unusual place in society, offering somewhat of a social dilemma:why do peaceful people enjoy the brutal nature of a boxing match? Perhaps it’s the drama of the event, the contradictory appeal of the glamour and raw brutality, or, perhaps we’re not as peaceful and reasonable as we believe.

This week the grim reality of the fight game came to bear when it was confirmed that former light heavyweight champion of the world, Adonis Stevenson, had been placed in a medically induced coma and may have lasting brain injuries. His injuries came in defeat to Oleksandr Gvozdyk in Quebec City on the same night that heavyweight boxing was rejuvenated. The contrast is jarring. The risks are so real and so obvious and history is littered with hundreds of cautionary tales of men and women who were devoured by the boxing industry. Yet, mystifyingly the show goes on and those who should know better lap it up.

Still, while boxing cares little for its casualties, the return of the fallen great has been mythologised since the 1920s. Thus it was, earlier this year, and after negotiations with the BBBC, Tyson Fury was allowed to return to the ring, with his two-year suspension backdated to 2016. Two barely passable tune-ups followed before Fury and Wilder’s respective management teams were able to agree to last weekend’s contest.

When the fight was made, Team Joshua – none of whom lack for hubris – saw Wilder and Fury as inferior, the ‘B side’ in any future negotiations. Then, Wilder and Fury engaged in the remarkable contest last weekend and now the division is alive with opportunity once more. Unlike Joshua and Klitschko, this was actually a contest between two men in their prime. Joshua is still the main draw but as in bygone days, the pinnacle of the heavyweight division is now populated by a number of extremely talented yet markedly different men.

Whatever the case, events in California have changed the dynamic entirely. How else could Deontay Wilder have ended sitting on a couch beside the mystifying, James Corden? Until Saturday, Joshua and Hearn perhaps rightly thought that Fury and Wilder needed them. Now, however, their rematch will fill Wembley Stadium or a Las Vegas casino and the box office purchases will be like the 90s heydays.

Some people will scratch their heads and struggle to fathom the brutality of boxing but last Saturday’s fight has renewed America’s love for the storied heavyweight division. For the oddly sentimental fans of boxing and the power brokers alike, the bigs are back and all is well in the world once more.

#Boxing, Boxing, GGG

It’s Triple G Time in London

Someone’s ‘0’ has got to go on Saturday night in London. Gennady Golovkin (35-0, 32 KO), whose frustrating pursuit of Canelo Alvarez remains unfulfilled, meets undefeated British welterweight Kell Brook (36-0, 25 KO) for the Kazakh’s WBC and IBF middleweight titles. Brook, IBF welterweight champion, will step up two weights in a matchup that is intriguing for many reasons, and more importantly one that we’ll be able to watch live at a decent hour.

GGG, whose mega-fight with Canelo is still under construction, heads to London for the first time to face what may well the biggest challenge of his career to date. There is no question as to whether it is Brook’s. The Sheffield native has pursued his countryman, Amir Khan, for years now only to be arrogantly dismissed, but after the latter’s career-stalling knockout at the hands of Alvarez in May, it is Brook who is stepping up to an even more daunting challenge against the most powerful puncher the middleweight division has seen for a generation.


Boxer Kell Brook suffered a serious leg injury after a machete attack in Tenerife in August 2014.

Brook won the IBF Welterweight title from Shawn Porter in August 2014, but just weeks later was the victim of a vicious machete attack during a night out in Tenerife. After a hazy day and night’s drinking, Brook was left with a massive, gaping wound on his thigh that required 32 staples. The events of the night were never truly established but it is to Brook’s absolute credit that he was to return in March 2015 to make the first of three title defences.

Brook will have shed few tears to see Khan get dropped so shudderingly by the far-too-powerful Alvarez. However, Khan, the two-time former world champion was unwavering in the wake of his defeat, stating his intense dislike for Brook as the primary reason that they would never fight. Surely, in boxing of all sports, a hatred for your rival would be a massive carrot to step up and face them.


Amir Khan (l) apparently won’t fight Kell Brook because he doesn’t like him.

Khan, though, as an alumni of future hall-of-fame trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym, still has relative box-office draw in the US and would clearly prefer take a loss to one of the stars of the US market, rather than suffer the potential ignominy of defeat to a guy who he has always regarded as being beneath him.

Despite this discord, Khan will not have entered Brook’s thoughts in recent months as he knows he is going toe-to-toe this weekend with a freakishly powerful man. He’ll also be aware that going twelve rounds at the O2 may require the greatest performance of his career to date. While detractors of Golovkin always point to his so-so resume, he has never sidestepped a fight, more he has been forced to endure games of cat and mouse with crafty promoters.

To be fair, anyone who has stepped in the ring with Golovkin in the last two years has been absolutely decimated, so for Golden Boy et al. there is the fear of seeing their top draw get absolutely pummelled. From a practical – see commercial – perspective, it is easier for a boxer to return after defeat to a back foot technician over twelve strategic rounds than it is to pick themselves up from a jarring knockout defeat. George Groves career was completely derailed by Carl Froch’s right hand in 2014, while Khan’s stock, as discussed, has clearly plummeted.

In October of last year, Golovkin ruthlessly took apart David Lemieux, then IBF middleweight champion, in eight glaringly one-sided rounds. Last time out after a blitzkrieg of the mandatory challenger, Dominic Wade, GGG had to listen to some bullshit prevarication from Golden-Boy, who seem to want the champion to come to Mexico City and fight strictly under their stipulations. A bout with Billy-Joe Saunders was never a reality, while Chris Eubank Jr’s chances of a shot at Golovkin seem to have been waylaid by an overly nosy parent.

So, it falls to Brook, an underrated fighter to jump two weights and attempt to pull off one of boxing’s greatest ever upsets. Brook, for whatever reason, never really made it outside the UK market but himself and Eddie Hearn, the chief of Matchroom Sports, have seen a once in a lifetime opportunity present itself.

Brook seem eminently confident going into this fight but in a game where the combatants willingly permit themselves to indulge in fantasy prior to fight night, why wouldn’t he be? For Brook, who has always been a big welterweight, a jump up the weights was probably on the cards, but not two levels and not to face an absolute wrecking ball.

The first instinct, after Khan’s defeat to Alvarez, was to predict an equally grizzly end for Brook. However, Brook will probably never return to 147 pounds so it’s not like he’s just coming up for a look, and he looks physically the match to Golovkin in the flesh. He’s got really good speed, and a great chin  – admittedly against welterweights – but speed and a chin make for good bedfellows.

On the flip side, however, you have to question whether the extra weight will actually equate into a more powerful boxer, yet one who also maintains his speed? What made Manny Pacquiao such an incredible boxer was his ability to win world titles in eight divisions while maintaining both these physical attributes.

More often that not, in any sport, extra muscle equals decreased mobility. After some supreme hand speed, Once Were Warriors antihero  Jake the Mus nonchalantly observed that his fallen foe had used “Too much weights, not enough speed work” and there’s merit in this observation.

In this fight, Brook’s speed is his greatest ally and it appears that his best chance of victory lies in winning a boxing match as opposed to a toe-to-toe fight with Golovkin. The risk with adding this weight is that his greatest attribute is now hugely nullified. Of course, you can argue either way but surely it seems Brook is playing into GGG’s hands by climbing all the way up to 16o. Brook is now, of course, proclaiming that 160 has always been his natural weight but why only make the jump now?

Again, we shouldn’t get caught up in the pre-fight hyperbole and while Brook did look in exceptional shape at the weigh-in, the lingering concern remains that he is stepping up for the first time to face the best there is in the middleweight division.

Brook won’t face the same strength issues as Khan but if this detracts from his speed and allows Golovkin close down the ring early then it’s game over. If Brook boxes patiently for the early rounds and makes it past nine, then this fight is live. Golovkin is coming to fight in hostile territories – though he strikes you as a guy who’d fight anyone, anywhere, anytime – and if the power game doesn’t pay dividends early he may become unsettled.

However, GGG is a brilliantly precise boxer, and his only perceived weaknesses are based on conjecture. Brook is the one who needs everything to go right and even if it does, he may not win.

If Brooks greatest attributes haven’t been compromised then tomorrow night has the potential to be the fight of the year. The feeling is, though, that the jump in weight will come at a price. Golovkin will want to thrill on his UK debut. And we’re inclined to think he will.

Straight Up Sport Betting Tips:

  1. Gennady Golovin to win in the 9th @ 12/1
  2. Both fighters to be knocked down @ 12/1




Gennady Golovkin Looms Large for Saul Alvarez

35-0 with 32 victories by way of knockout. Twenty-two stoppages in a row. Gennady Golovkin’s professional record is almost impossible to compute. Yesterday’s second round destruction of Dominic Wade has merely added further substance to the mystique surrounding the California-based Kazakh .

In a week where the most tedious and highly documented pissing contest in sports history took centre stage, one could be forgiven for failing to notice that boxing’s star attraction was entertaining his adopted Inglewood crowd with another display of otherworldly punching power.

The well-traversed narrative surrounding GGG is that his phenomenal offence has the majority of the middleweight divisions running scared. And, in a sense this is true. There are two things that boxers are very fond of: money and not getting their faces caved in. And, therein lies the conundrum. A fight with GGG could end quickly for the likes of Miguel Cotto, Saul Alvarez – in the hands of the deceptively slimy Oscar de la Hoya – or even Billie Joe Saunders, but there is potential for a huge payday.

The only in-ring mystery surrounding Golovkin – whose brothers made him street fight strangers as a child –  is how his defence would hold up against the aforementioned fighters. It may be that the thirty-four-year-olds power, like prime-Tyson, would sap the vitality of his challengers leaving the question surrounding his defence a largely perfunctory issue. In any event, Golovkin is yet to hit the canvas after more than 350 fights between the amateur and professional ranks, so his otherworldly toughness is probably his strongest defensive tool.

Those in the know, including Frank Lotierzo of describe Golovkin as merely an “adequate boxer”, in the truly technical sense, but his devastating power allows him to chip away at his opponent’s resistance and then unload relentlessly. Also, his armoury runs deep so an opponent could be caught with a thunderous left hook, overhead right or a night-ending body shot.

The detractors will say that Golovkin is only beating ‘bums’, yet with the exception of Andy Lee, nobody in the top ten is willing to take a shot at the world’s number three pound-for-pound boxer. Fourth-ranked David Lemieux already took his chance in a unification bout and the only surprise that night was that Lemieux lasted into the eighth round.

We’re sorry for bleating like a particularly bolshy broken record, but boxing’s inner-politics shouldn’t just be accepted with a resigned sigh and shrug of the shoulders. There is something intrinsically wrong with this great sport when the combatants are allowed to run and take cover behind the bull shit of Frank Warren or de la Hoya.

This week, Conor McGregor, his level-headed social media following and Dana White have created an embarrassing situation, but for the most part, MMA should be lauded for ensuring that the champion always fights the next guy in line. Unless, ironically, your name is Conor McGregor and the featherweight division is set in limbo, though one suspects White and the UFC may not be so accommodating going forwards. Anyway, we digress, but the point here is Golovkin would long since have fought Alvarez or Cotto if logic was allowed prevail.

Boxing was, of course, ruptured in the 80s when new Associations, Federations and Organisations starting appearing at an inordinate rate, fracturing the sport and creating pockets of vested interests. While belts are important, Golovkin’s uniquely frustrating situation shows that the real power lies with promoters and their desire to protect their golden tickets.

De la Hoya knows that the lion’s share of PPV purchases come from the sizable, loyal Mexican boxing fraternity. Alvarez, originally a big, solid welterweight and the current lineal champion – a concept that seems to have been created by the Mad Hatter – of the middleweight division is Golden Boy Promotions gateway to Mexican fight fans, and with Mayweather most likely gone to pasture, De la Hoya has wasted no time in declaring ‘Canelo’ as boxing’s prime attraction.


Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (l) seen here in his victory over Migeul Cotto will hopefully face GGG later in 2016.

Alvarez squares off against Amir Khan on May 9th and logic would suggest the winner, most likely the current WBC champion will advance to face GGG in the super-fight of 2016. Khan, a welterweight is also being forced to jump through hoops –admittedly aided by some very alluring financial incentives- by Golden Boy as he’ll be jumping nine pounds to 156 pounds to make ‘Canelo’s’ job more palatable. Seriously, the ‘heels’ in WWE don’t have things stacked this heavily in their favour.

So, rather unsurprisingly, and in a quirk that will irritate fans and detractors of boxing in equal measure, Alvarez has indicated that any showdown with GGG will take place at a catch weight of 155 pounds. In effect, the champion at 160 is making his most dangerous rival drop five pounds of power. Alvarez defends very effectively at junior middleweight, but Golovkin is a bona fide middleweight and given his supposed technical deficiencies, he would be dispensing with logic in meeting Alvarez’ demands.

Trainer Abel Sanchez and, more so, promoter Tom Loeffler, have worked tirelessly and patiently to generate Golovkin’s fan base on the U.S. west coast so it would seem most unlikely that they would allow their once in a generation star dispense with his ‘superpower’. This being the case, Alvarez or Cotto will need to man up or Saunders or the dangerous Daniel Jacobs will need to step their games up considerably. The chance may have come and gone for Andy Lee, but boxing is nothing if not unpredictable, so who knows.

One thing is for certain, however. For all his notoriety and box office draw, Mayweather was jarringly boring to watch, due to his sublime defense and hand speed. Now retired, his void needs to be filled by a freewheeling wrecking-ball, and not another defensive whizz. Sanchez has instilled the cavalier, come-forward stylings of Mexican greats like Julio Cesar Chavez into his already outrageously, powerful charge, and fight fans have responded accordingly.


Trainer Abel Sanchez has successfully instilled in his man the stylings of the legendary Mexican hall-of-famer, Julio Cesar Chavez.

Golovkin is a young 34, insofar as his fights are usually brief, whirlwind affairs, but a boxer’s speed is probably the first thing to go and it would be shameful if bureaucracy prevents him from giving the fans what they want and what boxing needs. Anyone who watched the abominable Mayweather-Pacquiao fight last May will know the importance of boxers facing off in their prime.

Only 25, perhaps Alvarez – see De la Hoya – is scared of damaging his legacy, but the greats, like Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran never turned a big fight down. Golovkin has taken out every last bit of fodder in the lower reaches of the middleweight division. The time has come for the best to show their true colours.

#Boxing, Boxing, Football, Gaelic Games, Golf, Horse Racing, NFL/Rugby, Republic of Ireland/FIFA, Rugby Union, Soccer, UFC

Straight Up Sport Predictions 2016

2015 was, by any comparable standards, an excellent sporting year. In the murky world of sporting politics, there was also the welcome downfall of FIFA kingpin Sepp Blatter and the lurking snake Michel Platini. Meanwhile, we were treated to the rather unsurprising revelations that Russian athletics was involved in systematic doping and Lord Sebastian Coe is a bit of a dick.

The highlights included the New England Patriots winning their fourth Superbowl after a botched play call by Seattle Seahawks on the New England one-yard line. Almost one year later none of Pete Carroll, Darrell Blevins, Russell Wilson or the latter’s usual play-caller, God, have been willing to take responsibility for not giving the ball to this man (this clip comes with a Tipper Gore warning!)

Willie Mullins dominated Cheltenham and but for this fateful fall – horse and jockey will be back with a vengeance in 2016 – the punters, for once, would have had the bookies running for cover.

Ireland secured back-to-back Six Nations championships for the first time ever after the most dramatic day in tournament history, though the year ended on a diminuendo after an injury-depleted side, with the wrong man at out-half, fell to an inspired Argentina.

Meanwhile, Andy Lee dropped his WBO middleweight title in mildly controversial circumstances to Billy Joe Saunders. It was terribly disappointing that the champion did not get an opportunity to make either of his first two defences on Irish soil. Had Lee fought Saunders in Limerick the likelihood is that he would have retained his title, as boxing historically favours a hometown champion in a tight fight.

Carl Frampton twice retained his IBF super-bantamweight championship, while it would be remiss of us not to mention Conor McGregor’s stunning knockout of Jose Aldo in Las Vegas last month.

Whether you care to admit it or not, the country’s greatest success in 2015 was the qualification for Euro 2016. After the 1-1 draw at home to Scotland in June, dreams of a French summer lay in tatters. We remember agreeing as much with a few friends in a Cambridge pub on that dank afternoon.

But, then, along came Shane Long, Irish folk-hero Jon Walters and a few dollops of luck and qualification was realised after a relatively straightforward dispatching of Bosnia. A group comprising Belgium, Italy and Sweden looks ominous but that is June’s problem.

So, to 2016 and a combination of a few of our hopes and predictions for the sporting year ahead.

  1. After much humming and hawing, Manchester United finally rid themselves of Louis van Gaal.

There can’t be a Manchester United fan out there who will miss the dull, turgid aimless crap that has cost the Dutchman £250 million to manufacture. Rumour has it that Ryan Giggs has been in cahoots with Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish to launch a coup, though, at this point, it seems another despot, Jose Mourinho, will take the reins of this great club. All the while, Sir Matt Busby turns in his grave.



The end is nigh for Louis van Gaal.  (Courtesy of Getty Images)


  1. Thanks to the incompetence of others, Arsenal win the Premier League and Arsene Wenger claims that he has been vindicated in investing in a series of shite strikers.

Arsenal definitely have previous when it comes to choking in the second half of the season but at present they appear to be the most error-free side, which by extension makes them the most likely to win the league.

Wenger, to his credit, has been arguably the second best manager of the Premier League era but his sometimes delusional stubbornness has cost the team in the past. Yes, the board love him because the club is in the black but, let’s be honest, the fans couldn’t give a shit about that. They want to win the Premier League.

If Arsenal don’t win this year’s league, then they could be facing a very lengthy drought. There would be a sense of irony as well as a perfect example of the farcical treatment of modern day managers if Manchester City regained the title before coldly sacking Manuel Pellegrini. However, we can see Arsenal just about falling over the line though North London rivals, Spurs, will pose a serious threat.

  1. People accept that Irish club rugby had a great run, stop whining and focus on the international team.

The media of late have been lamenting the death of Irish rugby mainly due to the fact that the French and English look set to dominate the European game for the foreseeable future. Now, first of all, let’s accept that the provinces have seen their fair share of benefactors down the years while the Pro 12 was in an advantageous position regarding qualification to the old Heineken Cup.

We’re definitely not apologists for the European Champions Cup – for one thing, the BT Sport coverage is stomach-churningly ‘old-boy’ and elitist –  and the chips are quite clearly stacked in favour of the shaky Anglo-French alliance. However, like many before them, the Irish provinces have been punching above their weight for years. And, rather than whinge, let’s celebrate this fact.

Many of our finest rugby journalists have gotten in a tizzy of late over the potential downfall of the national side given the perilous state of Irish sides in Europe.

Well, we give you Example A, Wales. Bar the odd good season for Ospreys, Scarlets or Cardiff, the Welsh have a dismal record in Europe. Their domestic game just about keeps its head above water and many of their finest players have departed for more rewarding, foreign bounties.

Yet, for the last eight years, Wales have been a major player, both in the Six Nations and the World Cup. They were probably screwed by Alain Rolland in 2011 and in October their injury-ravaged side came desperately close to toppling South Africa in London.

Ireland need to strike a balance – and lest we forget, Ulster still have a great chance of making this year’s Champions Cup quarter-finals – but Wales have proven that it is possible to produce a top-class national side even when the domestic game is not exactly flourishing.

The next two years should see something of a changing of the guard and there is an abundance of talent coming through; Tadhg Furlong, Stuart McCloskey, Jack McGrath, Kieran Marmion, Jack O’ Donoghue, Garry Ringrose and CJ Stander. Meanwhile, there are the resurgent Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson, Tommy O’ Donnell and Andrew Trimble. Not to mention, the currently sidelined Iain Henderson, Robbie Henshaw and Peter O’ Mahony. Little cause for worry, then.

Iain H

With youngsters like Iain Henderson set to take on the mantle, Irish international rugby is in very safe hands.

The provinces may be entering a fallow period but the next four years appear genuinely promising for our international side.

  1. The All-Ireland Football Championship is overshadowed by further ridiculous disciplinary hearings and successful appeals.

The important thing to remember as an inter-county Gaelic football player is that a red card is just a speed bump and a suspension can be overturned if you shout loud enough. One of the most irritating aspects of Gaelic football is that players, and by extension, their managers and county boards refuse to accept suspensions after clearly breaching on-field rules.

Connolly & Keegan

Remember, kids, you can’t get suspended for this. (Photo courtesy of

Last year’s clear examples were Mayo’s Kevin Keane and, of course, Diarmuid Connolly’s ridiculous, though successful, overnight appeal against his red card for punching Lee Keegan. The technicalities of that case are mind numbing but the lesson is clear: If you get sent off in the 2016 All-Ireland Football Championship, you’ll be the laughing stock of the summer if you can’t get your suspension overturned.

  1. The Republic of Ireland escape the ‘Group of Death’

By our nature, we are strangely complex characters, in that we convey optimism and pessimism in equal measures, usually in the same conversation.

An example being:

“You see the draw for the Euros?”

“Yeah it’s a fucker of a group, couldn’t be tougher.”

“Do you reckon we’ll get out, though?”

“Ah yeah, don’t see why not. Sure, Sweden only have Zlatan. Belgium are a bunch of whinging bastards. And, to be fair, Italy must be getting old at this stage.”

“Yeah, fair point.”

And that is the logic that we will be applying this summer. Remember, Sweden are ranked below Ireland in the admittedly oft-maligned FIFA World Rankings, Belgium do not have tournament pedigree. And, Italy? Well, there’s always Ray Houghton’s roly-poly in Giant Stadium.

  1. Gennady Golovkin gets a chance to decimate a middleweight world champion.

Broken record and all that, we know. Throughout 2015, GGG has grown exasperated as Golden Boy and Roc Nation protected their Latin-American cash-cows, for fear of them taking a beating that would see their market value plummet.

Not this year, though. Golovkin has relocated to Los Angeles and L.A.’s Central American fight community – the majority of the US boxing community – already love him. Golovkin fights in the tradition of the great Mexican boxers and the fans have warmed to this immediately.

To be clear, until his last few fights, GGG has only beaten what’s put in front of him and usually it’s been brave fodder who need a pay cheque. But it’s the way he’s beaten them. Toe-to-toe, stand and deliver. He may yet be found out by a younger, though more experienced in terms of quality of opponent, Saul Alvarez. Or by the erratic, though hugely talented, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. But, either way, let’s see it happen.

Say what you want about Andy Lee but, at least, he had shown his willingness to go straight for Golovkin had he beaten Saunders. Golovkin has been well handled by HBO and promoter, Tom Loeffler in 2015. The all-important US fan base has been carefully cultivated and for Alvarez, Saunders, Cotto and Chavez Jr., excuses are now thin on the ground.

The Four Kings never avoided each other and that’s what made the 80s the golden era of middleweight boxing. After the most overhyped, underwhelming fight of this or any other era took place between Mayweather and Pacquiao last summer, boxing fans deserve Golovkin and Alvarez in 2016.

  1. People will finally realise that Roy Hodgson is a spoofer of Frank Abignale Jr. proportions.

Children of the 90s will recall the brilliant Stephen Spielberg produced cartoon sketch show, Animaniacs. Fronted by the Warner Brothers, Wakko, Yakko and their sweet little sister, Dot, the show also featured the wonderfully, simplistic Chicken Boo sketch.

Each week, the titular Boo would arrive into town, and, thanks to some excellent costumes and a propensity to stay silent, deceive people into thinking he was, for example, a spy or a sheriff. On each occasion, one apoplectic member of the group would plead, unsuccessfully, with his friends to recognise that this was a chicken in their midst, not a man. Eventually, in the last act, Boo’s costume would come off, his true identity would be revealed and he’d be run out of town.

Now,  Roy Hodgson is obviously no chicken but he has provided a masterclass in deceiving people by basically saying nothing and being a gentleman throughout his reign as England football manager.

Remember, this is the man who said before the 2014 World Cup that he believed he had that could win the tournament. Of course, what followed was England’s worst World Cup performance since 1958, which for someone like Graham Taylor would have meant an immediate sacking.


Roy Hodgson

That’s a man who knows he’s getting away with murder. Sorry, soon to be, Sir Roy!


Now, on one hand, you have to admire the F.A. for their trust in the manager, and invariably international managers get more time in the job due to the fact that they have a specific set of players from which to choose and no transfer window.

However, the odd aspect of Hodgson’s reign is that he is being hailed as this extraordinary motivator and tactician when, in reality, he has done very little with what is actually a very talented squad.

Hodgson, unsurprisingly, wanted his England contract extension to be finalised before Euro 2016 but FA Chief Executive, Martin Glenn has decided otherwise. Sorry Roy, but Chicken Boo always got found out.

  1. Djakadam wins a first Cheltenham Gold Cup for Willie Mullins.

It would hardly be a shock to suggest that the Gold Cup will be one of the racing highlights of the year but we feel this year’s renewal will be one to capture the entire sporting public’s imagination.

Even in the unfortunate absence of last year’s brilliant winner Coneygree – we will forever be loyal followers of the gutsy, Mark Bradstock trained nine-year-old –  this year’s renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup promises to be an absolutely thrilling contest.

The King George at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day revealed a couple of interesting pointers: Vautour is a classy horse but he may not have three miles in him; Don Cossack is probably the best of the lot but as his fall proved, you’ve got to jump them (see Annie Power); Cue Card is having a remarkable season but has question marks remaining over whether he can do it at Prestbury Park.



Djakadam and Ruby Walsh, seen here after winning last year’s Thyestes Chase in Gowran park. The pair may just finally end Willie Mullins’ wait for a maiden victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)


Meanwhile, last year’s second and this year’s favourite, the Willie Mullins trained, Djakadam, was merely an observer over Christmas. It appears at this stage he will take the route through the long grass via the Cotswold Chase, a route less popular for Gold Cup contenders in recent years.

Recent renewals have been hard to call perhaps because of a perceived dearth of quality. This year, however, there can be no question as to the depth in the field. And, it may finally see Willie Mullins win the one he so dearly desires.

  1. Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will each win a major, while Tiger will, sadly, call it a day.

The depth of talent in golf is most probably at an all-time high. After his glorious 2014, it appeared that McIlroy would enjoy a reign something akin to Tiger but Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and an unfortunate game of five-a-side put paid to that.

It’s virtually impossible to separate the three, the Official World Rankings aside, so it would come as no great surprise if each of the big three took home a major this year. McIlroy is hurt by the fact that he still has not mastered Augusta but his form at the back end of the year was excellent and for the first time in a while, he may feel that he has something to prove to himself.

Rickie Fowler, Branden Grace, Shane Lowry and the rarely mentioned around here, Brooks Koepka, will have something to say but the battle between Day, McIlroy and Spieth will be the story of 2016.

In other news, Golfing Tiger is dead. Long live Golfing Tiger.

Tiger Woods

2016 may see the retirement of probably the greatest, and definitely the most influential golfer of all time, Tiger Woods. Vintage era Tiger was simply untouchable. (Photo By Jamie Squire/Getty Images for Golfweek)

  1. Conor McGregor continues to dominate U.F.C.

Anyone who has visited these parts before will know how we feel about Conor McGregor. However, to ignore his spectacular 2015, which culminated with the outrageous 13-second knockout of U.F.C. legend, Jose Aldo would be plain ignorant.

Thus far, he has does everything he has promised inside the octagon, and is the unquestioned king of the U.F.C. featherweight division. The jump to lightweight looks likely as he has acknowledged the difficulty of making 145lb as a relatively big featherweight at 5ft 9″.

Aldo McGregor

Conor McGregor delivered on his promise to dominate the UFC featherweight division, culminating in his 13 second K.O. of Jose Aldo. Now, in 2016, it’s up to the lightweight division. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Nonetheless, while U.F.C. fans and Dana White bow down to kiss McGregor’s feet, it will be interesting to see whether ‘the Notorious’ will have to join the queue before getting a shot at the lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos.

To McGregor’s credit, he lives and may someday die by the sword and, for this reason, all eyes will be on John Kavanagh’s star turn in 2016.

Boxing, Uncategorized

Boxing remains its own worst enemy

And so, we’ve made it to the end of the year. A year where boxing shamed itself by letting that thug, Mayweather dominate, while the man who has the potential to introduce those hair on the back of your neck moments to a new generation of sports fans, Gennady Golovkin -GGG- has been forced to endure the bullshit politicking of Golden Boy Promotions, amongst others.

Of course, it’s also been a year where Tyson Fury pissed of many a person while deposing the classy, though boring-as-hell Wladimir Klitschko. Meanwhile Andy Lee, our favourite Irish sportsperson, rather devastatingly dropped his WBO middleweight title, somewhat controversially, on his first defence to the talented Billy Joe Saunders. If Lee does not get a rematch, then boxing is no more credible than WWE. This article from Boxing News will explain the current nonsensical nature of boxing for you perfectly. It is almost unconscionable, in a sport built on almost reckless courage, that men are sidestepping Golovkin. All this, while the man who actually wants to fight him has been treated awfully.


Andy Lee is the only middleweight willing to go toe-to-toe with Gennady Golovkin. (Picture courtesy of RingTV)

The Marvin Hagler Tommy Hearns classic of 1985 was celebrated earlier this year but if you’ve never seen ‘The War’ and you want to see why the 80s were truly the heyday of boxing, then please indulge us. That fight, and the era of the Four King – Hagler, Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard –  perfectly encapsulate the raw combination of savagery and beauty that only boxing can offer.

The phenomenal success of Conor McGregor this year should finally force boxing into accepting that UFC is not only a threat but also a genuine alternative for fans who are sick of watching overblown build ups to non-events. The 36 minutes of shit between two over-the-hill fighters in Pacquaio and Mayweather was an affront to the regular sagas of days gone by. We’re not champions of UFC and we’ll take boxing every day of the week but to Dana White’s credit he would have made Mayweather Pacquiao happen years ago.

Sorry to harp on about this but we can’t stress enough just how debilitating to boxing the treatment of GGG has been. This man is an incredibly gifted puncher -he was the highest knockout percentage in middleweight boxing history – learning his trade on the streets of the Kazakh, port town of Karaganda. Golovkin is almost an adopted son of Mexican fight fans, who have always loved the fact that their fighters come ready to bang, not to play some depressingly frustrating game of chess.

His critics, and to be fair there are very few at this stage, say that better opponents will take advantage of Golovkin’s overly aggressive style -despite the fact he’s never been knocked –  but sadly Oscar De La Hoya won’t let us see if Canelo Alvarez can actually pose these problems. More frustratingly, Billy Joe Saunders, for all his talk won’t go toe-to-toe with Golovkin either.

Andy Lee is a boxer in the truest sense of the word. He has thread a path which may not have lead him to the financial rewards he deserves but he is the only man in world boxing who actively sought a contest with GGG this year. Hand on heart, we think the Kazakh would stop Lee but, it would proffer a rare glimpse into why the middleweight division was not only the most watched boxing division in the 80s but arguably the most popular of all sports.

If Frank Warren, the wily mainstay of boxing promotion, can’t facilitate the Lee-Saunders rematch in either the Point or Thomond Park, then boxing should hang its head in shame. Like Gotham City or electronic music in its current form, boxing has been denigrated and lost its true identity.


GGG: the man who could capture the public’s attention. (Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)

Men like Andy Lee, up and coming British heavyweight, Anthony Joshua and the criminally underrated -to non-fight fans- Gennady Golovkin are what boxing is all about. Like the sadly departed Arturo Gatti and the abovementioned Four Kings these men just want to fight and put on a show for the fans. We’re not saying all boxers should be prizefighters, for in contrast there is beauty. And, indeed, Leonard’s career probably germinated the frustratingly brilliant tactics of Floyd Mayweather.

However, if Warren, De La Hoya, Eddie Hearns and the self-serving sycophants of boxing’s four -yes four! – main regulatory bodies want boxing to stay relevant to the wider sporting public, they need to step their game up in 2016 and give the people what they want.

Boxing, Uncategorized

Send your Fury elsewhere

RTE nailed it. Back in 1985, the national broadcaster devised an annual sports award, the RTE Sports Person of the Year Award to recognise the achievements of Ireland’s greatest sports person in any given year. In a moment of inspiration, somebody in the creative department decided to forego the moniker of Sports Personality of the Year.

If only the BBC had done the same. Then, perhaps they would have avoided the shit storm surrounding the nomination of the societal pillar, Tyson Fury, for 2015 Sports Personality of the Year.

Now, to be clear, Fury’s comments to the Mail on Sunday in November – wherein he bizarrely and misguidedly bracketed homosexuality and paedophilia together –  were incredibly insulting and derogatory. He coupled these views with his pointedly misogynistic views about heptathlete Jessica Ennis, and, all women.

However, the problem here is that the SPOTY awards are intended to recognise the sporting achievements of any British man or woman in a given calendar year. The awards do not specify in their selection criteria, award-winning humanitarian or crusader for social justice.

Take the time to look through past winners and you’ll see some extremely talented sports people with highly questionable characters.  Not naming names here but you have a philanderer here, a misogynist there and maybe a drug cheat in the middle, just for good measure.

There is clearly excessive focus on the ‘Personality’ aspect of the award. Even on a practical level, how could you give such an award to Andy Murray.  Obviously, the Scotsman is a phenomenal tennis player but he’s not exactly a guy who’d light the room up when he walks in. This award, despite its title, is intended to honour the greatest British sporting success of the past year. Not their personality.

Occasionally the winner happens to be very personable and charming, like Jessica-Ennis Hill or David Beckham. Or, it’s been the archetypal larger-than-life character, like Sir Ian Botham or Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. Or sometimes, just to ratchet up the ire, the winner can even be Irish, like Barry McGuigan.

There have been some winners of the award who’ve managed to marry their incredible sporting success with their amazing personalities. However, in the truest sense of the word ‘personality’ is largely superfluous in the context of the award. For god’s sake, Nick Faldo! And, a fucking super injunction for the most Teflon coated man in the world.




Nick Faldo, good guy.


Tyson Fury has rightly been censured for his homophobic remarks but to counter-balance the brouhaha, one should consider the context in which the comments were made. As anyone who watches sport and actually admires Tyson Fury’s sporting achievements will know, the Mancunian has a proud heritage. Both his parents were born in Ireland and his family is steeped in the traditions of the Travelling community.

Fury himself has said that his was a strict Catholic upbringing, which appears to have been based largely on the fire and brimstone of the Old Testament.  Now, as a caveat, please note that this is not nor will it ever be a forum for spouting religious views. If you have faith in a dancing snowman who rides around on a unicorn and this belief makes you a kinder, better person, then go for it. Similarly, Allah. Or God. Or Gautama Buddha.

But, in any event, this is what a young Tyson Fury was taught. He did try and explain his comments to a certain extent, saying “that’s what the Bible taught me.” However, it’s dangerous to invest too much faith in any one book or as with mass media, to believe everything you read.

Separately, Fury’s comments about Ennis-Hill were misogynistic but as Malachy Clerkin pointed out in an excellent article in this week’s Irish Times, sport is fraught with underlying misogyny. A lot of people are, by and large, full of sanctimonious, self-serving shit and will readily move from this week’s latest hot, social justice topic to the next. But, if women are largely ignored in sport, then as Mr Clerkin pointed out, a petition isn’t going to do much about it.

The gentleman from Manchester who reported Fury’s comments to the Manchester Metropolitan Police hit the nail on the head when he said that Fury is entitled to his comments, but, when they are vitriolic and ignorant, they should probably be kept himself. That, however, is a point to be made in relation to wider society in general.

Tyson Fury is a professional boxer, a profession where thoughtfulness and self-awareness are not exactly rife. He’s also a self-promoter who can’t keep his name out of the news.

To return to our original point, he recently became the eighth British Heavyweight World Champion of all time and that, in the singularity of sporting achievement, should be respected. He deposed one of the greatest and most achingly boring heavyweight champions of all time, Wladimir Klitschko. And, for the sentimentalists out there, remember that Muhammad Ali, as amazing a man as he is, made some reprehensible comments in his own time.

So, as some people remount their social media high-horse, remember that Tyson Fury is a professional boxer with misguided thoughts. And, when the ire recedes, remember that, in all likelihood, a racist asshole is about to win the Republican nomination for the American presidential race. Guide your anger where it actually matters.




Boxing has Nothing to Fear Except Boxing Itself

Last weekend’s ‘Fight of the Century, between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, was neither surprising, exhilarating nor exciting, surely prerequisites for such a bombastically titled contest. While most observers outside of HBO, Showtime, Sky -you get the picture- predicted a snorefest, fight fans couldn’t help but hang on to that tiny thread of hope that a thirty-eight-year-old, nineteen year pro and his thirty-six-year-old, sixty-four fight veteran opponent would defy the relentless dream-thwarter that is logic and put on the classic that boxing so dearly needed. Or that we the fans too obviously wanted.

And, perhaps that is where the problem lies. Trawl through the truly classic fights from any era; Hagler-Hearns, all three episodes of Ali-Frazier, Leonard-Duran parts one and two, and you will find that none of the fighters were near as advanced in either years or ring mileage than last weekend’s combatants.  The contest had an odd carnival-like build-up, made even more bizarre by television host Jimmy Kimmel accompanying Pacquiao for his ring entrance. Kimmel now has a wonderful anecdote for guests on his Tonight Show but what does this say about Pacquiao’s pre-fight frame of mind? Was he just happy to be part of this global circus, content to have headlined the M.G.M. Grand with Mayweather? This was sold as an era-defining fight yet failed miserably, by any measurable standard, to deliver.

By contrast, consider 1975’s epic ‘Thrilla in Manilla’, the concluding chapter of the bitter feud between Geroge Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Sitting in his corner at the end of Round 14 Frazier, face an abstract mess, begged with his trainer Eddie Futch to let him return for the final round. “I want him, boss,” begged Frazier. Futch replied, before throwing in the towel, “It’s all over. No one will forget what you did here today”. Forty years later the ‘Thrilla in Manilla” still resonates as one of the greatest occasions, not just in boxing, but in all sporting history.  We say with borderline certainty that virtually nobody will remember what Mayweather and Pacquiao did –or perhaps more pertinently didn’t do- by even this time next year. Mayweather slowly, methodically ground out a victory in the same manner to which he has become accustomed in the last five years, with Pacquiao appearing mildly discomfited by the outcome.

Still, the wheels of boxing commerce must grind onwards so the immediate thoughts for Al Haymon, Mayweather’s adviser and Top Rank Promotions for Pacquaio must surely have been, ‘just how can we fool a global audience into actually wanting to see this dross again? Why, let’s just blame this atrociously uninspiring and overhyped letdown on Manny’s injured shoulder.’ Dr. Neal Attrache, Pacquiao’s surgeon, has already indicated that surgery on the thirty-six-year old’s torn rotator cuff has gone splendidly. Pacquaio will need between nine and twelve months to heal. In the meantime, Mayweather will sleepwalk his way to another predictably dull points decision -perhaps over Britain’s Amir Khan- fulfilling his mutually beneficial contract with Showtime and hanging up his gloves. But just think for a moment – Mayweather will have packed it in on 49-0, agonisingly close to usurping Rocky Marciano’s age old record. Then, from the east comes a rejuvenated Manny Pacquiao hell-bent on avenging his 2015 loss –which will now be sold as courageous in light of his ‘devastating’ shoulder ailment- to his nemesis Mayweather. Meanwhile, Mayweather mutters something about being ‘too old for this shit’ –and nearing forty he’ll have a point- but nothing talks to ‘Money’ like money. Perhaps we’re taking two and two and running off the deep end with it but this theory is probably depressingly accurate.

In any event, what do we really expect from a rematch? Mayweather is not going to change from a tried and severely trying –at least for spectators- style while Pacquaio, whose superhero left arm is rapidly weakening is not going to morph into the fighter of old just because his right jab is back in town. The truth is, no one saw what they wanted in Las Vegas –which would be a first- insofar as we failed to get a toe-to-toe brawl. Boxing is raw, animalistic. There’s no denying the buzz in the air when a clean shot causes the legs to buckle or the head to snap back. It’s hard to recall more than a handful of telling shots landing in this welterweight contest. According to reports, the M.G.M. Grand don’t even want the rematch, citing as deterrents the logistic nightmare of staging the first fight and the fact that fans were completely underwhelmed by what they saw. Instead, they’ve set the date aside for an as yet unnamed concert. Which is akin to saying that you’re busy that day, but you just haven’t decided why yet.

If we have seen the last of Pacquiao then so be it. He has lit up boxing, fighting all-comers, thrilling a worldwide audience while providing a symbol of pride to his native Philippines. If Mayweather fights no more after September then it will be farewell to a superb technician, whose boxing legacy may well be tarnished by his crass, vile nature.

Boxing needs to leave its greats to go to pasture gracefully and move in a new direction now. The masses believe what they are told, but it seems crazy to focus on two fading lights when there is such a bright constellation of stars to choose from. The man who should be cast immediately into the spotlight is Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin, comfortably the most exciting man in boxing right now. The unbeaten, softly-spoken yet destructive prizefighter is on a streak of eighteen straight knockouts and has the highest knockout percentage of any middleweight in professional boxing history. Unfortunately, Golovkin has the entire division scattering for cover. Miguel Cotto, a former foe of Mayweather and Pacquiao stands between Golovkin and complete domination of the 154-pound division. But the Puerto Rican, who is the lineal champion –best let you figure this one out yourself- is steadfastly ignoring GGG and this is in itself is the problem with professional boxing today. The best fighters should face each other in their prime and fiscal considerations should not be allowed derail these potential classics.

Mayweather versus Pacquiao would have been a legitimate ‘superfight’ in 2010 but for well-documented reasons the bout was constantly delayed and when eventually consumed by the public completely past its sell-by-date. Gennady Golovkin –an absolute superstar in any other era- will, at thirty-three, probably be denied the chance to display his phenomenal skill-set to the larger sporting audience. And, for a sport which is meant to thrive on the conflict of its finest combatants, this is both nonsensical and unforgivable.