Finally, boxing shows how shameful it has become
00:06 GMT, 13 May 2012
00:08 GMT, 13 May 2012
Once upon a time, a sports writer interrupted the American boxing promoter Bob Arum when he was in full flow. ‘That’s what you’re telling us now, Bob’, he said. ‘But yesterday you said something quite different.’ Arum smiled, indulgently. ‘Yesterday, I was lying,’ he explained. They say that Arum himself now tells that tale with a theatrical chuckle, as if it were evidence of his lively sense of self-awareness.
Boxing has always been like that. People don’t really lie, they just do what they need to do to get through the day. Tomorrow, those needs may be different, so their story changes. Everybody understands, it’s the way their world works. Take, for instance, Frank Warren’s initial reaction to the squalid brawl in Munich involving Dereck Chisora and David Haye. He was asked if he would promote any potential bout between the two men. ‘I don’t feel I could do that,’ he said. ‘What happened … was barbaric and shouldn’t be allowed to happen.’
Three months later, and the promoter in all but name, he was trumpeting the prospect of a marginally more legitimate collision between the two barbarians: ‘I believe it will be a sell-out, a huge event,’ he said. ‘It is the biggest fight of the year.’
Preposterous spectacle: David Haye and Dereck Chisora announce their dust up at Upton Park
Warren’s own ‘official’ website makes a stirring case: ‘Clearly there is no love lost between the principals after “The Hayemaker” clubbed “Del Boy” with his bare fists at their infamous press conference dust-up … They are now accorded an opportunity to settle their score and, hopefully, showcase all that is great and noble about our sport, in an old fashioned dust-up with the mitts on.’
Risible claptrap, you may think. Tawdry opportunism cloaked in saccharine cliche. A couple of undisciplined thugs are not really profiting from their notoriety. No, they are being given their chance of redemption through ‘an old-fashioned dust-up’. It’s essentially an exercise in altruism.
Of course, we know it’s no such thing. For the old ways are dead. Over the past 20 years or so, boxing has become aware that it has no future as a serious sport. With one or two exceptions — a Mayweather here, a Pacquiao there — the well has run dry. And so, in the absence of genuine talent, it opts for a freak show. There are people out there — gormless, gullible and vaguely sadistic — who would pay good money to watch a witch burn or a bear baited. Why not treat them to a Saturday night score-settling scuffle between a couple of cobblestone brawlers The Sun can sponsor it and, if they’re asked nicely, then the porn barons who own West Ham will let it go on at Upton Park. Everybody earns.
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True, there are a few carping critics who
find the prospect grotesque and indefensible; lacking the subtlety of
pantomime or the sophistication of mud-wrestling. But their objections
go unheeded, as Haye promises to inflict a ‘slow, concussive beating’
upon the man who once promised variously to ‘shoot’ and ‘physically
the exercise has acquired curious overtones of high camp. The press
conference gave us a seven-foot fence to keep the monsters apart and a
brooding chorus line of dark-clad bouncers, hired to ooze muscle and
menace. But the real naffness will be reserved for the big night when
the beautiful people will come out to preen. I’m imagining a ringside
adorned with thespians from The Only Way Is Essex,
a perma-tanned posse of football agents, a pulchritude of Page Three
stunners, and does anyone know what Jim Davidson’s up to these days
All, we may be sure, in the best possible taste.
poor old British Boxing Board of Control have, quite properly,
threatened to ban any of their licence-holders involved in the
proceedings. This may make it difficult to find a referee. I understand
that Jeremy Kyle has made himself available. Yet, as things stand, it
goes ahead. History is hilariously rewritten. Why, Haye’s manager Adam
Booth, a man of unbounded comic potential, has been criticising coverage
of the Munich fracas: ‘The way it was handled by the press was quite
Comical: Frank Warren (left) and Adam Booth share a moment at the Boleyn Ground
objections have been made on grounds of possible breaches of public
order. Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport, was apparently quite
shocked by the initial brawl. He described it as ‘a disgrace …
completely unacceptable,’ and added: ‘If there is any suggestion that
this is a commercial ploy to push up ratings and interest in a
subsequent fight, it only strengthens the argument for the BBBC to take
robust action’. Last week, Robertson was silent.
so, as the world arrives in London to celebrate the Olympic summer, it
will find David Haye and Dereck Chisora ‘showcasing all that is great
and noble about our sport’. Revulsion seems the only appropriate
Fergie still game for the fight
The old champion is trapped on the ropes, soaking up the punishment and fearing the final bell. His cause may be hopeless but still he finds the nerve to fling desperate blows. And so, on the eve of the final game of a frustrating season, Sir Alex Ferguson seeks to sow a few doubts.
‘City have got to win [at home to QPR] but it’s an enormous challenge for them because the disappointment of losing the game would be unbelievable. It’s untold at this moment in time what effect it could have on them,’ he says. Then, aware he could do better than that, he adds: ‘A nervous situation could arise if, with 10 or 15 minutes to go, City aren’t winning. The crowd could get a bit uneasy.’
A fight to the death: Sir Alex Ferguson will ensure City are not handed the title
Whatever your views about Ferguson, and he is not a man who attracts unconditional affection, you could never doubt his appetite for the battle. It is that implacable spirit which has sustained him through his turbulent career.
Manchester United may well lose their title today. But be sure that the old champ will go down fighting.
No prizes for guessing the real Premier winners
Heady mix: Richard Scudamore
English football was invented in 1992. There were a few matches before then but they were monochrome affairs contested by paupers on muddy pitches. Then along came the Premier League and out came the sun.
It is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a series of awards. By the happiest coincidence, 2011-12 has been voted the best season ever. Why, the chief executive Richard Scudamore described it as ‘a wonderful cocktail’.
Most awards were conventional but the one which caught the eye is that for Best Goal Celebration.
This is the process by which professional footballers spend hours on the training field practising routines which would look gauche at a primary school disco. Nothing could be more Premier League. Yet surely there are alternatives Why not some recognition for the Richest Agent or the Dodgiest Transfer Deal (perhaps a joint award) Or the Owner with the Worst Human Rights Record (casting vote to Amnesty International) Or even the Owner with the Most Mysterious Fortune (former Portsmouth officials need not apply)
These prizes would reflect the complex nature of a beloved institution.
I must suggest them to Scudamore next time we meet for cocktails.
While Kenny Dalglish concludes a series of graceless press conferences with an insipid defence of his season’s stewardship, Liverpool part company with Ian Cotton, their head of communications.
I am reminded of an old BBC axiom: ‘This is a crisis! Deputy heads must roll!’