Sugar Ray Leonard v Dave Boy Green
Male Dominated Sport.
There are many sports that fascinate me. I’m glued like a rabbit in the headlights. I'm mesmerised by the bravery of such men. And I am talking only of men. A world of men. Perhaps the politically correct might say, male-dominated and intentionally chauvinistic. Perhaps this is true. This is not out of disrespect for ladies. It is because the sports I refer to are completely for the world of men.
The main one is boxing. I know ladies do box in certain categories, but it is of no interest to me. I know they play football. I like to see the ladies football sometimes but there is still not that zeal or buzz to grip me. I think formula one motor racing has the gritty edge of a dangerous sport. Still, not too many ladies grace this high level. Even though, I believe some woman might be able to compete alongside men in the motor racing sport.
For me, the ultimate admiration is reserved for boxers. When two men go out into that arena, it is something truly brave. Perhaps, a little crazy too. I could never do such a thing. Yet I’m compelled by the people who do. Good boxing never fails to fascinate me. I could pick out hundreds of names from the history of boxing. Many of us would know of them. Boxers that seemed invincible, are suddenly defeated in a blinding crescendo of punches and rounds of gruelling punishment.
The solitary bravery of these lone warriors never fails to amaze me. Even when some poor boxer is getting battered about the ring. When somehow the brave and outmatched adversary is still hanging in and taking the punishment. The big mouth pre-fight slanging match before the press and then the fighter enters the ring and is taken out with an embarrassing knockout in the first round. There are all types of defeats. And most boxers, no matter how good, will end their careers in defeat.
It is strange to say that I can never get things right with up and coming boxers. I see impressive men who have all the attributes. They dispatch a collection of adversaries with impressive fights. They seem unstoppable. Then they step up a notch against someone who looks less able than some of the boxer’s previous competitors. Surprise! The unimpressive looking challenger takes out the magnificent boxer I have been following for some time.
Prince Naseem Hamed vs Marco Antonio Barrera
This happened with Ricky Hatton. I thought he was so impressive. He won a string of victories in two weight categories. The man was dynamite in my opinion. Then he suffered a spectacular defeat against Floyd Mayweather Jr. It seemed to take a lot out Ricky Hatton and I don’t think he was the same after this.
There is also a flip side to that coin. Every time Joe Calzaghe got into the ring, I thought his luck was going to run out. It never did. He even ended his career undefeated because he had to retire due to his hands becoming brittle and broken. Some of the opponents that stepped into the ring with Joe Calzaghe were most impressive. He first shocked me when he beat the formidable champion, Chris Eubank. I thought Chris Eubank was good and he was not defeated easily by Joe Calzaghe. Yet the Welshman seemed to have this impressive speed dogging and quick sequences of punches. He was amazing. I thought it was a one-off. It was not. An intimidating assortment of fighters would come and be dispatched by Calzaghe. Every time he stepped into the ring I thought, “This is it! This time Joe is going to lose. One such opponent was Bryon Mitchell, an American who seemed to have the credentials. He was certainly bristling with confidence and could talk the talk. Well most of them can talk the talk. In the first round, Mitchell put Joe Calzaghe on his backside. The first time the Welshman had been put down in a big fight. He was up quickly and before the first round ended, Mitchell was put down too. I went from shock to awe as in the second round Calzaghe dispatched Mitchell with a technical knockout. The American seemed to have no answer to the barrage of blows that were hitting him.
I often remember Calzaghe’s opponents holding the gloves to their faces as the quick punches kept coming. No matter how formidable the opponents appeared, once they started protecting their faces, there were no punches back. If one did get slung, Calzaghe often was able to dodge the swing or ride the blow. He would always return a fast succession of blows. The boxer was amazing.
Joe Calzaghe was Undefeated.
Of course one could add other great boxers. Everyone on the planet will know of Muhammad Ali. The man always told us he was ‘The Greatest’ and I for one, would not argue. His career did eventually end in defeat. However, he did come back from defeats to reclaim his title on several occasions. The boxer was a phenomenon in the world of heavyweights. He was put on his backside a few times, but when he got back up, he was usually revitalised. I remember a fight with Chuck Wepner in 1975. It seemed like a mismatch. Perhaps it was. Wepner was a boxer that appeared to take a lot of punishment yet kept coming back for more. Ali was toying with the brave opponent who would not go down or give up. Despite the arduous punishment he was taking, Wepner was tough. He had a face that looked like it had been put through a meat grinder and had come out the other side battered and hacked, yet still, it was there. He got to round 9 when he went out to face Ali again.
It is important to say, that Ali was so good that even if someone scored a punch against the man, it was something to gas about. It would be so for Wepner. A grand moment was all that most of Ali’s opponents could hope for. But such moments against ‘The Greatest’ could earn you a place in the history books and the hall of fame. One’s small moment of glory. A moment that echoes in eternity. Especially if captured on TV.
Wepner’s grand moment came and it made the fight a little bit special. He caught Ali with a body blow and floored heavyweight champion. It caused an uproar. For a moment the unknown Wepner was higher than the stars. Just for a fleeting moment! A moment for Wepner who would be able to live off of the fame for the rest of his life. To put ‘The Greatest’ on the canvas was a feat. The Great Ali then got up. Revitalised from the shock and a look that suggested he was put out by Wepner’s audacious affront.
The brave Chuck Wepner had to pay a further price for his hard-earned aurora of nobility. But he must still know to this day, it was worth it. For a few moments, he was up there in the clouds and so was the excited audience. He wanted to dance in the bubble of adulation. For a while, he tried. The great Ali went on to win the fight convincingly though Wepner was only put down in the 15th round with 19 seconds to go.
The body blow that floored Ali, earned Wepner a wonderful celebrity. One little move, standing the punishment and going the distance was what he managed against Muhammad Ali. The Rocky movies were said to have come about from Chuck Wepner’s boxing match with ‘The Greatest.’ Perhaps they did. Wepner lost a fight but gained a page in boxing legend. You can become famous for losing in the ring. Fame is a double-edged sword. To be fair, Ali never really looked like losing the fight. But perhaps he realised Wepner may have been able to gain another opportunistic punch. He appeared to respect Wepner a little more and began to work on the man. The brutish Wepner went through that meat grinder again and came out the other side with honour intact and a little halo of endeavour. Ali was still ‘The Greatest.’ He always will be.
There are hundreds of moments that delight me about boxing. One splendid celebrity of the ring was a little-known lightweight called Usman Ahmed. This young man gained popularity for a dynamic loss in the ring. He had a splendid entrance whereby he did all these wonderful dancing moves towards the ring. The crowd cheering and the rap music playing. His entourage of trainers and promoters behind him. The wild crowd was lapping it all up. He went into the ring and fought well. He lost on points but put up a good show. This was a Commonwealth title fight.
Then sometime later, Usman Ahmed got into the ring with another opponent called Ashley Sexton. Uzzy Ahmed was knocked out cold in the first round. What followed was a YouTube video that went viral. It showed Uzzy’s grand dance moves from his Commonwealth title fight. This was the fight where he went the distance and lost on points. Then as he steps into the ring, the video edit is linked to the fight where he confronts Ashley Sexton. Therefore, we see a cocky young man doing all the moves and then – POW! Round one knockout. And I do mean a knockout!
Everyone wanted to see the cocky boxer get his just dues because he was being so arrogant. That is the trouble with an audience. We all like to see the banter, but we are all fickle. If you win, all well and good. If you lose, there is no mercy. You are thrown to the wolves. This is why I admire the guts of any man who steps into that ring. Uzzy had the guts to do it. He lost! He was humiliated further by a doctored video to heap further indignation upon his loss and wounded pride. But then something happened. When Uzzy went out and about in his local area, everyone knew him. His fame was established and his acceptance of such celebrity turned from ridicule to respect. He got lots of TV interviews and was able to tell his story and he did so with a great attitude. The young man instantly became a hit among his listeners and became famous for the laughable yet unfair video clip of his demise against Ashley Sexton. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Ashley, but Uzzy is more famous because of his glass jaw knockout. However, I’m sure Andy Sexton can live with his great boxing victory. I’m speaking from the entertainment point of view and the boxer who dares to step into the ring deserves respect. No matter how he approaches the contest.