I am a fine believer in romance. The first dance at a wedding, the kisses in the rain, the hand in hand stroll through Queens Boulevard. But inside, lurking in me is a cavernous roar, a burning desire for violence. Perhaps it’s the Essex boy in me, years of growing up in the badlands, drunks learing through the alleyways as the prostitutes give out handjobs to fill their pregnant bellies up with a little bit of crack to last them to the morning. Or maybe I’m just a sadistic bastard, either way sometimes I just want to see people get hurt.
Some people love boxing for the ‘sweet science’ aspect of it all, the cat and mouse games, the cagey affairs which are not too dissimilar to a game of Chess. On rare occasions I am one of them, the recent David Haye/Nikolai Valuev bout was an intense twelve rounds of boxing, as the 6,3 Haye stayed out of range from the seven-foot Russian beast. Haye bobbed and weaved that night, a broken hand in the second prohibiting an all out war, an injury that probably did him the world of good in the long run. A solid left in the twelfth, which made Valuev unsteady on his feet for the first time notwithstanding, Haye, an incredibly heavy hitter used all his nous to succeed. And succeed he did, taking home a segment of the World Heavyweight Championship.
Often though, I like the punches. Sounds simple, sounds almost gutteral, but the thwack of glove upon temple is a glorious sound. The crowds response, sometimes boisterous, often hushed adds to the occasion. On rare times, the intake of breath can be heard around the world. Take this video, featuring Paul Samuels and Cello Renda, two fairly mediocre boxers hitting each other at the same time, and both being knocked down. I thought that was the sort of thing you only saw in Rocky films.
On one hand, it’s an extremely funny video, as the sideshow Bob lookalike, and the guy who looks like a Greek waiter both fall to the ground with all the grace of John Leslie on cocaine, but there is also a ‘wow’ factor, as they both dust themselves up and continue with the battle.
Boxing does have its moments of comedy. Tyson Fury is a 6’7 21-year-old gypsy boy from Manchester. With the name of a superstar and the mouth that Max Clifford would be ashamed of, Fury has achieved some notoriety – and also popularity in his short time in the sport so far. Part of this is down to this video, which above all else proves that he can take a punch, even if it is is own…
Then there is heartbreak in boxing. From Gerald McClellan’s gruesome beating at the hands of Nigel Benn which resulted in McClennan being permanently blind and 80% deaf, to a similar fate befalling Michael Watson, a popular British boxer who was left brain-damaged by Chris Eubank, who incidentally was a man who did much to help boxings popularity, particularly in Britain during the late eighties and early nineties.
But there is one story which always leaves me cold, and always makes me question whether boxing is really the sport I should be dedicating my love for. Billy Collins Jr was an undefeated prospect who had risen from the gutter of life in nowhere America by boxing his way into a better life. Unfortunately, during a match with the grizzled journeyman Luis Resto on June 16th 1983, Collins Jr was battered and bruised over ten concussive rounds by Resto.
It was a shock to everyone, until it was revealed that the protective padding had been taken out of Resto’s gloves, allegedly by Resto’s garish trainer Panama Lewis. The removal of the padding meant that Resto was effectively hitting Collins Jr with fists, and the damage subsequently left him with a torn iris and permanently blurred vision. Below is a picture of Collins Jr after the bout, those of a sensitive disposition should close their eyes and scroll down as it is very haunting.
Resto and Lewis served two years in prison. Collins Jr suffered a lifetime of not being able to fight again, and so on March 6, 1984, aged just twenty-two he crashed his car and killed himself, leaving behind a tortured family, including his father who was the man who felt Resto’s gloves and realised the fatal crime.
So yes, moments like that affect my psyche and give me shivers that run long onto the night. But then I sit and think about some of the poetry I have seen in the boxing ring. Everyone knows the classics, the rumble in the jungle, Tyson/Holyfield, Gatti/Ward and Harrison/Williams 1. The people I love are the chancers, the mavericks, the ones who gave it a go against all adversity.
Take Michael Gomez. Never the best technically, but what desire, and what a heart. Putting aside all the controversy in his career, and putting aside his remarkable life (okay, I’ll mention that he was born into the back seat of a car after his dad had crashed the vehicle en route to the hospital. And that his mother left his family for another woman. And his stabbing. And the fact he goes by the moniker of ‘Gomez’ when he’s an Irish Manc.)
Other than that, like I say he was a gritty, resilient fighter who was responsible for two of the finest rounds in boxing, during his war with Alex Arthur in October 2003. Gomez, the underdog who had stepped into Arthur’s own backyard reigned victorious, knocking out his Scottish rival becoming the British champion in the process.
Gomez’s career floundered after that, bar knocking Amir Khan down briefly during their 2008 bout, and his last fight was against a cross dressing ex boxer, but he will be fondly remembered by those who love the underdog, and those with a bit of spark about them.
Boxing will never unify the people. For every million buys Haye will get on PPV, for the tens of millions who watched Cooper/Ali or Benn/Eubank there will as many, if not more decrying it as a savage sport. They’re wrong. What’s more disgusting, seeing two men face the toughest battle of all, the will to win in a boxing ring surrounded by thousands baying for blood, or the lazy cynics who cushion their meaningless lives trapped in the bubble of reality television and bottles of cheap wine. Knock outs might be crude, but they’re nowhere near as morally reprehensible at Katie Price’s tits.
So I love boxing, and will hopefully continue to in the years to come. That’s what I love, every year there is someone new to get excited about. Whether it’s Fury, or Groves, or Mitchell, or De Gale, or whether it’s me savouring the probable upcoming Mayweather/Pacquiao bout, all the excitement is a positive thing. I’m staying up till three to watch some Central American skinny bastard knock out a hick from Alabama, and I’m loving it. Buncey’s podcasts, the forums, the hype, the let downs, the shocks – all of it makes boxing so damn perfect, and so remarkable.
I’ll leave you with the man purported to be the greatest of them all, Muhammad Ali. In the video below he’s not boxing, but he’s talking. Talking to that British institution Michael Parkinson, about race, religion and creeds, for a primetime BBC audience. Look at the charisma he exudes, and tell me who else in the world of sport could have spoken so eloquently, so passionately, and let’s be honest – so fucking funnily as Ali did to Parky. They say don’t hate the player, hate the game. Don’t hate boxing because it’s apparently barbaric, hate yourself for not getting it.