Archive for January, 2012

By Martin ‘The Brain’ Potter of the Boxing Clever podcast

Over the past couple of years one British fighter – Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch – has stood out as he strived to test himself more than any other fighter from these shores. Forgot the hyperbole surrounding his flashier, more boastful and media aware colleagues, Amir Khan and David Haye; it’s the no-nonsense warrior from Nottingham who has trod the hardest path in boxing – you’ll find no broken toes or ‘hat men’ here! Bouts for Haye with the likes of Audley Harrison, or Khan with the likes of Paul McCloskey, pale in comparison alongside the unprecedented run of tough match-ups that Froch has faced against past, present and future world champions.

However, despite Carl’s monumental efforts since his title-winning slugfest with Jean Pascal in 2007, he is now 34, no longer a world champion and coming off the second defeat – and the first real decisive one – of his storied career. Talks with the undefeated IBF champion Lucian Bute have seemingly flat-lined as the Canadian based Romanian’s television paymasters insist he instead face Carl’s conqueror, Andre Ward. The prospect of a rematch with the aforementioned, sublimely gifted, American Super Six champion is highly unlikely for the foreseeable future, given the outcome of the first fight. Therefore the question that has to be asked is; where does Carl Froch go next?

Froch’s promoter, Matchroom’s new ‘face of boxing’ Eddie Hearn, has gone on record (well, Twitter…) to categorically state that Carl will not move up to light heavyweight and face Nathan Cleverly, one of Britain’s two reigning world champions (a title I use lightly given the fact that the Welshman won a vacant belt and has never actually fought a genuine world level fighter). Despite my reservations about Cleverly’s standing as a world champion, I do believe that he is a big talent, an exciting fighter to watch and in my opinion a bout against Froch would provide both fireworks and an indication of the respective levels of both men. It’s a fight I’d love to see and I am slightly puzzled by Hearn and Froch’s reluctance to take it.

The reasons behind my bemusement at Hearn’s fairly hard stance on Carl not moving up to fight Cleverly are numerous. Firstly the fight would make both men a lot of money and cause a massive amount of interest for British boxing. Secondly the fight would provide Froch with a great opportunity to become a two weight world champion (it’s certainly a winnable fight for him) and get one over on his nemesis Joe Calzaghe (Joe never actually won one of the ‘big four’ belts at light heavy, although he did annex the Ring belt). Thirdly, although Froch has never indicated a struggle to make super middleweight, he was previously keen to step up and face Calzaghe – I’m sure he’d even do so now if Joe would accommodate him – and has also talked about a Pascal rematch, so why not against Cleverly? Finally, with Bute and Ward both seemingly out of the picture, who else is there?

As Carl and Mr Hearn have insisted against him moving to light heavy and the top two fighters at super middle will most likely face each other, there are only a few options left open for Froch – at least for his next couple of bouts. Rematches with either Mikkel Kessler or Andre Dirrell are possibilities and a fight with Kessler would be sure to be entertaining, although the Dane is a little past his peak. A fight with Robert Stieglitz, the WBO champion who Kessler is soon to face, might be an option for later in the year if the German comes through – although I can’t see Carl volunteering to face a German champion in Germany, for reasons that I don’t need to spell out. Karoly Balzsay, another German based fighter, holds the ‘regular’ WBA belt – whatever that means – and doesn’t have a fight lined up, so maybe Froch could pick up another title there (although perhaps a slightly cheap one).

What is clear to me is that Carl Froch could still compete and beat most of the fighters left in the super middleweight division, even at the age of 34; what is equally clear is that if you remove Ward and Bute from the equation then there are not a great deal of exciting match ups to be made (the likes of DeGale and Groves are still too raw for an animal like Froch). At light heavyweight there are fights to be made; Cleverly, Hopkins, Dawson, Pascal, Cloud et al.

Throughout his career Carl Froch has continuously ‘stepped up’ to face the best fighters on the planet – a feat he must be admired for. Now I’d love to see him step up – this time in weight – and make the final flickering lights of his fabulous fighting career shine brighter than Eddie Hearn’s tan!

To hear more boxing opinion and poor attempts at humour from ‘The Brain’ listen to the 5 star rated Boxing Clever Podcast, available on iTunes or at http://www.boxingclever.libsyn.com/ .You can also follow me on Twitter @theboxingbrain and @boxingcleverpod or you can email me at boxingcleverpodcast@gmail.com.

The Madness Of Mick Hennessy

Posted: January 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

By George Ogier

Seventy Three seconds. The period of time that elapsed before the space shuttle Challenger exploded after launch. Season 12, Episode 1 of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is titled 73 Seconds. The same time frame can also be used to measure exactly how long it takes to terrify boxing promoter, Mick Hennessy.

Hennessy is the man behind British heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury’s bumpy rise to domestic fame. He will have been an interested observer of events in Liverpool on Saturday. David Price took a mere one minute and thirteen seconds to destroy John McDermott in an eliminator to see who will challenge for Fury’s crown. The result of that fight immediately had the boxing world buzzing with talk of a Tyson Fury v. David Price showdown. Unfortunately for Fury and Hennessy though, the general consensus seems to be that a fight between the two men heavily favours Price. If the fight does happen and David Price were to triumph over Tyson Fury, where would that leave Mick Hennessy?

Little over a year ago Hennessy Sports had a portfolio containing some of British boxing’s brightest talents. Hennessy had guided super middleweight star, Carl Froch into the inaugural Super Six World Boxing Classic. Indeed, Hennessy had an important role in getting the competition off the ground. Darren Barker had boxing fans and commentators alike purring over his undoubted ability as he claimed the European middleweight title. Barker wasn’t the only European Champion on Hennessy’s books either. The tough Mancunian, John Murray also won the European crown under Mick’s promotional banner. Even recently dethroned British welterweight champion Lee Purdy was once a Hennessy Sports fighter. Each of these boxers decided to move on and leave Hennessy Sports. There would to be a constant and common thread among Froch, Barker and Murray though. It seems as though they jumped ship in order to get bigger fights.

One of the biggest criticisms levelled at Mick Hennessy was his handling of Carl Froch’s career. For a time Froch had one of the longest unbeaten stretches in British boxing. He was a world champion and had been in some fantastic fights. The biggest problem was that few people outside boxing knew about Froch, he had no discernible public profile. This became a huge issue when Hennessy  failed to strike a TV deal for Carl’s fight with Jermain Taylor. Froch can’t be blamed for wanting to finish his career with big money fights on a reputable TV channel. This must have formed a large part of his reasoning when jumping ship to join Eddie Hearn at Matchroom Sports.

It was a similar story for Darren Barker and John Murray. Both men were successful at European level but were plagued by long stretches of inactivity for various reasons. Since moving on to their new promoters, Barker to Matchroom and Murray to Frank Warren Promotions, both men have fought for world titles. There would appear to be a pattern forming in that fighters under Mick Hennessy’s guidance don’t have a particularly strong profile beyond domestic boxing.

Despite losing three of the biggest names in British boxing to rival promoters is it all bad news for Hennessy Sports? The simple answer would probably be no, but scratch under the surface a little and what does Mick really have to offer these days. Sheffield featherweight prospect Kid Galahad is  a Hennessy fighter and coming along nicely. Mick also pulled off a huge coup in signing Chris Eubank Jr to a long promotional deal. Much had been made of Eubank Jr’s switch to the professional ranks. For him to sign with Hennessy Sports could be fantastic for both parties. This is down to a combination of the boxer’s family name, Eubank Jr’s reported boxing ability and Hennessy’s deal to show live boxing on Channel 5.

Mick Hennessy’s agreement with Channel 5 is possibly the jewel in the Hennessy Sports crown. It means that Mick is the only major promoter in the UK with fights on terrestrial television. At a time when boxing fans are starting to grow restless about the amount of money they pay to watch boxing on TV it showed great commercial sense.

The arrangement with Channel 5 is centred on the career of Hennessy’s most well-known fighter, Tyson Fury. This could be the crux of any future problems for Hennessy Sport. Kid Galahad and Chris Eubank Jr are unproven prospects but Tyson Fury is the British champion. Unfortunately Mick sometimes gives the impression that he’s clinging to Fury like a drowning man with a lifebelt.

Tyson Fury could be described as enigma. With his traveller background and fighting family name he was always going to stand out from the crowd. Fury has become a figure of fun for some despite remaining unbeaten and becoming the British title holder. A lot of the jokes made at Fury’s expense are as a result perceived weaknesses in his boxing skills. However, many of the jokes come from the fact that Mick Hennessy has made some ridiculously outlandish remarks in reference to his number one boxer.

Hyperbole is not a new thing amongst boxing promoters. It is the job of such people to make their fighter sound like an amalgamation of Muhammad Ali, The Incredible Hulk and Billy Whizz. When these statements stray into the frankly implausible though it can cause more damage than good. In the past Mick Hennessy has described Tyson Fury as both “the most exciting boxer in the world” and “the most talked about boxer in the world”. The first claim borders on daft but the second one is outright rubbish. Tyson Fury may be reasonably well-known but to claim that he is the most talked about boxer in the world just insults the intelligence of the fans.

Hennessy is no less delusional when it comes to the subject of Fury’s future. A year ago Mick claimed, with a straight face, given time Fury, “won’t just make up the numbers with the Klitschkos, he’ll beat the pair of them”. All of this talk just serves to make Hennessy look like he’s losing his marbles. The icing on this almost sad cake was Hennessy’s adrenaline-fuelled outburst after Fury had made heavy work of beating unheralded Canadian journeyman Neven Pajkic. We were told that we had just witnessed a Hagler versus Hearns battle for the heavyweight division! What we had in fact seen was two out of shape men swinging punches like it was closing time outside the local pub.

I am sure Mick Hennessy is probably a thoroughly decent man who is trying to earn a living form one of the hardest games around. Regrettably though he is currently exuding the air of a man whose empire is collapsing around his ears. Were Tyson Fury to take on David Price and lose his British title you would have to wonder if Hennessy has the stomach to go through it all one more time.

Once again I am very happy to be able to share with you a blog that Martin Potter from the Boxing Clever podcast has written exclusively for Write Cross. Martin will be writing regularly for WC in his ‘Thoughts From The Brain’ section and it is a real pleasure to have him on board. GO

By Martin ‘The Brain’ Potter of the Boxing Clever Podcast

It is said that the definition of madness is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If this is indeed the case then many would argue that Audley Harrison should grab a straitjacket and find the nearest padded cell, because once again he is aiming for boxing glory and asking the British public to join him for the ride. But is Audley deluded or can he really be relevant once again in a vibrant British heavyweight scene? Here I take a look at the journey that saw Audley go from celebrated Olympian to the much maligned ‘Fraudley’ and turned ‘A-Force’ into ‘A-Farce’.

The Acclaim

Harrison is a complex, intelligent character with legitimate boxing ability and not just the unrealistic dreamer that lots of fans and journalists, (myself included) have painted him to be. The achievement of winning an Olympic gold medal should never be underestimated and in many ways could be considered greater than winning a professional boxing world title. The Olympics happen every four years and can only have one champion. In professional boxing’s alphabet soup there are a minimum of four world titles per division (in the current heavyweight division there is a WBA ‘super’ champion and a WBA ‘regular’ champion as well as the WBC, IBF and WBO), with challengers given a shot every few months.

There are myriad reasons, in my view, as to why Harrison couldn’t convert the skill and dedication that drove him to Olympic success into a world belt in the pro ranks (sorry Audley, the WBF belt doesn’t count). Firstly is the basic fact that amateur boxing is a very different sport to that of its professional counterpart. Fencing-like jabs and cautious tactical games disappear with the head-guard and vest, replaced with body shots, haymakers, aggression and in many cases less skilled, but fiercely proud men who are willing to walk through shots that amateur fighters would not have to take. None the less, Audley took Olympic gold in the marquee super heavyweight division and turned professional in a blaze of glory. He told us that he would be world champion; we all believed him. He went 19-0 as a professional. What could go wrong?

The Ridicule

Britain as a nation loves to build towering heroes and then reduce them to rubble – a fate that lay in store for Harrison. Unfortunately he didn’t know it as he surfed a wave of public adulation and media acclaim, topped by securing an unprecedented ten fight, million pound BBC television deal to turn professional. Although this deal made Audley Harrison financially, it is my view that it was the start of his problems as a fighter and – on a much wider scale – effectively ended the involvement of the BBC in professional boxing. Audley, promoting himself, was able to pick his own opponents and because of the sum of money he had received, alongside the promises he made, the public wanted excitement, knockouts and titles, and wanted them fast. Harrison didn’t deliver.

Although Audley was on a winning run, the sharks in boxing and the media (and that is a lot of sharks!) started to circle, questioning the quality of opposition as well as Audley’s cautious style of fighting. As the criticism increased and Audley’s performances declined, the bolder Audley’s predictions got – this just intensified the criticism…

Then, in his 20th professional contest, the inevitable defeat happened in a truly awful bout as Audley stepped in against British rival and first real opponent of note, Danny Williams. Audley had stated that if he couldn’t beat Danny Williams then he had no business in boxing.  However, Harrison didn’t quit the game following his loss, he merely escaped the scorn poured on his efforts by relocating to America. Audley lost again and then beat a journeyman before returning to Britain for his first shot at redemption.

Redemption and further ridicule. Again. And again. And again.

In December 2006, a year removed from his first professional loss, Audley Harrison – still a figure of fun amongst British media and fight fans – finally showed the resolve and ability that won him Olympic gold by knocking out Danny Williams in the rematch. He was back. Maybe he could be a world champion. Maybe we were all wrong… Or maybe domestic stalwart Michael Sprott (29-10 at the time) would render him unconscious within three rounds!

Two low-key come back wins, followed by a defeat to tough but limited Irish slugger Martin Rogan, seemed to put a lid on Audley’s career. Yet, showing remarkable resilience and strength of character (or perhaps the previously mentioned madness), Harrison put it all on the line again in the Prizefighter tournament. He won three fights in one night to take the trophy. He was back again! And so were the proclamations of world supremacy. An unconvincing revenge win for the European belt against Michael Sprott followed, but despite criticising Audley’s performance – hey, the man makes himself easy to criticise – I have to acknowledge that he showed heart to get a last round knockout whilst injured.

The scene was now set for Audley Harrison’s night of destiny against former friend David Haye, and the master of delusion (that’s Harrison, not Haye by the way!) seemed to convince many experts who should know better that he could actually win the fight. Personally I wasn’t fooled (OK, so I put £1 on Audley by ko to cover the £40 I put on Haye to win in three…)

We all now know that the Haye – Harrison fight was an abomination and as he was booed from the ring, surely this time Audley was done. Or was he? Apparently not it seems, because Harrison is coming back again and this time it’s for real. Is it another exercise in self-delusion, or, to return to my original question, can he be ‘A-Force’ on the British scene?

Audley’s fight against Ali Adams should be a comfortable victory (Ali’s last five opponents have a 25-63-11 combined record) for perennial world champion in waiting Harrison. But what then? I honestly think that Audley Harrison could get a fight with Tyson Fury that would be a huge event on Channel 5 and a winnable bout for an in shape Audley. On the other hand, maybe Harrison – having sunk boxing on the BBC and brought down pay-per view on Sky – could complete the treble and bring Channel 5 to its knees… Maybe then the mad, bad legacy of Audley Harrison will be complete! Come on Audley!

To hear more boxing opinion and poor attempts at humour from ‘The Brain’ listen to the 5 star rated Boxing Clever Podcast, available on iTunes or at http://www.boxingclever.libsyn.com/. You can also follow me on Twitter @theboxingbrain and @boxingcleverpod or you can email me at boxingcleverpodcast@gmail.com.

A World Class Farce

Posted: January 19, 2012 in George Ogier

By George Ogier

A major international football championship will take place later this year. Unless you avoid sports altogether, (in which case this probably isn’t the blog for you) you will almost certainly be aware that this summer sees the UEFA European Football Championship arrive in Ukraine and Poland. The two countries will play host to some of the continent’s finest football teams, and England.

Despite continually being perceived as disasters on the big stage the English media will no doubt start to trot out the usual reasons as to why this is England’s year. The piles of evidence to the contrary will, for the most part, be ignored and the overstatement will begin. This certainly isn’t a new phenomenon but is it only football that suffers from the rose-tinted English effect?

British boxing has been through a purple patch in the last few years. David Haye was dominating the cruiserweight division and then making good headway after stepping up to heavyweight. Amir Khan was finally getting over the Breidis Prescott embarrassment and going a long to way to fulfilling a chunk of the talent we saw in his amateur days. Then there was Carl Froch. Froch had beaten everybody put in front of him before he embarked on an odyssey that Homer may well have baulked at. The Super Six World Boxing Classic pitted Froch against the best super middleweights in the world, and he beat most of them. In fact before the final Froch was only beaten by Mikkel Kessler in a tight decision.

2011 changed that. All three men lost their world titles and Ricky Burns vacated his super featherweight title to move up to lightweight. No more British world champions until, what’s that haring out of the Cefn Forest? It’s only Nathan Cleverly and his WBO light heavyweight title. We’re saved! British boxing is still on the world title map! Or is it?

Whilst listening to the latest ESPN Heavy Hitting boxing podcast I was intrigued to hear their wish list for 2012. ESPN’s Joe Tessitore and Max Boxing’s Steve Kim were discussing the fights that should happen this year and the fights that they would like to see. I was interested to find out how the guys rated Britain’s finest and what they thought our boys could look forward to in the next twelve months.

After paying brief lip service to the Klitschko brothers in the heavyweights and dismissing the cruiserweights as an almost made up division we moved on to the light heavies. I looked forward to seeing what Kim and Tessitore envisaged for Nathan Cleverly’s future. Not much is the simple answer, Cleverly didn’t even get a mention. The two men discussed the fall-out from Chad Dawson’s bout with Bernard Hopkins and where it left Tavoris Cloud. The fourth man mentioned on the show in the mix for light heavyweight honours was Ukraine’s Ismayl Sillakh. Sillakh is a boxer with 17 professional fights on his record but he has never fought for a title of note.

Ismayl Sillakh is now a resident of southern California and has appeared on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. We shouldn’t be surprised then that its main commentator, one Joe Tessitore, sees Sillakh as a prospect. Indeed, Sillakh showed great ability in beating the much-fancied Cuban Yordanis Despaigne last year. However, it must be rather galling for Nathan Cleverly to not even be name checked.

My initial incredulity at Cleverly’s omission on the ESPN show eventually gave way to an understanding. Whilst writing a recent blog I completely forgot that Cleverly was a legitimate world title holder. Cleverly won the belt in less than auspicious circumstances against a third choice opponent. As a result he hasn’t attracted the fanfare that some of his contemporaries have received in similar situations. A first defence of the title was a domestic tear up as Cleverly took on long-time verbal sparring partner, Tony Bellew. There is no doubting that this was a fantastic match but was Bellew at a point in his career where he genuinely deserved a world title shot? Unlikely.

An upcoming bout with the unheard of, never mind unheralded Tommy Karpency has only served to bolster the feelings that Cleverly isn’t a “real” world champion. This is a bout designed to raise Cleverly’s profile in the US. The Welshman’s promoter, Frank Warren assured us that Karpency was a serious challenger. Karpency, Warren stated, had taken former Cleverly victim, Karo Murat the distance. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the man’s abilities. Is it any wonder the rest of the world won’t take Cleverly seriously?

There seems to be a habit forming in the UK of promoters setting up all-British contests that make  financial sense rather than furthering a boxer’s career. Kell Brook’s upcoming fight with Matthew Hatton is a shining example of this. There can be no doubt that the fight will put thousands of bums on seats at the Sheffield Arena but what will it do for Brook’s career? Matthew Hatton is a durable European level fighter at best. If Brook’s promoter Eddie Hearn, and the boxing team at Sky Sports are to be believed then Kell is the real deal, already a world-class boxer. An interesting question is, how have the British media, in some quarters, come to the conclusion that Brook is world-class? Who has he beaten to prove this?

Recently I have heard claims that many British boxers are already at the “world” level of the sport. Kevin Mitchell, John Murray, again, Hatton and Brook. Even Ireland’s Paul McCloskey has been mentioned as a top-level fighter. What do these men have in common? They all fight on Sky Sports, the home of live hyperbole. All five boxers listed are incredibly talented individuals but none of them are at world level. Kevin Mitchell has shared the ring with one world star and was beaten easily. Mitchell may well blame training camp issues but the point stands, he wasn’t good enough. John Murray recently fought Brandon Rios in the US and was beaten badly. Matthew Hatton’s only outing for a world title saw him acclaimed on Sky for having avoided being knocked out, hardly stellar stuff. Kell Brook has yet to fight anyone of note and Paul McCloskey hid behind a poor stoppage to claim he would have kicked on and beaten Amir Khan when they met last year.

In my opinion there are perhaps three active “world class” fighters from the UK. Carl Froch proved during the Super Six contest that he belongs at boxing’s top table. Amir Khan, despite his recent tribulations still has much more to offer as a boxer and is technically very gifted. The third fighter that can claim to be among boxing’s elite is Ricky Burns. Burns may not have huge power but he keeps proving the doubters wrong and I think he can be a force in the lightweight division for a few years yet.

There are some very talented boxers produced in Britain and some of them will, I’m sure go on to fight for and win world titles. What we must be wary of is building fighters up to a point where they  begin to believe the hype before having a chance to prove it. Few people will be more pleased than me if Kell Brook wins a world championship. However, unlike the people at Matchroom and Sky Sports I’d quite like Brook to prove his ability before anointing him as boxing’s next big thing.

By Martin ‘The Brain’ Potter of the Boxing Clever Podcast

Henry Cooper, Frank Bruno, Lennox Lewis, David Haye; all former British heavyweight boxers and names that resonate with the British public on an equal footing with other great British sports stars from across the sporting spectrum.

With David Haye in semi-retirement, the search is well under way to find the next British heavyweight, who – like a fistic X-Factor winner – can break through into the mainstream and seep into the conscience of the great British public. Out of the current crop of hard-hitting hopefuls there are three names that stand out: Dereck ‘Del Boy’ Chisora, Tyson Fury and David Price. But which one – if any – will emerge as a world champion?

Both Chisora and Fury are huge characters who provide a seemingly endless stream of quality sound bites. Fury tends to vent his spleen in typical boxer fashion, insisting that he’s the best out there and will beat up all of his rivals, a feat he has achieved thus far in his 17-0 career. Chisora is less conventional with his trash talk, instead opting to use somewhat bizarre ‘homoerotic’ mind games – he once kissed an opponent full on the lips at a weigh-in, and at the pre-fight press conference for his European title tilt he told his opponent that he was going to ‘make love’ to him! The ‘big-mouth’ tactics have led to big media coverage for both men.

Whilst Chisora and Fury have gained a profile from their talking as well as their fighting ability, David Price has remained far more reserved, letting his somewhat eccentric manager / promoter Frank Maloney do the talking for him. As a fighter though, Price is more than a match for both ‘Del Boy’ and Fury, with a superior set of technical skills to both of his rivals. Tyson Fury, who stands 6 ft  9 inches, doesn’t use his size advantage particularly well; often pawing with his jab or throwing reckless haymakers. Price – a conqueror of Fury in the amateur ranks – is also huge, standing  6 ft 8 inches, but he deploys an accurate ramrod jab, complimented by a sledge-hammer straight right. Price uses the range well and thus far in his career he hasn’t been dragged into the kind of brawls that we have seen both Chisora and Fury in.

Although Price may hold the technical advantages (in my opinion), he hasn’t fought the same quality of opposition as his contemporaries or achieved what they have achieved. Chisora and Fury have both won the British title, with the latter taking the belt from the former in an absorbing contest last year, yet Price is still fighting the likes of domestic stalwart (and former Fury victim) ‘Big’ John McDermott. Chisora’s next bout is against WBC world champion Vitali Klitschko…

So it seems that Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury will remain the main men on the domestic heavyweight boxing scene in 2012, with ‘Del Boy’ looking to defeat the mighty Klitschko (and make it big in China?!) and with Fury surely looking for a shot at one of the brothers K towards the end of the year. However, as fun as both fighters are to watch, and as funny as they are to listen to, I don’t believe that either man has quite what it takes to become a world-class world champion. Chisora has ability but lacks athleticism and dedication, evidenced by his ‘preparation’ for the Fury fight; his training seemingly done in a doughnut factory. Fury has the size and seems to want it, but his constant trainer hopping has stalled his development and I simply don’t believe that he is as good as he thinks he is.

Although David Price may have to continue to relinquish the limelight to his more boastful boxing colleagues in 2012, by the time 2013 rolls around he could be the last British heavyweight hopeful standing. As a former three-time ABA champion, Commonwealth games champion and Olympic bronze medallist, the unbeaten David Price could be the world-class heavyweight talent we are looking for. His time may not be right now, but I believe that the Price will be right!

For more ill-informed boxing opinion and poor attempts at humour from ‘The Brain’, tune into the Boxing Clever podcast, available on iTunes or at www.boxingclever.libsyn.com. You can also contact me via email on boxingcleverpodcast@gmail.com or on twitter @theboxingbrain or @boxingcleverpod

By George Ogier

Not long after I started Write Cross, David Bevan of the brilliant The Seventy Two website got in touch and asked if I would like to work together on a boxing piece. David had recently found himself getting in to boxing. He had a few questions he thought others might also be interested in finding the answers to. Hopefully during the course of this interview I manage to shed some light on various issues while at the same time giving people an insight into my opinions on boxing. 

David Bevan: I had never really been that interested in boxing until David Haye’s fight with Nikolai Valuev. The sheer size of Valuev fascinated me and I was intrigued to see how such a gigantic man could possibly be knocked down by someone so much smaller. Was it a mismatch or did Valuev stand a chance of winning that fight?

Write Cross: I would imagine that the Haye v. Valuev fight was the first time a lot of people had taken much notice of professional boxing in the last few years. The lack of live boxing, or any boxing at all for that matter, on terrestrial television has meant that the sport has lost a lot of fans. What that fight did was propel it back in to the national consciousness because it had an angle almost beyond sport, a David and Goliath for the 21st century. History shows us that people are always drawn to the unusual and Valuev is certainly that.

The fight itself was not much of a surprise, either in the build up or the fight itself. Nikolai Valuev was the easiest route to a world title for David Haye who up until this point, despite making all the right noises, had not shown much of an appetite for a bout with either of the Ukrainian brothers. Haye was a much more technically proficient boxer than Valuev and despite the Russian’s size he didn’t throw particularly hurtful punches. Haye’s boasts about knocking Valuev out were made to sell the fight, they were never really part of the Londoner’s strategy. That said, the result was never a foregone conclusion. When there’s such a massive size difference anything is possible. Nikolai Valuev was almost 100lbs heavier than Haye at the weight in and he was almost 12 inches taller. It would have been like Haye fighting a bantamweight boxer. In those circumstances it is impossible to plan for every eventuality.

DB: What was the first fight that really gripped you? What was it that drew you in? Was it the build-up or simply the fight itself?

WC: The first fight I remember watching was Barry McGuigan v Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Rd in 1985. my Dad went to the fight and I was allowed to stay up and watch it. The first fight that truly gripped was Rocky Balboa v Ivan Drago. It may seem like a ridiculous claim to make but I know many people of my age or thereabouts got into boxing after watching the Rocky movies and I was no different. Watching the film now you realise it is just a huge piece of anti-Communist propaganda but at the time I watched it was plain old good versus evil and it got me hooked!

DB: The next fight I found myself drawn to was George Groves v James DeGale. I watched a few of the hype programmes on Sky before the fight and started to really want Groves to win. What are your opinions of the two and can DeGale recover from having lost that fight? Is Groves the better fighter?

WC; I am a huge James DeGale fan and I think he is massively talented. DeGale didn’t cover himself with glory in the run up to the Groves fight and I think his emotions got the better of him. It’s the same story in the fight itself. DeGale was relying on the red mist coming down on Groves and it never happened. DeGale has since captured the European crown and I think the sky is limit as far as his career is concerned. That said, I’m not entirely convinced that DeGale’s trainer, Jim McDonnell is the man to take James to the top. There was no plan B when the Groves fight didn’t pan out as expected and James is too talented to just rely on one strategy.

I think the trainer will also become an issue for George Groves in the future too. Adam Booth, (also David Haye’s trainer) appears to rely on a boxer’s natural ability and when a different approach is required there only seems to be one alternative, boxing off the back foot. Groves’ natural ability got him out of trouble against Kenny Anderson and the same ability took care of Paul Smith inside  two rounds. I wonder if Booth actually has any real tactical nous beyond the defensive style. Groves and DeGale are both incredibly gifted fighters but if I had to pick the better boxer I’d say DeGale’s technical ability would shade it.

DB: The third fight out of five that I’ve been interested in so far was Haye v Klitschko. This seemed a damp squib – is that a fair assessment? Do you think Haye will make a comeback and was he ever on a level footing with either of the Klitschko brothers or were they always in a different class?

WC: David Haye was, and in all probability still is, the third best heavyweight in the world. I think he massively underestimated the abilities of Wladimir and I don’t think he’ll be the last to fall foul of that either. There’s only one way Haye will come back and that is to fight either of the brothers. I think he would find it easier against the older Vitali but he’s not going to ever knock either of them out as he has claimed. Haye’s biggest problem now is that nobody takes him seriously after the broken toe excuses. It was ill-judged on Haye’s part and has damaged his reputation, and to a degree his legacy. I’m not sure I’d say that Wladimir and Vitali are in a different class to David Haye I just think they’re too big. Haye was an exceptional cruiserweight and the brothers are exceptional heavyweights. As the saying goes, a good big ‘un will generally beat a good little ‘un.

DB: I’ve not seen Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather fight yet – are these the two you would recommend seeing most of all? Is Mayweather better? Will they ever fight each other?

WC: Mayweather and Pacquiao are two of the outstanding talents of this, or any generation. Both will go down as all time greats but as far as watching great Manny performances live I think the boat might have sailed on that one. Pac Man fought twice in 2011 and whilst he won both fights he didn’t exactly look great doing it. I am of the opinion that his destruction of Oscar De La Hoya was the last great performance from the Filipino. The Mayweather fight should have happened after that but Floyd didn’t want it then, possibly due to a fear of losing. It is interesting now that Mayweather’s camp are the ones making a noise about the fight. Recent Pacquiao showings have probably tipped the scales in Floyd’s favour should they meet but Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum seems reluctant to get involved.

I would always recommend watching Floyd in the ring. He is the most talented boxer I’ve seen fight in my lifetime and his defensive skills mean that his career will probably last longer. I see so many boxers try to emulate Mayweather’s defensive style, James DeGale for one, but only one man does it so well.

DB: Next up for me was Amir Khan v Lamont Peterson – I kept thinking during this fight that I wouldn’t have been able to tell who the favourite was if I hadn’t known it was Khan. If anything, I’d have guessed it was Peterson. Was this just an off-night for Khan? Can he recover to prove himself or did this simply show he isn’t the real deal?

WC: Amir Khan overlooked Peterson and paid in spades. Lamont Peterson was a mandatory defence and Khan had been making noises that this would be his last bout at light welterweight before moving up to welterweight. I think Khan and his team just thought they needed to show up to get the win. Like David Haye before him Amir Khan has really let himself down with his behaviour over the result of the fight. I scored the fight whilst watching and without the two point deduction I had Khan wining by a point. This wasn’t the robbery that him and his team are claiming. It’s a real shame because Khan’s reputation was only just recovering from the PR battering it took when Amir left Sky for Primetime over a Pay-Per-View row, now he’s back to square one. Khan is a phenomenal technical boxer but since getting knocked out by Breidis Prescott he’s insisted on trying to show the world that he’s a tough guy. As a result he’s been drawn into needless wars against both Marcos Maidana and now Peterson. The reality is that Khan had the skills to beat both men comfortably and he got drawn into their fights. Khan could easily become a world champion again but it needs to be based on his boxing skills rather than his brawling ones.

DB: Most recently, I watched Carl Froch v Andre Ward. I will assume that Froch is on the way out now and focus my questions on Ward – to me, this was the most impressive display of all the fights I’ve listed – would you agree with that assessment? Can he be the new superstar of world boxing? Could Froch have done anything to stop him or is Ward just too good?

WC: Carl Froch is far from finished, he just lost to a better man and plenty will lose to Ward in the next few years. Carl will move on from this and in all likelihood, like Amir Khan, become a world champion again. As for Andre Ward I truly believe that he is something special, he has a real problem though. As talented as he is I don’t think Ward will ever be big box office. He’s not the sort of boxer that will be in wars and he’s not the sort of boxer that will knock an opponent cold with one shot. Ward really is one for the purists. His style is very similar to Mayweather’s and it took Mayweather years to be accepted by boxing fans. Even now people don’t like watching him fight because of the perceived lack of excitement. I like Andre Ward and think that he his outrageously gifted but time will tell if he goes on to be a true superstar of the sport.

DB: Lastly, what are your thoughts on boxing coverage in the media? What do you think of Steve Bunce and Kevin Mitchell in particular? Are there any other boxing writers in the press I should keep an eye out for. One of the best interviews I’ve ever read was Donald McRae’s interview with David Haye ahead of the Klitschko fight. It was brilliantly constructed and gave a real sense of the occasion ahead and what it meant for Haye’s career and legacy. Are there any others I should read?

I really enjoy the work of both Steve Bunce and Kevin Mitchell. Bunce has almost become a figurehead for the sport’s media and Mitchell, along with Donald McRae writes some of the most compelling boxing pieces available in the newspapers today. In general I think papers are slightly hamstrung when it comes to boxing coverage. There are many that would argue boxing has become a minority sport and as a result it is only the huge fights that get mainstream coverage these days. The silver lining of that particular cloud though is the fact that in Britain we have the two best boxing magazines in the world, Boxing News and Boxing Monthly. Both publications are superbly put together and very rarely do you find either pandering to boxer’s ego as you might find on certain TV shows. They aren’t affiliated to specific promoters and are as good a guide to the sport as you’ll find.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the sport then boxing is brilliantly covered by many great books. Personal favourites of mine include McIlvanney On Boxing, a collection of Hugh McIlvanney’s newspaper reports previewing and reviewing big fights over the years. I also love Four Kings by George Kimball. It records the battles between four of the greatest boxers of all time, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvellous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. There really is something for everyone as far as boxing coverage in the media goes and the more you get in to the sport the more you’ll discover things that you enjoy.

A huge thanks goes to David Bevan for his ideas and interest in getting this piece written. You can visit David’s site here and follow him on Twitter @the72football. You can also follow Write Cross, (@WriteCross) and me, George Ogier, (@george_ogier).

 

By George Ogier

At the beginning of December I had the fortunate opportunity to interview Alex Reid and Martin Potter, (better known as “The Brain”) the men behind the fantastic Boxing Clever podcast. I happily admit to being a huge fan and it was exciting for me to meet them both as I’ve listened to the podcast for almost a year. It is one of my favourite boxing shows out there at the moment. It goes to show that the British boxing media doesn’t have to start and stop with the likes of Adam Smith and Steve Bunce. Scratch the surface and there are some incredibly talented boxing fans writing and recording some of the most interesting content available.

Alex and Martin met at school and as they got older it became apparent that boxing was a passion  they shared. This didn’t extend to many more of their friends however. They would often find themselves left to their own devices at social gatherings arguing about the fight game for hours on end. Out of these debates the Boxing Clever podcast was born and it is going from strength to strength. A mixture of discussion, reports and reviews all generally done in good humour, (just don’t ask Martin about Tyson Fury). The podcast has an ever-growing army of listeners and 2012 could well be a massive year for Alex Reid and Martin “The Brain” Potter.

Write Cross: If pushed I would have to say that the Rocky films were my gateway into the sport but how did the two of you get bitten by the boxing bug?

Martin Potter: As a child I remember my Dad putting on the first Rocky film and I found it quite boring. A couple of years later we watched Rocky II and some real fights including Barry McGuigan versus Eusebio Pedroza. This was all a bit more interesting and at the time there were a lot more matches on terrestrial TV, although I was too young to watch the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns live. Then obviously Mike Tyson came along. For anyone in their early thirties Tyson is probably the boxing star they remember as a kid.

Alex Reid: My Dad wasn’t really into boxing, he was a big football fan and I am as well. It was the Benn/Eubank era that got me into boxing. ITV tried to compete with Match Of The Day when they started The Big Fight Live opposite MOTD. I always watched MOTD but I found myself flicking over to watch fights like Eubank against Ray Close. The Big Fight Live seemed to be Chris Eubank winning endless bad decisions against unlucky opponents. Just after I finished my A Levels I remember buying the book McIlvanney On Boxing. It is full of fantastic stories and live reports on people like Muhammad Ali and Roberto Duran. As a result I got into the history of the sport and I’ve been hooked ever since.

WC: How did the Boxing Clover podcast come to be?

AR: We started the show in 2010. I was freelancing for Sport Magazine at the time and I was listening to a lot of sports podcasts. I am a big fan of the Football Ramble but there wasn’t a boxing equivalent. As good as Steve Bunce’s show was it seemed like there was definitely a market for a fan’s boxing podcast. I mentioned it to Martin who just said “you always have these ideas but never do anything about it!”. I always openly admit that Boxing Clever did start out as a flagrant rip off of the Football Ramble.

MP: Every time we go out for a drink together there seems to be another idea from Reidy but none of them come to anything. We were at a friend’s birthday party in October 2009 and he asked me if I was wanted to do the show. I was happy to be involved but it was definitely Alex’s idea.

WC: The show seems to have grown organically. How many downloads were you getting at the start and how many do you get these day?

AR: Our marketing strategy has been non-existent and we got thirty or forty random downloads of our first show . Now before a big fight card we get a couple of thousand but generally between 1500 and 2000 downloads per week. The good thing is that it is always growing.

MP: What surprises me is when you see that people are going back and downloading the early shows.

AR. We get good feedback and it would be nice to reach a larger audience but we have been lazy about publicity. It is gratifying though. When we started I never thought that people would ever listen to me and Martin talk about boxing for an hour.

MP: None of our friends used to.

AR: Whether it’s one person or one thousand people it is, as I said, very gratifying.

MP: I’d agree with that. I was pleased when we first got one hundred listeners. Now we get compliments from people like [editor of Boxing Monthly] Glyn Leach about the show. To hear it from someone in the boxing journalism game is great, as is praise from the fans too. We must be doing something right.

WC: The Football Ramble and the Main Event Boxing Show started small and can now almost be considered as part of the mainstream. Is the show a vehicle to perhaps get yourselves in to the boxing media or would it just be a happy accident if you did?

MP: Reidy is lucky enough to already be in that industry interviewing the likes of Amir Khan and David Haye. I write about boxing too and I enjoy the show as we do it now but if we could make money from it, that would be great. I suppose it is a launchpad to get my name out there whereas I think Alex just enjoys the show for the sake of it.

AR: I do. If you’re listening to something that comes from the mainstream media there’s an inherent bias there, an angle which isn’t just independent opinion. One of the reasons I am such a big fan of the Football Ramble is that it’s four guys giving you exactly what they think, people find that refreshing. I don’t think the public trusts a lot of the media and they’re right not to. Whatever we say on Boxing Clever, whatever nonsense we get wrong is 100% our opinion. That’s what I like most about doing it.

WC: You seem to be making an impression upon many journalists. Who do you enjoy watching and listening to?

AR: Personally, I love Steve Bunce. He can survive by being a charismatic personality. You don’t always agree with everything he says but he’s so magnetic and that’s a healthy thing for boxing. I prefer him as a pundit to an expert analyser because he will give you his opinions straight down the middle. Barry McGuigan is the best pundit on TV by a mile, incredibly eloquent and intelligent. Boxing is lucky, it seems to attract great writers. The Guardian’s Kevin Mitchell is fantastic, as is Kieran Mulvaney from the ESPN podcast. We also have the two best boxing magazines in the world in Boxing News and Boxing Monthly.

MP: I like Bunce. Like Bunce, Glyn Leach is opinionated and he doesn’t toe the party line just to please certain boxers. After Martin Murray fought Felix Sturm, Leach sent Murray a tweet saying “great performance but I had Sturm up by two rounds”. That’s an honest opinion.

AR: After David Haye’s fight with Wladimir Klitschko there were a flood of messages to Haye from boxing journalists telling him what a great fight it had been and these went against the tide of general opinion. Haye is a huge meal ticket in British boxing and certain people were clearly thinking that if there is a rematch we want to stay on the right side of Haye.

MP: I enjoy McGuigan’s column in The Mirror. He’s a good analyst and he’s honest, even brutal at times. He’s not sucking up to a fighter because they’re British. I’d like to get more fighters on Boxing Clever and the legitimate argument that Alex has made is that we then compromise a bit of our objectivity. It’s harder to criticise someone when you’ve spoken to them and got on well.

WC: 2011 wasn’t a particularly stellar year for the “superfights” in boxing? Do you think the hype surrounding these events is bad for the sport?

AR: Yes, and I think there’s a problem with superstars being lauded and commanding too much respect. David Haye said recently that people in Germany would pay to watch one of the Klitschko brothers take a dump in the middle of the ring. It’s a crude analogy but he is right. People will watch Vitali and Wladimir, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight anyone and that’s killing boxing. Take Shane Mosley, he’s a big name in boxing and fans paid to watch him fight Pacquiao. Anyone in boxing with half a brain knows that’s not a competitive fight and yet it’s being labelled a “superfight”.

MP: Shouldn’t you therefore draw a distinction between super fights and big fights? Haye v Klitschko was a super fight because you had two world champions at their peak whereas Pacquiao v Mosley wasn’t. Boxing’s biggest problem is that the best don’t fight the best. If they did on a regular basis logic dictates that 50% percent of the fights would be good. If there’s only two massive fights a year and they don’t live up to the hype boxing looks bad.

AR: With all the alphabet titles in boxing we have reached a point where both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather can exist in the same weight division, call themselves world champion and people will still queue up to watch them. Take Sturm versus Murray and Sturm versus Matthew Macklin, that’s what boxing is all about. Incredibly well matched and exciting bouts.

WC: 2012 looks like it might be a big year in boxing. What are you both looking forward to the most?

MP: Obviously the Olympics stand out. Anthony Joshua and Thomas Stalker both have a great chance of coming home with gold medals. The rivalry between James DeGale and George Groves will continue to bubble too.

AR: I think there is a really good crop of British boxers at the moment. Groves, DeGale and Nathan Cleverly are getting to cusp now of being genuinely tested which will be interesting. Internationally, Mayweather, Pacquiao and Martinez are getting older and perhaps we’ll see these guys being phased out. It’s intriguing to see who’s coming through. It is going to be a transitional year for boxing.

MP: I’d really like to see Frankie Gavin overcome his issues and go on to win a world title. He’s a huge talent. He has the physical ability, whether or not he has the mental strength is a different matter.

WC: There have been unsubstantiated reports that Gavin suffers from depression. As we move in to an era when depression is more openly discussed do you think boxers are more susceptible to mental health problems?

AR: Boxing tests you like no other sport. There’s an obvious progression in football. You play with your friends and if you’re good you might go on from there. Boxing is different, most of us don’t fight as kids. As a result boxers can be quite different people with individual personalities, that’s why they’ve ended up in an individual sport. It makes boxers compelling characters to speak to and to read about. Kelly Pavlik has battled alcohol addiction and I think it’s impossible to battle the pressures of addiction with the pressures of being an elite boxer. It’s the same with depression I’d imagine.

MP: I’m not sure I’d agree that boxers are a special case. Boxing is a microcosm of society and society as a whole has a percentage of people suffering with mental illness. Therefore it follows that a certain percentage of boxers are going to suffer too. With a sport like boxing it is quite intense, if you’re already prone to depression it’s going to push you that little bit more.

A huge thanks goes to both Alex and Martin for giving up their Saturday afternoon, (and subsequent evening) to speak to me. Keep an eye out for a new Boxing Clever website in 2012. In the meantime you can download their shows here or on iTunes. You can also follow the guys on twitter: @boxingcleverpod, @otheralexreid and @theboxingbrain.