Archive for March, 2012

By George Ogier

Certain people may suggest otherwise but brutal knockouts are a boxing audience’s primary pay off. A huge percentage of fans watch the sport hoping to see one fighter triumph via the big finish.

YouTube is a perfect barometer of this inescapable fact. Mention Usman Ahmed to most people and they won’t have a clue who you’re talking about. Whilst perhaps not knowing his name, there is a reasonable chance that they will have seen Ahmed on YouTube. He became an Internet sensation after an elaborate ring entrance was followed up by Ahmed getting brutally knocked out in the first round.

In all probability, Zab Judah will end up an inductee of boxing’s hall of fame. Whilst Judah’s talent can never be in doubt the video of his crazy dance upon being knocked down by Kostya Tszyu will follow him to his grave. Almost two million people have watched the Judah clip and more than six million have watched the Usman Ahmed video. Proof that however it comes about, people love a knockout.

It would be a lie for me to claim to that I don’t enjoy seeing a boxer sent to the canvas on occasion. However, there have been some knockouts over the years that have made me uneasy to say the least. In recent times Manny Pacquiao’s abrupt disposal of Ricky Hatton silenced me. I was equally disturbed by David Haye’s remorseless destruction of Enzo Maccarinelli in 2008.

Many feel that Enzo never truly recovered from his defeat to Haye. Maccarinelli’s most recent outing on Saturday only added fuel to that fire.

Maccarinelli challenged Bulwell’s Shane McPhilbin for the British cruiserweight title in Wolverhampton on Saturday night. Enzo was knocked down twice on his way to a unanimous points decision win but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

Maccarinelli got a huge slice of luck when the first round was mysteriously cut short by 47 seconds. This after Enzo had been floored heavily by McPhilbin. The Welshman was down again in the third round but rallied throughout the rest of the bout to claim victory.

The fight is now under investigation by the British Boxing Board of Control as a result of the truncated first round. The likelihood is that the Board will call for a rematch and Maccarinelli himself has said he would welcome such a decision. Whilst a rematch would sell tickets and ignite the fans’ interest, is it in Enzo’s best interests to keep boxing?

In another time Enzo Maccarinelli would have been an unrivalled superstar of Welsh boxing. Unfortunately for the big Swansea man his career has straddled that of two separate world champions from the principality.

Maccarinelli’s initial ascent to the WBO cruiserweight title was forever in the shadow of gym mate, Joe Calzaghe. Enzo’s attempted rise to the top in the wake of his defeat to David Haye has also taken a back seat in the affections of Welsh boxing fans. In this instance it is the burgeoning career of Nathan Cleverly that has stolen Enzo’s limelight.

We have now reached a situation where it isn’t just other boxers that are clouding people’s memories of Maccarinelli. It is performances from the man himself too. Nonetheless, it should never have been allowed to reach this stage.

Enzo Maccarinelli

Enzo Maccarinelli is the one of the most popular men in British boxing. Genial, polite, thoughtful and gracious in victory as well as defeat. At a time when boxing has suffered from serious image problems there are worse people to hold up as a role model than Enzo.

Maccarinelli’s recent work on fledgling boxing channel BoxNation has shown that he could carve a decent post-fight career for himself in the media. In spite of this new avenue of employment we are still talking about a rematch with McPhilbin and worse still, a possible all Welsh showdown with Nathan Cleverly.

Maccarinelli has participated in ten fights since his contest with David Haye. In four of those bouts the Welshman has been hurt badly. Losses against Ola Afolabi, Denis Lebedev and Alexander Frenkel have all made for uncomfortable viewing.

In each of these contests Enzo had given a decent account of himself and then got caught with a huge shot. There’s no disgrace in getting clocked by the one you never see coming but worryingly it is becoming a habit for Maccarinelli. With all due respect to the fighters dishing the big hits out, the quality of opposition is dipping each time as well.

Enzo has never been particularly hard to hit. In his early career he was knocked out by Lee Swaby, a warning of future results, perhaps. When a boxer is that easy to catch with big shots then punch resistance is key. It would appear that Maccarinelli no longer has the necessary resilience to absorb such punishment.

I am a huge fan of Enzo Maccarinelli, the boxer, the commentator and the man. His raw honesty has endeared him to many people in and around the sport of boxing. One of life’s biggest challenges is to know when to quit. Telling another adult how to conduct his or her life is also a tough task to undertake.

I would hate to see Enzo pulled away from the sport he so clearly loves. At the same time, to suffer lasting damage as a result of fighting on for too long would be a tragedy. Maccarinelli claimed the British cruiserweight title on Saturday night. It was a belt that Enzo’s recently deceased father was desperate for his to win. Perhaps now would be a fitting juncture to call time on a career that has entertained so many.

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Brook v. Hatton: What Next?

Posted: March 19, 2012 in George Ogier

By George Ogier

 

Kell Brook is going to wake up bruised and battered on Sunday morning with egg on his face”

Matthew Hatton

Hatton & Brook

The only part of Kell Brook that would have been bruised and battered on Sunday morning are his hands. Brook dished out a systematic beating on Saturday night at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena. The recipient? Matthew Hatton.

Genuine Matthew Hatton supporters were thin on the ground ahead of Saturday’s sell-out clash. Even more rare were people who gave Hatton a realistic chance of beating one of British boxing’s golden boys, Kell Brook.

Brook’s promoter, Eddie Hearn said that he was scared ahead of the contest. Scared of what, I am not sure. Perhaps it was a fear of 10,000 angry fans bellowing their disappointment at another divisive Kell Brook performance. In the end it was a worry free evening on all counts.

The majority of onlookers had Brook winning every round and he bullied Hatton around the ring for the duration of the fight. As expected, the Manchester man proved an obdurate opponent but disappointingly Hatton seemed more concerned with survival than taking the fight to Sheffield’s Brook.

Hatton took the result with a not always customary good grace, “Kell broke my nose in the first round and I didn’t think things could get any worse. I was wrong about that”.

It was nice to see Matthew being so gracious about an opponent. Whilst it was hard for him to be anything other than magnanimous, Hatton has a history of making post-fight excuses. After this contest however there was no hiding from what had taken place in the ring.

“He [Brook] is like all good fighters. You watch them on tape and you think you can exploit their weaknesses. Getting in there and doing it is another thing. He has a fantastic jab. It felt like there was a magnet in his glove attached to my nose. He couldn’t miss”.

Hatton appeared keen to bring some levity to the post-fight press conference on arrival, “I’m not sitting next to him [Brook], I’ve seen enough of him”. The quip was met with smiles from both boxers and served to changed the topic of conversation. Up until that point, the conference been dominated by one name, Amir Khan.

Brook’s promoter Eddie Hearn described the first five or six rounds as “one of the most clinical boxing performances I’ve seen in a long time”. It did not take long however for Hearn to start fielding questions about a possible fight with Khan.

Asked how easy it would be to make the contest happen Hearn responded, “we’ve just sold 10,000 tickets. We’d sell 40,000 for a Khan fight. I love the pound note and so does Amir, I’d even throw in a lesson on promoting”.

Kell Brook but left no one in any doubt as to his thoughts on the result of that bout were it to happen, “of course I want Khan. He [Khan] said if he had to fight in Britain he’d fight Matthew as he thought Matthew was the better fighter. Now I’ve beaten Matthew he’s got nowhere else to go, I’m doing my own thing. If that fight happens, it happens. I’d smash him.”.

Should Hatton chase the Lonsdale belt?

It seems clear then that Kell Brook has concrete ideas about where his future lies. It all seemed a little cloudier however when Hatton was quizzed about his own prospects. Matthew was asked if he thought his future lay in challenging for the British title, “this is a setback. It is still my ambition to become a world champion. There’s still good fights out there for me. As far as I know I am still the mandatory challenger for the European title”.

Hatton may well believe that his talents deserve a bigger stage but fighting for the Lonsdale belt might not be such a bad idea. The Manchester man has lost his two defining fights quite comprehensively. If Hatton still has the heart to continue boxing then the British title could be an ideal way to start. It is a title he has not held before and would cement Hatton’s claim to be the second best welterweight in Britain, behind Brook.

For Kell Brook the picture is clear. It is now time to step up and challenge himself against some of the best 147lb fighters on the planet. Names like Devon Alexander and Marcos Maidana have been mentioned. Sadly though, so have names like Paulie Malignaggi and Shane Mosley.

Is Paulie Malignaggi next for Kell?

Brook would gain little by fighting either Mosley or Malignaggi and his promotional team must tread carefully. We hear so much now about Brook’s ability and his future greatness. To fight a faded “name” would bring more accusations of protection.

The insular nature of British boxing means that Brook’s boxing career has so far existed in a bubble. It is time for Eddie Hearn to burst that bubble and drive Kell Brook on to the next stage of a possibly glittering career.


By Martin ‘the Brain’ Potter of the One More Round podcast

Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua

With the London Olympics fast approaching and the Great Britain boxing squad looking possibly the strongest it’s ever been going into a major tournament, the expectation is that following the games a plethora of British boxing talent will explode onto the professional scene, bringing with it an avalanche of success. Whilst I do think the likes of Anthony Joshua, Tom Stalker and co have massive potential should they decide to punch for pay, the pitfalls of turning professional after a successful amateur career can not be ignored…

The highest profile casualty and most obvious example of an amateur medallist flat-lining in the professional ranks has to be the 2000 Olympic super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison. ‘A-Force’, as big Audley took to calling himself, was a marketing man’s dream after he struck gold in Sydney; huge, talented, smart, ambitious and full of (misguided) confidence. Audley told the world that he would turn his Olympic medal into a professional world title and the world believed him. The BBC – who has since cast professional boxing into the sporting wilderness – believed in Harrison so much that they handed him a one million pound ten fight deal and afforded him the luxury of choosing his own opponents. Big mistake.

After a series of terrible fights, in which Harrison refused (or was unable), to relinquish his jab and grab amateur style, old ‘Auntie’ Beeb jettisoned Audley, and seemingly boxing, for good. And Harrison, as we all know, never did win a genuine world belt, although if you measure success in cash earned then I concede that he did do rather well for himself. In Audley’s case it simply seemed to be a matter of styles. As an amateur fighting in three round contests with a headguard – where pitter-patter punches are valued over rugged aggression – Harrison was able to employ his long jab, hold up close and not worry about the rough stuff. After switching codes Audley soon found lesser skilled fighters could compete with him through sheer force of will and a desire to inflict pain. Audley didn’t like being punched in the face.

It is not only Audley Harrison who found the transition from the vest to the chest difficult. Of the Olympic class of 2008, which included such luminaries as James DeGale (gold), Frankie Gavin (pulled out, but 2007 amateur world champion) and David Price (bronze), none have so far fought at world level, with only DeGale getting up to British and European title standard. Of the three, Frankie Gavin’s development has been the most frustrating to watch. Perhaps the most gifted amateur fighter that Great Britain has ever produced, Gavin has spent more time and effort fighting his personal demons than opponents in the ring – I can only hope that he has now truly turned the corner and will fulfil his vast potential. As for DeGale, he now seems set for legal wrangling with current / former(?) promoter and manager Frank Warren which could potentially keep him out of the ring for a while, whilst Price is still at least a year away from world level (by his own admission).

So is the weight of expectation placed upon high-profile amateur fighters who turn pro too much? Has the Harrison effect ruined it for everyone?

Audley Harrison

My feeling is that to be a successful world champion in a sport as unforgiving as boxing you need to be extremely mentally tough. Therefore if you can’t handle the expectation then it unlikely that you would have the mental capacity to be a world champion anyway – Audley Harrison falls into this category. David Haye and Carl Froch both bagged amateur world championship medals and both went on to pick up titles as pros; both men are blessed with a mental toughness that matches their physical attributes. Haye is also rather handy with a tripod…

Perhaps it is unfair to ask if Harrison ruined things for future amateur medallists seeking to forge a career in the pro game as in many ways the BBC is just as culpable. Instead of accepting the fact that they made a mistake with the way in which they dealt with Audley and going back to the drawing board, the BBC instead cut all ties with professional boxing – in TV terms at least. Yet now, a decade later, ‘Auntie’ has the cheek to call up British boxing’s biggest players for a radio debate on ‘the future of boxing’. Unbelievable! If the BBC gave boxing a chance then I’m certain there would be even more amateur fighters gunning for London 2012, in the knowledge that professional super stardom, as opposed to pay-per-view obscurity, awaited them.

My conclusion is that amateur boxing is a good barometer of boxing ability but perhaps not so great a guide to a fighting heart. When you have genuine amateur pedigree and success and are also able to combine this with heart, mental fortitude and determination, the likelihood is that you will become a successful professional boxer. I sincerely hope that our 2012 representatives fall into this category and become more Amir than Audley. Good luck!

To hear more of my ill-informed views on a wide range of subjects from sport to Stallone you can tune into my new show, the One More Round podcast at www.onemoreround.libsyn.com or you can download back episodes of my old boxing show at www.boxingclever.libsyn.com or via iTunes (search Boxing Clever podcast). You can also contact me on Twitter @theboxingbrain or @onemoreroundpod or via email at onemoreroundpod@gmail.com.