Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Boxer

I was about to have an early night last night, then I came across Gravity Golf and ended up having a late night, don't say I didn't warn you.

Does the world need me to weigh in with my opinion on the sheer effrontery of the Saudis? No, it doesn't, not when we have Robert Fisk, who does righteous indignation> better than anyone this side of John Pilger:
The sad, awful truth is that we fete these people, we fawn on them, we supply them with fighter jets, whisky and whores.

Talking of righteous indignation, Seville are hugely and impressively pissed off with Tottenham:
"I can assure you that we at Sevilla will pour all of our energy and all of our force into making sure that Tottenham pay the consequences of this situation, a situation that they have illegitimately provoked," said Del Nido. "We will do everything in our power and use all the means at our disposal to make sure of that. Here in Spain, we're not used to treachery existing between clubs. Nowhere in European football has something like this happened before with the season under way. I will leave it for Spurs and their fans to take a look at themselves and define their behaviour."

Of Alves and Kanouté, Del Nido added: "I doubt very much that Tottenham have the money to buy them. Tottenham will get the response from Sevilla that they deserve. And that response will be to channel all our energy into getting what we deserve after they have behaved the way they have behaved."

The pay slip of a Liverpool player has been doing the e mail rounds, and he gets a lot. Who would have thought it? Does he deserve it? Probably not, but at least he's paying tax in this country rather than bogging off to Switzerland. At least I think he's paying tax, I didn't pay much attention to it, not being overly bothered. I only mention it to contrast it with a couple of genuine sporting heroes, who also earn bucketloads but who undoubtedly earn every penny.

Yes. I am going to go on about boxing again. No other sports compares for genuine sportsmanship, for dignity, humility, respect and reverence, and our brave Brits are the cream of the crop. I have said before that there is no sportsman on the earth like Ricky Hatton. He is soon to take on Floyd Mayweather, a bone fide genius of the fistic arts, but not in Hattons class when it comes to the common decencies. I fear for Hatton, I can't see him doing it at the weight, but his technical ability, his fearsome punching, and the sheer indominitability of his spirit might see him through it. In which case, he will be the sportsman of this and every other year, before or since.

We are lucky; as well as good boxers we have good boxing writers, the best of whom is Kevin Mitchell, who has written a beautiful piece on Hatton. If you didn't like him before, you will after reading this.

Before that though, Joe Calzaghe fights in Cardiff on Saturday night, in a fight he could well lose; the pair of them have fought something like 80 fights between them, both of them remaining undefeated. Someones heart is going to be broken in the early hours of a Cardiff Sunday. Calzaghe is probably the best fighter we have had for years, even better than Hatton, and while he is no shrinking violet, he is possessed of some humility and he always gives due respect to his opponents. It's going to be great night of boxing on Saturday and Calzaghes stablemate Maccarone is also fighting: believe me, Maccarone is one hell of a fighter, and, funnily enough, a likeable and humble guy.

Frank Keating has reminisced about great Welsh boxers. I met one of them, who rarely gets mentiond, but Keating gives him a namecheck. He was a former heavyweight champ of Great Britain who became punch drunk and ended his fighting days fighting in unlicenced bouts in the US. I met him through my work, when he was more or less gone, not really knowing if he was having a shit, shave or haircut. The size of his mitts were something to behold, but, even as I gave him news he did not want to hear, he treated me with respect and comported himself with great humour and dignity. Boxing had forsaken him, he was in a state. The fighters are heroic, the sport itself is not.

I have read god knows how many interviews with fighters over the years and over the last few weeks and they all say the same...............you cannot hide in the ring (Hatton has always given great quotes on this theme, but I can't remember any!) You can't pretend and you can't get away with talking about it, what I like about boxers is that they always know when they have been beaten fair and square and always give credit to the other bloke, unlike failed rugby players and cricket coaches, who can't rush into print soon enough to explain how their failings had nothing to do with them, it was always someone elses fault.
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