Well hasn’t this been a good old while? I’ve been out of the country working for most of the Summer, so there has been precious little time for anything boxing related. In some ways, this has proved refreshing; not checking news sources for updates on a piece I’m writing, or avoiding Facebook so I don’t accidentally stumble upon the result of last night’s fight, which I generally miss because most of them are overseas, or hastily stitching an article together before the topic becomes stale. Now, though, I’m back in the country, and my head is back in the sport. So then: What’s happened since I’ve been away? Here’s what I missed…
Tyson Fury hasn’t won himself any new fans. Pulling out of his November rematch with Wladimir Klitschko twice, testing positive for cocaine, then retiring and making a comeback three hours later will do nothing to give his career the stability it desperately needs. Suffering from depression (from which I wish him a speedy recovery), coming under pressure from governing bodies and with his boxing license under threat, he is one man the Summer has not been kind to. It’s hard to see where he goes from here, but he won’t be going there fast and he won’t be going there soon.
Are there others waiting to pick the up the pieces? Klitschko, denied his opportunity to win 3 of his old belts back, is close to facing IBF champ Anthony Joshua, who possesses the fourth. In many ways, this could be more interesting than the Fury rematch; both fighters have huge power, and are in make-or-break situations; Klitschko is out to prove that he is still relevant at 40 years old and after 68 fights, while Joshua still needs a defining match that will truly class him as elite. As frustrating as the Fury saga has been, this is a worthy replacement, especially at such short notice.
The rest of the heavyweight division has stalled a little. Deontay Wilder broke his right hand during his victory over Chris Arreola, which forced him into surgery and put any plans he might have had on ice until 2017. David Haye is too busy being courted by Eddie Hearn for a clash with WBC cruiserweight boss Tony Bellew, while Luis Ortiz is looking for new representation and new opposition after parting ways with Golden Boy Promotions. Joseph Parker remains ready and willing, but his opportunity to face the big names of the division will likely come next year.
Middleweight remains essentially unchanged, with the best two in the division facing anyone but one other. Gennady Golovkin, starved of opponents, took a leaf from Saul Alvarez’s book and faced a welterweight. Kell Brook put up a brave performance against Golovkin but couldn’t cope with his strength, receiving a broken eye socket in the 2nd round and before being retired in the 5th. The equally brave Liam Smith was tasked with defending his WBO belt against the huge Alvarez, who made 154lbs for the first time in 3 years. Although uncomfortable (he rehydrated massively as soon as he stepped off the scales), the Mexican can clearly make light-middle, and I think it’s where he should stay. I’m now tired of the politics that prevent ‘GGG vs Canelo’ from happening, but at least with the pair of them in different weight classes I finally have a reason legitimate enough to cling on to while the arguments continue behind closed doors.
Roman Gonzalez suffered a scare while I was gone. McWilliams Arroyo exposed some flaws in the Nicaraguan’s game back in April, and Carlos Cuadras capitalized on what he saw, weathering some heavy storms to drag ‘Chocolatito’ through 12 torrid rounds at super flyweight. Cut around both eyes, Gonzalez was responsible for most of the pressure, but was made to work hard by the bigger and heavier Cuadras. He won, but it wasn’t thanks to a punch-perfect-then-KO performance that has defined his recent bouts. Then again, it was his first appearance at 115lbs, so time to adjust is expected. Moreover, if this is a precursor to a superfight with WBO king Naoya Inoue, he really deserves credit for stepping up to a division where some fantastic matches can be made.
What else, what else… Ah yes, the Olympics came and went didn’t they? I only managed to catch a couple of the bouts due to work commitments, but the pros didn’t do nearly as well as many of us thought they might. Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam lost a contentious decision to Brazilian hometown fighter Michel Borges, but Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng received a hugely surprising TKO defeat to Sofiane Oumiha from France. This was a huge shock to me; Ruenroeng is a former IBF flyweight champion, and had defended the title against Rocky Fuentes, McWilliams Arroyo and Zou Shiming (who also happens to be a two-time Olympic gold winner). Either the pro and amateur codes are further apart than I thought, or the Olympics really are the true test of the next world champions.
Lastly, and most tragically, I must acknowledge the death of Mike Towell, who passed away at the end of September after being knocked out by Dale Evans in Glasgow. Both men were unknown outside of the British scene, and were fighting on what would otherwise have been an unremarkable event; they were the second of a two-fight card, taking place at a hotel in a non-title bout. This, the most recent event of all those listed above, is a reminder that this sport is not easy, and the risks are real. The phrase “protect yourself at all times” is now usually reserved either to explain Floyd Mayweather’s style, or to excuse a punch defined somewhere between “legal” and “cheap shot”. But “protection” is something that can never be guaranteed in boxing. Thank you again to all who compete for my entertainment, but for God’s sake, look after yourselves.