Saturday, August 19, 2017
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by James Oddy
One of the tropes of Wild West films is the idea of the snake oil salesman. He rides into town, and promises to cure all ailments and issues with his tonic. He has no proof, aside from showmanship and bluster. Even the most cynical and worldly of townsfolk eventually succumb to his charms and part with their money, not realising they have been duped until the salesman is long gone.

I couldn’t help but think about that idea as I watched Floyd Mayweather Jr and Connor McGregor go on a worldwide press tour, including a visit to London. They swore at each other and they threatened each other. They threw money at each other and wore suits with foul language sown in the seams. They got bodyguards to threaten each other. It was embarrassing and cringe worthy but it has definitely got people talking. And it has people willing to spend money.

It’ll probably be the highest grossing boxing match of all time.

When you take a step back you really realise how crazy that is. This is a boxer on 49-0 against a boxer who is 0-0. Even if you take McGregor’s MMA record, he is 21-3. He isn’t even perfect as an MMA fighter. The rebuttal may be that that McGregor has fought the best, because people like to believe that Mayweather picked fighters either before or past their prime. Whilst the UFC does indeed force it’s fighters to fight the best more often, Mayweather’s resume is a who’s who of elite level fighters during the late 90s to the late 2000s. Some of them were picked at the right time, but people like Zab Judah, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Marcos Maidana, and Miguel Cotto either fought on to a high level or went into the fight with Mayweather in career best form. Of course, Mayweather dealt with all of them with relative ease.

Even at 40, out of the ring since 2015, it is inconceivable he could lose to McGregor. Every person I have spoken to in boxing, from old pros turned trainers, to managers, to fighters, knows this is a supreme mismatch which is borderline dangerous.

All he has to do is avoid an overrated left hand from McGregor. Mayweather made a career of slipping shots and using footwork to stay just out of range of much better boxers than McGregor. This isn’t an MMA contest or a street brawl. This is boxing, and Mayweather know it inside and out.

It’s hard not to see this event with plenty of sadness, because in the heady days of Ali and Frazier and Foreman, it was simply two great boxers going at it. I like MMA as it’s a brilliant sport but I wish McGregor would have fought the guys in his sport, creating a legacy like Ali and Foreman, and Mayweather had pushed himself to take on any of the many great young fighters at welterweight.

The one thing I ask however, is, don’t blame me when the snake oil salesman rides off into the sunset with your money. I warned you!

by James Oddy
by James Oddy

It’s been a weird few years for Kell Brook. Brook’s victory over Shawn Porter in 2014, a then undefeated American who looked as if he may become the man in the welterweight division following Floyd Mayweather’s retirement, should have been his coming out party. He was now a proven elite welterweight and the division may have been his for the taking. It also looked as if he may finally gain a domestic super fight against Amir Khan, and maybe fights against Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman or Danny Garcia.

Instead, he was badly injured in an alternation whilst on holiday in Spain, in which he was stabbed, and then boxed underwhelming names in Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier. Bizier was arguably the nadir, because Bizier had already been beaten by Jo Jo Dan twice and Dan had been blitzed by Brook with ease.

It was clear that Brook needed a big fight and a big name, yet Gennady Golovkin was literally big in comparison, causing a career welterweight in Brook to fight a career middleweight in Golovkin. To the surprise of really nobody, the Kazakh wrecking ball broke Brook’s eye socket, all though Brook did land some eye-catching shots along the way.

Brook is now set to go from the frying pan into the fire when he meets another unbeaten young American in Errol Spence Jr. Spence is another wrecking ball in a sense, having gained 10 knockouts from 21 fights, but he is a career welterweight. He is also a southpaw, and stopped the likes of Chris Algieri and Leonardo Bundu, tough professionals who aren’t often stopped, highlights his pedigree.

Kell Brook vs Shawn PorterThe two are set to meet in Sheffield, Brook’s hometown. It feels like a 50/50 fight, with the more experienced champion in Brook having home advantage, but Spence has the momentum and punching power to cause anyone issues.

The fight actually shows a sea change in the boxing world, as Spence is one of a few young Americans now willing to travel to the UK to win or defend a world title. Terrence Crawford and Timothy Bradley have both made the trip in recent years and 2017 will see Spence and Mayweather prospect Gervonta Davis do it as well.

Whilst it was the norm for ‘world champions’ to almost literally tour the world in the 60s, 70s and 80s, the 90s saw much fewer elite level names willing to travel to the UK to box. But the UK is now arguably the boxing capital of the world in terms of live gates and television converge, so the likes of Davis and Spence are now willing to take the risk of boxing on away soil.

For what it’s worth, I think Brook will win on points, just, in a nick and tuck fight. He may even touch the canvas at some stage. But his nous and experience will see him through. It’ll be controversial, and maybe a return fight will be made.

Whatever happens, with Brook, anything is possible.


by James Oddy
by James Oddy
Call me Ishmael. Connor McGregor fighting Floyd Mayweather is sports new white whale. The fight surfaces for air every now and then, and grizzled fight writers and fans, like Ahab aboard the Pequod, sight and, despite our better judgment, set a course for it.

The fight interests and disgusts in almost equal measure. Just like the great white whale could be the death of Ahab and his whole crew, the fight could generate obscene amounts of cash yet land a telling blow to the integrity of both MMA and boxing. For MMA, what happens if its figurehead, McGregor, famed for both his jab in the octagon and his gab outside it, was outclassed? For boxing, what if Mayweather generates his fabled 50-0 against a fighter who had never had a professional boxing match before? What does that say about the lack of stars in boxing? About the talent pool?

I say with certainty Mayweather would get his 50-0 against McGregor because to my mind, and the mind of anyone with even a half knowledge of boxing, any other suggestion is absurd.

MMA and boxing are different disciplines. It’s like suggesting a great goalkeeper such as David De Gea could be a great rugby player because he has to catch and kick a ball in both sports. The whole science and methodology is different.

In MMA, you have the feet, hands, knees and elbows to worry about on approach-you have to worry about a take down or Muay Thai style clinch.

In boxing, it may appear ‘easier’ as you only have to deal with two hands. But they are thrown with an amount of speed, precision and power, the likes of which is beyond most people, which is only achieved after a lifetime dedicated to that craft.

I know why people think McGregor has a chance. He knocks people in UFC out for fun and Mayweather boxes people to ‘boring’ points wins.

People tell themselves that McGregor only needs ‘one’ punch. They underestimate the complete artistry Mayweather has over his craft. If Manny Pacquaio, Marcos Maidana, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alverez, Shane Mosley, Juan Mannuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Zab Judah, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo, all fine boxers, some all time great boxers, couldn’t land a knock out blow, what makes you think McGregor could do so?

Ultimately, McGregor should concentrate on the legacy of his own career, which is a wonderful one in it’s own right. He is a ridiculously talented MMA fighter. He could be, if not the Ali of the sport, the Mike Tyson, the love him/hate him figure which consistently puts eyes on the sport.

As for Floyd, if he must come back, then I would rather he fight Keith Thurman, or Gennady Golovkin. To be frank, I’d rather he fight anyone who is an active boxer.

But the problem, as Ahab discovered, is that once you have that white whale in your sights, it’s impossible to forget about it, no matter how disastrous the consequences may prove to be. Call me intrigued.

by James Oddy
by James Oddy
The biggest, most lucrative fight of this generation will surely come on 29th April 2017 at Wembley stadium. IBF heavyweight belt holder Antony Joshua (18-0. 18 KOs) will meet Wladimir Klitschko 64-4, 53 Kos) with the vacant WBA and IBO belts also on the line. Effectively, the fight is to crown the new (almost) undisputed king of the boxing’s premier division.

Watford’s Joshua is a crossover star. The Olympic gold medallists has created a huge buzz on both sides of the Atlantic due to a potent mix of talent, charisma and intelligent promotion. However, it was clear that he was in need of a step up in opposition- Eric Molina, Joshua’s last opponent, provided little test or excitement as he spent most of the fight attempting simply to survive.

That test will come via the form of Klitschko, the cerebral and vastly experienced Ukrainian who ruled the division for the best part of a decade alongside his now retired brother Vitali. That reign came to an abrupt end however, in November 2015, as the self-proclaimed ‘Gypsy King’ Tyson Fury sensationally upset Wlad in Dusseldorf.

With Tyson Fury’s enforced absence away from the squared circle, this is a meeting of two of the top three heavyweights in the world. It’s a 50/50 fight and that is something which all boxing fans wish to see.

anthony-joshuaJoshua is young, exciting and explosive, but valid questions surrounding his stamina, boxing IQ and chin remain. He has never gone the full 12 rounds, can look lost if his opponents don’t wilt to that jackhammer right hand early on and rumours within boxing suggest he has been knocked out in sparring sessions. Yet the simple fact is, if he lands, he will hurt Wlad.

Despite such an illustrious career, questions also swirl around Klitschko. The man nicknamed ‘Dr Steelhammer’ will have been out of action for well over a year and will be over 40 years of age when stepping in with the 27-year-old Joshua. He looked old and gun shy against Fury. But it’s worth pointing out that he looked very good against Bryant Jennings and Kubrat Pulev in both his previous defences preceding the Fury fight. He is physically imposing, vastly experienced, never out of shape and carries serious power himself. If he lands, just like Joshua, he will do damage.

If forced to pick, I’d go for the vitality of Joshua to triumph, via a surprisingly wide points win. I believe his power aligned with Wlad’s inactivity will allow him to force the pace and be in the ascendency for most of the fight.

Hopefully then we could see Joshua meet undefeated WBC champion, Deontay Wilder. Wilder is a brash American knock out artist and a meeting for all the straps in the heavyweight division in a transatlantic showdown would smash all kinds of box office records. And then, perhaps we will see the return of Tyson Fury. Make no mistake about it… we are in for a wild few years in the heavyweight division. Enjoy!

by James Oddy
by James Oddy

November 19th sees that most rare of events. Two unbeaten, elite, pound for pound contenders in the same weight class, meeting in a squared circle.

The fighters in questions are Andre ‘Son of God’ Ward, (30-0, 15 Kos) and Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs). Kovalev currently holds the WBA, IBF light heavyweight titles, whereas Ward the WBO strap, all of which will all be on the line in the T-Mobile arena on the Las Vegas strip.

The fight is a mouth-watering clash of styles. Kovalev is a brutal boxer puncher, who throws concussive straights, hooks and uppercuts. Despite carrying legitimate knock out power in both mits, he is also an accomplished boxer, although not a stylist by any means. Instead, he uses his power, basic yet effective footwork and high guard to work his opponent into corners, where he unleashes huge shots. The ‘Krusher’ also has a definite mean streak, seemingly prolonging the beating he handed out to rival Jean Pascal (36-4-1) in there 2016 rematch. Even when he can’t land those big shots, he can still win wide on the cards, as seen by his complete domination of living legend Bernard Hopkins (66-7-2) in late 2014.

untitledWard is more of a boxer than a pure puncher, but what a boxer he is. He is wonderfully athletic; a defensive wizard who can also rough house with the best if the fight goes to the trenches. His defence is similar to Floyd Mayweather’s ‘shoulder roll’, and from that he spears out jabs and back hands. Although plagued with inactivity due to promotional issues, Ward still has a superb resume, especially at previous weight of super middleweight. He won the innovative super six tournament in 2010/11, beating the likes of Mikael Kessler, Carl Froch, Sakio Bika and Arthur Abraham, all of whom offered different stylistic challenges. His win over Kessler, the pre-tournament favourite, was particularly impressive, and he completely nullified Froch in the final. Ward then added light heavy weight king Chad Dawson to his list of wins, although it’s worth noting he made Dawson come down in weight for the meeting. Since making the move the light-heavy after a two year layoff, he has beaten an overweight Paul Smith, an undefeated Sullivan Barrera and a solid Alexander Brand.

This is a true super fight, and unlike many we have seen lately, both are more or less at the peak of their powers. Both have some of the game’s best strategists in their corner, ex world champ John David Jackson for Kovalev and the enigmatic Virgil Hunter for Ward. It’s a very tough fight to predict. If Ward restricts Kovalev and prevents him from landing those crunching hooks, I can see him winning a fairly uneventful unanimous decision. If Kovalev lands at any point, but particularly in the early rounds, it could upset Ward’s rhythm and equilibrium and I could see the fight becoming much more open.

Ultimately, if I were forced to make a prediction, and I am, I’ll pick Ward. He is slick, still fresh and his partnership with Hunter is one of modern boxing’s best.

by James Oddy
by James Oddy

Boxing’s new meme is ‘dare to be great’. Bernard Hopkins, one of the game’s most eloquent and occasionally bizarre figures, popularised the term during the run up to Amir Khan’s fight against ‘Canelo’ Alverez. Canelo, of course, is a middleweight, and Khan is a welter, two weight classes lower. It seemed an absurd fight to make, with a forgone conclusion, which proved spot on – Khan, would outbox the bigger man until he ate a huge shot, and he’d be done.

But it was made because two fights, which make much more sense, couldn’t be made – Canelo fighting fellow middleweight Gennadey ‘GGG’ Golovkin and Khan fighting fellow Brit welterweight Kell Brook. Why they couldn’t be made, well, that depends on whom you talk to.

Off the back of Khan vs Canelo, we now have the equivalent fight. Golovkin taking on Brook at the 02 arena. It makes just as much sense as Amir Khan’s futile challenge.

Brook has loudly stated since the fight was announced that he is a ‘beast’ at 160 (the middleweight limit), and that he actually wants to feel the power of Golovkin. Golovkin, for those who don’t know, is a knockout artist who has brutalised the rest of the division, and had the biggest names running scared.

It’s audacious and brave of Brook, just like it was of Khan. And I can only see one outcome.

GGGI could almost make a case for Khan gaining a victory – he has blistering speed and he has been in with some huge names, even if it’s often in losing efforts. With Brook, I find it even harder to see how he can win. He is undefeated, but aside from his razor thin world title win over Shawn Porter, his resume is rather lacking. Brook is athletic, seems to possess a reasonable chin (Carson Jones can hit) and is technically superb. But so is Golovkin, and the Kazakh monster is bigger and has the greatest KO streak in middleweight history.

Golovkin also seems to possess an iron chin, brushing off shots from opponents who he has little respect for. Yet he can box when needed. When in a unification against heavy-handed David Lemuix, Golovkin worked behind a beautiful jab, breaking his opponent down with movement and pure boxing.

Can Brook out box Golovkin? Possibly. Can Brook take Golovkin’s power for 12 rounds? I doubt it. I think Brook will make Golovkin work and give him some problems in the early going. But as the fight progresses, I just don’t see how ‘GGG’ wont back Brook into the ropes or corner and unleash shots to the body and head, walking into whatever Brook tries to counter with.

Hopefully, following the conclusion of this fight, we can get the match ups which make the most sense. A middleweight showdown and a welterweight showndown. Khan vs Brook is still huge domestically. Canelo vs Golovkin is huge internationally.

It’s going to be a wild few months, that’s for sure.

by James Oddy
by James Oddy

A lot has rightly been written about Muhammad Ali as a cultural icon. He was certainly that, as it is part of his greatness. However, his legacy was first built on his sparkling ring career. It’s in my humble opinion that he is the greatest heavyweight of all time, and a top five pound for pound fighter in the history of the sport.

Even if he had taken on largely poor opposition, his physical attributes alone put him up there, at least in his prime. He grew up idolizing the greatest pound for pounder of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson. Ali danced and boxed with all of Ray’s elegance, but Ray was a welterweight and middleweight. To be able to replicate that at heavyweight was something else. The speed of foot and fist was unlike anything seen previously at heavyweight. His punching power wasn’t exactly bad, either.

825fea7ac6c6e52c3cb15cf19897e44cThe 1960’s Ali (formerly known as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr), coming off the back of winning an Olympic gold medal, beat some sterling names. Sonny Liston was the Mike Tyson of his day and Ali beat him twice, with relative ease, even though there were some doubts about Liston’s legitimacy. Add to that, a comprehensive win over Floyd Patterson, almost a proto type version of Ali. Furthermore, he defeated durable and skilled opponents such as Ernie Terrell, Henry Cooper, George Chuvalo and Archie Moore. But the best was yet to come.

What really solidifies his greatness is the 1970’s incarnation. He was no longer the fleet footed young champ. He was the slower challenger. In his years out, a young, exciting new breed of America heavyweights had arrived on the scene. Despite his primary physical advantage having left him, Ali managed to chop down George Foreman in arguably the most famous fight of all time. Foreman was a buzz saw who had decimated the division, yet Ali out thought and out fought ‘Big George’. He then defeated arch rival Joe Frazier in perhaps the most brutal fight of all time in Manila. Add in wins over Ernie Shavers, considered by many to be the hardest hitter ever in boxing, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks, Jimmy Young and Jimmy Ellis, and it is frightening how good he was. The fact he avenged all his defats in his prime, to Spinks, Frazier and Norton, also speaks volumes.

Ali_vs_Norton_1973_a_hThe unfortunate epitaph is the beatings he took in the 1980’s. Larry Holmes isn’t the best know heavyweight champ, but skills wise, he is up there with the best. He and Trevor Berbick, no slouch himself, physically outclassed the shell of Ali in fights which were a travesty.

The world has seen some great heavyweight champs. Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Frazier, Foreman, Holmes, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson. Yet, purely based on athletic achievements, I’d still put Ali at the top. Add in his significant cultural achievements spoken about in the rest of this issue, he truly was ‘The Greatest’.


by James Oddy
by James Oddy

Big time boxing returned to Leeds arena in April. The headline act, as always, was the super popular Josh Warrington, defending his WBC international featherweight title.

Warrington beat the ultra-tough, tricky Tokyo based Hisashi Amagasa over 12 rounds in front of a rabid crowd, picking up scores of 118-111, 117-111, and, ludicrously, 120-107.

Warrington did win the fight, starting an ending the contest very well, but Amagasa appeared, from ringside at least, to drag himself back into the fight during the middle section. Amagasa flung unorthodox shots with his long arms and his right uppercut landed on more than a few occasions. It has to be said however, Warrington, particularly in the last couple of rounds, landed some hellacious shots on the visitor and Amagasa was clearly wobbled at times.

QCdjB5HwFOTaWQ8X4xMDoxOjBzMTt2bJWarrington was vocal in the aftermath as he feels he is ready for Barry’s IBF champion Lee Selby. The man dubbed the ‘Welsh Mayweather’ would be an extremely hard fight, but the opportunity to stage a world title fight at Elland Road between the pair may be too attractive, financially, for promoter Eddie Hearn to pass up.

The rest of the card had some intriguing fights. The fight of the night was the 12 round war of attrition between Stuey Hall and Rodrigo Guerrero at bantamweight. Guerrero was a former IBF super flyweight champion and after a slow start, showed his championship class with a non-stop display of punching. Hall, however, looked much larger, a natural bantamweight, and few of Guerrero’s shots seemed to worry the Darlington man. Hall smartly boxed off the back foot, but occasionally allowed himself to get dragged into a brawl on the inside or to simply let Guerrero tee off on him. Many ringsiders expected the fight to be adjudged a draw, but three scores of 117-111 allowed Hall to press for another world title shot.

Josh Warrington celebrates his victory over Davide Dieli to win the European Featherweight title contest at the First Direct Arena, Leeds. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 4, 2014. See PA story BOXING Leeds. Photo credit should read: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

The card was huge, lasting over five hours. Of local interest was another victory for classy Bradford welterweight Darren Tetley, who outclassed Casey Blair over 6, referee Howard Foster judging the contest 60-54. Lots of talk along the press row was concerning the progression of Tetley to English title level, and the consensus seemed to be he is more than ready. Tetley has a vocal number of followers in the crowd for a fight on relatively early, and as he steps up the level of opposition, it looks as if he can make an impact on the wider consciousness of Bradford and West Yorkshire.

Doncaster’s Reece Mould also made his debut at super featherweight, flooring Phil Hervey twice in the first round before the referee called it off.

From further afield, London’s Issac Chamberlain and Nottingham’s Russ Henshaw engaged in a wild slugfest between two undefeated cruiserweights. Henshaw was dropped in the first, but wore Chamberlain down, resulting in the Londoner being docked a point for persistent holding. Chamberlain looked to be worn out, but managed a second wind, and in the 6th and final round, began unloading on Henshaw. With the referee attempting to jump in, the towel also came sailing in from Henshaw’s corner.



He is regarded by many boxing pundits as the ‘next big thing’. Leeds born Ismail Khan is creating waves within the pugilistic sport and has already created quite a stir after winning the 52kg Senior Elite English Title Belt against Hull ABC’s Ryan Gibbons in February.

jygjuygbKhan, who wants to continue in the footsteps of current British boxing sensation Amir Khan, is a former Cleckheaton Boxing Academy who recently joined the KBW Boxing Gym in Dewsbury

With his baby faced looks, Khan can easily be described as the next ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’, a name that was used to describe hall of famer Marco Antonio Barrera throughout his career. With lighting hands and equally swift footwork, Khan’s natural ability and skill level has surprised many.

The Elite English belt is the latest accolade to join the young prospect’s growing collection and one which was made extra special with the support of his team.

“I can’t believe this achievement,” he said. “I have an amazing team at KBW, brilliant coaches and team mates that keep me motivated, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them all.

“I also want to say a special thank you to my sponsor for their continued support.”


by James Oddy
by James Oddy

Of all the mega fight of recent years, Khan vs Canelo is the most left field. It was widely expected that the Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was due to take on Gennady Golovkin in a fight for (more or less) the unified middleweight title. Khan, after missing out on the big names of Mayweather Jr and Pacquiao, was expected to finally agree to a domestic dust up with Kell Brook at welterweight. Instead, with little notice, the imminent fight was announced raking even the most knowledgeable insider by surprise.

Many immediately congratulated Khan for his bravery, jumping up two weight divisions. Many also questioned his sanity. Yet in many ways the fight is a smart move from Khan. He has repeatedly said he only wants the very biggest fights from now on. The biggest name in boxing after Mayweather and Pacquiao is now Canelo. Alvarez is a fine boxer but isn’t perfect, and has had issues with slippery boxers who refuse to stand and trade with him. Khan’s fast hands, explosive foot movement and unpredictable angles could provide that. The big worry is Khan’s chin, which badly exposed at lighter weights, handles the jump up. Alvarez’s knockout of James Kirkland last year was arguably the best of last year. Kirkland also has a subject chin but he’s a natural middleweight and an inside fighter who was left pole axed.

saul-canelo-alvarez-boxing-amir-khan_3423670I personally think Khan can win. Even if he loses somewhat respectively, his stock should rise. In the past, Khan had the admirable yet suicidal tendency to fight fire with fire when hurt. Virgil Hunter has largely removed that from his game and had him fighting more tactical, defensive fights. I expect the plan for Khan to be to dart in, unleash flurries and dart out. He’ll have to box off the back foot and employ plenty of lateral movement.

The issue might be if Khan were to win. He’d either have to fight destroyer Golovkin or vacate, I suspect he’d do the latter – but then his only option would be cut back in weight to welterweight or light middle. History has shown the difficulties of dropping down in weight considerably. Just look at what it did to the great Roy Jones.

Alvarez%20Khan%20Boxing(2)Should a fight with Brook happen, it could be Brook, still to have a real war in his career save for his title winning victory over Shawn Porter, against a shop-worn and cashing out Khan. From a boxing fans perspective, that would be a tragedy. It’d also deprive the sport of Alvarez vs Golovkin.

All told, the fight is as intriguing as much for what could happen outside the ring as in it. My heart wants Khan to triumph, an exciting boxing who’s been unlucky to not get the big fights the public wanted him to get. My head says the bigger, stronger Canelo, by mid round KO.