Travellers’ tales make good reading as Lee and Saunders keep it clean.
It is very rare to hear hardened hacks break out in spontaneous applause at a press conference. But we put our hands together after Andy Lee and Billy-Joe Saunders shared the podium at London’s Grosvenor House this week and treated each other, and the sport, with a genuine respect we don’t often witness these days.
There was no phoney trash-talking, no manufactured foul-mouthed jibes but simply good-natured banter and calm, reasoned assessment of their upcoming WBO middleweight fight in Limerick on 19 September.
Here were two accomplished gladiators, both from the Travelling community, who we know are decent fighters. They also came across as decent blokes.
It was a refreshing change because at the week’s other world title presser, in Dusseldorf, where it was hoped another Travelling man, Tyson Fury, would at least try to keep his wayward tongue under some sort of control, he still could not resist resorting to the usual gutter language in a vain attempt to rile the ever-dignified Wladimir Klitschko.
Ok, so he can be quite amusing at times but did he really have to produce an obviously rehearsed word play on the first syllable of the Ukrainian’s surname, depicting a sex act, in an attempt to raise a snigger?
It didn’t. And London’s Daily Mail even reported that the phrase was too indelicate to be published in a family newspaper. Though strangely enough the Sun did use it. Perhaps they thought their readers would not understand the innuendo. Klitschko certainly did not appear too.
Actually, there was one naughty word used by Billy-Joe, for which, unlike Fury, he promptly apologised, that was in context really was quite funny.
I asked him if the obvious mutual respect shared by he and champion Lee was temporary, and whether future exchanges might degenerate into bad-mouthing once things started to hot up.
“No,” he responded. “Because this time I’m not fighting a prick.”
Who on earth he could he be referring to?
No Khan do for Mayweather
It is looking like Floyd Mayweather jnr will face Andre Berto when he attempts to match Rocky Marciano’s undefeated record of 49-0 on 12 September in Las Vegas.
Nothing is set in stone, but we hear an announcement is imminent, which means that once again Amir Khan has been blown out by the Money Man.
The autocratic Mayweather’s probable choice of opponent will be received underwhelmingly by boxing fans and his TV backers, and there is speculation that it could end up on free-to-air on CBS, a terrestrial channel, rather than pay-per view.
Berto was WBC welterweight champion in 2008, and defended the title five times before losing it to Victor Ortiz. He then won the IBF welterweight crown in 2011 against Jan Zaveck.
A Haitian-American from Miami, Berto is 31 with a career record of 33-3, those three defeats all coming in his last five fights. He seems perfect fodder for Mayweather, who hasn’t stopped anyone for four years since Victor Ortiz six fights ago.
Interestingly for someone like Mayweather, who is so hot on opponents taking drugs tests, Berto once failed one and was suspended from the sport in 2012 after testing positive for a banned substance.
But subsequently it was ruled that the test was flawed, the result of contamination, and he regained his boxing licence.
As for Khan, there is still an outside chance he could be Mayweather’s final opponent when the American, as he surely will, goes for a new record of 50 fights undefeated.
But breath should not be held. More likely that Mayweather will bow out in a return with Manny Pacquiao.
Khan may be better advised to take up the big money offer to fight IBF champion Kell Brook, a contest I believe he would win and regain his own world title status.
Alternatively he must be in pole position to go for the WBO world title recently stripped from Mayweather.
No kidding as Galahad is banned for two years
Unlike Andre Berto, British boxer Kid Galahad has not escaped a drugs ban. UK Anti-Doping have now confirmed that the undefeated European, and Commonwealth and WBC international super bantamweight champion (real name Abdul Barry Awad) – voted Britan’s Best Young Boxer last year – has been suspended from all sport for two years. Silly boy.
His plea that his drink was spiked by his brother after an argument over money was not accepted as a legitimate excuse.
The 25-year-old Sheffield fighter, a product of the Ingle stable, tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid that was the favourite performance-enhancing of sprinter Ben Johnson, has been rejected by UK Anti-Doping following an in-competition test on 20 September 2014. This followed his bout against former WBO super-bantamweight champion Adeilson Dos Santos. He is now banned for two years from the date of the test.
Galahad now loses his titles, is disqualified from his victory over against Dos Santos and forfeits his purse money for the fight.
However the Boxing Writers’ Club say he will keep their Best Young Boxer trophy as the vote was conducted before the result of his failed drugs test was known.
UKAD’s chief executive, Nicole Sapstead, says: “Kid Galahad is one of the country’s leading boxing talents and through his own actions he has jeopardised his promising career, and his reputation.
“All athletes, at all levels, need to understand the importance of Strict Liability – they are solely responsible for any banned substance that is found in their system, regardless of how it got there or whether there was an intention to cheat or not.”
Drugs taking is a menace in all in so many sports these days and alarmingly is becoming increasingly prevalent in boxing.
According to UK Anti-Doping 19 boxers have failed drugs in Britain in recent years, four of them amateurs. The substances involve range from cannabis and diuretics to steroids. Six boxers, now including Galahad, are currently serving bans.
So Galahad’s punishment as the boxing’s biggestvfish to be caught in the drugs net here is a stark warning to all British boxers to confine any rope-a-doping to the ring.
A fallen giant pays the Price
Trade paper Boxing News rightly copped a lot of stick from the Twitterati for their issue which devoted some 15 pages, including a paid-for wrap-around, to previewing the Crolla–Quigg world title fights in Manchester and Carl Frampton’s bout in Texas, shown live respectively by Sky and ITV.
Yet there was not a line about David Price’s European heavyweight title in Germany that week, screened by BoxNation.
Apparently Price has received an apology but in view of the disastrous result he may well be thinking it was best forgotten anyway.
Hard to see where big Pricey goes from here. I’ve known him since he captained Team GB in the Beiijng Olympics where he won a bronze medal.
He’s a lovely guy and it is so sad that he now seems unlikely to fulfil his ambition and make it to the top.
He must be thinking that but for that dodgy chin it might well have been him facing Wladimir Klitschko in October and not his former amateur spar-mate Tyson Fury.
Meantime Boxing News, having at least acknowledged their lack of balance, will be heartened to know that they have a major celebrity fan among their readers.
I have it on good authority that the British tennis ace Andy Murray, who loves the fight game and has even had a sparring session with great pal Amir Khan, was seen scouring the journal from cover to cover while waiting to go on court at Wimbledon and regularly tunes up before matches by shadow boxing in the locker room. New punchballs, please…
Goodbye to little John
Sad to report the death at 71 of one of boxing’s big little men. Scottish flyweight John McCluskey passed away last week at his home in Hamilton.
One of a fistful of Scottish boxing legends, along with Benny Lynch, Jackie Paterson, Jim Watt , wee Walter McGowan and Olympian Dick McTaggart, McCluskey was the only British boxer to win fights on four continents during a 36-bout, 19-year career which concluded in 1974.
As well as holding European flyweight and bantamweight titles, he was a record-breaking Commonwealth champion and once went three years without a flyweight title fight as there were no contenders good enough to take him on.
Tomorrow: Pro-File on Andy Lee