So much sport is shrouded in gloom and doom but boxing finds the Sunny side of the street
By Alan Hubbard
Having taken the knee – actually it was both knees – in a rather nasty fall, subsequently ending up flat on my back in a hospital bed these past couple of weeks, I have had plenty of time to reflect on certain aspects of our sporting life.
This enforced spell of unwelcome indisposition is why you have been spared my pearls of pugilistic wisdom of late. But even from this prone position I now feel compelled to put finger to keyboard again as so much of sport seems to have gone off its rocker.
These past few weeks some of the games we watch and play have plunged the depths of toxicity and sleaze, spreading scandal not only across the back pages but the front, and frequently leading TV and radio news bulletins for the wrong reasons.
The fiasco of the announcement of football’s so-called European super league descended into a farce within moments, drawing condemnation and denigration from the prime minister and Prince William – the FA president – downwards to the game’s hoi poloi.
Ok, so the putative plaything of footballs greedy sheiks, czars and other assorted billionaire moguls from the US to the UAR looks dead in the water.
But while the pong may be over the malady lingers on.
We see peaceful protests that become violent riots, leading to the postponement of the plum match between Manchester United and Liverpool. Sport’s other petrified forests suffer a regular diet of doping encouraged by bent coaches and dodgy doctors plus the ongoing inquiries into shameful sexual and physical abuse of youngsters. It is an savoury fact of sporting life that it now has an unsavoury pandemic of its own with the escalating evidence of how dementia is claiming not only the lifestyles, but ultimately the lives of so many who have participated in contact sports, especially football and rugby, for a living.
There is so much wrongdoing, mismanagement and ill judgement among sports top brass that continues to be swept under the carpet from where not even James Dyson’s finest high-tech vacuum product could extricate it.
Fortunately there is an upside to all this. Shining through this clouds of gloom and doom is boxing, one of the few sports that provides a beacon of light and real inspiration for the future.
The seemingly eternal battle against the coronavirus has seen boxing provide an exemplary attitude to help uplift the national spirit. The determination of Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren and others to ensure high class entertainment in crowd-free situations has seen not only the continuation of world championship events but significantly the emergence of a crop of young boxers, a nurturing of talent that is a happy indication the sports future is alive and punching.
Many have been given the opportunity to display their skills on TV shows – and a pity of course is that many more are waiting in the wings to get on stage but there simply aren’t enough shows to go round for all to get work.
Boxing has brought us much enjoyment as we watch at home. They have been high and lows of course and Warren, while unveiling several potential superstars such as Dennis McCann, Louie Lynn and Mark Chamberlain, has also suffered the vicissitudes that boxing sometimes has to embrace, including defeats of two of his marquee men, Daniel Dubois and Anthony Yarde, plus of one of my favourite Queensberry sluggers Denzel Bentley in the first defence of his British middleweight title and Willy Hutchinson challenging for the super middleweight version of the belt.
But Warren is convinced all will be back.
I reckon he is right – and I absolutely agree with him to that boxing now has a new star with which to conjure up dreams of future glory. Sunny Edwards gave arguably the most scintillating display of fistic skills to acquire the WBO flyweight belt from the vastly experienced and highly respected South African Moruti Mthalane in what can only be described as the outstanding performance by a British fighter in terms of technique and punch perfection since Billy Joe Saunders danced rings around the Canadian Daniel Lemieux; or even since that exhilarating exhibition by Joel Calzaghe which so bewitched Jeff Lacy.
Sunny was simply sensational. Here is a young man who is as articulate with his fists as he is with his words. Brother of former world champion Charlie, a golden nugget, in his mid-20s and now being polished to perfection. What he lacks in punching power he compensates in finesse and dexterity.
THE FACT THAT those of us of a certain age find it hard to recognise the generation gap was emphasised to me while in my hospital bed. Chatting to a present young male nurse from Nepal he asked what I did for a living. I told him I travelled the world as a sports writer covering numerous great events, notably Boxing. “Have you met anyone famous?” he enquired.”
“Well, Muhammad Ali…” I began.
“You know, the boxer.”
“Oh yeah, think I’ve heard of him. But I thought you meant the Pakistani actor.”
As I raised my eyebrows in surprise he countered eagerly, “But have you met Tyson Fury?”
Time to move over, Muhammad?