Boxing safe compared to TT’s wall of death

posted on: 19/06/2016

ALAN HUBBARD’S PUNCHLINES – 19.6.16

Five competitors have died in a single sport over the past fortnight yet there has been barely a mention in the popular prints or on TV.

We are talking about the Isle of Man TT, an annual carnage which has seen over 270 fatalities since it was established in 1910.

Isle Of Man TT

Imagine the outcry if this was boxing – indeed virtually any other sport such as National Hunt racing or Formula One. But particularly boxing.

The abolitionists would be in full cry, perhaps deservedly so.

For example, if five boxers were to die in the upcoming Olympics (where professionals are now to be allowed entry) you can be certain the sport would be quickly removed from future Games by the International Olympic Committee.

Yet five riders die during the Isle of Man TT races, two of them on the same day, and it hardly merits a passing mention, so inured have we become to this litany of death.

This year was by no means the deadliest. In 2005 11 people died during the two main racing events on the Snaefell Mountain course..

Four people (three riders and one marshal) perished during that year’s TT race period in June, and six riders and one spectator died during the Manx Grand Prix in August/September.

The deadliest year for the TT period was 1970, when six people died during the event.

The fact that five riders have been killed in this year’s races has not even attracted comment from politicians, though in fairness parliament has had other priorities of late.

But had this been boxing, a Bill to ban it probably would have been tabled by now.

This is not an indictment of motor cycle racing. As in boxing or any other sporting activity competitors quite rightly have the freedom of choice to participate, knowing the risks.

But by comparison boxing, inevitably the subject of opprobrium when a rare fatality occurs, seems relatively safe, don’t you think?

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Why Ali was no racist

It was significant that the five-ringed Olympic flag was hoisted alongside the Stars and Stripes at Muhammad’s magnificent memorial service in his home town of Louisville, Kentucky. The perfect Requiem for a Heavyweight.

Muhammad Ali

However it took less than 48 hours before the legend left by Islam’s pugilistic prophet of peace was desecrated by an act of indescribable horror and depravity a few states away in Florida.

Sadly, that is the ugly way of the world these days.

Ali himself would have been outraged, as he was after 9/11 and all other acts of terrorism ostensibly carried out in the name of his religion.

The passing of The Greatest was marked and mourned across the globe, not least in Manchester where the Youth Charter for Sport, run by ex-karate world champ Geoff Thompson, father off fast-rising cruiserweight Jordan Thompson, are the official representatives in the UK for Louisville’s Muhammad Ali Center, and carry out much good work among the young in his name.

Ali’s affinity for the British is well known. And not mentioned among some of the obituaries which described his early tirades as ‘racist’ was the fact he never denigrated any of his white opponents.

Of his 61 bouts, almost half were against white heavyweights yet he never had a bad word to say about any of them.

Yes, there were jests and jibes, but always in good humour, such as telling Henry Cooper ‘no jive, you’ll fall in five’ but none of the serious bad mouthing witnessed against the likes of Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier or Ernie Terrell.

The nearest he came to showing pre-fight annoyance with a white opponent was when he fought Argentina’s Oscar Bonavena in New York in his second ‘comeback’ contest.

Bonavena had called him ‘maricon’, which is Spanish for homosexual (the phrase which caused Emile Griffith to unleash such fury in his fatal fight with Cuban Penny Paret). Ali appeared to be outraged, spitting verbal fire at Bonavena.

Yet after the bout in which Ali stopped the bruiser from Buenos Aires in the 15th round, they sat at the press conference with arms draped around each other, laughing and joking.

Asked about the ’maricon’ insult Ali admitted it was a put-up job. He said he had told Bonaneva to use the phrase ‘so we could sell more tickets.’

As we have all said, there’ll never be another like him.

More Beasts from the East

And still they come. The onwards and upwards march of the Beasts from the East continues, with Bob Arum’s exciting new boy Vasyl Lomachencko stunning BoxNation viewers as well as opponent Roman Martinez by impressively adding the WBO 130lbs crown to his featherweight title in only his seventh contest, while Dmytro Kucher quickly clobbered Enzo Maccarinelli at York Hall to claim the vacant European cruiserweight title.

Lomachenko and Kucher

Both are from Ukraine, birthplace of the Klitsckhos. And you can bet there will be many more at home like them emerging after the Olympics.

Now here’s a curious thing. At York Hall all the appointed officials, the referee and three ringside judges, were from continental Europe.

Yet in recent world title fights staged here the British Boxing Board of Control have insisted that at least one official, be it referee or judge, is from the UK.

Why the disparity we wonder?

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FIGHTING TALK

There’s many cons and very few pros. Aside from the safety issues involved the magic of the Olympic Games would go. If a top pro was to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal, it wouldn’t mean anything, and a young man who has probably trained all his life to be an Olympian could be robbed of the chance.

Liverpool heavyweight David Price, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, says professionals should not be allowed to box in the Games.

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Underestimate him at your peril because believe me he’s the business.

Frank Warren warns the world about the burgeoning talent that is WBO super-welterweight champion Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith.

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Muhammad Ali is the greatest of all time. Vasyl Lomachenko is the greatest of our time.

Bob Arum has no doubts about who is boxing’s fastest rising star.

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He’s no longer a Scouser with a big mouth. He’s a Scouser with a big mouth who’s a world champion.

Eddie Hearn sums up Tony Bellew.

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Tyson Fury couldn’t break a walnut and Anthony Joshua is a head-hunter with a glass jaw. He’s been dropped multiple times in sparring, been dropped in amateur fights and been wobbled in professional fights..I’ll come and fight every last one of you English muffins. I’m breaking all bums’ jaws and everybody’s getting rib-checked.

Unbeaten New York heavyweight Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller, 27,(17-0-1- 15 ko’s ) reckons he’s one to bash the Brits.

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It’s an easy fight to make. Frank Warren isn’t making it hard for them. If anything, he’s bending over backwards to make it happen. He’s said they can have it on Sky Sports [with whom Anthony Crolla’s promoter Eddie Hearn has an exclusive deal], but still they don’t want it. He knows my style will give him problems and I don’t think his team believe he can beat me.

Terry Flanagan

Terry Flanagan on why he thinks his ex-schoolmate and fellow world lightweight champ is fighting shy of the blockbuster Mancunian derby that boxing fans demand.

Coming up tomorrow: The Big Interview with Lucien Reid

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