By Alan Hubbard
NOT FOR THE first time boxing was given short shrift in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. Not only that, last weekend’s presentation of one of Britain’s highest profile sports was not only disgraceful, in my view, but disrespectful.
Sandwiched between that overhyped piece of fistic nonsense between two YouTube rappers were brief snapshots of the realities of the ring in 2019. The commentary was appalling, almost incomprehensible and obviously designed to be a bit of a hoot. A few world champions were highlighted but yet there was no mention of the brightest star on the fight horizon, newly crowned and unbeaten British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion, Daniel Dubois, the second youngest ever to hold the title, and only a passing reference to his highly talented 18-year-old sister Caroline, who was the BBC’s young sports personality of the year forv her magnificent achievement in becoming national European world and Olympic boxing champions at youth level.
I would not go so far as to say that these days the Beeb are anti-boxing as they do cover it in the Olympics but they certainly fell out of love with the sport when they were sucker- punched by Audley Harrison some 18 years ago.
But those who felt they were short-changed on Sunday can be compensated when 20 year old Dynamite Dan is given star billing by BT on Frank Warren’s talent packed show from the Copper Box Arena in London’s Olympic Park this Saturday night when Dubois squares up against his first Asian opponent, the Japanese champion Kyataro Fujimoto.
Dubois may be a heavy odds on favourite to dispose of his shorter, older foe from the Far East but a word of warning. I have yet to see a Japanese fighter who doesn’t put his heart and soul into the contest.. They are exceedingly difficult to beat with hearts full of pride and grit. Defeat is never a consideration.
For once Dubois may have to work exceedingly hard for his 14th successive victory. It may not be quite slam, bam and sayonara.
However there is no doubt that Dubois and is looking the part and taking care of business both in the ring and out these days. He no longer turns up for press conferences in trackies but is nattily booted and suited. Savile Row-smart and looking as if he is now making regular calls on Frank Warren’s personal tailor. He needs only an umbrella, briefcase and possibly a bowler to be the complete city gent.
His appearance reminds me of a true story from quite a few years back when Yorkshireman Richard Dunn held the same British title. When he appeared at a press conference in London to publicise his forthcoming fight with Muhammad Ali he turned up in a tattered cardigan, creased corduroys and, would you believe, carpet slippers.
A startled promoter, Mickey Duff, called Dunn’s manager George Biddles aside and whispered “next time George make sure he tidies himself up a bit.” True enough at the next presser Dunn appeared in a neat sports jacket, tailored slacks and polished brogues. My colleague Colin Hart of the Sun remarked to him “I see you’ve got a new wardrobe Richard.”
“Nay lad.” Dunn replied “only t’bed.”
MAYBE THE BEEB missed a trick by not persuading the newly confirmed PM Boris Johnson to present the SPOTY awards but of course he was out celebrating his own astonishing triumph. A pity because Boris likes a bit of sport, not least boxing.
I am not a political animal myself but I was rather pleased to see him win so handsomely. I got to know him quite well when he was London Mayor before and during the 2012 Games. Behind all that bluff and bluster there is a brilliant brain and determination to get things done – and I don’t just mean Brexit. He thoroughly enjoyed himself and clearly has some empathy for those who like some fun with their games.
He may have no detailed knowledge of any particular sport but has a particular liking for cricket, tennis, rugby and ‘whiff whaff ’ as he famously termed table tennis. He’s also a bit of a swordsman, although we are not necessarily talking about fencing here.
As I have mentioned before when we once chatted about boxing he revealed he did not know the name of any British boxer but giggled “I just love watching them biff each other”.
My abiding sporting memory of Boris is from the Olympics in Beijing where he received the flag that was to fly four years later in London. One night in the darkened and empty birds nest stadium some of us were still working late in the press box when he suddenly emerged from a tunnel, booted and suited, walked to the starting line of the 100 metres, crouched down and then set off hurtling down the track, his coat flapping in the light breeze, then crossing the finishing line with the whoop, fists pumping the air. “I’ve always wanted to do that,” he was to remark later. I have little doubt that Boris will put much -needed fun back into sport as well as politics.
During the London Olympics he had the good sense to recruit the former Labour sports minister Kate Hoey, also a fight fan, as his sports advisor and he may well do so again once he is settled in. I’ve already said that he might make her Britain’s first sports ombudsman (or woman). I am told it is something he has in mind.
I AM NOT the greatest fan of Twitter but I did have to smile when someone showed me a tweet sent immediately after the result of the general election was finally declared. It read “Boxing referee Terry O’Connor scored it for Corbyn.”
ON A PERSONAL note may I thank those who have got in touch with me during my current spell of hospitalisation. Things are progressing well after surgery and I hope to be in there a punching again very soon.