By Alan Hubbard
These are heady times for heavyweight boxing, especially if you happen to be British.
The division has not been as enriched with such a multiplicity of talent since the halcyon heavyweight days of the late sixties and early seventies when Our ’Enry (Sir Henry Cooper that is) and his fistful of contempories, played ring-a-roses with each other.
In those days British heavyweights of note fought each other all the time. Cooper, Brian London, Jack Bodell, the Welshmen Joe Erskine and Dick Richardson and Jamaican-born Joe Bygraves were all big names in their own right.
Between them they engaged in numerous internecine domestic scraps: Cooper fought Erskine five times and London thrice, for example.
Then along came Billy Walker, Johnny Prescott and Joe Bugner to join the fray, so there was never any shortage of decent match-ups for home fans to savour.
World champions Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno were later comers to the British heavyweight party that suddenly has burst into life again with a crop of big men (certainly bigger than the heavyweights of old like Cooper and co who rarely scaled more than 14 stones) now making their mark on be world scene.
Leaving aside current world champion and 2012 Olympic champion Anthony Joshua and his would-be nemesis Tyson Fury, who never lost his world title in the ring (and whose recent comedic comeback fight on BT attracted an astonishing 830,000 plus viewers) there are a quartet of aspirant heavyweights who are the envy of the world.
But whether Joe Joyce, Hughie Fury (younger cousin of Tyson), Nathan Gorman and Daniel Dubois will ever engage in the sort of round-robin of home-brewed punch-ups like their predecessors seems improbable because of boxing’s current political and promotional divide.
Nonetheless it is a welcome and healthy situation for the sport about which pundit David Haye, who until his recent retirement was himself a significant heavyweight influence, had this to say on BT: “We are living in an absolute dream world when it comes to British heavyweight boxing. It is a new golden era.”
Of course, Haye now has a vested interest – although actually a non-vested one since he is the manager and mentor of Joyce, who has shed his Olympic singlet after winning the super-heavyweight silver in Rio and taking only four fights to become the new Commonwealth pro champion.
At 32 the south Londoner, an accomplished artist, may be no spring chicken, but neither is he an old boiler, as his impressive displays of acrobatics with which he celebrates his victories demonstrates.
Another of Britain’s fistic wanabes, Hughie Fury, has already fought for a world title, losing narrowly on a majority decision to Kiwi Joseph Parker, beaten in turn by Joshua..
It was 23-year-old Fury’s only loss in 22 contests, and in his last fight he acquired the British title.
Joyce and Fury unifying their respective Commonwealth and British belts seems a logical match, but when did logic ever play a realistic role in modern boxing?
I particularly like the two other young guns now taking aim on the heavyweight scene.
Ricky Hatton’s man Gorman, a Traveller like the Furys, is 22 and unbeaten in 13 bouts. He can box and punch and clearly has tremendous potential.
But the best young prospect of all according to Haye and others, is the appropriately labelled ‘Dynamite’ Dubois.
He is still only 20 and at 6ft 5in is bigger than Joshua, bangs even harder and already has reportedly knocked him cold – along with other heavyweights of some repute – in sparring.
I hope and believe we will see Dubois and Gorman in the ring together in the foreseeable future when it will seem just a bit more like the so-called good old days when rival fighters were not shy of settling their differences fist to face, several times over if necessary
He gave up the possibility of winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics because his ambition is to become Britain’s youngest heavyweight champion of the world.
Already the English champion in his just his eighth pro fight, by virtue of a patient and controlled sixth round stoppage of experienced Tom Little at the weekend, the personable youngster has made remarkable progress.
In his first eight months this 17 stone plus wrecking machine with devastating power in both hands knocked out his six opponents and was not taken beyond the second round.
Promoter Frank Warren has such faith in Dubois’ ability and dedication he moved him from four rounders to ten in just his fourth fight – unheard of in a British ring for one so young.
Both he and Gorman are promoted by Warren and there is growing clamour for them to meet soon.
But Warren insists there is no rush and that it will not happen this year. “Both need another three or four more fights,” he says. “The more fights they have the bigger their eventual meeting will become.”
That’s true but I do hope and believe we will see Dubois and Gorman in the ring together in the foreseeable future when it will seem just a bit more like the so-called good old days when rival fighters were not shy of settling their differences fist to face, several times over if necessary.
Boxing is burgeoning, having re-established itself as one of the world’s most popular and successful sports, not least in the UK where it is claimed it is now second only to football in spectator appeal.
So let’s get this new heavyweight party started.
VAR is the latest acronym to join sport’s already overcrowded lexicon. Soon it will be as much in common usage as lbw or ko.But those three new characters are already changing the very nature of the games we play and watch.
As a new tech philistine I have mixed feelings about its implementation in sport. I suppose I am old school enough to remember when we played to the whistle and the referee’s decision was final.
Now in virtually every major sport the ultimate arbiter is not the ref or umpire but the person working the video replay machine, aka the Video Assistant Referee or Video Assistant Reviewer.
The sight of an on-field official stopping play to draw an imaginary square box in the air has become a major feature of the current football World Cup, witness the shock exit of champions Gemany.Not a case ofd WunderVAR for them, eh? .
As I say, there is now barely a significant sport where a second opinion is not a requirement. Except in boxing.
And thank goodnessthere is no appetite for its introduction.
Just about the only situations where a review might be helpful are in deciding whether a blow was above or below the belt, or if eye damage was caused by an accidental or deliberate clash of heads, or a punch. That’s best left to the ref’s discretion.
At the moment boxing has a far more pressing priority in educating ringside judges to correctly interpret what they see in terms if marking their scorecards both accurately and impartially. We have seen far too many ludicrous aberrations recently Some judges need to be given their cards.