It was only a few months ago that I completely discarded boxing as a freak show. Well, events over the past couple of weeks have reminded me what a true, human sport it really is.
I’ll start with the media circus that surrounded the début of Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff, former England cricketer who felt he needed a new challenge following his retirement. Opinion’s been divided on whether or not it’s all just a publicity stunt. Even if it is, it’s one that’s required an enormous amount of dedication to transform a relatively sedate cricketer into a heavyweight boxer that was able to win a tight fight against American Richard Dawson.
When Flintoff fell to the canvas in the second round, the reaction around the ring was probably akin to “well, we told you so”. His experiment in the eyes of the TV cameras looked to be falling apart after just over two minutes. Few would have expected him to pull himself together, defiantly inform the referee that he wasn’t done and end up the winner of the fight on points. As he put it afterwards, Freddie went through it all; the intense training, the anticipation, the lows of falling to the floor and the ultimate highs of an eager crowd cheering his success.
Although this first bout may be his last while he ponders what to do with his future, the top of British boxing seems pretty secure. Nowhere was this more clear in the Aintree Equestrian Centre, as Liverpool’s David Price crushed yet another opponent, this time in the form of British and Commonwealth title challenger Matt Skelton. The 29-year old proved that he is, by far, the best British heavyweights have to offer and it’s about time he had a chance on the international stage. Unfortunately, he seems to want a go at Dereck Chisora, the absolute joke who indulged in the brawl against David Haye last year. Even if he should regain a British license, I don’t see why he should get a shot against someone who truly seems to love his sport.
Haye, on the other hand, seems to have regained some of my respect. He’s had a pathetic couple of years with excuses regarding broken toes that culminated in the aforementioned spat with Chisora, but, who knows – that may have just been a ploy by the promoters to get a big-money fight out of them both. Unashamedly, I’ve been following Haye’s fortunes on this year’s “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!”. Obviously not a very good gauge of someone’s sporting (aside from Eric Bristow’s brilliance in the darts challenge), but the intimacy of the show’s format seems to have revealed a friendlier, less arrogant side that seems to come out of a lot of boxers these days. That doesn’t excuse his poor boxing over the last few months and I wasn’t particularly enthused over hearing of his desire for “one or two more fights”, but I understand the mindset of a boxer just a little bit more.
Boxing appears to be healthy. You have your David Prices, your Carl Frochs and Tyson Fury, who takes on Kevin Johnson in a “title eliminator” tonight. That’s not forgetting the likes of other up-and-comers like Kell Brook and Ricky Burns. Then we have the current batch of Olympic amateurs – Anthony Joshua, Anthony Ogogo, Freddie Evans, Luke Campbell and Nicola Adams. True, Ricky Hatton’s “comeback” was more closure than celebration and Amir Khan doesn’t seem to be on the top of his game at the moment, but to even be talking about boxing in a positive light means Britain’s best are doing something right in my eyes.