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Licensed to chill
BESIDES football, boxing has been one of the sports I have always been enthralled by, even if it is not politically correct.
That enthralment has frequently been accompanied by a more than slight shudder at my readiness to embrace a sport that ostensibly pits one man against the other – each opponent steeled to beating the lying daylights out of the other.
But for all the ferocity, the viciousness and the very genuine danger of maiming, even fatal injury, boxing has ever managed to capture my imagination and attention since I was a young pup, whose own pugilistic exploits lasted no more than seven minutes.
Events over the last decade and more have done so much to diminish my ardour certainly for the professional arm of the world’s cruellest sport.
Satellite television’s kidnapping – certainly not kid-glove-napping such was the intensity of its determination to pound other television rivals into the dirt – of the sport has been the over-rich foie gras to choke the golden goose.
Extra-terrestrial television snatched boxing away from the general public and then reduced the sport to mere pimp-dom as it then had the audacity to charge viewers even more cash via the obnoxious method of pay-for-view.
Almost as bad has been the modern-era crop of personalities who have tarnished the ring after being tasked with attracting so many bums on seats and shifting so many pay-per-view units.
Many of them, sad to say, have been British. Prince Naseem Hamed went from one of the most potent pound-for-pound fighters in the world to a parody of himself after the riches he acquired took centre ring.
Then there was Audley Harrison. Mighty Olympian to ‘Z’-list sleb whose boxing skills evaporated once he signed a golden gloves agreement with the BBC.
Even Ricky the Hitman Hatton was unable to avoid the pitfalls of illegal stimulants once the brief but laser-bright flare of his career came to an end.
But deeper depths have been plumbed, notably within the proximity of Klitschko brothers Wladimir and Vitali.
Against the former, Britain’s last heavyweight champion David Haye failed miserably to challenge despite a battery of unsavoury words outside the ring. He was undone, stressed Haye, by a broken toe. Arrrrrr.
Similarly the build-up to Dereck Chisora’s scrap against the other Klitschko brother was notable for his bizarre slapping of the German-based Ukrainian before their duel in February.
But all that was mere cannon fodder to the disgraceful public brawl indulged by both Brits – Chisora and Haye – at the post-fight inquest in Munich.
Haye had already ceded his pro licence while Chisora has since had his stripped from him by the British Boxing Board of Control.
But then this week the ultimate hype of hopelessness was unveiled with an announcement that Haye and Chisora would stand toe to toe in a ring at West Ham’s Upton Park football ground. The fight had been sanctioned by the Luxembourg Boxing Board.
I did not know that Luxembourg had any professional fighters, let alone a Boxing Board. It’s as unseemly as unseaworthy vessels getting the right to trawl the world’s oceans under a flag of convenience and beggar the consequences.
Haye and Chisora appeared at Upton Park – it gives me no satisfaction whatsoever to have forecast such a bout would take place – divided by a seven-foot metal fence, either side of which they (yawn) traded insults while their respective promoters wore the sort of smirks that would out-leer Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat.
But this was no cream moment, it was one to curdle diary products from Upton Park to Uzbekistan.
Worthily, the BBBC acted swiftly. It warned all those involved in the impending heavyweight promotion they will be automatically stripped of their licences.
That means any licence holder – including the promoter, managers, seconds and other fighters on the bill – will be deemed to have broken the terms of their membership, and instantly stripped.
At last an orgainsation with balls. But there is no doubt that another fight will soon ensue, legal challenges in the courts as to the unavoweable right of the BBBC to halt such a farce.
Yet, gut-wrenchingly before all that palaver, news arrived that more than 20,000 tickets have already been sold. Shame on all those who bought a ticket. All you have done is hammer more nails into British professional boxing.