Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A Bad Week for British Boxing

The News of the World's mission to single-handedly expose the seedy-side of Britain's sportsmen continues. The latest star to be caught in their sticky web - Ricky Hatton. The former World Champion boxer has been caught on video taking cocaine.

It is hard to have any sympathy for the victims of the News of the World's undercover work as they are, of course, caught doing immoral and/or illegal acts. The newspaper's approach to investigative journalism clearly yields results.

I would still maintain, though, that it is somewhat unnecessary. Shock horror, overpaid sports stars indulge in some Class A drugs or have affairs. Nevertheless, it sells and sells well. As I say, few would sympathise.

Hatton, who has impressively managed to continue with both his weight gain and cocaine addiction, will surely now have had his retirement confirmed for him. Hints at a comeback will have been silenced as the career of one of Britain's greatest boxers comes to an unceremonious end.

I am not sure which news was worse for British boxing this week, however, Hatton's cocaine problems or David Haye's decision to fight Audley Harrison. Both damage the credibility of the sport. Haye, WBA World Champion, is to defend his title against the 2000 Olympic gold medallist, Harrison, on November 13th in Manchester's MEN Arena.

Although the build up to fight has already proven to be very entertaining, it can only be a step in the wrong direction for 'The Hayemaker'. The only thing Haye can gain from the bout is to, in his words, "close the curtain on the joke that is the Audley Harrison show". Haye is right, 'A-Force' has become somewhat of a comical figure in British boxing and, ultimately, the two are not in the same league.

Haye is in his prime and should win comfortably, but what will he have achieved? Even if he delivers an emphatic knock-out, it will barely grab the attention of fight fans while anything less than a decisive win will leave Haye open to his ever-present critics. Wladimir Klitschko dismissively called it a fight for the 'London Championship' and, unfortunately, he is not far from the mark. It is a fight purely of interest to English fans.

On Saturday night, Wladimir took on Samuel Peters and won comfortably. It was, however, barely a contest. The Ukrainian was never troubled by Peters as the Nigerian-born challenger proved to be little more than a plodding punching bag.

The Heavyweight division is desperately lacking in talent. Fights like the one on Saturday and the one scheduled to take place in November act only to highlight the dire state of the weight-class. They are unappealing appetisers to the fight the heavyweight division needs - Haye versus a Klitschko brother.

I hope I am not being overtly Anglo-centric when I say that David Haye unifying the weight-class would be the best thing that could happen to the division. The Klitschko brothers lack style in the ring and personality out of it. Their rule has marked a dark age for the division and Haye is the only bright spark to emerge from this darkness.

Why negotiations have not been successful between Haye and the Klitschko brothers is unclear. Each blames the other. It is the all too common problem of boxing's big names being able to hold their separate belts while avoiding fighting one another. I have commented on a couple of occasions how the sport of boxing needs to see Manny Pacquiao fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. and so too does the Heavyweight division, if the not the sport of boxing as a whole, need to see Haye fight a Klitschko.

Heavyweight boxing has commonly headlined the sport, but not for a while now. This is largely down to the lack of any American contenders at the top level. The home of boxing remains very much in the U.S.A. That is where the money and crowds are and American interest in the heavyweight division has dwindled as a result of their own lack of competitiveness.

Haye versus either Klitschko would bring some much needed interest, intrigue and attention to the division. Haye's marketability could help sell the fight across the pond, putting the weight-class back in the limelight.

It would make for a fascinating contest between boxers of opposing styles and characters. Once the comical side show of Haye v Harrison has passed, let's hope necessity will prevail and the fight that people want, and the heavyweight division needs, will finally be made.

As for Pacquiao v Mayweather. Mayweather has had a controversial week after a video was released of his racist rant about his Filipino rival. Perhaps this will help the fight to finally go ahead.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

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