By Russell Bedford – I began my love affair with the squared circle with more of a glance than a passionate embrace, it was the year of the first Bruno v Tyson fight and my mum had decided that my brother and I shouldn’t be exposed to such violence, this, to any child is just the encouragement, I needed to see what was happening and why my mother had deemed it so bad. I eventually caught the result by seeing it on the news. Not the most ideal way to christen the potential new conquest!
As childhood progressed and toys were replaced with music, clothes, films and whatever trend happened to be smacking 11-12yr old’s in the face I found myself taking a passing interest in boxing. I could name the significant fighters and their victories, I knew who was a champ and who was a chump. It wasn’t until I was at the Goldstone ground watching Brighton and Hove Albion play that it really began though, obviously the Goldstone isn’t the epitome of boxing excellence but Chris Eubank was parading his belts at halftime. For some reason, this sunk into the depths of my soul. This man was now joining king Kenny as one of my gods, I had to know everything about him and set out not to miss a fight. I didn’t quite achieve that as at that age bedtimes had to be adhered too!! The night of Benn v Eubank 2 came and I was going insane. I strutted around singing ‘simply the best’ I believed Eubank was…..I believed I was…..
After that fight, my hunger grew and I found myself watching whatever I could. I was still very much in the Eubank camp and when the Joe Calzaghe fight came about I was just as excited as I was when the Benn fight was aired. Unfortunately, in those pre Internet days, I had to settle on listening to it on the radio….never again…..hearing Eubank had lost made me believe radio broadcasts bought me bad luck (just look back to Leeds beating Liverpool 1-0 with that Yeboah goal as proof!)
As Eubank neared the end of his career I didn’t have a fighter I felt connected to, I was adamant I needed to learn about the greats and as with any young lad, Muhammad Ali jumps out a mile. I was fascinated with him and bought every book I could find, every VHS (yes VHS!!) I could watch and every commemorative magazine published. I was learning about a hero and understanding the sweet science more and more. Me being me though Ali wasn’t good enough. I needed Dempsey, Charles, Marciano, Johnson and whoever else I could find out about. Lucky for me there was a magazine and video release every two weeks about boxing history, British readers may remember it.
Then Nas came along……I wanted to like him, I really did but all I could see was a Eubank wannabe, until the Kevin Kelley fight. For me, the arrogant showman disappeared that night and a boxer emerged, It was a great performance and I found myself joining the masses in appreciating his talent. To be honest when the Barrera fight came along though I was, deep down hoping that Nas would lose. When he did, a small part of me cheered.
Now the world scene was still being illuminated by names that will go down in folklore and I remember watching Tyson v Holyfield, witnessing the infamous ear incident and being sucked further into this world of pugilism.
Iron Mike was a machine, programmed to kill and even though by now he had been around for a while he drew intrigue from everybody he got near. This was a move too far and the boxing community which was repulsed by it. I thought wanted more and found myself feeding off scraps as the dominance of Sky took over. It didn’t stop me though from giving my Mum and Dad the £15 needed for a PPV event, sleeping through the early evening then resurfacing at 2am to watch whoever Sky had decided was worthy of my cash. It was an excitement that other sports can capture but don’t always embrace in the same way. I guess it’s because you are supporting an individual rather than a team. You stay up all night until whatever time necessary to witness, at most, 36 mins of your chosen fighter trying to achieve his dreams.
Forward a few years and I remember the initial furore around Amir Khan. He was everywhere and as a result, I watched each fight on TV just hoping he would lose. Before that though, Joe Calzaghe was busy earning his right to be listed as an all-time great. With him having already disposed of my ring hero I was at first a little trepidatious of putting my support in his corner but as I watched him dismantle several high-class fighters I had to stand back in admiration. The Kessler, Hopkins and Jones Jr fights stand out as he showed such ring craft.
I remember going to a friends house to watch Mayweather vs De La Hoya. Floyd was grating on me, I needed him to lose, I wanted him to lose, I was desperate for him to lose. It didn’t happen and as we all know now, money continued his assault on the boxing world and made good work of establishing himself as one of the greats. In my head, though I set it up that I wanted him to fail…….I’m still waiting.
I’m no boxing expert at all and most writers on this website would put me to shame with their knowledge but my passion remains unwavering, I find myself to this day getting really hyped up about the most bizarre of fight cards and adamantly sticking to my guns over my belief in Eubank, Ali, Charles and Tyson.
Boxing does that to you and it’s something a lot of us reading this know, it’s a sport that gets right into the system, affects your day and night, week and month, year and year. We all have fighters we love, fighters we hate and bouts we dream to see.
I still set my alarm for 2,3,4 or 5 am to see the much-vaunted fight that any given pay channel has effortlessly promoted and I still love it. I don’t have a fighter that makes me jump out of my seat anymore but I find myself appreciating ring craft more and more.
Mayweather’s effortless defensive skills, Wlads impressive jab, Deontay Wilder and his explosive knockouts. Each one a facet of what makes boxing impressive, intelligent and beautiful.
We don’t know what is coming in the future but our die is cast. We are boxing heads and it’s something we won’t be able to shake off.