I’ve been watching boxing since Floyd Patterson was the heavyweight champion of the world. I would listen to boxing on the radio with my dad and our kid, but I was five years old when I first saw Cassius Clay on television in the 1960 Olympics. I vividly remember my dad shouting: “Quick! Cassius Clay is on.” He was laughing and he said: “This kid does everything wrong, but gets everything right.” From that moment on we watched his career.
I pay Sky over £1000 a year for their products and services. Television, phone, broadband, Sky Go, Sky Multi-Room, Sky Protect and I do, nine times out of ten, pay for their boxing pay-per-views as well. Last night, on Twitter, I was looking for an answer to a question I posed to the @skysportsboxing account. “Why was the web stream for the u/c pulled?”
So there we were waiting for one fight to come along in the shape of either Kell Brook v Jessie Vargas or Gennady Golovkin v Chris Eubank Jr. They were like buses; but we had been hoping for two to come along at once. Instead, a 30-year-old Yorkshireman has found a way for Vargas, the WBO welterweight champion, to be slung off one to Sheffield in the autumn, and Eubank Jr, the British middleweight champion, to be chasing one that is now destined for London on 10 September.
The British heavyweight scene is big news at the moment and people keep asking me how I see the whole thing playing out. I’m 60 years old, and British heavyweight boxing has never been in better health than it is now. I haven’t really been interested in the world scene since Mike Tyson’s peak years. There have been some good fighters around but it’s never really excited me.
It would be almost folly to begin a story about Saturday night’s Canelo Alvarez-Amir Khan world title fight without first paying tribute to the Briton. We are in a period where the word risk is fading away from boxing. A word that remained emboldened through the decades thanks to exploits in years gone by from men who ‘dared to be great’. It is a word rarely associated with a supposed big fight nowadays and a description that is now showing its age with few willing to restore it. Thanks, in part, to playground arguments such as “I’m the A-side” and not forgetting the frequent cross-promotional rivalries and sanctioning bodies who protect their prize assets. Irritations that are sucking the interest out of some loyal boxing fans.
I nearly fell off my chair when I got a text from boxing writer John Evans telling me that Canelo is fighting Khan. I couldn’t believe it. I thought he was just suggesting it as an option. That fight had never even crossed my mind. Thinking about it more deeply - and I’ll be honest, I thought of nothing else that night - Khan is in a no-lose situation and Alvarez is in a no-win position. If I was looking after Alvarez, I wouldn’t be interested in taking it at 155. If he knocks Khan out people will say “So what?” Any other type of win will be talked down. Alvarez talked about going up to 160. He said himself he wouldn’t do 155 again, so he obviously struggles at that weight. He came in at 155 against Cotto, but wasn’t made to work hard and at a fast pace. He will have to work hard to pin Khan down.
Dave Coldwell wears many hats in boxing – trainer, manager, promoter and social media stalwart. The former pro flyweight has guided Tony Bellew towards an imminent world title shot and added an extra dimension to the McDonnell brothers Jamie and Gavin with the former’s Texas double over Tomoki Kameda among the principal highlights of a boom year for British boxing in 2015. Yet Coldwell (40,000 followers) has also been one of the more savvy advocates of Twitter utilising the social medium to market fledgling pros with a handful of fights under their belt. Young fighters now have to engage in and out of the ring. A social media presence has become essential in building a fan following as the art of the ticket-seller, pivotal in filling undercards on major and minor promotions, is redefined in the online era. “When I sign to manage a fighter, I will say to them have you got a Twitter account and, surprisingly, a lot of these young kids haven’t,” Coldwell told BM over the phone from his gym in Rotherham.
I was gutted when the WBC and WBA started recognising different champions back in the 1970s. However, you have to move on and adapt - all I ask is that once you become a champion you try to fight the best or unify. A fighter recently said that there’s only one world, so how can we have so many world champions? Business-wise, it makes the game thrive, as the young fans haven’t known anything else. The U.K. now has 11 world title-holders, who would have thought that such a tiny Island would produce so many? Not everyone is the dominant force in their division, but that can change. People now know that if you’re the best in Britain you can fight, which makes me proud.
Over the years people have asked me if a good trainer makes a good cornerman and vice versa. Ideally, you should be both: the trainer should be good in the gym, know his job technically and at the very least be able to teach his fighter how to throw every shot in the book. The cornerman should be able to hold his nerve on the night. However, you get some cases where a good trainer isn’t as good in the corner and wicked cornermen who aren’t great in the gym. One thing I haven’t got an answer for is why great fighters don’t always make for great trainers. That always astounds me because they’ve lived it.
Irish writer Brendan Behan once opined, “There's no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.” Prince Patel is doing his level best to dispel that theory. No domestic fighter has caused as much of a stir in recent times as the brash yet untested Acton flyweight.