SMALL HALL STEPS FORWARD
Matt Lewis recently wrote eloquently and very honestly about his relationship with the sport since the pandemic and I felt it only right to talk about what I see as having been a good year, all things considered, for boxing. I won't focus too much on the big names as Paddy covered that well on this site already. What I will say is it is brilliant to already have so many excellent top-level bouts agreed or damn near it.
Unlike Matt I was lucky enough to have had the luxury of live boxing in 2021 and some experiences I’ll never forget. Probably. My memory is pretty shot to shit.
On a personal level and to start on something of a low (so it’ll get happier!) the original Southpaw Jab website getting hacked was incredibly upsetting. Almost four years of work not just of mine but many writers and boxers who gave their time to talk trashed for some faceless malware to spam visitors. We’ve pumped money in trying to clean if for a return but those insidious cocksuckers have ripped the heart out of a labour of love- and I don’t see what’s in it for them.
Matt and Paddy both bemoaned the continuing rise of YouTubers in the professional fight game, and my kneejerk reaction is to agree. My kneejerk reaction is largely based on my rock solid belief that the Pauls are monumental pricks who I’ll pay to see beaten up. And that, dear friend, is boxing. Steve Bunce has made the point that Tommy Fury fighting Jake Paul is the greatest meeting of novices in the sport. He’s not wrong when you think about it. The fact I still want it to happen says loads about the intrigue of it as sport underneath the celebrity deathmatch hullabaloo.
Sticking with the internet, the rise of Fightzone has been pleasing. Good quality coverage from the smaller hall shows up and down the UK available online at a reasonable price- it maximises the audience and there is nobody like them, doing what they do. Personally they're a welcome addition to broadcast boxing.
Fights! There were some absolutely astonishingly good fights in 2021 and I was at one of them. It’s always nice when the big stage produces big drama and Tyson Fury’s third fight with Deontay Wilder was out of this world. I caught it on YouTube first thing in the morning, not knowing the result and before it was taken down for copyright infringement. It’s now on there legally and I urge you to enjoy it either again or for the first time.
Not only is it the fight of the year, but it’s also one of the best fights I’ve seen live, ever. Dan Morley’s 8 round war with Louis Isaacs in a Southern Area Welterweight Title eliminator was the reason I go to the small hall. It’s so personal, so passionate and so unbelievably entrancing when it catches fire. More often than not you know someone in the ring and that mixed with a crowd and the blood and sweat spraying from the ring is for me the ultimate sporting experience. Read my review below.
Talking of fighters I know, Team Southpaw Jab had a good year overall, despite John Harding Jr, Ollie Pattison and Jamie Hughes not seeing action. Ryan Walsh was back in the ring with a win over former foe and tough as hell Ronnie Clark. Fabio Wardley added two more knockouts to his perfect record and retained the English Heavyweight Title. Jack Hughes, the inimitable character who retired out of frustration, made a return, and I was concerned he’d taken on too much. After Ricky Little again pulled out of their Southern Area Title fight, Jack's impressive win over a man four weights above his normal division was a highlight for me.
Just being at the Dan and Jack fights, as well as seeing my guy Reiss "Showy" Taylor pick up a win, would have been enough of a live boxing treat in the six months boxing was properly back, but going to Wembley Arena as a fan and therefore being able to drink was great fun and a change from studiously taking notes. Talking of drinking, my absolute highlight of the year was in November.
As an Arsenal supporter I was deeply upset at visiting the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium- and discovering it is beautiful. White Hart Lane was a dump, but wow, what a change. A digression. Team SPJ’s Hannah Rankin went back to super welter and in a fight I was far too involved in emotionally (and drinks deep) to give an impartial opinion, won the WBA and IBO World Titles- outpointing Maria Lindberg unanimously! Hannah and coach Noel work hard as anything and are some of the nicest people both in and out of the sport.
It was one hell of a good night, in a well run show and a nice venue surrounded by friends from all over boxing (and even my Dad who was desperate to come). Hannah has defence news dropping soon, and I know she’s looking to add to her straps. That's why I love live boxing, and with Goodwin Boxing already tying down several dates for the first quarter of 2022, including Jack Hughes’ Southern Area Super Flyweight Title fight with Paul Roberts on 12th March, this year is already starting to fill up. I for one can’t wait; let’s push this forward.