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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# Corner man
All quiet on the boxing front this weekend
The days of boxing chiefs scheduling high-profile bouts on busy sports weekends are long gone.

THAT THIS IS one of boxing’s quietest in 2011 comes as no surprise.

Promoters in Europe daren’t put a card up against proceedings at Wembley while the Memorial Day Holiday and post-season NBA and NHL make it an unattractive weekend stateside.

However, this wasn’t always the case.  Oftentimes, World Title fights have been held on this weekend in the past, when boxing as a sport was stronger and able to withstand competition.  A search through Boxrec even finds many domestic title fights held in direct competition with the European Cup Final.  It simply does not happen now.

Recently, a piece by Frank Deford in Sports Illustrated captured how three weeks ago, boxing would have shared the spotlight with horse racing in what would have been one of the biggest days of the sporting year, were it to be held decades previously.

A huge Welterweight contest, like that  between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley, staged on the evening of the Kentucky Derby, would have whetted the lips of fans in the US but in 2011, both events were overshadowed by a plethora of other attractions.  It’s another sign of boxing’s long, gradual and regrettable decline.

Boxing will bounce back – next weekend is another big’’un, like the one just past, but it is a shame for a sport which was once one of the biggest in the world to have fallen by the wayside in this fashion.  Boxing is not a minority sport though – over 1.2 million people in the US paid $55 a head to watch Mosley-Pacquiao, last November’s bout between David Haye and Audley Harrison was big business in the UK, while here in Ireland, over 600,000 people stayed up after midnight to watch Bernard Dunne knockout Ricardo Cordoba and clinch his World Title.

It is proof that boxing can be big business for promoters and television networks, in the right circumstances, but the sport’s comparative fall in standing in the past 30 years demonstrates the urgent need for a re-think of the way it is run.

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The first boxers to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games are known following Day 1 of the World Series of Boxing Individual Championships in China.  Boxers from Italy, China and Kazakhstan booked their spots in next year’s Games with wins in the final on Friday, while today sees two other fighters book their spots in the middleweight and light heavyweight competitions.

Bizarrely, the competitors booked their spots in next year’s Games in seven-round contests, in which no vests or head guards are worn, with judge-scoring rather than the traditional ‘point-per-punch’ amateur setup.

Closer to home, both geographically and in terms of custom, Michael McDonagh fights David Oliver Joyce and John Joe Joyce takes on Willie McLaughlin in box-offs to take spots on the Irish Team for next month’s European Championships. While there are no Olympic places up for grabs in Ankara, tonight’s winners will get to compete for a Continental title, and will keep themselves in the frame for a spot on the national squad ahead of London.

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A few people texted, emailed and tweeted me in the past week to point out my mistake regarding last week’s DeGale-Groves contest, and it’s a fair point.  I stuck my neck out saying DeGale would win the bout, but in a shock it was Groves who edged the close decision at the O2 Arena.  Most pundits had given him little chance – 29 of 31 polled boxing writers in the UK had plumped for the British Olympic Champion.

I won’t go as far as apologising to Groves, as some have.

The fight was so narrow that many had given Chunky the decision after 12 rounds, including yours truly.  The controversial manner of the decision means the row over which man is best will likely linger, or at least re-emerge at a later date but should they ever fight again, then DeGale and his corner will have to fight a more tactical adept game plan, as it was clear on Saturday last that Adam Smith and George Groves completely outwitted Chunky.

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Amir Khan will likely announce his next opponent in the coming days.  The Bolton native was due to fight Timothy Bradley on July 23rd but with the American pulling out of the fight, and the TV date with HBO remaining in place, he’s now scrambling for an opponent at relatively late notice.  Former champion Zab Judah is the most likely replacement.

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This Week in Boxing History

I’m going way back into the ages this week, but rightly so, as tomorrow is a day when Irish boxing fans will remember the career of our greatest ever.  He’s no longer a household name, but The Baby-faced Assassin Jimmy McLarnin was a two-time World Champion who mixed it up with and beat many of the greats of his time.

Winning 55 of his 69 fights, McLarnin had lost his first title shot against Sammy Mandell in 1928 but five years later, on May 29th 1933, he knocked out Young Corbett III in the first round of their contest in Los Angeles.  The New York Times labelled the fight “the most spectacular upset the welterweight division has known in some years” and this may have been an understatement.

I cannot find footage of the bout, but here is McLarnin in action against Barney Ross 2 years later, 76 years ago today.  It was a fight that the Down native swore he had won though he was not given the decision.

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