Purse but no crown at stake in Lee-Quillin fight

Peter Quillin must be kicking himself for scoffing that last tempting slice of strawberry cheesecake when he just knew he shouldn’t, but hey, we’ve all done it, right?

We’ve all been in training for a world title fight and somehow managed to overshoot the weight limit by a pound and a half, haven’t we?  The last time I trained for a world title fight, my coach said, Just do your best and go easy on the chips because that’s how modern training methods work.   Close your eyes and hope for the best.

Science?  Ha!

What an interesting situation it was, with Quillin challenging Lee for the world title, and then turning up just a fraction too fat.  Not fat, admittedly, by the standards of the people who’ll attend the fight, as anyone who’s been to these things will tell you, but still overweight.  A pound and a half overweight, which doesn’t seem like a lot.  If I was a pound and a half overweight I’d be celebrating with cakes, beer and burgers, but I’m not an elite athlete and neither are you, in all likelihood.

This sport has rules, including the requirement to weigh in and meet the standard, because boxing is based on, of all things, weights.  Who knew?  Was nobody around to remind Peter Quillin that he had a fight coming up and that maybe it would be a good plan to stay away from the pies until after he got on the scales?  Apparently not, and the result is that he won’t get a shot at the title, although he still gets to fight Andy.

Now, in my estimation, Andy Lee is a true sportsman who will do his best in the contest with Quillin.  A lesser man might decide to take a shot to the jaw and drop in the second round, since he’d still collect his purse and still be the Champ, but Andy isn’t made of that sort of stuff. He’ll defend his honour and his pride right to the end.

On the other hand, even if the fight goes the distance, and even if Quillin wins, it will make no difference, since he threw away the chance of taking the belt by scoffing too much strawberry cheesecake and too many deep-fried salted fatfukkers.

What a strange situation.  I don’t know how the purse works out after Quillin’s unfortunate lapse, but it seems obvious that Andy should get whatever was agreed, since he had no part in the ridiculous collapse of the title fight.

Andy met his side of the bargain.  Quillin didn’t.  What else is there to say?

Boxing Cricket

Freddie Flintoff Goes Pro

Frank Warren thinks Freddie Flintoff’s fight is disrespectful to boxing.


Is this the same Frank, innit, wot got fackin shot, didn’e, by ‘oods wot ‘e didn’t know nuffink abaht?

And Frank finks Freddie is takin da piss?  ‘Ang abaht, my son.  Wot da fack is goin on ‘ere then, eh?

It’s gone fackin mad, innit, the way British boxing has clubbed together to condemn Flintoff’s first pro fight.

Khalid Yafai tweeted: “Fair play to Flintoff but he should see my nan’s right hand!! Embarrassing for boxing though!”   What Khalid doesn’t reveal is that his nan would have been the Yemeni middleweight champion but for cruel anti-women boxing laws.

When asked his opinion, Chris Eubank adjusted his monocle and intoned One must become one’s opponent.

See, here’s the thing.  Freddie’s first fight was a joke.  We all agree with that.  Even Freddie probably agrees, but guess what?  He’s joined a sport that’s a complete fucking joke.

This is a sport that tolerated Mike Tyson as world champion and Don King as the principal promoter in the USA, so really, what does it matter if Freddie Flintoff has a glass jaw?   The sport is already a cartoon   Maybe Freddie has a glass jaw and maybe he hasn’t.  I don’t know.  All I know is that anyone who’s prepared to go through that sort of punishment deserves all our respect.

In fairness to Tyson, he understands the game, and he is the man who gave us this immortal advice: Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.  I understand his point of view, just as every general in history would, including the famous paraphrasing of von Moltke: No plan survives contact with the enemy.

It’s true.  Show me a plan of any kind that ended up being exactly the same at the end of the effort.  It doesn’t matter if that plan is a political strategy or simply a scheme to build a house.  No intention survives in the light of physical experience.

Amateur boxing is tough and I can tell you now that I’m not stepping into a ring with anyone trained to punch me in the nose, but Flintoff went up a level and while he might be at the bottom of professional boxing, he managed to get there.

Besides, he reached the top of his game in a sport that’s decided by the final score, not by judges, unlike Khalid Yafai, so Freddie arrived fully equipped with bragging rights.

Know what I mean, Frank?






Katie Taylor Wins Gold

What do you want me to say about Katie Taylor?  Haven’t we been writing about the girl here forever?

What an amazing performance by an astonishing athlete.

In truth, we could just as easily be talking about Katie Taylor, footballer, or Katie Taylor, swimmer, because this girl is a consummate athlete, one of those deeply annoying people who can excel at whatever sport they choose to dominate.

It’s irritating, until you realise that you’ve entered the presence of greatness, in the shape of Katie Taylor, the finest female boxer on the planet, and perhaps the finest boxer of either gender to climb into a ring in the modern era.

Katie’s a phenomenon, an unbeatable combination of fitness, athleticism and natural ability, combined with self belief and determination.  Who can stand up to that?

Katie is a true Olympian, displaying all the dignity and skill required of that status.

Well done, girl.



Boxing News

What’s in the News?

It’s been a busy old day, but it was one of those days where I got a lot done, so I’m happy to relax now, have a nice glass of wine and blather some nonsense at you.

If you were looking for weirdness, you wouldn’t need any drugs today.  Just switch on the news and let the weirdness wash over you but never fear that it might run out.  There’s plenty of serious weirdness in the world this last 24 hours or so, and for sheer lunatic, ignorant madness, it would be hard to beat Rick Perry, addressing an audience in South Carolina.

Turkey, according to Rick, is ruled by Islamic terrorists.

Let’s give him some credit before we go any further, or perhaps the credit should go to his election team, who explained to him that Turkey is a country  not a big chicken.  His redneck audience is probably still scratching its head.  That boy talkin’ ’bout a turkey-shoot?

Perry is talking about an ally of the United States, a Nato member and a country with a secular government which has experienced its share of religious fundamentalist violence.  Now, admittedly, there is the unresolved matter of the Armenian genocide which Turkey still denies, but there is also the matter of the Kurds, so abominably treated by successive Turkish governments.  However, the oppression of minorities isn’t something that worries this presidential candidate.

His reason for saying that Islamic terrorists run Turkey?  They protested about the piracy of the Mavi Marmara and murder of Turkish citizens by Israeli military personnel.

I protested vehemently about the attack on the convoy, which, I suppose makes me the world’s first atheist Islamic terrorist.

Somehow, in Perry’s demented vision, the Gaza flotilla transmutes into the anti-Israel flotilla, which strikes me as doubly ironic considering the bunch of drooling rednecks he was addressing.  This constituency has a history of Klan activity and they weren’t averse to stringing up the odd Jew along with the uppity blacks, but of course, I forget.  This is American Republican politics in all its ill-informed, overweight, burger-munching glory.

In the land of the sound-bite, the idiot is King.

But if you think that’s insane, flip on over to the conversation between the harbourmaster in Isola del Giglio and the captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino.

Get back on board! orders the port commander.  That’s an order!

It seems I was too kind to Francesco in an earlier post.  The reports now are suggesting that he deliberately ran the ship close to the shore so that a crew member could wave to someone on land, and it also seems that this is a fairly common practice.  Imagine that.  You’re in command of a giant ship that cost the guts of a billion euros to build.  It has thousands of people on board, but you decide to scoot it past an island like you’re driving a  Vespa.   Ciao, Signorina!

After crashing his enormous ship onto a rock, what did Schettino do?

Well, obviously, he did what any professional ship’s captain would, didn’t he?

No.  He issued the order to abandon ship and then he ran for it.  Women and children first?  Well, yes, but not before Il Capitano.

Now look.  I don’t know about you, but I always imagined that the people in charge of ships, from the smallest river-steamer to the mightiest ocean liner, are highly-trained experts.  I wouldn’t have assumed for even a second that the man in charge of a magnificent vessel like the Costa Concordia would be anything other than a consummate professional, but instead, what do I hear in the recorded conversations broadcast tonight?  A bumbling coward doing his best to bullshit a real professional, the Giglio harbour-master, who can’t believe his ears as he instructs the craven fool to get back on board his vessel and behave as a captain should.

Weird.  Weird.  Weird.

Where can we turn for a dose of anti-weirdness?  Well, what about turning to the great Muhammad Ali, whose 70th birthday is today and who has more dignity in his trembling hand than either Schettino or Perry have in their entire bodies.

Remember that interview Ali gave with Parkinson?

Why do you box in the Deep South?   They all hate you.

Yeah.  They’re sayin’ whup that nigger, whup that nigger.

And I’m sayin ‘ ten thousand twenty thousand

Whup that nigger

Forty thousand fifty thousand

Whup that nigger

Sixty thousand.

He is one clever man, but I wonder what Rick Perry’s South Carolina Jew-hatin’, Jew-lovin’, nigger-hatin’ conflicted Klansmen really think about this thoughtful man who refused to kill people in South-East Asia on the very solid grounds that they never did anything to him?  Let’s not forget that Ali sacrificed his entire career to defend a principle, and as a consequence, the world never saw him at his peak, which is an astonishing thought.  If the artistry he displayed was only a preview, what might he have shown us if the US government hadn’t chosen to prove a point by drafting this young black man?

His refusal to enlist  wasn’t cowardice.  The likelihood is that Ali would never have seen action, and he was smart enough to know that.  They’d have put him on the Elvis circuit, and he would have been required to endorse a war he considered immoral.

He could have gone along with the lie, as so many other celebrities did, but he chose not to, and that will stand to his eternal credit.

Thank you Muhammad Ali.  Reliable as always.  Just when I thought we were going to sink in a sea of weirdness, I’m rescued by a man of principle.




Haye to Meet Klitschko in Heavyweight Showdown

Andy Lee’s coach Joey Gamache, a former two-weight World champ, was in Limerick last year and he had a concise caution for English heavyweight David Haye.

USA-born Gamache, who claimed World lightweight and light-welter titles in 1995/96, warned Haye to stay away from the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali – unless he’s developed a sudden taste for intensive care units.

But the Londoner wouldn’t listen, would he?

In fact, not only didn’t Haye listen, he ended up taunting the Ukrainian siblings by wearing a T-shirt with their two decapitated heads emblazoned on the front. As attention seeking goes he hit the target as the Klitschkos took the bait and flipped a coin between themselves to decide which one would have the opportunity to put manners on the English upstart.

Wladimir, nicknamed Dr Steelhammer, won the toss. Likewise, he’ll now put his WBO, IBO and IBF belts on the line against Haye, the current WBA champ, in a no-love-lost clash at the Imtech Arena in Hamburg on Saturday night.

Undaunted by the fact that Klitschko wants to tear him a new arsehole, Haye was back taunting his opponent yesterday, claiming that he’s going to make the robot, which he often calls the Klitschkos, malfunction.

Wladimir responded by vowing to give Haye a lesson in life and predicting that he will be having an excursion to a “reality rehab clinic” at the weekend.

“My name is Dr Klitschko, I am a therapist and on July 2 I am going to give you treatment,” he warned Haye, as he was glaring down on the Londoner with that expression you reserve for a zit on the end of your nose.

It’s all very entertaining and reminiscent of the uproar Ali used to cause when that part of his mind reserved for the creation of Superman cartoons featuring himself in the lead role was given free access to a microphone.

There’s only one difference – Ali was the greatest heavyweight of all time.

Meantime, Klitschko is trained by Andy Lee’s coach Emanuel Steward.  Lee often spars the 6ft 6in power-puncher if he’s meeting a southpaw.

The Kiev-native has a formidable record going into Saturday’s duel, having won 55 of his 58 fights, 49 by way of KO. One of his sparring partners admitted recently that the tweety birds were still circling around his head three days after he walked into a right hook from Klitschko in training.

“I thought I had a fucking stroke,” was his take on that incident.

Haye, who reckons his hand speed will see him through Saturday’s showdown, has quieted down a bit over the last few days. Bravado is not uncommon when the guns are in the distance. However, as the cannon roar increases in intensity fighters usually stop thinking out loud.

Unless, of course, they happen to be Ali, who continued insulting his opponents, their immediate and extended family, right up to the toll of the opening bell.

I’m not convinced by Haye. He’s added some colour to the preamble, I’ll give him that, and whilst that puts bums on seats ultimately it’s just talk. I don’t even think he’s a true heavyweight. Cruiserweight appears to be his natural domain and he’ll be giving away three inches in height and reach to Klitschko on Saturday.

The British papers are claiming that Haye became their first heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis when he beat Nikolai *The Beast from the East” Valuev for the WBA title in 2009.

This is the same Lewis who won an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 1988 – if they can walk and chew gum at the same time our neighbours will claim they’re Brits.

Valuev, meantime, was an embarrassing ogre. Some of his punches were so long in transit they could have been timed with a sun dial. The last time I saw him trade leather I was half expecting to see him to leave the ring with his two arms outstretched in front of him.

All Valuev is short is a bolt running through his neck. One of the crew working his corner even looks like Igor. Having said that, Klitschko’s recent opponents wouldn’t exactly have you waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat either.

Haye successfully defended his title against John Ruiz and retained the belt again after stopping the woefully inept Audley Harrison in Manchester last November.

Given his inactivity – he hardly threw a punch – Harrison, who was booed going into, inside, and coming out of the ring, was lucky not to have had his purse withheld.

“Pacifism is an honourable creed but a man’s public pubic espousal of it looks less than noble when he has just inked a lucrative contract to go to war,” to paraphrase the great boxing scribe Hugh McIlvanney.

Haye believes his hand speed and greater mobility will see him emerge victorious, that he’s going to snaffle Klitschko.  I don’t think it’s going to happen. You can run but you can’t hide in the squared circle and sooner or later the man from the Ukraine will corner his prey.

A snaffle on the day might not keep this doctor away.


Barry McGuigan’s New Book. Cyclone: My Story

DAVID O’LEARY’S penalty in the shootout against Romania in Italia 90, Gerry McLoughlin going over the line against England festooned with Saxons, Michael Carruth’s gold medal win at the 1992 Olympics, Sonia O’Sullivan’s World Championships win, Ray Houghton putting the ball in the English net in 88.

My goal against for Prospect Priory in the 2nd round of the Moriarty Funeral Home & Pizza Parlour sponsored Division 1Z Cup at a wind and piebald pony swept Cals Park in 93 is another much debated moment in Irish sport.

That strike set a new record for deflections en route to the net, taking about 10 in all, including a ricochet off a low flying jackdaw, squaaaak, before inching it’s way apologetically over the line. We would have won that morn if there hadn’t been an opposition.

Ah, the great Cals Park, our field of dreams. Messi and the like merely have to make their way through a congested penalty area. In Cals, you had to avoid defenders, at least five different breeds of domestic dog, ponies, horses, winos, abandoned furniture, Gardai dragging a defender off the field – if it was a hurling match the bastards would have waited until full time to arrest him – and one opposing team brazenly starting a match with 13 players.They were using the revolutionary 4-5-3 formation.

Meantime, what about Eamon Coughlan breaking the four minute mile – after his 40th birthday – or Bernard Dunne dropping Ricardo Cordoba three times in the 11th round to claim the WBA super-bantamweight title. Earlier that same day, Ronan O’Gara, the hand of history on his shoulder, fired over the drop goal that bridged a 61-year gap since Ireland last won the Grand Slam.

All great Irish sporting moments. However, I reckon that Barry McGuigan dethroning the great Panamanian WBA featherweight champ Eusebio Pedroza on an emotionally charged night at Loftus Road in London in 1985 tops the lot.

McGuigan was at the National Stadium recently, trailing clouds of past glories. He was demonstrating, shadow-boxing style, how body shots could put manners on an opponent.

The shadow took two standing counts and its corner three in the towel before it was shifted off to the Mater gasping for breath, a pale imitation of its former self, ahem.

The former Irish Olympian was also at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin on Friday to launch his new book; Cyclone: My Story, a 260-page tome which has been acclaimed by Daniel Day Lewis.

Raised in the border town of Clones, Co. Monaghan, at the height of the troubles, McGuigan’s profile went far beyond the squared circle. He united people across sectarian and religious divides during a difficult time in Ireland’s political history.













A Catholic, Barry married his Protestant childhood sweetheart, Sandra, in 1981. An Irishman, he fought for the British Title, wearing boxing shorts in the colours of the United Nation’s Flag of Peace – and in place of a national anthem his musician father, Pat, sang a heartfelt rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ before his son’s title fights.

From the moment he took up boxing aged 11 after finding an antique pair of gloves in a derelict house to the build up to his world title fight, Cyclone: My Story spans the extraordinary highs, and lows, of McGuigan’s career.

He evocatively recreates his early days in the amateur ranks (training in a club run by farmers), his unsuccessful visit to the Olympics and his decision to turn pro, and then his progression to title-fight contender. Recollecting each of his fights, his vivid prose takes you right to the heart of training and sparring, and provides a blow-by-blow account of what happens when you step through the ropes into the ring.

Written with the perspective of a sportsman who has reached the peak of his game and then experienced life outside the ring, Cyclone: My Story contrasts professional glory with personal tragedy. Reflective and contemplative, McGuigan discusses the experiences of his daughter’s illness, brother’s suicide and the impact of the Young Ali fight to provide a unique insight into the place of success and boxing in his life.

Nigeria-born Ali slipped into a coma after he was KO’d by McGuigan in London in 1982. He died five months later. McGuigan, who dedicated his win over Pedroza to Young Ali, admitted that he was devastated.

“I went to the neutral corner and Ali did not get back up. The ref counted ten and he still did not move”, McGuigan recalled.

“I hadn’t taken up the game up the game to do something like that to somebody. I wanted to get the better of my opponent but I never wanted to hurt them. It shocked me, profoundly shocked me.”

“I was very down about it, very upset, I was questioning why I was boxing, whether or not I should continue. It was a strangely lonely and isolating experience to
go through.”

The tortured morality of little wars. Maybe it was McGuigan’s tragedy to find himself articulate in such a dangerous language.

He recalled the moment in the 7th round when he finally broke the resistance of Pedroza at the home of QPR.

“The crowd were going absolutely mad as I went to a neutral corner as the ref was giving the count. I did what any good pro should do and turned to look at my corner.

“They should be calming you down, giving you advice – “throw a left and a right, hit him with a big left hook.” But I looked over and they were just leaping up and down and behind them the crowd were going crazy. I stood there thinking, what punch should I throw now?

“Pedroza really was a great champion as he came back strong in the eighth round, but the seventh was the turning point definitely, there was no way I was going to be denied after that.”

Shot-through with McGuigan’s characteristically unassuming, straightforward and open manner that won him a loyal army of fans, Cyclone: My Story is a fascinating portrait of one of boxing’s biggest icons.

The Clones Cyclone claimed 32 wins (28 KO’s) from 35 fights between 1981 and 1989.

Is this a shameless plug for McGuigan’s new book? Yes it is. We’d do anything around here for free drink.

However, a brown envelope is our ultimate target.


Boxing Ramble

The last few weeks have been less than glorious for Irish southpaws challenging for World titles on both sides of the Atlantic.  Even Andy Lee had to rely on a last gasp effort to subdue Scottish puncher Craig McKeown, who was ahead on points in the final frame of their non-title clash at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut before Lee hit the jackpot and KO’d the Edinburgh-born middleweight with a left hook forged in the St Francis club in Limerick.

Incidentally, how was copper wire invented? Two Scots found a penny.

If in doubt, knock him out they say, although another victory like that, and Lee, who admitted that he had to pull it out of the fire, will be done for to paraphrase a famous general.  There was no such luck for his fellow Limerick and Irish left-handers Willie “Big Bang” Casey or Brian Magee however. Casey was dismantled inside one round by Cuba’s Guillermo (El Chacal, The Jackal) Rigondeaux, the defending WBA super-bantamweight champ, and Ulster’s Brian Magee was stopped in the 10th round by defending IBF super-middleweight champ Lucian Bute in Montreal.  You bute you.

Next up is unbeaten Derry-born southpaw Paul McCloskey, nicknamed Dudey.  McCloskey, 31, meets defending WBA light-welterweight champ Amir Khan tomorrow night at the MEN Arena in Manchester.  Dudey, despite the fact that he is the European champion, has been completely written off by the Irish bookies, who have him out at 6/1 as opposed to Khan’s 1/12 on. Khan’s purse took a major hit this week when Sky Box Office announced that they wouldn’t be showing the fight, that it would be broadcast live on the minor pay-per-view Primetime. Likewise, Khan’s purse plummeted from a reported £1.2 million to about a quarter of a million. It is understood that Dudey will trouser £150,000. Khan’s people say they are outraged by Sky’s decision, but McCloskey’s camp say he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the money, that their man is in the zone and ready for battle.

Meanwhile, back to the Casey and Rigondeaux duel. Some claim that Cork’s Gary Hyde provided the speedboat for Rigondeaux for his dramatic escape from Cuba. Under the moonlight, the serious moonlight, El Chacal did a runner from Havana a few years back. He was supposed to go to Cork, but for some reason he settled in Miami.  It’s a difficult choice isn’t it? On the one hand you have Leeside –  and then there’s Florida.  Such a dilemma and life being so brutally short.  Anyway, the two-time Olympic champ was in in Thomond Park  for a press conference to promote his fight with Casey, the 2010 European super-bantamweight champ, who relinquished the continental strap to challenge the two-time Olympic champion for his WBA super-bantamweight crown, acquired on a split decision over Ricard Cordobain Texas a few months prior to his visit to the Treaty City.

The home of Munster rugby housed two former European champs on the day. Rigondeaux, or Rigo, as Hyde, who had to go to court in Miami to retain his services after a rival promoter tried to get in on the act, affectionately refers to the charismatic Santiago de Cuba native, was very impressed by Thomond Park and was taking pictures of the venue.

“I heard that Munster and the All Darks are the best in world,” says he, speaking through an interpreter.

“That’s correct and in that order. The  All Blacks actually.”

“And what about Leinster?”

“Leinster are a British side.”


His interpreter explains that he had been corrected about the All Darks. Rigo grins menacingly. All his upper teeth are capped with gold. If a man whose waist is adorned with a WBA belt says they’re the All Darks then they’re the All  Darks – unless you’ve developed a sudden taste for intensive care units.

“Has he ever fought a Traveller,” asks an eejit from the back of the audience when the press Conference commences.

“No, but he has won two Olympic gold medals, two AIBA World titles, Pan American gold and seven Cuban titles before winning the WBA after just seven pro fights,” replies a hack.

“Who’s fucking asking you.”

“Lads, leave the questions to the press will you.”

Rigo goes into a monologue about his career and his plans for the future.  Casey, from Southill in Limerick, reiterates his belief that Rigo is a one-trick pony, that he’ll be in his face.  The Limerick southpaw, a Traveller, is taking a leaf out of Jack Charton’s book and is planning to put him under pressure when they meet at the Citywest in Dublin. But Casey was made eat his words as Rigo stopped him in the first round.  The opening exchanges were civilised enough, but once Rigo drove a left into Casey’s ribs after about a minute it was the beginning of the end for the Shannonsider. Rigo’s footwork is also amazing. He’s sliding in, not unlike the moonwalk perfected by Michael Jackson, the people’s peadophile, and is sitting down on his punches. He’s also extremely hard to hit, the type of boxer that looks elusive even when he’s standing still. His second last opponent before his engagement in Dublin was flaking away hammer and thongs at a point which Rigo had vacated about half a second previously, and when he turned around to face his foe he was left occupying a large area of floor space after being felled with a left hook.

Back at the Citywest, Rigo’s body shots are forcing Casey to drop his elbows to protect his rib cage – an open invitation to go for the head. Rigo obliges. A few seconds later the ref steps in and takes Casey into protective custody after he wilts under a barrage of combinations. Casey’s Rocky Balboa-like rise to stardom ends 22 seconds from the sanctuary of the bell for the end of the first.

He admits after the fight that he was hurt by the shot to the ribs early in the opening frame, the only frame. Still, it was a brave challenge from the Shannonsider. And he can always say that he had a shot at a World title. He was a contender.

But back to the Press Conference in Thomond Park. Rigondeaux tells a tale which should serve as a sobering reminder to those of us who might be inclined to be lyrical about Castro and his pathetic Marxist fiefdom. In 2007, at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro , Rigo, and fellow pugilist Erislandy Lara,  did a runner and defected. However, they stopped running too soon and were arrested by Brazilian police and put on the first flight back to Havana. Another Cuban athlete was collared in a whorehouse in Rio, all shagged out. He was also frog-marched to the airport. Back on the Caribbean archipelago, Uncle Fidel wasn’t amused and, comparing defectors to soldiers deserting their comrades in battle, bans the entire boxing team from the 2007 World Championships and first Olympic qualifier in Chicago. Rigo – who was once presented with the keys of a new car by Castro in recognition of his incredible sporting achievements – was singled out and booted off the Cuban team for the 29th Olympiad in Beijing, where he would almost certainly have won his third Olympic gold on the trot. He no longer had a future, just a glorious past.

Shunned in his home town his career appeared to be in tatters –  until a man from Cork provided the means for his escape. But his second defection came at a price as he had to leave his partner, Farah Colina, and nine-year-old son behind. Rigo spoke lovingly of his other half and son in Thomond Park, his voice subdued from its normal up-tempo patter.  He suddenly stopped talking after saying that he didn’t want to say anymore because of the “political situation back home”. Casey expressed his heartfelt wish that one day his opponent will be reunited with his family.  Rigo’s interpreter relays Casey’s sentiments. The combatants share a nod and a smile.

Some thing’s are a lot bigger than WBA super-bantamweight titles. However, the bottom line is that, in the 21st century, Guillermo Rigondeaux, who some believe is the greatest pound-for-pound amateur boxer of all time,  had to sneak out of his own country like a thief in the night to pursue fame and fortune in his chosen trade, leaving his loved ones behind to fend for themselves.  He can never set foot in his homeland again and his partner and child cannot legally leave. Rigondeaux’s tale should serve as a reminder of the freedoms we take for granted. For whether O’Gara fired over a last minute penalty or not, or whether Messi completes a hat-trick or McCloskey has the last laugh at the Irish bookies, the unpatriotic swine,  and triumphs in Manchester, are really matters of profound indifference, existential distractions.

Bill Shankly once said that football wasn’t a matter of life and death that it was much more important than that. Sorry, it isn’t Bill. It’s just a game. Having said that, fingers crossed that Dudey triumphs in Manchester tomorrow. Amir is without  doubt a class act and he’ll try to blow McCloskey away from theopening  bell. But if the three-time Irish Elite champ can survive the opening onslaught and take the Bolton fighter down into the wilderness rounds then he’s right in there with a shout. McCloskey has waited his entire life for this shot and he’s going to leave everything in the squared circle tomorrow night. Can Dudey do the business? Yes He Khan.


Katie Taylor Wins AIBA Gold Medal in Barbados

IS Katie Taylor Ireland’s most successful athlete since around the time Brian Boru earned a unanimous decision over the Vikings at Clontarf?

Is the Pope a German?

Taylor, Ireland’s Caribbean Queen according to the Red Tops, claimed her third AIBA lightweight title on the trot following an 18-5 win over China’s Cheng Dong in Bridgetown, Barbados last night.

The Bray fighter, once again showcasing remarkable hand speed, dominated the four-rounder to completely outclass Dong in a repeat of the 2008 final which Taylor won 13-2 in Ningbo City, China.

Two stinging left hooks in the final two rounds emphasised Taylor’s dominance, as Dong, who at 6ft had a five inch height advantage over the Irish fighter, saw her longer reach negated by rapid-fire combinations launched off the front and back foot.

For those not familiar with the female version of the noble art, women boxers do not prance around the squared circle threatening each other with fluffy feather dusters. They’re hitting each other in the head.

It’s not a tickling competition to paraphrase Ricky Hatton.

Taylor, 24, who was involved in an all out war of attrition with Queen Underwood of the USA in Friday’s 60Kg semi-final, was also presented with the boxer of the tournament award at the 75-nation tournament in the Caribbean island state.

Saturday’s win, which was achieved with her dad and coach Peter and Ireland’s Georgia born coach Zuar Antia working her corner, was her 100th victory from 106 bouts since 2001, an outstanding level of consistency considering that three of her defeats were debatable to say the least.

She also has four European and three European Union titles to her name on top of scooping the 2008 AIBA World boxer of the year award in that nine year period.

En route to Saturday’s gold she beat five opponents from the most heavily populated countries in the world – India,Brazil, Russia, USA and China.

Her victory also sends out a strong signal of intent to all the pretenders to her throne ahead of the London Olympics in 2012. In short, she’ll be the one to beat.

The 2012 AIBA Women’s World Championships in China will act as the only Olympic qualifier for female pugilists.

Thirty six place will be up for grabs at the 30th Olympiad in the English capital across three weight categories – (flyweight, lightweight (Taylor’s division) and middleweight.

Meanwhile, the Barbados World Women’s Championships has gone a long way to improving the image of the game. Some of the bouts were top class. Granted, female boxers do not punch as hard as men but they have replaced power-punching with technique.

In fact, I reckon that a lot of the women are more technically proficient than their male counterparts in the hardest game of them all.

So is the female of the species deadlier than the male?

Ask Katie Taylor – stand about five feet back when you venture the inquiry.

Meantime, London Calling.


Darren Sutherland — Murder or Suicide?

Was a third-party involved in the death of Ireland’s Olympic boxer Darren Sutherland?

Forensic pathologist Professor Jack Crane, who is working for the Sutherland family, has, according to a report in a national newspaper, raised the possibility that, because Sutherland’s hands were tied behind his back when he died, a third-party may have been involved.

It was reported that Sutherland, a middleweight bronze medal winner at the Beijing Olympics, hanged himself in his apartment in Bromley, London on September 14th 2009. He was 27-years old.

Sutherland turned professional after the 2008 Olympiad, winning his first four fights.  His manager Frank Maloney was the first on the scene at the time and was taken to hospital suffering from shock and a heart attack.

In an interview with the BBC, Maloney said that what he had witnessed in Sutherland’s apartment that day would remain with him for the rest of his life.

“I feel numb about it, to be truthful,” he said. “I don’t like closing my eyes. I don’t like being on my own at the moment. I hear his voice. I hear myself speaking to him.”

According to reports, Professor Crane, Northern Ireland’s state pathologist, who reviewed the initial post-mortem results, described them as “wholly inadequate” in a letter.

He wrote: “The presence of a ligature, even if only loosely tied around the wrists, raises some concern about the possibility of a third party.”

He also wrote that the post-mortem included no description of the ligature found around Darren’s neck, no description of how it was knotted, an “inadequate description” of the marks on his neck, and “a lack of detail in respect of the ligature around the wrists”.

“The standard of the autopsy is, in my opinion, inadequate and below the standards required by the Royal College of Pathologists.”

Sutherland’s inquest was opened and adjourned last September and a hearing is due to be held in November.

Derry solicitor Des Doherty, who is advising the family, was quoted as saying: “In view of the contents of Prof Crane’s report and his concerns about the possibility of the involvement of a third party in Darren’s death, we were left with no option other then to advise our clients to consider exhumation.”

The solicitors for Darren’s parents, Anthony and Lynda, said: “The purpose of making the exhumation application was taken after very careful and in-depth consideration by the Sutherland family of all issues surrounding Darren’s death at Bromley, Kent, on 14 September 2009. They feel that a second post-mortem on Darren’s body was necessary and that any subsequent report arising out of this examination will allow all relevant facts to be put before the coroner at the pending coronial inquest into Darren’s death.

“For this purpose, the Sutherland family engaged the services of Professor Jack Crane of the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Belfast to re-examine the circumstances surrounding Darren’s death. Professor Crane is an eminent and distinguished forensic pathologist who the Sutherland family believe and trust will provide them with a thorough and detailed examination of the circumstances surrounding Darren’s death.

“Whilst the Sutherland family do not wish to comment on the specifics of the recent media reports, they wish to state that they are simply focused on having all of the facts surrounding Darren’s death put before the coroner when the hearing reconvenes.”

Darren Sutherland won three Irish senior titles as an amateur boxing out of the St Saviours OBA club in Dublin.

He was part of the Irish 2008 Olympic boxing squad which included Ken Egan, Paddy Barnes, John Joe Joyce and John Joe Nevin.

Egan claimed silver at the Games, while Barnes and Sutherland won bronze. All of the Irish boxers in Beijing were beaten by opponents who went on to win Olympic gold.

Sutherland, Egan and Barnes won Ireland’s only medals at the 2008 Games.


Andy Lee Wins Joke Fight

What exactly was that?

One second, we were looking at a rather dull boxing match on TV, and the next second it was over.

Mamadou Thiam, Andy Lee’s opponent, had given up after two rounds.

Andy was laughing while the rest of us stared at our screens in disbelief.

What the fuck are we looking at?

Is this a joke?