BOXING NEWS has long claimed to be completely impartial but, when it comes to writing previews and making predictions, that neutral stance has rightly been called into question over the years.
I’ve heard numerous stories from staffers in the 1970s and 80s who were advised by then-editors to go against their better judgement and pick the British fighter to win. That may or may not have been the case back in 1955 when BN predicted Don Cockell would wrest the world heavyweight championship from fearsome king, Rocky Marciano. Whatever the case there, it will surely have looked like a bold call heading into the bout and an increasingly ludicrous one thereafter.
In all my time at BN, firstly under the stewardship of Tris Dixon before taking over as editor myself in 2015, I can promise there has been no effort to sway the preview writer from their opinion. But, as anyone who has ever written a preview for this publication can attest, it subsequently makes watching the fight a curious, often uncomfortable, experience. Though every effort is made during the writing of the preview to remain completely impartial, to solely study the form, the styles, and the backstory for clues to what lies ahead, that impartiality inevitably goes out of the window when the fight begins.
The reason for that is both simple and selfish. And, I hope, purely a consequence of the very human desire to be proved right. A topical case in point would be the weekend’s heavyweight rematch between Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce, an intriguing affair given the surprising result first time around. Though I was far from certain, my prediction was for Joyce to make a much better job of things and gain revenge on points. We all know now that I was wrong. Spectacularly so.
It became clear in the second round, as Zhang was not only finding a home for that pesky left hand he was also making Joyce wobble and jerk, that Joe needed the boxing gods to be hastily preparing a gift. Ordinarily – and by that I mean if I was viewing the fight without the words from my own preview gnawing a hole in my brain – I would have been greatly impressed by the technical expertise of the Chinese veteran as he made it all look so very simple. But the reality was quite different. I found myself yearning for Joyce to survive the session, get his head on the game in the minute’s interval, and then do what I predicted he would. And, again, not because I wanted Joyce to win or Zhang to lose, but purely because I wanted to show all BN readers that I do – contrary to some opinion – know a thing or two about boxing.
There is a genuine sense of pressure when previewing a bout for the world’s finest fight brand. What can make it more difficult is that, often, we’re writing our preview before fight week even begins and most certainly before the weigh-in. Had I have known, for example, that Joyce had piled on an incredible 25lbs I may have had a very different view. Excuses, excuses.
It may sound silly, but getting a preview wrong is genuinely bothersome. There is that desire to show how clever you are (only to then be exposed as being nothing of the sort). More so, there is an unspoken pressure to do the reputation of Boxing News proud. Everyone who represents BN takes that very seriously indeed.
Some on social media will tell you, largely after the event, that they were certain of the outcome all along. They get them all right, you see. Well done to those fine folk. I hope the mansion they’ve paid for with their winnings over the years is everything they dreamed it would be.
Yet it pays to stay quiet when getting a prediction right because it won’t be long before you get one wrong. And I’ve made the odd good one down the years. Most recently, Terence Crawford to stop Errol Spence. Oleksandr Usyk to outpoint Anthony Joshua first time round. Joshua to box rings round Andy Ruiz and win their rematch on points. Carl Froch to overcome a spirited George Groves and stop him in the ninth. Juan Manuel Marquez to get up off the floor and halt Michael Katsidis. Derek Chisora to hear the final bell against Vitali Klitschko. There may have been others. But you and I both know that the only reason I’m mentioning my successes is for my own benefit. To save face. Particularly after picking Joyce to beat Zhang and Liam Smith to again wallop Chris Eubank in recent weeks. Both of those forecasts, given the completely one-sided nature of what transpired, were every bit as wildly inaccurate as predicting that Cockell would beat Marciano.
In the grand scheme of things, getting a prediction wrong doesn’t matter. Not like real life matters. Like our families, our friends, and our loved ones. And not like it really matters to the fighters in question, to whom boxing is real life. The Joyces and the Smiths, who might now be facing futures without boxing. For them, losing those fights will have turned their lives upside down. One can only imagine how Joyce, who only six months ago was regarded as one of the world’s most durable giants, is now coming to terms with being knocked out by one right hand. The man he saw in the mirror not so long ago is no longer there. His family, his friends, his loved ones likely all saw him lose. It won’t change how they feel about him, of course it won’t, but it will have changed how he feels about himself. Perhaps forever.
Those of us who are lucky enough to merely be making bogeyed picks from the safe side of the ropes should never lose sight of the real implications of winning and losing, nor get carried away with a false sense of importance purely because we’re fortunate enough to cover this brutal sport. We make bad calls and, aside from some temporary uneasiness, the consequences are slim. For those courageous enough to step between the ropes, it means far more than hollow bragging rights on social media.
HALL OF FAMERS
The BBHOF goes from strength to strength
EVERY September, numerous boxers, trainers, managers, promoters and non-participants are inducted into the (Ex-Boxers) British Boxing Hall of Fame.
It’s one of the highlights of the EBA calendar and, last Sunday in Leeds, they had their finest ceremony yet, hosted in Leeds by Vince Campbell, as a sold-out crowd of 800 toasted this year’s inductees.
The BBHOF was founded by Dave Harris, the man behind Ringside Charitable Trust, and it has grown year-on-year. Yet Harris has always ensured that it remains affordable to the those who support the EBAs up and down the country, month-in, month-out. Ultimately, the aim of the BBHOF is to ensure that those who have dedicated their lives to boxing, either through their performances inside the ring or their efforts to improve the sport from the outside, are honoured and never forgotten. Harris, not a man to own his own trumpet much less blow it, is worthy of the highest praise for what he continues to do for the sport.
The 2023 inductees were: (Pioneers) Larry Gaines; (Posthumous) Jim McCarthy; (Early Modern Era) Pat Thomas; John Celebanski, Howard Rainey; (Promoter) Mo Prior; (Professional Trainer) Joe Gallagher; (Lifetime Services Award) Tris Dixon; Mike Goodall; Robert Craig; (Lifetime Services To EBA) Paul Abrahams; Stephen Powell; (Courageous Award) Sophie Gallagher; (Amateur Trainer) Charlie Rumble; Terry O’Neill; (Manager) John Rushton; (100 Plus Club) Miguel Matthews; (Amateur Boxer) Graham Moughton; (Modern Era) Maurice Hope MBE; Henry Wharton; Robin Reid; Derek Roche.