The Rematch: Frampton vs. Santa Cruz II

The Godfather Part II, The Dark Knight, The Empire Strikes Back…no matter how great the original was, sometimes in life the sequel is just better. As a fight fan there are many great examples, Gatti vs. Ward, Pacquiao vs. Marquez to name a couple and it’s this type of fight we hope to see on Saturday night. Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz served up a fight of the year contender that has us seriously excited for the rematch. Two warriors who don’t back down from a fight and simply want to prove to themselves and the world that they are the best. If you missed that fight, then you missed out…but…the fight gods have been good to you and this Saturday night you get a second shot.

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If this fight is half as good as the first one then we’ll be talking about this for a long long time. SO…who’s gonna win? Well here are the key’s to the fight…

Stand Tall 

Leo Santa Cruz is a very good fighter and works very well behind a strong jab. Problem is, he doesn’t use it as often and as effectively as he could. He normally has a height advantage against most fighters but has the tendency to fight small and as a result not make the most of it. It was a mistake in the first fight and he can’t afford to make the same mistake again.

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Tempo

Whoever does the better job of setting the pace and tempo of the fight will win. Both fighters are at their best when they are applying pressure and can dictate the action. Neither fighter is used to taking a step back to anyone, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Whichever man can impose their will on the other for the longest time, will see their hand raised at the end of the fight.

Movement

Carl Frampton is an excellent all around fighter but he has one glaring weakness, and that’s movement, specifically footwork. When you watch him closely he has a dangerous tendency to move consistently move backwards in straight lines. Couple this with raising his head and leaving himself exposed to counter punches out of a clinch, and you have a recipe for disaster. Santa Cruz isn’t a typical high mobility, move and hit with angles

Inside Fighting

Frampton especially,  is comfortable working on the inside and can dominate. Santa Cruz is an equally capable pressure fighter who is also happy being head to head with another guy and going to work. The problem is Santa Cruz’s defence when fighting on the inside, his right side is always open and therefore is extremely vulnerable to left hooks. If Carl Frampton can consistently put together combinations in the clinch, then Santa Cruz will be in for a depressing evening.

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Conclusion

FRAMPTON BY UD

While he has some obvious vulnerabilities which can be capitalised on, Leo Santa Cruz is not the type of fighter to be able to do it. Both men have similar strengths and will try to do similar things which means this fight will purely come down to execution. If it pans out like that then I believe Carl Frampton is a better fighter and will execute like it.

Whether I’m right or wrong, either way it will be one hell of a fight!

Enjoy!

Fighter in Focus: James DeGale

“I believe I am the no.1 Super Middleweight fighter on the planet.”

Likeability is the oxygen for recognition. Whether we like it or not, it’s the way the world works. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, how qualified you may (or may not) be, if your success is dependent on mass appeal then likeability is everything. Exhibit A: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. One of them should be President Elect the other one actually is.

In Britain we have an obsession with the plucky underdog, as a nation we get behind them like nothing else. Wait a minute isn’t the country called Great Britain…errrr yeah. The British public do love greatness, just as long as you don’t acknowledge you’re great. Be dominant, but don’t act like it. Be the best, Believe you’re the best, but never ever say it. That’s one sure fire way to rub people up the wrong way and torpedo that likeability we all so desperately need.

I don’t agree with that, and neither does James Degale.

He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right. – Confucius

Who? If I told you there was a young good looking fighter with charisma, and dynamic skills. This boxer is a former Olympic Champion as an amateur, and a British, European, Commonwealth, and World Champion as a pro, you would think he’d be a household name and celebrated by all. No, not in this case. “Chunky” is a marmite fighter. He is an outstanding fighter and one of if not the very best around…he knows it, and he’s not afraid to say it. Even I as a self confessed fan, respect the talent, but still struggle to fully wrap my arms around the man himself. The talent is undeniable, shot variety, footwork, speed, combinations he genuinely has it all. If only he was a little bit…I don’t know less marmite.

Here’s why…

The one where he arrived…

James Degale vs. Paul Smith

Likeability: 5/10

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This fight was for the British title and in only his 9th pro fight. An absolutely devastating performance leading to a stoppage and announcing that he was the real deal. Bigger and better things were expected and they did… just not in the shape we were all expecting!

The one where he came back down to Earth

James Degale vs. George Groves

Likeability: 2/10

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George Groves
Picture; Kevin Quigley

Domestic rivals, previous stable mates, and two men who genuinely dislike each other. A classic British match up and unfortunately for Degale he was the villain. What did I tell you about Britain and the plucky underdog, and when that underdog wins! Christmas come early. To this day this is still the only loss on Degale’s record and he has since gone on to win a world title. “Saint” George Groves has since lost 3 times, all while attempting to win a world title…

The one where he became a BOSS

James Degale vs. Andre Direll

Likeability: 6/10

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Redemption. The fight where he finally climbed the mountain and got the world title belt he always seemed destined for. An incomplete performance where he showed the best and worst of his talent as a fighter. Dominated the first half of the fight but took his foot off the gas and let Dirrell back into it later on. Worryingly this has become a trait. This needs to stop!

James Degale should win this fight against Badou Jack, if he does, let’s hope he learns and works on that likeability. His money and legacy depend on it.

State of the Union PT 1

2016 was to many a really shit year. A lot of great things happened but i think it’s safe to say that last year will not be remembered as a vintage year. We lost a lot of great people, in many different industries. Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and the list goes on…

In the fight game we saw the passing of two all time greats, Muhammad Ali passed away forever and Floyd Mayweather Jr retired (until further notice). Two very different people, two contrasting losses, but combined, both occasions give us an opportunity to reflect on this beautiful sport we love.

Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. If you disagree with that then you don’t know boxing. Simple. An elegant fighter who’s legacy will live on long after the man himself, and whose influence will be seen in the sport of boxing for generations to come. Muhammad Ali represents a golden age of boxing, not just for the quality of fighters; Foreman, Frazier, Norton, etc. but the fact that all of those hall of fame calibre fighters fought each other…at their peak. In a time when there was one champion in each weight, to be the best you had to beat the best. A situation which is not too different to the UFC today. Multiple weights, many contenders jostling for position and the opportunity to fight for the throne but crucially, only one champion. This produced a different breed of fighter, one who wasn’t so transfixed by remaining unbeaten. Put simply fighters in the Ali era were not afraid to put their record on the line because it simply didn’t matter as much as testing your skills against the best people in your division.

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A true heavyweight superfight. Ali vs. Frazier I

Why? Because in those days that was the only way you were going to succeed.

Somewhere along the line things changed, the fight business evolved, priorities shifted and we’re knee deep in an era where preserving your “0” is more important than being part of career and era defining fights that live long in the memory.

Nobody represents this era better than Floyd Mayweather Jr. Money Mayweather “retired” (for the right check he’ll be back) with a perfect 49-0 resume. Tying Rocky Marciano for the best record in the history of boxing. Talent wise Floyd Mayweather should go down as one of if not the greatest fighter of all time. The problem is his resume just doesn’t stack up. When you look closer, and put all his fights within the context of when they happened, you start to look at Floyd in a different light. He IS the undisputed TBE of the boxing game, a man who had a style, persona, and brand which economically exploited the boxing community better than anyone in the history of the sport. He and Al Haymon together have played the fight game like a world class orchestra and in the process laid down a blueprint for the success of generations of fighters, but ironically, they’ve probably also opened the door to the demise of boxing as a sport.

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Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr

I get it, boxing is a brutal brutal sport. A mental and physical battle between two men who are each trying to impose their will on the other for two reasons…1) money and 2) to see who is better. That’s IT no other reasons and In that order. It is not for me to denigrate a boxer for putting money ahead of a sporting spectacle.  There is no boxing fighters union, it is a lonely and solitary sport, once a fighter is done and is no longer useful, the media, fans, promoters, and managers will disappear so it is up to the fighter to look out for no.1

If I had a son and he wanted to get into boxing, I would be in his corner and would make sure he modelled his career on Floyd Mayweather Jr and that’s both fighting style and career business model-maximum revenue for minimum risk and punishment. However in life there are consequences and trade offs to every decision you make; and going down this route means you disqualify yourself from genuinely being TBE or The GOAT. And here’s why…we remember Muhammad Ali as the greatest not purely because of WHAT he achieved but also and more importantly HOW he did it. Ali vs. Frazier (1,2 or 3), Ali vs. Foreman, Ali vs. Liston; era and career defining fights against bigger and tougher opponents who you’re not supposed to beat. Not because they represent the easiest payday but because they were the best fights out there and they paid enough money to make them viable and worthwhile.

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Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran. The best of their day fighting in their peak…a novel idea! 

The UFC has figured this out brilliantly. one champion at each weight, One organisation who choses when fights happen and who fights who. Can this work in boxing? I believe the answer is an unequivocal YES. Is it easy to implement, absolutely not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. With PBC, Al Haymon has effectively created the foundation for this to happen, and I believe firmly believe that Haymon’s end game is to create just that. Check out this previous article on Al Haymon –> Al Haymon – Puppet Master

The Ring magazine has an unofficial “champion” at each weight, however this status is very political and isn’t necessarily directly earned in the ring. Having an official organisation and making the status a prize to be earned in the ring is better for fans, better for the fighters, and better for the sport of boxing.

We go deeper into this subject in our “Story to Tell” podcast. Make sure you check it out and get involved in the discussion.

That being said…here are the Top “unconfirmed” fights we’d like to see in 2017.

Canelo vs. GGG

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When you give up a belt and give the excuse that your body isn’t ready for the weight…and then proceed to accept another fight at the weight above, it’s obvious to the world that you’re ducking. For the record I don’t believe that it is Canelo who is ducking, I think Oscar De la Hoya is protecting his cash cow and milking it for as long as he can. This needs to end in 2017.

Andre Ward vs. Kovalev II

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Possibly the most important match up in boxing since Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. Billed as a decider of the No.1 P4P  winner the first fight was a damp squib for the casual crossover boxing fan. It turned out to be an ugly dogfight with two high level fighters in their prime playing chess with boxing gloves. Not the action packed spectacle needed to be a cross over hit. Andre Ward is the best fighter on the planet and it’s a damn shame he isn’t appreciated as highly as his talent deserves. The rematch will be heavily anticipated and hopefully it’s a bigger commercial success than the first one.

Vasyl Lomachenko vs. any top fighter

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Vasyl “Hi Tech” Lomachenko is flat out gifted. There are some people in life who look like they were touched by god to specifically do what they do. Their movement is different, everything seems so effortless, so smooth, they anticipate things 3 steps ahead of everyone else. Cristiano Ronaldo is an all time great but his success is engineered to the point that it is abundantly clear his achievements are down to work ethic and sheer force of will. Lionel Messi is a man who produces the same (if not better) results, in such a way that he makes it easy to overlook the hours of work he puts in day in day out, simply because he make it look so easy. Vasyl Lomachenko is the Lionel Messi of boxing. Rigondeaux, Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz, there are many big fights out there for him. Lets hope he gets the platform to prove it but we could be looking at the greatest fighter of all time!

Kell Brook vs. winner of Danny Garcia vs. Keith Thurman

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Danny Garcia takes on Keith Thurman in March and some people will view the winner of that fight as the No.1 Welterweight in the world. Those people will be wrong. Kell Brook is the best fighter in the division, he needs an elite level fighter to have the balls to sign on the dotted line and fight him. Eddie Hearn needs to put the money up and get the deals done, Kell Brook’s talent deserves it and so do boxing fans.

Kell Brook vs. Amir Khan

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Too many years, too much talking and not enough punching. These two guys genuinely do not like each other and finally it looks like they can settle it once and for all. It would be a massive fight in the UK and with the right card would sell out Wembley Stadium. Amir Khan is an average fighter but he always comes to fight and always brings excitement. Kell Brook is an elite level fighter who needs big fights to get the recognition his talent deserves. Eddie Hearn…MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder

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The undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. There isn’t a more prestigious title in the world of sport. This potential fight would be for all the marbles. Stylistically this would be an amazing match up; two knockout artists, evenly matched in height, weight, and most physical attributes. The results would be explosive must see TV. I can’t wait.

English Reincarnate-Chris Eubank Jr

Trust fund kids are the worst. Can we agree on that? NO? Well read on anyway…we have plenty to disagree about!

Trust fund kids are the worst, they are! No work ethic, a sense of entitlement, and a strong belief that the world owes them something. “I was born into privilege, therefore everything must be handed to me on a silver platter. I am never wrong, and anything that doesn’t go my way is someone else’s fault”

Poorly raised trust fund kids grow up to be Donald Trump…you can make your own conclusions on whether that’s good or bad. Trust fund kids usually go into business, politics, the media etc they don’t usually choose to become professional boxers.

A boxing ring is probably the most unforgiving space on the planet. An area of land that will take every mental shortcoming, every insecurity, and doubt a man has, and will expose it for all the world to see. If you’ve been wrapped in cotton wool your whole life, born with a silver spoon shoved up your arse, and raised to believe you will inherit the earth purely because of the family you were born into, a boxing ring is a very dangerous and potentially life threatening place for you.

Not many people choose a fighters life if they don’t have to. Not many people put their bodies through 6.5 hours a day of physically gruelling training, if they don’t have to. Not many people gleefully jump over the ropes of the ring and revel in the limelight. Chris Eubank Jr isn’t many people. A rare pedigree, and a rare talent that could be on the verge of having a very special career.

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If you’re not familiar with Chris Eubank Jr then here are his credentials…

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You’re probably thinking “Haven’t I seen this somewhere before?” and you’d be correct, Jr is the eldest child of Eubank Sr who happened to be one of the greatest Middleweight and Super Middleweight fighters the UK has ever produced. Well then he would’ve made quite a bit of money from his career so that his son wouldn’t have to follow the same path as him right? Correct, but like I said Jr made a choice many in his position wouldn’t.

The thing is, Jr didn’t have the normal upbringing you would expect from a typical trust fund kid. This expose article reveals all in painstaking detail–>Chris Eubank Jr – Childhood Upbringing. What is evident is that Chris Eubank Jr went to the school of hard knocks, sent away and forced to fight (literally) to survive and essentially become a man. When you understand that, now his career choice doesn’t seem so crazy, and was actually pretty inevitable.

Physically he won the genetic powerball but mentally does he have what it takes? Well…

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He may not have been born a street kid, but he has been raised to think and feel like one.

How good is he and how good does he want to be?

In a day and age where fighters actively swerve the biggest and best fighters in order to earn more money for less risk, its refreshing to hear a top class fighter ACTIVELY seeking the biggest and best sporting challenges available to him. In my opinion this kid is dynamite and today I’d rank him at No.3 in the middleweight division,

  1. Gennady Golovkin
  2. Daniel Jacobs
  3. Chris Eubank Jr

(If Canelo Alvarez still held the WBC belt then Eubank would be No.4)

If I was his promoter I’d be actively pursuing Golovkin but not in such a direct way, simply because I don’t think Jr is ready. His next 2/3 fights should be against the tier of Middleweights just below Golovkin, ironically some guys that Golovkin has already beaten. David Lemieux, Dominic Wade, Billy Joe Saunders etc. This strategy would achieve 2 things, firstly it would give Eubank Jr some time to develop and acclimatise to being at world level, for all his talent and potential, this is something he definitely needs. Secondly it would build up the potential fight with Golovkin into a bigger event. Especially if all the interim fights happened in the United States.  If it was me his fight schedule should be

  1. Billy Joe Saunders
  2. David Lemieux
  3. Daniel Jacobs

GGG and Canelo Alvarez have supposedly agreed a fight for the autumn of 2017. This timeline is perfect. If all went to plan Jr should put himself in position to have the Daniel Jacobs fight on the undercard/co-main event of the Canelo vs Golovkin fight. This would set up an all or nothing fight between the winners; for the right to be knows as the No.1 fighter in the middleweight division.

The competitor inside of Eubank Jr fundamentally disagrees with me about waiting…

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Greatness waits for no man and Eubank Jr is hell bent on chasing it right now. If you haven’t been paying attention to Chris Eubank Jr then I strongly suggest you start, because what’s about to happen next will definitely be worth watching.

Maybe not ALL trust fund kids aren’t the worst…but I think you can agree with me that Chris Eubank Jr is not your average trust fund kid.

And Still…Champion of World, Anthony”AJ” Joshua

6’6, 18st, Olympic Champion, undefeated as a professional with 17 fights, 17 victories and 100% knockout ratio. Anthony Joshua is a beast! A fearsome individual and ruthless competitor who happens to have the tools to deliver on what he believes.

Here are the 5 reasons why I think AJ is the real deal:

Speed

Speed Kills. A rare commodity amongst heavyweights so whenever somebody comes along and possesses it in abundance, you need to sit up and take notice. Below is AJ’s last full fight against Dominic Breazeale…you be the judge!

Power

17 fights, 17 Victories, 17 KO’s

“He is like a big Mike Tyson because if he catches you, he is straight on top of you. I took a shot and bang, he was there and battering me to the ground. He broke my eye socket and for three months I had nerve damage in my face, total numbness down one side. That was a daily reminder of what it was like fighting this guy. A great talent.” – Matt Legg (previously beaten opponent of Anthony Joshua)

Confidence

“I want to be the kingpin of the division. Trust me, I’m going to get better and I’m going to mess them all up. Now I want to start adding the big names to my record, so I can silence these boys. Beat all these guys, they can’t say anything no more and then I’ll move on” – Anthony Joshua

Ambition

“I want to go until I’m 35 — I want to maintain this for a decade, I think unifying the titles is possible by the end of 2017. I’m not getting carried away, but I’m slowly building towards it.”Anthony Joshua

Work Ethic

During the boring dominant years of the Kilitschko brother’s, all other heavyweights seemed to give up. Countless opponents would turn up on fight night, overweight, out of shape, and looking like sumo wrestlers instead of prize fighters. Guys who were visibly not putting the work in and were merely happy to cash the paycheque. AJ is not one of those guys and has the results to prove it…

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So What’s next?

The danger would be to overlook immediate opponents and dream of the big names, fights and paydays that could happen in the future. For a second let’s escape immediate reality and look to harder tests in the future. Below is the Boxrec ranking of the worlds best heavyweights; despite AJ being ranked at number 5, I genuinely do not see anybody on that list who I would purposely keep him away from.

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Joseph Parker is the mandatory challenger for the IBF belt, is ranked at No.8 and should be a tough test next time out. If you doubt that, here’s some evidence…

A big, strong, tough heavyweight with one punch knockout power…remind you of anyone? This fight should be competitive, but one AJ should win, my initial prediction is AJ by late stoppage. (I reserve the right to update this  prediction if necessary as we get closer to the fight.)

IF he gets past Parker, he’ll be in the upper echelons of the layer cake that is professional sports, and the fighters I’d love him to face are these guys…

  • Deontay Wilder
  • Tyson Fury
  • David Haye

In that order, because even though David Haye isn’t ranked in the top 10 of heavyweights (he isn’t even in the top 20) I think that he is the biggest, clearest and most present danger to AJ’s title. All of the other top heavyweights in the world are built in a similar way. Tall, strong, big, slow power punchers. David Haye is built from a different mould-a blown up cruiserweight, who’s MO revolves around speed. Everytime he steps into a ring he gives up height, reach and weight advantages to conventional heavyweights so he’s perfected a style that builds on his strengths. A two weight winner who was World Champion before AJ even begun to box.

David Haye also believes it too…David Haye says Anthony Joshua will not be able to cope with him.

As yet, we haven’t seen a strong and quick heavyweight with fast hands test AJ. We haven’t even seen him fight on the back foot. He hasn’t had to because nobody has been good enough to make him do it…David Haye can and will.

A year from now…because that’s how long I think it will take…this showdown will be huge and I for one cannot wait.

Either way we should enjoy the ride, Anthony Joshua is a genuine talent who is bringing credibility back to the heavyweight division. That’s something we should all get behind!

Vandalisme! Anglo-Russian Disgrace in France

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Here at SF it’s part of our core belief that sport is a reflection of the best part of us. As sports fans who believe this with all the fibre in our being, England vs Russia was particularly painful. English and Russian football ‘fans’ clashing before and after the Group B match was a disgrace and saddening to anyone who genuinely follows and loves the beautiful game.

With the eyes of the world on France and on the biggest stage in the history of European football, 24 nations are primed and ready to put on a showcase of everything great about football. Today all of that is overshadowed by the minority of mindless idiots who decided that the best way to enjoy the tournament and support their team, was to beat the living shit out of each other.

Intelligent and logical reasoning at it’s finest…

Whilst I could never condone any of the events that have happened in Marseille this week and in multiple cities throughout the years, I can try to understand it. Yes it is senseless, yes it is moronic, and yes without a shadow of a doubt it is totally indefensible, however whether we like it or not what we’ve seen this week are natural male primal instincts at their worst.

I was once sat in a bar having a quiet drink with a friend of mine and he turned to me and told me how he’d never been in a fight, either as kid or an adult. He went on the say how disappointed he was in this and how he always wondered what it felt like. To the point that he often had the urge to start trouble so he could get it out of his system. He never did, primarily because he (in his own words) knew he couldn’t fight, and he had a fear of the consequences.

My friend is a highly educated and intelligent professional software developer, who has a keen self awareness of his own mortality; yet the urge to fight still burns strongly. What happens when this fighting fire burns inside somebody without my friends level of intelligence and critical thinking? The short answer is Marseille, Charleroi, Heysel, countless others and this video. In the pictures above and the video below I see too many men without a decent level of education, and people who don’t often get the chance to travel outside of the UK.

Couple that with copious amounts of cheap alcohol and xenophobia and this is what you get…

 

As I write this there is at least 1 fan in critical condition in a French hospital as a result of the clashes. No matter how seriously and how passionately you support your country, there are no circumstances on this earth that would justify a fan travelling to a sports event and not returning home safely.

None. So here’s hoping he pulls through!

In times like this when you see the worst of people, it’s always refreshing when certain individuals step up and through it all show you the best of people. Step forward England Goalkeeper Joe Hart showing us and the world what a class act he is.

This is why education and sport participation are so important, both in adults and children.  Men need an outlet to get all of these urges out of their system, whatever the sport of choice, it’s critical to have an avenue to physically express yourself and satisfy a man’s urge to compete. We also need education to teach us all that violence is rarely the first answer and we are not better or worse than anybody else simply because we support a different football team.

We achieve more by understanding people and building bridges instead of walls. Two weeks from now the UK will put that notion to the test and vote whether or not they stay in the EU. To me, the scenes from Marseille explicitly show, now is the time to be strengthening Britain’s connection to Europe and not weakening it.

Ironically, the next major tournament is in Russia in 2018; the sad reality is that I’ll probably be writing a similar piece during that tournament too. If the UK vote for a Brexit, those clashes may just be more tragic.

I AM THE GREATEST

“This is the story of Muhammad Ali

The prettiest fighter that ever will be,

He talks a great deal, and brags indeed-y,

Of a muscular punch that’s incredibly speed-y.

The fistic world was dull and weary,

With a champ like Liston, things had to be dreary.

Then comes someone with colour, someone with dash,

To get the fight fans running’ with Cash. 

This brash young fighter is something to see

And the heavyweight championship is his des-tin-y.

Ali fights great; he’s got speed and endurance,

But if you sign on to fight him, increase your insurance. 

Ali’s got left, Ali’s got right,

And if he hits you once, you’re asleep for the night. 

As you lie on the mat as the ref counts ten,

You’ll pray you never have to fight him again. 

For I am the man this poem is about. 

The heavyweight champion, there is no doubt.

This I predicted and I knew the score,

The champ of the world in ‘64. 

When I say three, they’ll go in the third,

Don’t bet against me, I’m a man of my word. 

For I am the man this poem is about, 

The heavyweight champ, there is no doubt. 

Here I predicted Mr. Liston’s dismemberment, 

Hit him so hard, he wondered where october and

November went. 

When I say two, there’s never a third,

Standin’ against me is completely absurd.

If I tell you a mosquito can pull a plow

Don’t ask how; hitch him up ! 

I AM THE GREATEST!”

Anybody who knows me will know he was my hero. Not just because of the boxer he was, but also because of the man he was. He was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but he showed me and I think the world, even the greatest among us have flaws.

Not a perfect superhero, just a superior human being.

As a boxer myself I marvelled at his bravery, skill and intelligence in the ring, and how he made it look easy!

Sonny Liston
Ken Norton
Earnie Shavers
George Foreman
Joe Frazier and the list goes on…


There was only one belt so he HAD to fight and beat everybody (not like today).  It’s difficult to imagine how big a star he would’ve been had he fought today. With charisma, charm, candour and compassion he won the hearts of billions of people around the world.

A blue chip PPV attraction light years ahead of this time.

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Most of all I respected the fact he had the courage of his conviction outside the ring. He fought for and won Olympic gold for his country, but returned to a highly segregated society that denied him basic rights simply because he had the audacity to be born black. Despite it being the pinnacle of athletic achievement, he threw that medal into the Ohio river in disgust because he couldn’t stand the hypocrisy.

4 years later he was heavyweight champion of the world and 5 years after that he was the most famous man on the planet.  He had an impact in every corner of this Earth and did this in a time without the internet and social media.

In the words of the man himself…“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given, than to explore the power they have to change it.”

In my opinion, I and the rest of the world will mourn (and will continue to for a while) because of his ability to transcend sporting, racial, gender, and religious lines and his willingness to always stand up for what he believed to be right.

At the peak of his career he was drafted to fight in a Vietnam war he (and many other American’s) did not believe in. In the face of extreme societal and political pressure, and putting his livelihood at risk, he stood up and said something that many of us (including me) struggle to say with even lower stakes…and that is NO! Not now, not ever.

“I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain’t going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people. If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fightin’ you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won’t even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won’t even stand up for my rights here at home.”-Muhammad Ali

He lost 3 years in his prime all because he decided some things in this world like justice, equality and respect for human life, were more important than money and fame.

They say that when you go through the fire of struggle and hardship, it’s because god or life is preparing you for something better. Hard times also show yourself and the world what kind of person you are and his subsequent treatment of Joe Frazier is one of the reasons why I say The Champ was not perfect.

In any case Ali came out of the other side of that struggle and took on the greatest challenge of his career; The Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman. Taking on a man significantly younger and stronger, many journalists feared for his life. George Foreman was a physical beast and Ali was the serious underdog. What happened next is the stuff of legend that will be talked about for generations to come.

And he did, and continued to do so right up until he died. I could go on all day, but I think I’ll stop here, and simply say the world has lost a special individual. Let’s not forget the lessons he taught us, and let our lives be our tribute to him.

Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. aka Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali 

R.I.P CHAMP You truly were The Greatest.

The world is a better place because you came this way.

The Magical Mystery Man

The history of sport is littered with tales of special men who came along and took their chosen sport to new heights. Leaders of men who at their time were revolutionaries who set new benchmarks for excellence and standards of competition. Great players are often remembered as the superheroes the next generation often strive to emulate, but what of the men on the touchline? These men who build the teams and are responsible for creating the delicate ecosystem of a sports team that is often the difference between success and failure. The men who give great players the platform to shine and the best opportunities to be who they are.

Indeed great coaches are remembered and tributes are often paid, but the kids who grow up wanting to be the next Bill Belichick, Phil Jackson or Sir Alex Ferguson are few and far between. This next generation of football obsessed teens are a different breed. Raised in a new media age of 24hr sports news networks and the internet, where the personalities off the pitch, need to match the action on it.

In this age, one man represents this shift better than most and that man is Jose Mourinho.

His track record is unquestionable, the loyalty from his players is immense and the love from his club supporters is only matched by the antipathy from rival supporters. Love him or hate him you can’t do anything but respect him. The self proclaimed “Special One” divided opinion (maybe that’s the key to his success…) To some including himself he is the second coming of Christ and a genius, to others he is the personification of everything that is wrong with football.

 

 

How did a man who is known in the Nou Camp as “the translator” rise to be the No.1 coach in world football?
Here are our top observations…

 

Self Confidence (Believe in yourself)

The first stage of achievement is belief. Before anybody else believes in you, you have to believe in yourself. Jose Mourinho embodies this concept. He carries himself like a winner. Communicates with conviction and just exudes confidence which is probably his strongest character trait and this can’t fail to rub off on his players.

Intelligence & Strategy (Stay in your lane)

When it comes to game intelligence, there are very few, if any, who are better than Jose Mourinho. Success has followed him everywhere he’s been and that can’t be a coincidence. This man knows how to win. Period. Based on a football ideology inspired by Arrigo Sacchi, Mourinho’s teams have always been defensively minded, hard working, devastating on the counter attack, and have never been a neutral’s choice to watch. He has his vision and he buys and keeps players who fit and commit to it. He has never tried to play pretty football unnecessarily and his teams will only be remembered for one reason. THEY WON A LOT OF TROPHIES. To Jose…that’s the whole point.

Psychology (Know your opponent)

In all sports the game is often won and lost long before it’s actually played. Every competitor searches for that edge, any advantage they can to get ahead. Jose Mourinho has honed this skill better than most so much so that even the Dark Lord of the Sith himself Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t put a dent in his armour. An absolute master at mental manipulation whether it be his own player, an opposition manager, or referees, Jose always seems to know what to say, when to say it and to whom.

 

Leadership (Write your own story)

 

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton

 

For any organisation to be successful there needs to be s common goal, a vision for every person to rally around. That vision starts with the man at the top and it’s his responsibility to make sure everyone is pulling in the right direction. This has been a common theme of Mourinho’s career, regardless of the country or the team. At each of his clubs he has inspired seasoned professionals with huge egos to buy into his vision and do things they otherwise would never do or indeed believe themselves capable of doing.

Samuel Eto’o was a brilliant forward who had a reputation for being a disruptive force in the dressing room, however at Inter Milan the power of Jose convinced him to work for the team and play out of position. Inter won the treble that year, along the way beating a Barcelona team considered the greatest club side in history.

On the flip side of that, players who don’t fit the vision or don’t adapt, e.g. Juan Mata and David Luiz, are moved on to other teams…quickly.

He won’t be remembered as the most beloved. His teams won’t be remembered as the greatest of their generation, but Jose Mourinho WILL be remembered as one of the greatest and most successful managers of his and any generation.

Whether it be life or business, from now on I’ll be asking myself WWJD…What Would Jose Do?