Whether you’re a purist or passionate, passive or part-timer – the last week of professional boxing has certainly provided something for the British fan to consider.
First, we had the return of Manchester’s prodigal son, Ricky Hatton. He returned to the ring in an unsuccessful attempt to come out of retirement, losing to Viacheslav Senchenko in a ninth round knockout. On Friday night, we went from the impressive and promising, to the bizarre and uninspiring as potential world title candidate David Price forced Matt Skelton’s corner to throw in the towel in a little over a round and a half to cement his place as Britain’s next big boxing hope, before former England cricket captain and Ashes hero, Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff culminated six months of training and a Sky1 documentary with a bizarre victory over undefeated American rookie Richard Dawson.
Credit to Freddie where credit is due, what he lacked in technical prowess, he more than made up for in passion and commitment. With any given opportunity he swung what I’m sure was an attempt at a right hook.
In honest, Flintoff’s victory has a mixed effect on the sport of boxing. Purists will argue he has tarnished the sport; he is after all a retired cricketer who has trained for four and a half months and beaten a boxer who has been at it for a lot longer. Others will say it was inspirational, and will encourage those youngsters who dream of entering the ring to take the leap, and believe that they can emulate the Lennox Lewis’, the David Haye’s, hell, the Freddie Flintoff’s of the boxing world. The fight, in truth, was what it was; a gimmick fight that re-defined ‘unorthodox’ and in more resembled two drunkards having a scrap outside after last orders than it did a professional boxing match. The crowd loved it, Flintoff loved it, trainer Barry McGuigan loved it, and hell, and even the beaten Richard Dawson loved it. He did, after all, head back across the pond with a fair few zeroes added to his bank account, and a legacy – even if it is one as the man who lost to the rampant Andrew Flintoff, who knocked him around the ring like he was Ricky Ponting’s wicket. Anyone who seen the fight would know that Dawson himself probably doesn’t expect a particularly long career in boxing, you know it’s bad when the crowd start chanting “You fat bastard” and it isn’t directed at the Andrew ‘Preston Puncher’ Flintoff.
Flintoff vs Haye? Flintoff vs Kitchko? Flintoff vs Price? Perhaps it’s all getting a little carried away, but with British boxing saying an emotional last goodbye to the Hitman, hello to the cricket man, and “what next?” for Pricey – it’s certainly an interesting time for British boxing.