Cooper and Flintoff: Boxing’s circus crumbles along
Australian Wallaby fly-half Quade Cooper (AFP Photo / Patrick Hamilton)
It is a week for the wannabe fighters; Quade Cooper announces his professional boxing debut a few days before Freddie Flintoff takes to the ring for the first time.
For the rugby five-eighth Cooper, the motivation seems to be keep himself busy, to fill in time before Japanese or French rugby, the NRL or the ARU come to their senses and start calling. He has no amateur experience or deep connection to the sport.
For ex-cricketer Flintoff, it seems to be for his own desires, to have a challenge, to be in the limelight and to test himself, to go back to his days as a sportsman. Also, it seems to be to put his own demons at bay.
Flintoff is at least a lifelong boxing fan and is being guided by former world champion Barry McGuigan. Cooper is being guided by Khoder Nasser, the former manager of Anthony Mundine. He won’t have ‘The Man’ or Tony Mundine in his corner like his mate Sonny Bill Williams did in his first few fights.
There seems to be a worrying trend of sports stars heading into boxing when their other careers nosedive – see Barry Hall, John Hopoate etc etc.
That they can trade off their name, throw a few jabs and earn a few bucks. But this shows little respect for the sport, the difficulty involved in boxing and the thousands of pugilists battering away out there for no money or no attention for a shot.
Boxing is not for a pursuit for the non-dedicated or the uncommitted.
Boxing is arguably the toughest, most demanding and hardest sport to conquer. It chews and spits out many people, even its greatest exponents like Muhammad Ali. The sweet science takes no prisoners.
Cooper and Flintoff must realise it takes years and years of hard work, soul-searching training and study to become a professional boxer.
The amateur ranks are there to give fighters the grounding they need to go into the pros. To weed out those without the talent, the heart and the mental and physical strength to survive in the ring. Circumventing them is not the way to go.
At times boxing as a sport does little to help itself. The myriad of world champions and fighters who duck other fighters, who pad out their records with bums and unworthy opponents, who fight for phony belts and worthless titles.
The politics of the sport is a murky beast that often values ego and publicity over integrity and honesty. Boxing seems to be always out for the next quick fix or attention-grabbing stunt.
Two novices, Cooper and Flintoff, are entering this world with undefined aims.
Defenders of both will say that the two are good for boxing, that they will be bring new fans and create interest in a sport on the wane. That may have some truth to it, in part.
But in the long run their adventures will only hurt the sport and devalue their own reputations. There is no sustainable boost or worthwhile addition. This is not boxing at its finest or its most credible, it is more circus act.
If you want to experience the rollercoaster of boxing see the comeback of Ricky Hatton, played out in Manchester last weekend.
Look at the tragic life of Hector Camacho who was slain in his native Puerto Rico recently.
See the contrasting styles and ethos of Daniel Geale and Anthony Mundine clash in January, or watch the blood, sweat and tears displayed in the ring at the London Olympics.
As light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, a fighter who epitomises both the ecstasy and agony of boxing well, once said: “Boxing is the only sport you don’t play. You play football, basketball. You don’t play boxing … It ain’t a game.”
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