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Talking Boxing

Interviews, opinions, features and news from the greatest sport in the world!

Dangerous: A column by Ian Probert

Of Mouses and Men

Ian Probert

Hello. 

It’s my great honour to have been asked to scratch out something once a month for this delightful little website that you’ve just prodded your way on to with your fancy new phone. I’m going to be writing about boxing, would you believe? One of many subjects which I know absolutely nothing whatsoever about. 

That’s not to say that I haven’t watched boxing on the TV with the rest of you. Because I have. Far too many times than I’d care to admit to a civilised person such as yourself. And it’s also not to imply that I haven’t squeezed myself into one of those seats at ringside alongside the men in suits, bathing in the sweat and the ammonium carbonate, dodging the blood and snot, pretending not to notice whenever a camera picks out my dodgy boat race. Because I have. Although not for some time it should be said.

I also can’t deny that I’ve met one or two boxers on an up-close-and-personal basis: dozens of them, hundreds of them maybe if you must know. Big ones, small ones, fat ones, thin ones, hairy ones, bald ones, nice ones, downright nasty ones. I’m not even going to attempt to deny such associations. I would be a liar if I did.

Talking about liars I’ve also rubbed shoulders with a fair few managers and promoters in my time. Oxymorons almost to man. I’ve had a glass or two with the lovely Terry Lawless, for example, when he was still a father to Frank Bruno; I’ve eaten an Italian with Mickey Duff and Jarvis Astaire. (Although for the life of me I can’t remember the Italian in question’s name or how he tasted.) I’ve checked out many a trainer’s pad; I’ve given the time of day to more than one timekeeper; I’ve occasionally gotten to the bottom of things with a round girl; I’ve had the odd bit of revelry with a referee; I’ve snapped at a photographer or two; and I’ve sometimes been known to judge a judge. 

When it comes to boxing you might be persuaded that I’ve been around the ring apron a couple of times more than most. Yet still I know absolutely nothing whatsoever about this strange sport that isn’t a sport in which people with muscles aim punches at other people with muscles for hard cash. And hard cash is what it is – for never has a living been made at such cost to those making it. 

So why am I telling you all this?

Take it as an introduction. A virtual handshake if you will. After all, if I’m going to be writing something on a regular basis and you’re hopefully going to be reading it we owe it to one another to have at least a vague understanding of who’s doing what to whom.

What’s on offer from me is, frankly, Confucius. Sorry, that was a typo. What I meant to say was confusion. Confusion in italics. CONFUSION in all caps. Because fully 28 years after my name first appeared in the centre spread of Boxing News I know even less about boxing than I did back then. Moreover, boxing itself knows even less about boxing than it did in the pre-walking-Klitschko days of 1988.

Back then, for example, things were so simple that I couldn’t have done this… (You’d have missed that one but I just typed a long list of expletives and used them to describe a leading boxing promoter you’ve probably never Hearn of. Then I simply hit Command–Z and those slanderous words were gone.) …Because in those days I tended to do my thing on a metal and plastic monstrosity that went ‘ding’ whenever I got to the end of a line. Or was it ‘ping’? I can’t rightly remember.

Likewise, back then a great deal of my deeply-submerged Hannibal Lecterian psychopathic rage was generally hurled in the direction of new kid on the block the IBF. How dare they invent a third governing body for boxing? The nerve of these people! I would yell into the mirror while energetically yanking at the cat’s tail (no euphemisms intended there). We’ve already got the WBA and WBC – aren’t they fucking enough!

Except, of course, they weren’t. In this post-modern era of pixels and bandwidth we’re all grudgingly aware that there can never be enough governing bodies in boxing. Likewise, just what was the point of having eight weight divisions and eight world champions back then when we could have had a million weight divisions and a trillion squalzillion world champions… Gold champions… Silver champions… International champions… Inter-fucking-continental champions… Toblerone champions… Bake-Off champions…

Yes, but the boxers get more money, they tell you. No they don’t. No they fucking don’t.

There. That’s a pretty representative example of what you’ll be getting if you tune into this column once a month. That aforementioned confusion. Geriatric rage. Childish fits of pique. With a bit of old man dancing thrown in.

Because if you compare the person sitting behind this keyboard right now to the person he used to be, back when people genuinely thought that Mike Tyson was cute, you’ll find that he’s lost a few things and gained a few others.

What I haven’t lost is my genuine, unbridled awestruck admiration for the people who clamber between those unforgiving ropes and place their hearts and souls at the centre of the canvas so that others might steal a glimpse at something magical. These are the Men of the title that I have given to my spiteful little introduction to this Angry Old Man. The boxers: the men and women who risk dignity, health and their lives in pursuit of a goal that will forever be placed at the end of the road. 

And what I’ve gained is even more hatred, even more disgust, still more misery at the people who surround those Men that I describe. The individuals who drain the livelihoods and lives from those who fight for a living; who suck out the life force and turn beauty and honour into ugliness and despair. They’re still here and they always will be. Because just as blood is the expected result of most 12-round engagements, there will always be leeches waiting in line to feed upon it.

It’s dangerous to name names, or course, but these people know who they are. Furthermore, most people who watch the sport at close-quarters or even from the safety of the TV screen know who they are. These are the Mouses of my cunning punning title.

So welcome to my little column. Come back this time next month and I’ll see if I can write a proper article.

I'll try my best to make it worth your while.

Goodbye.

Ian's latest book, 'Dangerous: An Intimate Journey into the Heart of Boxing' is now available online and in stores now!
www.ianprobert.com