Over the past couple of months, this blog has been featuring a series of exclusive previews of content from Boxiana: Volume 1, which will hopefully whet your appetite and persuade you to buy the full volume, which is available NOW as a paperback book (RRP £9.99) or ebook (RRP £3.99).
Today I'm presenting an extract by Matt Ogborn, in which he looks at the universal questions and dilemmas that all boxers will one day face ...
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
Matthew Ogborn examines what happens when the applause dies away and a boxer faces retirement …
You’re restless. You know there’s only three minutes left. Three poxy minutes to show the world you can go out on your own terms. You’ve worked too hard since you first had the gloves laced up for battle to let the opposite corner send you out arse first on the canvas. You’ve sweated buckets, spilled blood and spat out teeth. Half of you has had enough, the other half’s pleading for more. Will anything replace that electric feeling when the last bell tolls?
It’s a question that every boxer faces and one that has dominated fan conversation since the first boxing trailblazers. Careers tail off, but legacies can often get stronger if a boxer chooses the right path once the referee lifts up their arm for the final time. Undefeated Joe Calzaghe knows more than most the fine line between the slippery slope of retirement or calling time with a proud legacy intact. The Welshman, who left the fight game with his head held high as a pound-for-pound star, once told Boxing Monthly: “There are certain things you have to let go. That’s the difference - the euphoria, the adrenaline, the buzz of it all. There was no feeling like winning a fight, it’s an amazing feeling. There’s a gap when that’s gone. It’s difficult for any sportsman to make a transition.”
Sadly, boxing is littered with stories of fighters who careered down the wrong track after their last fight like an out-of-control train or were led astray by lowdown vultures out to tear every last scrap off them. We've come to expect the worst. For every heart-warming story of life after hanging up the gloves, we get five heartbreaking ones shoved back in our faces. It sells papers. It shifts magazines. It fuels online discussion. It keeps other ex-pros in dosh discussing it on TV. Dig a bit deeper, though, and you'll find there are a great deal more boxers out there we don’t get to hear about who managed to keep it together and often flourished in retirement.
The spotlight is a funny thing. It can make mere mortals feel like they will live forever. It can turn softly spoken gentlemen into fierce animals with teeth bared. On the flip side it sometimes reduces boxers to jelly, their legs dancing to a different tune entirely. Others cower in the corner, afraid to look up, let alone land a punch of note.
One common thread ties all these fighters together - they've lived, eaten, slept and breathed the sport since childhood and they rarely carve out careers outside it once retirement comes around. Some fitted it in around school, some dropped out altogether to learn the craft, while for some it was the last-chance saloon after those crucial formative years entrenched in bad company. Whether fanaticism, boredom or redemption drove these young fighters, this sport has a habit of getting under your skin.
Fighter, trainer, promoter, pundit or fan, it’s like an itch you can’t stop scratching and outsiders wonder why those actually throwing the punches have a hard time adapting to life when the final curtain drops down in front of them. British boxing is packed to the rafters with fighters from all walks of life that thrived, made peace with or struggled on retirement. Go back the last five years, for starters, and the names of Ricky Hatton, David Haye and Audley Harrison have dominated the boxing media landscape in Blighty. Unfortunately for all three, their legacies have been tarnished by their refusal to deal with or accept the possibility of life outside the ring.
THE FULL ARTICLE APPEARS IN BOXIANA: VOLUME 1
MATTHEW OGBORN is a regular Boxing Monthly contributor and veteran all-round sports journalist down the years for ITV, Perform, SLAM, The Sport Collective, Teletext and Sports.com. He grew up hearing tales about East End boxing from his family, which sparked a lifelong love of pugilism that was boosted by the home-grown heroics of McGuigan, Benn and McKenzie along with the silky skills and warrior mentality exhibited by foreign fighters such as Hearns, Gatti, Ward, Barrera, Morales and Trinidad.
An anthology of new boxing writing Boxiana: Volume 1 is available in both paperback book and eBook formats. Boxiana editor Luke G. Williams said: “In a world dominated by 140 character limits and the 24-hour news cycle, brevity and superficiality have become de rigueur. Boxiana takes a different approach; by using long-form journalism to take an in-depth look at boxing’s past, present and future, we are hoping that Boxiana will become a vital new voice in sports writing.”
In Volume 1:
Trevor Von Eeden, author of graphic novel The Original Johnson, analyses the significance of Jack Johnson; Mario Mungia tries his hand at amateur boxing; Ben Williams uncovers his grandfather’s bare-knuckle career; James Hernandez catches up with Jon Thaxton; Matthew Ogborn ponders boxers and retirement; rising light heavyweight Chris Hobbs recounts his life in the military and the ring; Rowland Stone recalls a heady night in 1992; Corey Quincy attempts to solve the Wladimir Klitschko conundrum and Luke G. Williams examines the meteoric rise of Deontay Wilder and the under-rated career of Chris Byrd.
Enquiries / review copies: +44 7958 319765 / firstname.lastname@example.org