BBC BLOGS - Ben Dirs

Archives for June 2011

Paranoid in Hamburg

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Ben Dirs | 10:20 UK time, Thursday, 30 June 2011


American broadcaster HBO has gone for the tagline 'The Talk Ends Now'; German channel RTL has gone for 'The War'. Personally, I would have plumped for 'Paranoia': the air was thick with it at the final pre-fight news call on Wednesday.

There is a great scene in the Martin Scorsese film Casino, which kicks off with the line: "In Vegas, everybody's gotta watch everybody else." And that is what it was like in the rather more sanitised surroundings of the Mercedez-Benz showroom in Hamburg.

Wladimir Klitschko was watching David Haye, members of Haye's camp were watching Klitschko, members of Klitschko's camp were watching members of Haye's camp, tracksuited men were posted on balconies, men in plain clothes were spying from behind ring posts. No all-seeing "eye-in-the-sky" but this journalist was watching it all.

One Haye insider told me he locked eyes with Wladimir's older brother, Vitali, and was unable to break the stare. In a sport of psychological inches, it would have represented a defeat, at least in this insider's mind. "How did you leave it?" I asked. "I raised an eyebrow and he eventually looked away." Victory! At last...

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The Trainer's Tale

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Ben Dirs | 12:03 UK time, Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Adam Booth is telling me he doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. I'm no Freud, but I can tell he cares. It's the bulge of his eyes. And the talk of fear and hatred.

"From day one I've only ever done what I think is right and not what other people wanted me to do," Booth, trainer and manager of David Haye, who fights Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg on Saturday, tells BBC Sport.

"When I first started out as a trainer, one manager said I was only licensed to carry a spit bucket. But what happened back then gave me the steeliness and the determination to do what I have to do and make the decisions I have to make.

"I don't have to follow in the footsteps of the boxing establishment and bow to the way they did things. I never had to, because David put his trust in me from day one."

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Haye-Klitschko predictions

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Ben Dirs | 10:46 UK time, Tuesday, 28 June 2011

When WBA heavyweight champion David Haye fights IBF and WBO title-holder Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg on Saturday, he will be a betting underdog.

But BBC Sport has found plenty of wise heads who think the Brit has a chance of pulling off an upset on German soil. And one or two who don't...

Carl Froch


CARL FROCH - WBC super-middleweight champion

I fancy David Haye. I like the guy - he's ballsy, he's gutsy, he's everything I like about a man and a boxer. He's a warrior, he means business when he gets in there and I think he's going to do the business.

Wladimir is tall and rangy and awkward and presents a lot of threat for David Haye. But the way David will fight is to put him on his back foot and scare him to death, smash him with those big shots. He's going to hurt Wladimir.

You saw him sit back for two rounds against Audley Harrison, but when he decided the time was right he jumped on him and did what he had to do to get him out of there. Little grin, job done, see you later, go and pick up the cheque.

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Heavyweight histrionics

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Ben Dirs | 10:18 UK time, Monday, 27 June 2011

Saturday's meeting between David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko is arguably the first heavyweight contest of any real significance since Lennox Lewis beat Wladimir's big brother, Vitali, in 2003. But compared to blockbusters of yesteryear, it is a minor play.

BBC Sport brings you 10 heavyweight contests that shook up the world - race riots, boxing as an allegory for world war, 'phantom punches', assassination plots, African dictators, a man who eats ears - and Frank Sinatra taking snaps! The heavyweight scene sure ain't what it used to be...

John L Sullivan v Jim Corbett - 7 September 1892, New Orleans, USA

John L Sullivan was the last man to defend the world heavyweight title using bare knuckles, and the first man to lose it wearing gloves. Therefore, he is sometimes considered to be the fighter who transformed boxing from a borderline criminal activity to a (semi) legitimate, (partially) regulated and respectable (to some) 'sport'.

'Gentleman' Jim Corbett, for his part, is thought by many to be the prototype of the modern heavyweight: taught by a coach rather than the code of the street, the San Franciscan fought behind his jab, often on the back foot, and pitted technique against the prevalent crouch and rush style of the day.

The 'Boston Strong Boy' had not defended his crown for four years when the two came face to face at the 10,000-capacity Olympic Club in New Orleans - and it showed. Corbett led Sullivan a merry dance for 21 rounds before, "with all the dynamite Nature had given me", landing the decisive blow. "If I had to get licked," said Sullivan when he finally made it back to his feet, "I'm glad I was licked by an American."

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Life lessons from Froch

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Ben Dirs | 18:23 UK time, Wednesday, 1 June 2011

What, I wondered, can Britain's top amateur boxers learn from having a two-time professional world champion training in their midst? Strength? Movement? One or two dark arts? "It's all about the nice things," says middleweight prospect Anthony Ogogo. "His Range Rover, his watch. It's great to be around."

As ever in boxing, money talks loudest. And why not? While for Ogogo and Co next year's London Olympics seems like the ultimate goal, having 80 grand's worth of motor parked out front and a dirty great dial flashed in your face whenever you need the time acts as a reminder that all this modestly-remunerated pain might just have a long-term pay-off.

Nottingham's WBC super-middleweight champion Carl Froch knows where Ogogo came from and what it takes to turn amateur medals into professional belts. Such alchemy is rare, which is why Ogogo, who won Commonwealth Games silver last year, is wise to take note of the labour behind the luxuries: belts are forged on the anvil of industry.

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