BBC BLOGS - Ben Dirs

Archives for July 2011

Khan cooking up a storm

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Ben Dirs | 09:19 UK time, Sunday, 24 July 2011

Such is the opprobrium directed at Amir Khan by sections of the British public that you suspect he would have to defeat Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao on the same night - blindfolded and with one arm tied behind his back - for his doubters to acknowledge the extent of his talent.

But the nature of his victory over seasoned veteran Zab Judah, a five-time world champion who has been in with some of the biggest names of the modern era, will surely have won a few of those doubters over. It gets up some people's noses that the kid from Bolton thinks he is a little bit handy, but on the evidence of Saturday night in Vegas, he is exactly that. The best fighter in Britain? He may just be.

Just as Khan's humdinger of a fight against the big-hitting Marcos Maidana last year proved he can take one hell of a shot, his lopsided win over Judah proved he can out-slick a noted speedster. His American paymasters keep on teeing up the challenges, Khan keeps on smashing them out of the park, the worries over any perceived shortcomings receding further with every fight.

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Manassero on the cusp

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Ben Dirs | 12:08 UK time, Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A lot of people have been asking Matteo Manassero about Tom Watson this week, which is no great surprise. The Italian teenager played with the five-time Claret Jug winner on his Open debut at Turnberry in 2009, watching and learning from the master craftsman for the first two rounds.

"I learnt a lot from Tom," the 18-year-old Manassero, who plays in his second Open Championship this week at Royal St George's, told BBC Sport. "He just seemed really comfortable - which you would expect from someone who has won five Opens. He just seemed to know how to handle it.

"He told me to keep my putting stroke the way it was and to keep doing what I was doing, and it was really important to hear that from him. It was great to have him beside me for those two days."

But it was the third man in the grouping, Sergio Garcia, who perhaps had more relevant lessons to teach. There are more 'New Seves' in European golf than you can shake a rake at - and not one of them has come up to scratch. But it is Ballesteros' fellow Spaniard Garcia whose career has disappointed most.

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The Hitman fires a parting shot

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Ben Dirs | 15:19 UK time, Thursday, 7 July 2011

Only a deranged person would walk into their local Kwik-Fit fitter and start abusing all and sundry for not working their way on to an F1 pit crew. Yet when a British sportsperson fails to reach the highest peaks in his or her chosen field, phone-ins and messageboards run thick with invective.

Yet, just as there were people who called Tim Henman a "loser" for making four Wimbledon semi-finals, winning 11 career titles and rising to number four in the world, there will be those who denigrate Ricky Hatton as he officially moves into retirement.

Envy? Probably. Nonsense? Most of it. But then it is easy throwing bombs anonymously from your living room sofa. How high, I ask myself sometimes, have these armchair critics soared in their chosen professions?

It is one of the oldest adages in boxing, indeed sport in general, that you are only as good as the other person lets you. And just as Henman's path to potential immortality was blocked by superior talents, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao were on hand to put 'The Hitman' in perspective.

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What next for Haye?

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Ben Dirs | 22:16 UK time, Sunday, 3 July 2011

Following David Haye's defeat at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg, expect days of fevered speculation as the press attempt to second-guess his next move.

Go again with Klitschko, target big brother Vitali, slip into retirement or rip it up and start again? BBC Sport looks at the Englishman's options.

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Harsh lessons for Haye

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Ben Dirs | 11:57 UK time, Sunday, 3 July 2011


John Lennon was fond of saying that while he was born in Liverpool, it was in Hamburg that he became a man. David Haye, who thought he was the man, was made to look like a boy by Wladimir Klitschko in the same German town. In and out of the ring.

Haye's fans, an estimated 10,000 of whom followed him to Germany, hundreds of thousands more who paid for the fight back home, had every right to feel that two years of trash-talk, two years of vainglorious posturing, two years of nonsense, had culminated in nothing more than the dampest of squibs.

The sight of bedraggled Brits roaming the streets surrounding the Imtech Arena in sheeting rain, desperately searching for cabs that never came, was a depressing one. Not much Haye could have done about the weather, but his fans had reason to believe he would at least make it worth their while. Sorry, David, but if you will promise the earth.

"This fight has put heavyweight boxing back on the map," said the Englishman after the fight. In truth, it has put heavyweight boxing back in the dock. Similar to Haye's meeting with Audley Harrison last year (I hesitate to call it a fight), millions will feel hoodwinked.

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Fast start can bring Haye fever in Hamburg

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Ben Dirs | 10:43 UK time, Friday, 1 July 2011

"There's been a lot of hype, but on 2 July David Haye will be thrown into the lion's den and the door will be closed behind him. Everyone else will be gone, there'll be no-one else to help him." Emanuel Steward, Wladimir Klitschko's trainer.

You hear it from boxers before every fight: "I'm in the best shape of my life." You hear it from journalists, keen to let others know they have been granted access to a boxer's inner sanctum: "I watched him in the gym, and he's never looked so good."

But in boxing, the clues to the outcome of a fight are more often locked away inside a boxer's mind than written large across his chiselled torso.

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