The fortnightly column that puts words in your mouth. This week:

BOXING
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The Independent Culture
Herbie Hide couldn't save his in Las Vegas and Frank Bruno will probably come away with a thick lip and fat purse if he gets to fight Iron Mike at Wembley, but the real bout was down Walworth Road at the Labour Party's HQ, where Tony Blair, fighting the no-longer-red corner, was set to win on points. Clause IV, it seems, is heading for a technical knockout.

OK Tony, we've seen the neat footwork, not quite the Ali shuffle, but boxing clever just the same, and there is no doubt you talk a good fight - but when are you going to stop pulling your punches and slug it out toe-to-toe? You've proved you can go the distance and trade punches with any number of ring-rusty palookahs. Now we want to see if you can go 10 rounds in the ring with a real heavyweight. We want to see you punch your weight.

The smart money in the ringside seats says that when the gloves come off you won't make the weight, that you can dodge the blows and duck and weave, but don't pack any sort of a punch, and in a bare-knuckle contest you will just cover up and dance.

But look who's in the blue corner: a punch-drunk lightweight with cauliflower ears who's already on the ropes. True, he has learnt to roll with the punches, what with all the body blows he's had to take, and he has been saved by the bell in almost every round. But if you'd only quit shadow boxing, you could drop him with the old one-two. One knockout blow and he'll hit the canvas. Either he'll be out for the count or his corner will throw in the towel .

All this sparring is turning the punters away; they want to see you go for the prize, give it your best shot. No use saying the day after how you could've been a contender but the fight was fixed by the newspaper mob. So come on, put 'em up. Stand up and fight for something - anything, for Christ's sake.

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