When Merseysider Martin Murray faces arguably the world’s most brutal boxer, Gennady Golovkin, of Kazakhstan, on Saturday night he will be relieved that the contest has been booked for Monte Carlo rather than Madison Square Garden.
For had it been scheduled for New York – or anywhere else in America – 32-year-old Murray would almost certainly have been denied entry to the United States.
This is because he has a criminal record. Years ago he served jail time for assault and robbery, and although since becoming a model professional he has completely turned his life around, his past misdemeanours count against him when applying for a US visa.
A tightening of the laws by the US immigration authorities is clearly a worry to the few in boxing who have fallen foul of ours. For instance, astonishing as it may seem, Britain’s personable Olympic champion Anthony Joshua, now progressing towards a world heavyweight title shot, may have problems if that fight took place in America because of a minor drugs conviction – for possession – in his youth. As things stand Joshua would be denied a visa.
America is not the only nation taking a similarly tough stance over anyone who has been before the courts. Floyd Mayweather Jnr, briefly jailed for domestic violence, recently pulled out of a proposed promotional tour to Australia because of “visa problems”. It is believed a similar situation arose here last year when he did not turn up for a scheduled visit.
The Home Office certainly prohibited convicted rapist Mike Tyson from coming here last year – despite allowing him to enter the UK several times after his jail sentences, the last of which was in 1992. On two occasions he came to fight for me, against Julius Francis and Lou Savarese.
Another boxer who has had to pay for transgressing the law is Welshman Fred Evans, the 2012 Olympic welterweight silver medallist who was refused accreditation for Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games after being fined for assault.
Most sports authorities take a dim view of anti-social behaviour, including the British Boxing Board of Control. The former European heavyweight champion Dereck Chisora has had his licence suspended again while doing a spot of community service for road rage when blocked in at a car park.
Yet while boxing may have a fistful of bad lads, most of whom who have seen the error of their ways, these days footballers and rugby players are far more likely to be the sportsmen behaving badly. By and large most boxers are pussycats when the gloves come off, because getting involved in brawls outside the ropes can cost their careers. Any boxer who actually uses his fists when not employed to do so faces a very lengthy ban and hefty fine, as well as being denied those lucrative dates in the US and elsewhere.
Fair enough. But my personal view is that when those involved have shown lessons have been learnt they should be allowed to put it behind them and get on with their jobs. When fighters have been back on the straight and narrow for some time, surely the only “form” that matters is not a criminal record, but that acquired in legitimate combat?
Murray has kept his nose clean for some time and I salute his fortitude in challenging Golovkin, a wrecking ball of a puncher who has blitzed his last 18 opponents, for the WBA super-middleweight title. If heart alone could win fights, gutsy Murray, making his third world title attempt in alien territory, would be worth a gamble in Monte Carlo, but I fear he has the most unenviable task of any boxer around at the moment. I wish him luck.
British Lionhearts are brave but face Havana hammering
Good luck too to our men in Havana. They’ll need it. Tonight the five-man British Lionhearts face the all-conquering Cubans in the World Series Boxing, a semi-pro international team tournament that has yet to grab us by the punchballs over here.
The Brits have had a patchy record so far, with two wins and three defeats – the last a 5-0 hammering in Russia. As defending champions Cuba have won all their five matches, with only one defeat in 25 bouts. Does another whitewash loom? The omens are not good.
If it is finally on, Mayweather v Pacquiao will clean up
I’m currently in the States and the word here is that the super fight between Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquiao is expected to be announced next week for 2 May. This is in the build-up to the big Mexican holiday Cinco De Mayo, and the pay-per-view on television is expected to be set at $90 (£58) to make it the highest-grossing PPV ever!
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