Six months ago, Britain's boxers were on top of the world, seven hailed as global champions and seven more with their boarding passes for Beijing already stamped. Since then it has been rather a bumpy ride on the ring's capricious roller-coaster.
While the amateurs improved their lot – super-heavy David Price became an eighth qualifier for the Olympics – it has been something of a reality check for the pros. Of the platoon of seven to have seen active service, only three have dodged the bullets.
Ricky Hatton, Clinton Woods and Gavin Rees all encountered opposition who took no prisoners, as did Enzo Maccarinelli, though his nemesis was fellow Briton David Haye.
Thankfully Joe Calzaghe picked himself off the floor to preserve his clean sheet in a disputed points decision over the ring-war veteran Bernard Hopkins last weekend. Barring an uncharacteristic aberration, Junior Witter should hang on to his prestigious World Boxing Council light-welterweight belt when he faces the unbeaten American Timothy Bradley in Nottingham on Saturday week.
There was some hope that Britain might have acquired another world champion, with the Scot Alex Arthur due to meet Joan Guzman of the Dominican Republic for the latter's super-featherweight title in Edinburgh on Saturday. But Guzman had problems getting a visa, even though he has fought here before, and the fight is having to be rescheduled.
Yet this may only delay the inevitable, as Arthur's chances are slim. Don't be fooled by the first name; Joan Guzman is as macho a fighting man as they come and, with 19 KOs in 28 wins, has the punch to prove it.
Briefly in Vegas it seemed old man Hopkins might have had the punch to bring Calzaghe's world crashing around him, but the Welshman's southpaw wiles enabled him to survive and seek another £12 million purse by going out on a high against one of the ring's legends, Roy Jones Jnr. This appears the most likely scenario, though Calzaghe might contemplate a home-and-away deal against a once awesome fighter who has won world titles at four weights, including heavyweight.
There are other names in the mix, including the world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, who would move up a division to face him, and Antonio Tarver, who relieved Woods of hislight-heavyweight title.
But the more saleable Jonesis the opponent the TV moguls want, and the 39-year-old seems up for it. "It's on if Joe wants it," says Jones. Calzaghe admits admiration for the American, who still has a considerable allure despite having seen better days. "He still has the magic there," argues Calzaghe. "He has a bit of speed and can still fight. I like to make a habit of beating legends anyway."
The best date for US TV is 15 November, but the hoped-for venue, the Millennium Stadium, hosts a Wales-Canada rugby union match that day; London's O2 could be an alternative. That was where the "Hayemaker" indicated that he, like Amir Khan – who has possibly his final ITV fight in Birmingham on 15 June – is the future of British boxing, crushing Calzaghe's stablemate Maccarinelli to unify the cruiserweight crown.
Having formally split from his promoter, Frank Maloney, Haye is now talking with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, which suggests a US debut. He and the world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko had dinner in London last Thursday but Klitschko, who helped to launch a boxing academy yesterday as part of the Fight for Peace project, poured cold water on any prospects of an immediate ring encounter. "Our meeting didn't even start," the big Ukrainian admitted. "You can't talk tohim, it's impossible. He's nuts."
Haye also watched Calzaghe- Hopkins and saw his old friend Audley Harrison in a winning, if undistinguished, comeback. Might they meet? "It's unlikely," he says. But if Haye is looking for a trial-horse heavyweight opponent, it could happen.Reuse content