The 16th World Amateur Boxing Championships started in Baku yesterday and you can bet it was a bit fiery at ringside.
There was a time when I fancied myself as a bit of a crusader on the boxing beat and I would love to be there now keeping an eye on the 12 British boxers trying to reach the quarter-finals, which means they qualify for next year's Olympics. It has always been a very lively and edgy event.
In 1996, I did break a story about a crooked Russian judge, an envelope filled with $1,000 and a plot to fix judges at the Junior World Championships in Cuba. I was due to fly to Moscow for a follow-up but the judge was killed; he had been tortured and electrocuted in his bath. My editor at the time called off the trip.
The following year I reported from Budapest when a mysterious Uzbek won the world championship, but he had fought as a pro in Chicago and was duly stripped of his amateur title. I did my bit and wrote my story. I was in Houston in 1999 when Fidel Castro sent a plane to collect his boxers after a series of bad decisions at the world championships. I was right in the thick of it and reporting again.
In 2002 at the Women's World Championships in Turkey, a sizeable lump came over to me. "Bunce?" It was not much of a question, so I shrugged. "You are big, but not so fucking big." I had the pleasure of writing about him a few days later when he was sent home after knocking out the favourite for middleweight gold – she was his girlfriend. I love being on the amateur international circuit.
A few months ago I dined with Ivan Khodabakhsh and Dr Wu, the men at the centre of last week's damning allegations of cash-for-medals. They are impressive and, as a veteran of the sport's darkest days when Seagull, a high-ranking Stasi man, was in charge, I can see the good they have done. The bold claims are now out there, and it is time for proof.
New home on TV
The quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the world championships will be screened on BoxNation, the new boxing channel that launches this Friday. The channel will be free for several weeks and will feature two nights of boxing each week and daily news bulletins – and I get my own show.
Ortiz finds his voice
The outrageous ending to the Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz fight two weeks ago is not over just yet. Mayweather connected with two savage, but legal, sucker punches to knock out Ortiz. However, a wonderfully entertaining exchange after the fight, between Mayweather, 34, and HBO's tiresome Larry Merchant, 80, dominated the headlines, leaving Ortiz out in the cold. The ending demanded a closer look, to be honest.
Mayweather, whose last eight fights have generated about $450 million in pay-per-view revenue for HBO, lost his cool with Merchant just a few moments after taking out Ortiz. It was uncomfortable but compulsive viewing and it now looks like Ortiz and Oscar De La Hoya, his promoter, want some answers.
De La Hoya and Ortiz have started to ask a few questions and a demand for a rematch is certain. To be fair, Ortiz was not in the fight, but the ending was controversial.
Mayweather and De La Hoya have serious previous. They fought in 2007, Mayweather won a split decision and has never let De La Hoya forget. De La Hoya recently admitted that he had some personal issues after checking in to rehab; Mayweather was quick to talk, proving that he can deliver cheap shots on both sides of the ropes.
Here's Mayweather on De La Hoya: "He's a guy who wears drag, does drugs, drinks alcohol and commits adultery like a god." Thanks for that, Floyd.Reuse content