Bunce on Boxing: Talented trio prove Team GB are medal contenders for 2012
Anthony Joshua, Andrew Selby and Luke Campbell will win medals at the 2012 Olympics to continue the unlikeliest of sporting revolutions. On Sunday afternoon the trio returned, with nine other members of Great Britain's elite boxing team, from the World Amateur Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. They each had a silver medal and Tommy Stalker had a bronze to complete a quartet of brilliance.
There was a time when the British were spared the painful shame and not even sent to the World Championships. A quick look at international matches in 1971, 1981 and 1991 reveals that a total of 23 internationals took place and that England's squad managed just seven wins. There were no medal winners at the World Championships during the period. The Brits were, make no mistake, the whipping boys of world boxing. I once heard the senior coach prepare his team of pure amateurs to fight East Germany with the line: "Don't worry, I will have the towel ready when you get in trouble." The towel is used as a tool of surrender.
In Baku, British boxers qualified for the Olympics in five weights and that means the head coach, Robert McCracken, still has a problem; he now has to pick his final five boxers from a list of about 12 for the last Olympic qualifier in Istanbul next spring. McCracken, his full-time staff and full-time squad of as many as 33 boxers, have changed the face of the sport.
Joshua, Selby and Campbell will not be the only medal winners next year.
Hopkins legend lives on
As a boy, Bernard Hopkins's street crimes were so numerous, his use of violence so casual, that when he was sent to prison, he went to the notorious Graterford prison near Philadelphia. Hopkins survived life on the inside by acting "damn crazy"; he resumed boxing in the penitentiary system and the rest is history.
Hopkins left Graterford with nothing. "See you soon, Bernard," the most feared guard told him. He was 23, had no skills and was soon back on the streets in the middle of the crack wars. Hopkins washed dishes, trained at night and ignored the easy money. "It's harder to say no," he told me.
Hopkins is now 46. He knows presidents, his community adores him and political office is possible. However, he's still fighting. He won his first world title in 1995 at a time when there were still three years left of his savage 10-year parole. That means to men like Hopkins – black, poor, uneducated and living in a torched city – that one single mistake and he would be back behind bars. "That was my life for 10 years." What chance did he really have? Well, on Saturday, in his 61st fight, he defends his WBC light-heavyweight title against Chad Dawson, a former champion who is 17 years younger. It will be his 28th world title fight. Try to watch him before he does finally call it a day, because you will be watching a living legend.
Oh yeah, and there is a 60-foot mural of Hopkins inside the prison's gym. It's beyond Hollywood.
Who needs TV?
Little Dave Coldwell is a classic survivor in the boxing business; he's been there, seen it, sold it, bought it and is still working with a lot of people.
As a fighter he was a product of Brendan Ingle's unorthodox gym in Sheffield. However, as a promoter he has done it on his own.
On 26 November he is putting on a show at the Magna Centre in Rotherham without television. It features Ryan Rhodes, last seen on Sky TV losing a world title fight in Mexico, and the former England Under-21s footballer Curtis Woodhouse. There is also the return of former British champion David Barnes, who has been going AWOL since his teenage years in the army. He can, thankfully, fight a bit.
"People told me that this business is crazy, full of liars and has long hours. They lied, there is nothing wrong with the hours," said Coldwell.
Thanks for that, little Davey.
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