Bunce on Boxing: Two Olympic certainties but one sure loser


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The Independent Online

There was a time when there were so few realistic British Olympic medal winners, in what seemed like an endless list of summer Games, that the hopes of "nicking" a bronze were pinned on the shoulders of just one kid. Times have changed and this Friday at York Hall in east London two boxers, one from Wales and one from England, will begin a best-of-three series to determine who fills the flyweight position next summer.

Khalid Yafai and Andrew Selby are as close to medal certainties as you can get inside the Olympic boxing event. They have each won major medals at major events, and last month in Azerbaijan at the World Championships they both qualified for the Olympics. Sadly, it was at the same weight and that is why the extraordinary solution of a best of three has been established.

As expected, both fighters have made bold claims that they deserve the spot next year without any form of box-off. Selby, for instance, lost in the final in Baku by just one point and Yafai went out at the quarter-final stage. However, Yafai did lose to the reigning champion. It's a beautiful debate.

Their first fight at York Hall, on Friday, will be part of the GB championships, which continue on Saturday, and tickets are available for as little as a quid. There will be some great fights over the two days because there are Olympic places still available for both the men and women. The BBC will screen the second Yafai and Selby fight on Saturday. Look out for the slim, debonair-looking fella in the silver suit next to John Inverdale.


Ricky Hatton is back in the ring!

It was inevitable that Ricky Hatton would get back in the ring as a trainer. He will make his debut on Saturday in Oldham when Adam Little fights for the fourth time and Billy Smith, in the opposite corner, loses for the 106th time. That's the business, relax.

"Being a good fighter doesn't mean that I will be a good trainer," admitted Hatton. "I will give it everything, just like I did in the ring as a boxer, but I will be nervous." Hatton didn't actually say he would be "nervous". I'm just sensitive to the bad language that has been present in previous columns.


Fury returns to the pantomime

In July, more than three million watched Tyson Fury win the British heavyweight title on Channel Five. His fight in September was viewed by just less than two million and this Saturday he returns to the channel against a foul-mouthed Bosnian called Neven Pajkic.

"He's got a big mouth and I will shut it. He's unbeaten and I will beat him. What's more he doesn't really understand the pantomime that is involved in boxing," said Fury, who was involved in an altercation at ringside after Pajkic fought earlier this year. In May, Fury removed his shirt at the O2 and challenged the then British champion Dereck Chisora to a "fight like proper men." Chisora refused, Fury was escorted from the building and the pair met two months later. Chisora, meanwhile, returns to action this Friday in Halifax on the BoxNation show.

"This is an entertainment business and I'm all about entertaining," insisted Fury. "I take risks in the ring that I probably should not take and that is what makes my fights entertaining. I'm an old-school, proper heavyweight."

Pajkic is unbeaten in 16 fights and is the fourth unbeaten man that Fury has met in his last six fights. "I'm not yellow and gutless like a lot of the big scared heavyweights that are out there hiding behind their promoters."

Thanks for that, Tyson.