On a chilly September night at Elland Road, Leeds, however, the achievement of Frank Grant, an unknown middleweight, provided a reminder of those qualities which make this the purest, most compelling of all sporting endeavours.
Grant was the challenger for the British title held by Herol Graham, a champion of proven quality acknowledged as one of the most stylish performers of his generation.
A crafty, elusive and deceptively powerful puncher, Graham is adept at making opponents miss, then punishing them on the counter, a tactic by which he had claimed British, Commonwealth and European crowns, even though he had fallen short in two world title assaults.
In contrast Grant, a 27-year-old club fighter from Bradford, had never been in a title fight, seeming to lack the experience and the talent to compete on level terms with a man of Graham's undoubted class. True, the challenger was a strong hitter, but his chances of actually catching the slippery Graham seemed remote.
'I can't outbox him so I must keep the pressure on him all the time,' he said, 'and just hope I can land something in the later rounds. He's a great fighter but he's 33 years old now, and he's got to go some time.'
Grant's strategy of relentless assault, a hazardous option which made him an easy target, required vast reserves of bravery, stamina, and conviction of purpose. The Bradford man knew he would be hit hard and often, gambling that his strength and conditioning would negate Graham's superior technical qualities as the contest progressed.
The plan worked to perfection: Graham dominated the early rounds, building a substantial lead, peppering his rival's face with hurtful punches. A lesser man's morale would have wilted but Grant, single-minded in pursuit, absorbed everything and, by the fifth, was starting to find a way through.
The end came in the ninth. His controlled assault having enjoyed growing success during the middle rounds, Grant landed a six-punch combination that sent Graham face-first to the canvas. He rose at nine, but Grant was not to be denied, the stricken Graham taking punishment without reply when the referee intervened to bring his reign to an end.
As the Lonsdale belt was placed around the new champion's waist, the look on his bruised and swollen face told its own tale. Whatever Frank Grant goes on to achieve, the night he became British middleweight champion will remain fresh in his memory for the rest of his life.
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