By Frank Warren
Next weekend heavyweight juggernauts Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury meet for all the marbles at the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester.
And if further evidence were required that we’ve a real prize fight on our hands, the principals shook on a £100 grand side bet at a heated press conference at a west London cinema last Monday.
While fighters are forbidden from betting on their fights with bookmakers, side bets are permitted.
Monday’s wager effectively takes us back to the sport’s bareknuckle origins in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, long before TV bounties, live gates and lucrative sponsorship deals.
Back then, pugilists’ purses were determined by the sums their backers would gamble against the rival camp. The assembled money would be placed in a bag and strung above one of the four wooden stakes placed into a field to cordon off the ring. The triumphant pug would elope with the ‘pot’. Winner takes all! Hence the betting term ‘high stakes’.
Fury has publically expressed no interest in Chisora’s European belt or the vacant British title which is also up for grabs next weekend.
Instead, true to his Irish traveller heritage, the 6ft 9in Mancunian claims he fights primarily for the honour of his family name.
His father ‘Gypsy’ John Fury – presently incarcerated on a wounding conviction – was widely acknowledged as the leading ‘knuckle’ fighter.
Fury Senior once claimed he’d had 20 such fights, some with six figure stakes involved. They were brutal affairs with no rules and no judges and concluded only when one party ‘gives best’ (surrenders). Make no mistake, the tradition continues unabated, on fields and mountain tops, within the travelling community today.
Besides, a flutter between rival fighting factions is quite commonplace. Two years ago, Chisora and David Haye struck a £20,000 side-bet prior to their big showdown at Upton Park, with the winner selecting a charity of their choice.
Similarly, I had several sizeable wagers with my old adversary, the late Mickey Duff – most notably trousering £50,000 after Nigel Benn scalped Henry Wharton in 1994.
Don King and I also bagged six figure drops when unpatriotically betting on US heavyweights Tim Witherspoon and Oliver McCall against Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis respectively. I also had a good day when Brixton heavyweight Danny Williams executed a spot of giant-killing over a faded Mike Tyson.
Tyson and ‘Del Boy’s hefty pledge simply makes next weekend’s rumble that little bit more personal.
The Commonwealth Games begin in Glasgow on Wednesday and, as always, boxing will be one of the most viewed sports.
England will be looking to regain its status at the head of the medal table, usurping Northern Ireland who surprised all by topping in Delhi four years back. Canada and Australia will also be strong and the Welsh bring a rich crop of talent.
Women’s boxing debuts at the Games and the English trinity of Nicola Adams, Natasha Jonas and Savannah Marshall – all veterans of the London Olympics – will each be favoured to top the podium.
However, a storm is brewing in the men’s squad where, for the first time in years, England is failing to send its full compliment with the light-flyweight and light-heavyweight slots unfilled.
The current ABA champions in those divisions – Londoners Harvey Horn and Joshua Buatsi – would both be strong favourites to medal but the Commonwealth Committee claimed they could not afford to send them?!
Quite ridiculous given that, per penny invested against medals won, boxing is Britain’s most successful sport.
Of those who will compete, keep an eye out for 2012 Olympians Andrew Selby, Fred Evans (both representing Wales), Ulsterman Paddy Barnes and Josh Taylor who carries the hopes of the host country.
English interest is best served by flyweight Charlie Edwards, light-welter Sam Maxwell and middleweight Anthony Fowler who’ve all previously medalled at major international meets.
The recent removal of head guards and computer scoring has significantly breached the gap between the amateur and professional codes and these Games will almost certainly unveil some future pro stars. The BBC provides extensive coverage.
Connoisseurs will not want to miss brilliant Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux strutting his stuff live on BoxNation from 2pm this afternoon.
The 33 year old southpaw is right up there alongside Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward when it comes to ring craft and defensive wizardry.
A veteran of 386 amateur bouts (with just 12 defeats), ‘El Chacal’ won a brace of world amateur titles plus gold medals at both the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics prior to defecting from Cuba on a smuggler’s boat in 2009.
Re-based in Miami, Florida, he romped to the WBA super-bantam title in just his ninth outing and has successfully retained on four occasions against high grade challengers.
Tonight’s opponent Sod Kokietgym from Thailand has lost only two of 66 as a pro yet still starts as a 20-1 outsider in a two horse race!
Footballer turned fighter Curtis Woodhouse announced his retirement from boxing last week, aged 34.
The one-time England Under 21 captain jettisoned a lucrative soccer career to get bashed on the bugle eight years back. Despite a few potholes, his frightening determination and intensity carried him to English and British light-welterweight titles.
Other highspots included tracking down an abusive Twitter troll – and forcing them to make a cowering apology on national TV – plus netting a quarter of a million quid after betting five grand on himself to win a British title at the start of his career .....at odds of 50-1!
Woodhouse departs with a record of 22 wins and seven losses. To have scaled such heights in vastly contrasting sports was an incredible achievement.
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