By Terence Dooley
To comeback or not comeback? That is the question many boxers face, and everyone else thinks they know the answer to, especially boxing fans, who do not give much thought to a fighter’s safety when they are young men, but hate the thought of seeing their idols risk their health and legacies.
Salford’s Jamie Moore has been asking himself the comeback question in recent months. The former British, Commonwealth and EBU light-middleweight titlist retired after losing to Siarhei Khomitski, at middleweight, in April 2010. Moore works as a pundit for Sky Sports and is comfortable in his new role, but the fire still burns, and it is rising, so the fan favorite has found himself stuck between a rock and hard place.
“Part of me wants to stay retired because I said once I was finished I was done, but there’s a fighting side of me that wants to do it,” said Moore when speaking to BoxingScene. “Last year, I did a training segment for Ringside where I went to train with (Welsh trainer) Gary Lockett. I was sick afterwards and thought, ‘I’ve got to get back into training’, because I hadn’t trained properly since I’d retired.
“Once I started training properly, I got fitter, felt healthier and started to realize that all the little injuries I’d had, and was part of me having to retire, such as my Achilles and shoulders, were gone. I gradually started upping it and upping it. Brian Rose went to do a training camp in Portugal in April, so I went over there, got a bit fitter and I loved it. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to end up fighting again here’ — I could see it.”
Sky’s Adam Smith wants Moore to pursue his punditry career. Smith gave Moore plenty of support when the 34-year-old was boxing; he also moved quickly to bring Moore into the Sky fold to ensure that the former fighter remained involved in the sport. This faith, not to mention the risk of losing his Sky spot should he return, is a big factor for Moore and any future decision about his career.
“I mentioned it to Adam Smith, we had a good, long conversation about it and he told me to concentrate on my Sky thing because he doesn’t want me to fight again,” he said. “I do want to concentrate on Sky, but it keeps you around the sport and shows, so it is hard.
“Then I started sparring again. People were saying I was better than ever because in the past, I’d go to the gym out of shape. (Former trainer) Oliver (Harrison) especially was pulling his hair out, or would if he had any, because he was asking why I couldn’t have trained like that when I was fighting. I was always chasing my own tail, which didn’t do me any favors, so I feel that I’d be better now if I fought again.
“One side of it is do I really need to? Do I jeopardize what I have with Sky, which I love doing and is the next best thing to boxing without being a boxer. I got down to 12 stone. I couldn’t get under that without killing myself when I was fighting, which was down to my own self-discipline between fights. Towards the end, I was really struggling, but now I think I could make middleweight easily and possibly light-middle.
“It is frustrating because I feel I’m still young enough to do it and don’t want to get to 36 or 37 and wish I’d have done it. I know a lot more now than I did when I retired, which was only two-and-a-half years ago. It is mad, I feel I could be a better fighter, but do I risk my reputation and situation I have now to try to improve what I’ve already done, which was a massive thing. I had seven wins for my British title and won the European, Irish and Commonwealth title.
“Am I going to be better? My chances of getting a world title fight are probably not that great, so all I can do is equal what I did before, but the feeling doesn’t go away. No one knows why we want to fight, we just want to do it — I come to shows and get the buzz to fight.
“I’ve always been a big fan of fighters who are in great fights and provide entertainment, so I love the thought of people wanting to watch me fight and being excited about it. Style-wise, my style always made for good fights, so I love the idea that people will be excited to see me fight again. It is a tough. I’m not sure if I’ve made my mind up and might not know in the next week or month. If I don’t decide to do it, then I’ll have to shut the door on it.”
Many boxers struggle during their retirement, they find it hard to find work, even harder to scratch that competitive itch, and not many get the opportunities that Moore has been given. He said: “Exactly, I’ve got a great role there at Sky.”
“I feel fortunate to be able to do it. Not many fighters get to work with a company such as Sky and I really, really appreciate the opportunity that Adam Smith gave to me. Do I want to miss out on that? That’s the big question hanging over me.
“People tell me they find me easy to understand and follow. I think it is because so many viewers are working-class, and I’m from a working-class background, so I guess they can relate to me — I tell it how it is. It is the best job in the world that you could get after boxing, which makes it a tough question.
“I shit myself the first time I worked for Sky. You think it is going to be easy because you’ve been in the ring and all that, but then someone says, ‘Right, guys, 10-seconds’, and your stomach churns and you get really nervous. After two or three times, you forget the cameras are there and it is just like being in the pub talking boxing with your mates. I think that is what people like to see, they like to see people who know what they’re talking about having a general chat. Long may it continue.
“The very first show I worked properly was when Steve Foster Junior won the European title (against Levan Kirakosyan in October 2010) and I got told off twice for swearing. I’ve had to watch it since then, but it is hard to contain yourself because I’ve been at some right good fights. I was in fight of the year three times, and I’ve been to a lot of shows there they have good fights, so I think I’m a good omen in that sense, but you’ve got to remain professional.”
Moore used to enjoy himself between assignments during his 37-fight career, 32-5 (23), and he had a few decent nights out following his decision to retire. However, the southpaw warrior also kept himself in good shape in order to perform charity runs, so he came back to the gym with a good general level of fitness and his family have told him that they will support him whatever he decides to do.
“I wouldn’t say I didn’t go on any epic benders, I kept it quiet if I did!” said Moore. “I got out of shape, didn’t do boxing training, but I did a lot of charity runs and half marathons, which kept me in some shape and I could enjoy it because I enjoy doing charity stuff that helps people.
“I’ve had long discussion with (wife) Colleen and my mum and dad, they told me that you only get one life, it is a short career, so if I leave it for a year then it could be too late. They say that if I’m going to do it then do it and they’ll be behind me.”
Many ex-boxers end up back in the gym and around the big fights. They tick over, enjoying the bouts, and forget about the little things such as niggling injuries and making weight, focusing instead on the positives and downplaying the many negatives of the sport. Moore acknowledge this, but pointed out that he knows what it is all about and that the driving force behind those comeback thoughts is the idea of idea of being even better than before.
“Exactly, it is not so much the buzz of the fight, although that’s a great part of it, it is more about the question in my mind of now I’m looking after myself better how far can I go?” he said.
“I was dedicated when training for a fight, but between fights I let myself down and could have come into training in better shape and condition, so I could have been better than I was, which is another big question. I’ve got to deal with it. Make a decision and then move on.”
Ironically, Ricky Hatton rubberstamped his comeback last month — “The Hitman” makes his return at the MEN Arena on November 24, Vyacheslav Senchenko is his comeback opponent. The former linear light-welterweight champion has the backing of his close friend and has reciprocated this support by offering Moore a slot on the undercard of his ring return.
“I had a conversation with Ricky, he said if I did want to fight on his undercard then I could do, which would be great, but I don’t want to do it just for that and put that timescale on it,” he said. “If I do it then I’ll do it in my own time.”
As mentioned above, fans become moralistic when former fighters return. It is OK for boxers to bash one another’s brains in during their peak years, but we feel uncomfortable when they go on too long. It is probably because we see them age, see them slip and it reminds us that we are growing older ourselves. Plus we tend to use boxers as a means rather than an end. Once they’re not at their peak we move on to the next big thing and bemoan the fact that former idols, James Toney for example, go on to lose fights they would have won fairly easily in the past.
Still, the claim that these fighters tarnish their legacies is nonsense. Do we remember Muhammad Ali for his loss to Trevor Berbick in 1981 or do we recall his glory nights? “It is a valid point,” said Moore, and he was bound to agree as I nicked it from his comments on a recent Ringside segment about comebacks.
“People do say they go on too long, but look at Evander Holyfield, he’s gone on too long and people will still look at his earlier fights in the history book and see those epics, so they do forget.
“Ricky has achieved what he achieved and nothing will ever ruin that night he had against Kostya (Tszyu). People say he shouldn’t be doing it, but it is not their lives and Ricky is in good shape weeks before the fight. If Ricky is still willing to learn and put the effort in then he could be better.
“Bob Shannon’s a great trainer, he’ll put a lot of effort in, get Ricky as fit as a butcher’s dog and I think that’s what Ricky needs, someone he can trust — Bob’s the man for that. I can’t wait because he’s my mate, but I’ve been a massive fan since he beat me up when I was 14! Ricky’s one of the most popular fighters ever, he’s doing this for himself, he doesn’t need the money, and I think he’s done the right thing.”
There is talk of Hatton facing domestic rivals Amir Khan or Kell Brook should he look impressive in November. One or two good wins, though, will elevate Hatton beyond their reach in sporting terms as neither man has campaigned at the same level that Hatton reached during his pomp.
Indeed, and if Hatton wants it, the former WBA welterweight titlist, who only lost to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, could take his army of fans to Las Vegas for a meeting with the winner of the fourth fight between Pacquiao and Marquez. So that’s Hatton versus Marquez in Vegas in May, then?
“Aw, mate, I’ve got a feeling that Manny might deserve it this time only for Marquez to get it, but if Marquez does come through and beat Manny then what a fight Ricky against Marquez would be — it would be epic,” enthused Moore.
Nigel Benn is Moore’s boxing hero. “The Dark Destroyer” faced this same agonizing decision after retiring following back-to-back defeats to Steve Collins in 1996. Benn often talked about having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other — one voice telling him to count his blessings and the other calling for a return to boxing.
Moore is now in the same boat. His head is saying one thing, his heart is telling him another, and, as his fans know, his heart often overruled his boxing brain during his career, to the benefit of the punters. Should “Mooresy” decide to make a return we should ditch the lazy moralizing, doff our caps to him and let him crack on and crack some heads. This isn’t tiddlywinks, after all.
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