Banish Those Bradley Blues: Five Reasons to Smile

By Matt McGrain on June 15, 2012
Banish Those Bradley Blues: Five Reasons to Smile
“Don’t worry about it,” Paul Williams told his trainer George Peterson. “We’ll take care of it.”

Most boxing people want to believe deep down inside that Paul Williams can find a way back—maybe even back to boxing…

It’s been a hard week—year? decade?—to be a boxing fan, not least for Timothy Bradley himself. Rapidly and undeservedly becoming the villain in the piece due to his dogged but understandable determination to insist that he won a fight we all know he lost, the new WBO welterweight champion of the world is feeling it.

“I am sick of it. I just want to fight the best fights out there for me and my family and the fans out there. I am at the point where I am losing my love for boxing.”

Tim, we know how you feel. 

But it isn’t all bad. What’s to love about a sport that has let down so many fans this week and perhaps worse than that, the fighters themselves? Plenty. Today, right now, this minute, we are in love with a sport awash with good news, good people, and plenty to look forwards to. So put your feet up, relax, and forget about the failed drugs tests, the cheats, the horrible decisions, the mismatches and, my favorite, the superfights that just won’t happen.

Here are five reasons to smile.

#1—Paul Williams’ Spine Isn’t Severed

Take that little ball of anger in your stomach and match it to the line above. Boxing decisions gone awry, they’re such a big deal, right? Wrong.

When Paul Williams, two-time holder of the strap now adorning Timothy Bradley’s waist, crashed his motorbike on May 27th of this year, a real fight began. The fight first of all for survival, and now the fight to walk again. For a long time there was little in the way of good news aside from Paul’s positive attitude and determination to regain his feet. This finally changed in the past few days as it was announced that there was “no evidence of severing” according to Dr. Donald Leslie, the medical director at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta where Paul is being treated. “He had a fracture of the spine. There is a fracture of the bone. The bone encircles the spinal cord. The spinal cord was injured.”

This, I am told, is fantastic news.

Paul is not speaking to media yet but longtime accomplice and trainer George Peterson is. Peterson and Williams go way back to Paul’s first pro fight and suggestions that he should leave the man who has predictably but accurately been described as “a father figure” to Paul after the Martinez loss, were steadfastly ignored by the former champion.

“I’ve been with him about 14 years,” said Peterson, “and I’ve seen him come from behind many times. He’ll say, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it.” That was his same quote about his injury.

‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it.’”

Dr. Leslie has told the fighter that he is in for the hardest training session of his life but that “Paul is ready for it. His attitude is incredible. He’s in a wheelchair, maneuvering independently. He can roll over independently in bed. He’s transferring out of the bed into his wheelchair, out of the wheelchair onto the mat to work. He will probably be here a month. The average time for people is typically about six weeks, but he’s in such great shape.”

Sometimes, a boxer and a fighter are the same thing. Peterson says Paul is demanding an opportunity to hit the mitts. 

“I can’t give you odds [on the likelihood of his walking again],” continued the doctor. “It may be days to weeks before well have a better idea.”

If it is a question of heart, Paul will get there. There is a possible moment in the not too distant future where he rises up from his seat to accept the thunderous applause from a boxing crowd during his first fight as a spectator since that accident.

I think that rather puts the problems of Bradley, Pacquiao and the rest of the boxing world nicely into perspective.

#2—The Tale of Sonny Boy Jaro

A washed-up pug gets an unearned chance at one of the most dominant fighters in boxing history and somehow, someway, he finds the will and the skill to make the impossible possible. Sounds familiar? With apologies to Sylvester Stallone I don’t think he has the range to play Sonny Boy Jaro but fortunately there’s no need—the reality is more inspiring than the movie could ever be.

Pongsaklek Wongjongkam is a living legend. Aged thirty-four, he has amassed an astonishing number of defenses in his two terms as WBC strapholder and a certain amount of recognition even in the mainstream, no mean feat for a Thai southpaw fly who likes to do his boxing on his own continent. Under-celebrated for most of his Hall of Fame career, he is unquestionably one of the greatest flyweights ever to have lived.

Sonny Boy Jaro is not.

Jaro’s fight with Wongjongkam was made behind a four-fight winning streak amassed against opponents with a combined record of 43-63-8. The fact that all of these wins were by way of early knockout was not enough to disguise his being grossly under-qualified for a shot at the title and arguably that his 2009 blowout by Giovani Segura and 2011 points loss to 4-0 prospect Hirofumi Mukai made him something of an embarrassment as an opponent. Glimmers of quality in his quick knockouts of Gejon and Alcos were very easy to ignore. Jaro was regarded as a journeyman.

But he didn’t fight like one against the champion. He dropped Wongjongkam in the first with a wild uppercut and didn’t let up, fighting aggressively, staying in range and winding up hard power-punches at every opportunity, most striking of all that winging uppercut making him reminiscent for those six glorious rounds of a young Vic Darchinyan. After a point deduction for low blows at the beginning of the sixth, Jaro went to work in earnest dropping the great champion for good after a surging attack of terrible brutality in front of a stunned Thai crowd.

He’ll be away from home, this time in Japan, for his first defense next month. Keep an eye out for it. Just because it happened thousands of miles away to a little man rather than in your backyard to a big man doesn’t make the story any less incredible. It’s still a reason to smile.

Yo Adrian, we did it.

#3—The Klitschkos Can’t Go On Forever

A disclaimer first of all—step away from that keyboard! I really like both of the Klitschkos. I especially enjoy Wlad, a gentleman and a scholar with a fantastic career arch that saw him battling a brother who believed he should be retired for respect and autonomy. Wlad earned all of that and more, becoming one of the most dominant HW champions in history, an absolute master of his craft.

I’m less fond of Vitali but he is a man of genuine purpose and character, his determination to overhaul corruption in his native Ukraine a lot more warming than an awkward, ugly boxing style which has brought with it so much success.

But they kill the heavyweight division. They’re too good. More than that, there are two of them. The heavyweight division needs one Boss.

Having developed a worrying habit of matching prospects just lately, the Klitschkos might be on their way to clearing out the next generation of heavyweights but they can’t go on forever—and the heavyweight pot is bubbling nicely. Who will replace the brothers at the top?

English giants Tyson Fury (18-0, 13 KOs) standing 6’9, weighing in at 245 lbs. and 24 years of age and David Price (13-0, 11 KOs), 6’8, 245 lbs. and 28 years of age should meet up and produce a British contender of merit. The other top prospects are smaller than these giants, but no less likely to step up to the plate. Magomed Abdusalamov, 14-0 with all of his wins coming by knockout, finally moves up in class next month against Maurice Byarm, who at 13-1 is a decent prospect himself. He lost to the smart boxing Byrant Jennings (13-0, 6 KOs) earlier this year and although 30-year-old Seth Mitchell (25-1, 19 KOs) is likely the best American prospect, don’t be surprised if Jennings steals some of his thunder at some stage soon before Mitchell is established.

Heading back across the Atlantic we have Cuban exile Mike Perez (18-0, 12 KOs) fighting out of Ireland and new European champion, granite-chinned Kubrat Pulev (16-0, 8 KOs), a Bulgarian fighting out of Germany. 

Many of these fighters are being linked with one Klitschko or another as we speak, but I hope the prospects in the heavyweight division make the brothers put off retirement, and if that means missing out on a big payday, so be it. These guys should have a say in what happens to the division post-Klitschko, not turning up for thrashings during it. Given time to mature, these men can turn in some really good fights amongst themselves whilst we wait for the next Tyson or Holmes to come along. 

Who knows, his daddy could be putting the boxing gloves in his crib right now.

#4—The Olympics

Tired of subjective professional judging? Troubled by the brutality of the sport you love? Sickened by the huge sums of money that eclipse all else in the modern game? For you, Dr. McGrain prescribes The Olympics. The men’s bantam and middleweights get things kicked off on Saturday the 28th of July, and on August 5 history is made as the women’s fly, light and middleweights become the first female boxers ever to compete for an Olympic medal.

I try not to show it but I’m still a little uncomfortable with women boxing professionally. I don’t disagree with their right to do so, it just makes me a little uncomfortable and I don’t tend to seek it out (which is strange for me, since I tend to get parents to try to gamble on the outcome if two kids start a fight at a fifth birthday party). But for some reason their boxing to the amateur code doesn’t bother me a bit—in fact I think it may be the highlight of the Games.

The American spotlight has fallen on middleweight Claressa Shields. Rather easy on the eye, this teenager out of Flint is also built like a tank, or at least a small armored car. If she should score a medal at the Games or even—cross all your fingers and toes—a gold, this will bring the type of publicity to the sport that will make Pacquiao-Bradley seem a distant and faded nightmare.

The British team, though, is the stronger, and more than one medal is almost assured with lightweight Natasha Jonas my pick of a particularly strong bunch.

But it is from neither the British nor the American camp that the most heart-warming story comes. Sadaf Rahimi from Afghanistan may be the most extraordinary athlete at the 2012 London Olympics Games.

To say that women are treated as second -class citizens in Afghanistan is rather an understatement. To say that Sadaf’s gym in war-torn Kabul is “makeshift” is also an understatement. To say that this teenager has faced an uphill battle to reach the Olympics fighting in a country in which women taking part in sports was illegal when she was born is the biggest understatement of all. Women in her country are still murdered for failing to give birth to male children. But she’ll be there. From Afghanistan to London 2012.

“I am well aware that my opponents in the London 2012 Olympics are more powerful and even twice as good as me, but I have prepared myself to participate.”

If you’re not smiling right now, Dr. McGrain diagnoses a heart of stone.

#5—Gennady Golovkin vs. Dmitry Pirog

Last but not least, proof that boxing can still get it right. If you’ve been sleeping on this one, write it down— Saturday the 25th of August, the date upon which these two middleweights from Kazakhstan and Russia respectively meet on American soil for the WBA middleweight strap. The winner will be the clear contender for the division’s recognized number one, Sergio Martinez, in a fight that is very likely to come off unless Mayweather has a rush of blood and decides to match Martinez—in which case, who would be complaining?

One of these fights has got to be a classic. One of the fights that reminds you why you watch boxing. But even if it isn’t you’ll still be around, right? The reason Williams handed out a new address for cards and get-well messages to be sent—that’s 3060 Will Rogers Place, Atlanta, Georgia, 30316, United States for anyone who would like to send him something—is that the boxing community is something of a family. A dysfunctional family, yes. A family tearing itself apart, right now, possibly. But still a family. Boxing people, real boxing people, they won’t miss a fight like Golovkin-Pirog just because Pacquiao-Bradley was a terrible disappointment. Boxing people understand instinctively the qualities in Sadaf Rahimi that have allowed her to punch her way through war and misogyny to the cusp of legend. Boxing people appreciate the courage of a young prospect summoning the courage to step into the ring with Wladimir Kitschko—or the courage to make him wait two more years so that they’re ready for him. And nowhere, nowhere in sports, perhaps nowhere in human experience is an underdog story like Jaro’s so beautifully told as it is in the squared circle.

Most of all boxing fans know that their athletes, more than any others, have to fight through the pain and suffering to be great. That’s why most boxing people want to believe deep down inside that Paul Williams can find a way back—maybe even back to boxing.

So smile Timothy Bradley, smile you fans.

You’re a boxing person.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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Mike Perez V Big Mouth

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Magomed Abdusalamov vs Rich Power 20/11/2011

Maurice Freight Train Byarm 1st Rd KO

Seth Mitchell vs Chazz Witherspoon

Gennady Golovkin v Makoto Fuchigami (Full Fight)

Dmitry Pirog vs Nobuhiro Ishida [Full Fight]

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  1. boxnfan 02:05pm, 06/22/2012

    Listening to the commentator fooled the Hell out of me too thinking he got a better look at the fight….Bradley was the better fighter.

  2. The Thresher 01:20pm, 06/15/2012

    Wow, this was really a great piece. I am now very jealous of all other writers. Holy shite, you guys can flat out write. This actually made me feel good.

  3. Don from Prov 12:16pm, 06/15/2012

    AND really hold out hope for Williams.

  4. Don from Prov 12:15pm, 06/15/2012

    I love numbers three and five!!!

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