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A Winter's Blossom

Cherish fights like Kovalev - Ward, because this year they have been few and far between

Sergey Kovalev v Andre Ward Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

It has been a hard year. It's at times like these that we all need sport to make us feel better. We turn to sport for refuge from reality. But in true boxing form, just when we need it most, it has run away and left us with a looping video of it kicking a dog into the sea. It's impossible to bury yourself in boxing when Paul Smith still has one hand on a possible title shot and the other hand on a buffet plate containing 200 chocolate eclairs and a glazed ham.

If you're reading this, you probably already know that being a boxing fan has a tendency to be a drag. We spend most of our time maligning terrible mismatches, or hating promoters for making stupid claims about their fighter, and most of all, we spend our time wishing the best would fight the best, whilst knowing they probably won't. But it's all built on the vague possibility that they might. So far this year they mostly have not. It has been an exhibition in much of what is wrong with the sport. 2016 won't be remembered fondly. In fact, it probably won't be remembered at all. We've not even been afforded the joy of some horrendous train wrecks. We've simply had an incredibly dull year.

For me, and I believe for many others, this has come at a time when it was already a little difficult to be enthusiastic about boxing. This year has felt a lot like a bad hangover, after the unending hype, followed by ultimate disappointment at the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight. We needed the best fights, and something to get excited about, but since then, boxing hasn't really given us anything to shout about. Which is why we should cherish Saturday night's fight instead of stressing over the outcome.

I understand that many are frustrated, and I think they're within their rights to be. But it wasn't a robbery, it was a close fight that could have gone either way. But forget that, and instead take the time to revel in what we saw. Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev are two of the very finest boxers on the planet right now. They were willing to put it all on the line against each other, in an attempt to cement themselves as the very best in the world (I think Gonzalez still holds that crown).

We don't often get to see the very best fighters fight each other, and that is a real problem for boxing. But at the weekend, the level of technique and skill on show was fantastic. At times it was amazing to see Andre spoil and hustle Sergey, and make him miss by mere millimeters, counter him, or stifle his offense. It was equally amazing to see Sergey set traps for Andre to walk into, none more so than the right hand that dropped Ward, and to frequently control the fight using his probing but powerful jab.

Saturday's headliner was the kind of fight boxing fans need. It's the sort of fight we want to show our less obsessive friends, to make them realise what it is to be a boxing fan. It wasn't a fight of the year candidate, but it was a closely contested, and incredibly high-level bout between two of the finest fighters of this generation, and it was a pleasure to see it happen. Whilst we can, and probably will sit here and complain about the scorecards, it seems remiss not to acknowledge that we got to see a fight that matters, that will define both fighters' legacies, and that wasn't a total dud.

It sure makes a change from seeing Danny Garcia fight his assorted selection of cherry bon bons, or Anthony Joshua punch a heavily-breasted troll whilst Eddie Hearn tells everyone it's the Fight of the Century. We've been raised on a diet of turds made from Gennady Golovkin's sadistic assault on the welterweight division and Oscar De La Hoya's game of hide and go seek someone that I can use as an excuse for Canelo not to fight the monster in his division. We're suffering from whatever the sports version of Stockholm Syndrome is. It's the same syndrome that Mourinho uses to manage his players. Eden Hazard is immune to it. But we're not. We're all counting down the days to the next time we get to see Gary Russell Jr. fight. I can't wait to find out if his next opponent has to borrow a pair of shorts from Gary beforehand.

It's not always easy being a boxing fan, and we're all so used to complaining about the sport, it is sometimes hard to stray from that normality. But take a moment to appreciate what we saw, and get yourself ready for more of the same between Lomachenko vs Walters. We're not allowed nice things – But when we get lucky and they fall into our laps? We should make the most of them.

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