It can be a tiring, uphill struggle constantly trying to defend boxing.
The sport has a unique way of filling column inches for the wrong reasons, inviting casual onlookers to scrunch up their noses and distance themselves further from possible fandom.
Positive drugs tests, bizarre scorecards, insufficient health and safety, alphabet titles, fighters let loose on social media and the cockroach survival of Don King are some of the usual suspects, but, as I have said on many occasions, no matter how many times boxing knocks you down, the urge to climb to your feet is forever irresistible.
This past weekend was a prime example of us making the ten count and reaping the rewards. Here are five highlights of the weekend that made me, and us, I hope, smile:
1. Gervonta Davis’ knockout of Ryan Garcia
Growing up idolising Ricky Hatton, a perfectly timed liver shot has a special place in my heart. Tank Davis uncorked a beauty to stop Ryan Garcia in the seventh round of their catchweight superfight, rubber-stamping Davis’ spot as one of the sport’s superstars.
It was a textbook left hand to the body that saw Garcia immobilised after a couple of seconds trying to fight it. Tank employed the perfect game plan to topple a talented fighter, showing that the 28-year-old has tactical nous alongside his bludgeoning power.
In some quarters, body shots are still looked upon as a mythical creature – something that we know exists with our eyes, but impossible to empathise completely with the pain if we haven’t experienced one to our own solar plexus. But the switch downstairs is becoming more and more common as a route of stoppage in the modern game and I am here for it.
2. Rakhimov vs Cordina
This fight produced 36 minutes of unmissable, absorbing action in the super-featherweight division. It may just fall short of the 2023 FOTY contenders come Christmas, but the non-stop action and front-foot pressure from both men gelled into an absolute barnburner.
At times it was as though the fight was on 2x speed, with Cordina the aggressor fighting fire with fire against the teak tough Tajikistani.
Cordina’s win – following on from his destruction of Kenichi Ogawa last year – sees him breakout as a world class operator and one of Britain’s best in circulation. He has proved himself as a complete fighter in his last two title wins and all with battling against the scars of hand surgery.
3. A bridgerweight brawl
From the technically brilliant to the bomb-slinging bridgerweights. The less said about this new weight class the better, but Lukasz Rozanski and Alen Babic reminded us just how bonkers boxing can be if you strip it back to its basics.
In Poland, the local hero destroyed the “Savage” in two minutes, unloading a barrage of left-hooks in what resembled a bar-room brawl minus a couple of pool cues and a spilt Guinness.
Babic finds himself on the scrapheap of novelty sluggers who will still be given a surfeit of opportunities to pad undercards across Europe. And more power to his elbow.
4. Sandy Ryan
Ryan found herself as the butt of the joke in women’s boxing last year as she was beaten in her fourth professional fight by the unheralded Erica Anabella Farias.
Ryan was being pushed as the next best thing in the sport but was sent crashing back down to earth by the Argentinean on the Wood-Conlan undercard.
But the Derby fighter’s willingness to run it back immediately, avenge the loss, and now progress to become a world champion within 13 months shows the tenacity and talent of the 29-year-old.
Ryan’s dominant win over Marie Pier Houle sets her on the path for a potential showdown with the division’s ruler, Jessica McCaskill.
5. David Morrell
I know that our very own preeminent pundit of pugilism, Scott Christ, has been very high on Morrell for a while, but it’s worth underlining just how fun his future looks.
He blitzed through late-replacement Yamaguchi Falcao inside a round, now recording seven of his eight knockouts in the opening four rounds.
The former youth world champion for Cuba is being moved fairly quickly and the talk of him fighting David Benavidez next is only going to gather more and more pace as the year goes on.