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Chris Lakey: Boxing ring is a place for professionals - no one else

Anthony Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn Picture: PA

Anthony Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

I usually have an automatic reaction when I see a press release in my email inbox.

First, the finger is raised, ready to descent with great force at the delete button. Then, after a cursory examination, force is applied.

Stage three is a feeling of pleasure. Yeh, I know, little things...

Fortunately, one from a lady called Harriett, caught my eye in time. It mentioned the magic word, boxing. And a magic name, Hearn (Eddie). This must be serious, thought I. And it was.

Eddie, the promoter, had been talking to a betting site about all things boxing (almost), from Tyson Fury to Anthony Joshua’s next fight and... the ‘fight’ between KSI and Logan Paul.

The latter was of interest because I’d dug myself into a Twitter conversation after BBC Tweeted a video of these two types having it out with the question: “Was this the biggest fight of the year so far?”

Hmmm. Was it a fight? Well, yes, of sorts. But my cats fight and I wouldn’t charge for it. It wasn’t decent ‘fight’ entertainment either. And, as I have strong views on non-professionals boxing, it wasn’t acceptable.

For those of you who, like me, have no idea who KSI and Logan Paul are, let me explain as briefly as I can: they are YouTubers. KSI has 19.4 million subscribers, Paul has 18.2 million. They had a beef with each other, they settled it in the boxing ring.

More than 15,000 tickets were sold for the event, at the Manchester Arena and thousands paid £7.50 each to watch it live on YouTube.

In his interview with bettingpro.com, Hearn said: “I didn’t watch it, but I admire what they did. I hated the fight, and everything about it made my skin crawl. But I admired the promotion and these two guys are geniuses.

“People are saying it’s bad for boxing, it’s not bad for boxing, it brings attention to boxing; it’s just not the kind of boxing that we like.

“Streaming, I do think it’s the future unquestionably; I do think the way people are digesting content is changing.”

Well, I agree to an extent: I watched some of it and I hated it. It was a huge event, but why the Beeb flagged it up as sport is unclear. It wasn’t. It was an event. The ‘fighting’ was incidental. The protagonists promoted it well, but with a combined following of almost 38 million it probably wasn’t a tough ask.

Did it bring attention to boxing? Yes, but for the wrong reasons. This was a world apart from the sport of boxing.

This week I was told a story of a man who sparred – not in a pro boxing gym, and suffered a broken rib. He had no idea of how to take a punch to the ribs, how to absorb it. He wore a headguard but had no idea how to take a punch to the head with or without protection. That takes pros years and years of practice. Soaking up a punch is an art form. It is not learned overnight.

The Youtube chaps should try something a bit different next they have a spat: something less dangerous.

By the way, if you want the serious side of boxing, this is Hearn’s view on Tyson Fury readiness to fight Anthony Joshua.

“No certainly not; I think he knows that and everyone in boxing knows that and unless he’s getting 20 million dollars for that fight, I don’t think he’ll take the fight against Wilder to be honest with you. I know they’ve said it is happening, there’s no date or venue yet and I think Fury needs one more, he knows that.”

“He’s done unbelievably to come back from where he was and he deserves a huge amount of credit but he looked very poor in his last fight, he got booed out of the ring, he’s not an entertaining fighter to watch. He’s awkward and tricky which is not great for people to watch but it’s effective as we saw against Klitschko so I think if he can have a fight or two more, which was always his plan, he’s got a very good chance against the likes of Wilder and Joshua but right now, he stands no chance.”

“I think he might have something up his sleeve but I don’t see him getting in the ring this year with Wilder for sure.”

That is how seriously boxing is taken by the professionals: mismatches can result in terrible injury, perhaps worse, even at which Fury operates.

City backed a winner

I am often guilty of repetition but I will take a risk on this one... stop me if you’ve heard it before.

In the first few weeks of the 2009-10 season, an old pal of mine, who lived in the Far East by way of Brighton, emailed me to suggest Norwich should sign his former next-door-neighbour.

The chap in question was out of favour at his club and would be ideal. Chap by the name of Russell Martin.

A week later, Martin joined City on loan from Peterborough where, having been skipper as they were promoted to the Championship (while City were slipping out of it) he had fallen out of favour.

The neighbour in question is a racing tipster, so knows a thing or two about things like this, but he said Norwich would be “on to a good one”. He was right.

In the playing sense he did a fine job for City. As the face of the club he represented them with intelligence and good grace. Russell Martin is one of a rare breed: he talks well to the media.

He has been refreshingly honest on many occasions, and while perhaps not of the shoot-from-the-hip calibre of Darren Huckerby, Martin was just as good to listen to.

In 2016, after City beat Watford 4-2 on a day when their relegation from the top flight was confirmed, he fronted up to ‘do the media’. And still he got grief from the angry mob.

He must have known it would happen, but it was his job, so he took it on the chin.

After City were thrashed 5-0 at Brighton in October, 2016, he did it again, saying it was “embarrassing and humiliating” as they conceded four goals in half an hour.

“It’s rubbish, the worst one yet,” he said. “Too many lads gave up, it’s as simple as that. We need to take an honest look at ourselves because we keep getting told we’re Premier League players but that counts for nothing if you can’t fight or win battles.”

We’ll probably never know how the reaction of some fans affected Martin, like we will probably never know what it did to Josh Murphy. I’ll be staggered if it was water off a duck’s back.

Not all players handle it how Martin appeared to – next time, let’s give him the appreciation he deserves.

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