The Importance of 'The Equaliser'

02.05.07 - By James Allan: I can remember watching a match on Sky Sports several years ago. To tell you the truth, I can remember almost nothing about the fight itself, neither the approximate date or even who was fighting. Not even the result. What did stick in my memory, however, was Barry McGuigan talking at the end of the fight about the importance of power the further you go in the professional game. Or as Barry clenching a fist termed it, "the old equaliser."

It was only after a watching a live show this weekend that Barry's comments came back to my mind. The professional ranks are peopled by literally dozens of fighters who have superior boxing skills but who lack the necessary strength to either finish off an opponent or to keep a determined one off them. While silky skills will be enough for most fighters to flourish at the beginning of their careers the less punch power they have the more it will tell against them as they rise in the pro ranks. A top class fighter doesn't have to be a really devastating puncher, although it definitely helps, but he does have to be able to hit hard enough to discourage and wear down opponents and to also pull him back into fights he may be losing. Ricky Hatton is a prime example of a fighter who isn't noted for having awesome power, but one who can hit hard enough to stop opponents and who will always have a chance, even if a fight is going against him.

The show that sparked off the Barry McGuigan memory and this column was staged in Clydebank a town just outside of Glasgow. This is the second show to be held in Clydebank in recent months the last one the town staged before these was 57 years ago. It was a sell out, with almost 1800 people buying tickets and featuring five well fought bouts. While watching the show, I was struck by the lack of finishing power from almost any of the fighters. Top of the bill was a fight at lightweight between local boy Gary McArthur and Chris long from England, who had brought Jane Couch with him as his chief supporter, for the vacant British Masters title. McArthur was having his seventh pro fight, winning his last six, and had been promised a slot on a televised show if he won this one, which he duly did. The score of 98 - 94 in his favour was fair as he won the first six rounds comfortably before Long started to come into it in round seven. The last two rounds clearly belonged to Long who hurt McArthur in round nine and chased him in round ten in order to secure the KO, he must have known that he needed to win.

What was disturbing as far as McArthur's team and supporters are concerned, was his inability to not only stop Long in those first six rounds, where he pretty much did as he pleased but that Long never stopped coming forward and never appeared to be in any real danger of being finished early. Long was obviously durable as his record of only two stoppages in sixteen defeats shows, but if McArthur does harbour serious ambitions in the boxing world then limited fighters like Chris Long have to be dispatched as quickly as possible, especially when you are able to hit them where you want when you want. McArthur has now gone the distance in all of his fights racking up a total of 48 rounds in seven pro outings. When you consider that some of the possible future domestic opponents he may face include Jonathon Thaxton (32 wins, 17 by KO), Graham Earl (25 wins, 12 by KO) and John Murray (20 wins, 10 by KO), then it must be worrying for McArthur's management. Not only will he come up against more skilled boxers who will be much harder to hit, he will also come up against men who will simply walk through him as he does not have the power to hold them off.

McArthur has brought a bit of interest in boxing back to the town, and it would be nice to see him become a success in the hardest of all sports. But I fear will just be a matter of time before his lack of the 'old equaliser' catches up to him as it did and will to many other prospects.

As an aside to this show, there are two other things I would like to mention, one good, one not so good. The not so good first. I have been searching the internet trying to find out what exactly the British Masters title is and what exactly its worth is. I haven't been able to find any answers and this would lead me to believe that it is worth almost as much as a belt bought from your local clothing store of choice but of much less use, as it is too big to hold up your trousers.

Why do promoters insist on throwing crappy belts at fights and then labelling the tickets as being for Championship boxing? Gary McArthur headlined the last bill at Clydebank, where there was no worthless title on the line and the venue was sold out then.

If this fight was an eliminator for a future British tile shot, then it should have been billed as that. Most fans know what the history of the Lonsdale belts are and they respect them as being titles worthy of holding. No-one seems to know what a British Masters title is never mind care about it. The sooner these plethoras of cardboard titles are consigned to the dustbin the better.

The good. Peter Buckley was performing at this show and it was a privilege to watch him go about his work. For those who haven't heard of Peter Buckley he is famous for having had, at last count, 284 professional fights, losing 242 of them. Among those 284 fights I have been able to pick out the names of Johnny Bredahl, Duke McKenzie, Naseem Hamed, Michael Brodie, Drew Docherty, Scott Harrison and Acelino Freitas all fighters who went on to hold or fight for World titles. He has also been in against numerous British and Commonwealth champions. In his 18 years as a pro I have only been able to count 10 stoppages in his 242 losses.

A man who has had this many fights knows how to handle himself in a boxing ring. He isn't expected to win, in truth he is really just there to fill in the gaps in the show, but he is very rarely in trouble and always has a few tricks up his sleeve. In the glamour of the big fights it is easy to lose sight of the Peter Buckley's of the boxing world. They aren't hired to upset the local favourite but rather to bring them on and try and impart some wisdom to them. If there were no journeymen, there would be no professional game and someone who has been able to take part in almost 300 pro bouts without being seriously hurt is someone who knows his craft and who is worthy of respect.

Article posted on 02.05.2007

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