On Saturday the 27th September 1986, my friends stayed up all night, holed up in the front room of one of their parents’ houses. Everyone had avoided the news. ITV were to show the highlights at 9am that Sunday morning. The front room was full of expectation and empty cans. Near anticipated time, one friend was about to turn on the telly, when his Dad, dressed sharp for Church, popped his head round the door and said, “What about Honeyghan then? What a win!” Lloyd Honeyghan, a rank outsider had gone to America and beat Don Curry who was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter at that time, winning the WBA belt (credit to Honeyghan thereafter as he refused to fight the mandated challenger Volbrecht from South Africa, because of apartheid; dubbed ‘Moneyghan’ at the time because he had put $5,000 on himself to beat Curry, he said, “I would not fight Volbrecht for a million pounds – either here or in South Africa. How could I look at myself in the mirror each morning or face my own people on the streets if I agreed?” Top man).
It was a time when you couldn’t watch fights in the US live on TV. You either waited for the highlights, hoping an over eager Dad doesn’t spoil the occasion, or you stayed up and listened to it on the radio. I remember listening to the Hagler/Hearns fight, where Hagler with a deep cut comes out in the third to knock out Hearns; one of the most exciting fights I didn’t see. You listened to the radio by watching it, as though it helped concentration, but these commentators were genius, conjuring out of the dark, such excitement.
You get a real sense of this commentary in Chip Hamer’s two poems, Going Forward and Pressure. Chip takes us right into the ring, putting us on our back foot straight away: “There’s a fine art/To boxing on the retreat,/Not everyone can throw punches/Going backwards.//There’s a real skill, you see, /In getting any power /Into the jab, /When you’re in reverse gear.” This is where one of the crafts of boxing lies, in ‘going forward’ when moving back, (more…)