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Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Home Sports BOXING Yafai, Jonas, Klimas, Taylor, Andrade and Warren's attempt to feast: A bizarre...

Yafai, Jonas, Klimas, Taylor, Andrade and Warren’s attempt to feast: A bizarre day of boxing magic and chaos


JUST before noon last Thursday I was in a studio finishing a 10-part podcast series on the BBC Winter Olympics. It was a mix of the really great, Jean-Claude Killy, the heroic, Philip Boit, the ridiculous, Eddie The Eagle, the perfect, Torvill and Dean, and a few out and out nutmakers like Matti Nykanen. And then boxing was plunged into an equally outrageous 24-hour period. Just a day, just a day in our business, but not an ordinary day.

By 1pm on Thursday, I was in a room in east London looking out over the tower and talking to Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Galal Yafai. He has just announced that he is going to become a professional with Eddie Hearn and will make his debut on the Lawrence Okolie account in a few weeks. In the last 54 years, only five British men have won an Olympic gold medal; it was an event and rightly so.

One of those men was Audley Harrison. About the same time that Galal turned around, Big Aud was a day or so in a seemingly endless stream of Twitter debates and quarrels and insults. At first people thought his account had been hacked, but then it turned out that it was indeed the Sydney gold medal hero and icon behind the stuff.

At the Galal conference, everyone was talking about Big Aud. He was in the news again and enlisted support to get the GB Boxing Center in Sheffield named after him.

About the time that afternoon when Claressa Shields landed in the UK, there was news that Natasha Jonas would move to light-hearted – sorry, super-welter – and Poland’s Ewa Piatkowska would fight for a vacant title. Jonas has never weighed more than 139 pounds – her last fight was at that weight – and last year she lost to Katie Taylor for the lightweight titles at 135 pounds. However, Piatkowska was only 146 pounds in her last fight and when she won a version of the lightweight title, she weighed only ¾ of a pound above the welter.

It’s business and Piatkowska is not a dangerous puncher. Jonas is smooth, makes no mistakes, and, just like Lauren Price, she can have an easy time against big and slower opponents. It was a shout out of nowhere and it makes a lot of sense.

A little later that day, Nathan Heaney announced that he had moved 1,500 tickets for his next fight. There is no date, no place, no opponent. They only worship the Stoke boy. He has a special following.

And then, just as we were all waiting for heavyweight news, it was announced that Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano would be fighting for all the lightweight belts at Madison Square Garden in New York at the end of April. This battle is in the big house, as they call it, the top floor. The real garden – Muhammad Ali’s garden. Two women fighting and selling out the holy house.

And then, Jake Paul, the old rogue and wind-up trader, emerged as one of the big players in making the Serrano and Taylor fight happen. “Never saw it coming,” said Catford’s best, Ellie Scotney. And she’s right.

A few hours after my deadline, there was a nice Twitter row hatching when Bob Arum said something about women’s boxing to which Jake took exception and called Uncle Bob a “dinosaur”. It rumbled a bit. “I feel sorry for Mikaela Mayer,” Jake tweeted. That kid is smooth.

As a balance for the praise of Jake Paul, he did claim on Friday, within my timeline, that he would fight Saul Canelo Alvarez in the next two years. Ag.

And on Thursday night, around 9pm, there was a lot of talk about Demetrius Andrade and Zach Parker fighting for a version of the super-middleweight title. And this is where a story that started talking to me about Olympic Winter Heroes and an interview with a boxing gold medalist takes a strange turn. I met a geese holding four Stellas in the checkout line at Co-op and he told me a Parker deal had been done. He did the same two years ago with another big fight. That was the last time I saw him, I do not know his name, but he has mentioned it before. Parker and Andrade in the midst of this chaos make so much sense. Note, an observation of a unicorn in Basildon will make sense in the middle of this series.

And then, just hours before the big unveiling in the land of the heavyweights, Egis Klimas, the man behind so many former Eastern Bloc fighters, comes to the defense of Oleksandr Usyk after Tyson Fury accused him of being scared. It must be said that even a quick glance at Usyk’s boxing record will confirm that he is one of the bravest fighters in the modern game: He has won world title fights against the local champion and idol in four countries. I know, just like Fury. Usyk is fearless, believe me.

Klimas accused Fury of “holding this wagon” and then proceeded with a warning to Fury, “Screaming and talking is cheap”. The clock ticked like the Friday deadline, the latest deadline approaching.

Audley was still yelling and yelling.

By the end of the press conference on Thursday, while Okolie and Yafai had fulfilled about three hours of maintenance obligations, it was clear that the purse would finally take place – it was the fifth date for the ceremony of truth. Dillian Whyte’s advisers briefly appeared in the hallways at the conference, chatted with Fabio Wardley and disappeared again. They had no comment on the bid. Eddie Hearn was relaxed. “There was an agreement,” he said. “There was an agreement.” Looking back on about 20 days of speculation and rumors and inventions, there were very few solid remarks. I had a week of people asking me, “At Fury really against that great UFC spirit?”

Anyway, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Audley was still typing and talking.

And then on Friday it came out, a purse to feast on and it ended a truly extraordinary 24-hour boxing news perfectly. Heaney, Yafai, Jonas, Klimas, Taylor, Serrano, Parker, Andrade, Arum, my pal in Co-op, Paul and then Mauricio Sulaiman – a closet Beastie Boys fanatic – finally declared the bid saga over. Frank Warren was the winner. Wow, what a relief that it was all over.

And, now it’s another week and the box is back.



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