UPON discovering Joe Fournier’s number 11 ranking with the World Boxing Association (WBA), my initial reaction wasn’t one of shock, bemusement or even anger. (This is boxing, after all, a sport in which retired fighters remain in the rankings, drug cheats bed-hop from sanctioning body to sanctioning body, and even the deceased have been known to stagger their way into the top fifteen.)
Instead, the thing that sprung to mind when hearing about Fournier’s Christmas gift, and reading his declaration that he’s now the highest-rated British light-heavyweight in the world (according to the WBA, of course), was a scene from the book (and movie) Foxcatcher in which John Du Pont, an American philanthropist with a fondness for wrestlers and a dream too big for his limited athletic capabilities, is mollycoddled through a number of wrestling matches against Bulgarian pensioners and then given a fugazi belt as a way of concluding his fantasy.
The unease was in the façade. Du Pont, all the gear and no idea, was out there wrestling – wrestling like an old man riddled with arthritis and dodgy knees, admittedly – and defeating men brought in to be defeated, all the while Olympic-calibre wrestlers funded by Du Pont stood around and watched, cornered him, swallowed their pride and basically pretended. They did it for Du Pont. They did it to play along in his world of make-believe and for him to realise his dream. They did it because Du Pont had money.