IF you were umming and arring about whether to purchase Saturday’s Sky Sports Box Office pay-per-view fight between Tony Bellew and David Haye, deliberate no more. Your decision should have been made for you, your mind made up, with today’s announcement that Luke Campbell will appear on the undercard and box an opponent with even less notice than he has been given – 72 hours, give or take – presumably over six or eight rounds or something.
It will no doubt be an awful, one-sided contest, but Campbell, 17-2 (14), hasn’t boxed since his brave effort against Jorge Linares last September and could probably do with a runout. What’s more, it’s looking likely he’ll face his old nemesis Yvan Mendy in a WBC eliminator or title fight, so will need to be sharp and at his best if he’s to avoid a second defeat to the Frenchman. This hastily-arranged outing makes sense for those reasons, then, if nothing else.
Thankfully, the rest of Saturday’s undercard does have meaning and does have purpose. Paul Butler fights Emmanuel Rodriguez for the IBF bantamweight title, Joe Joyce challenges Lenroy Thomas for the Commonwealth heavyweight title, Martin J. Ward and James Tennyson box for the Commonwealth title at super-featherweight, and super-middleweight contenders Jamie Cox and John Ryder meet in a decent crossroads fight.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
One man who won’t be boxing on Saturday – or ever – is former Manchester United and England centre back Rio Ferdinand. In a shock to the boxing world, he was forced to retire from the sport today at the age of 39. His record was 0-0 (0).
Unbeaten Ferdinand made a promising start to his career last September and was initially making all the right noises. He was even training multiple times a week and suggested he might try and win a title. But then politics and the small matter of a British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) license scuppered his plans and Ferdinand, regrettably, will now join a long list of talents lost to the red tape of the fight game.
Having been training 4-5 times a week since announcing the aim of achieving a professional boxing licence & stepping into the ring, it is with a heavy heart that I am hanging up my gloves on @Betfair #DefendertoContender challenge.
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) May 3, 2018
“Having been training 4-5 times a week since announcing the aim of achieving a professional boxing licence and stepping into the ring, it is with a heavy heart that I am hanging up my gloves on Betfair’s Defender to Contender challenge,” Ferdy wrote on Facebook.
“Despite having never felt better physically or mentally, after notifying the British Boxing Board of Control of my intention to apply for a licence, I have received confirmation that they would not be reviewing my application at this point in time.
“To say I’m disappointed by this decision is an understatement. To not be given the chance to demonstrate my ability to the BBBoC through the standard assessment afforded to others is hard to take, not only for me, but also to Richie, Mel and the countless others who have dedicated their time to my boxing development over the past six months.
“Boxing is a physically tough, demanding and dangerous sport. I always gave it my utmost respect and never underestimated how difficult it would be. I wanted to show people that it’s OK to have a goal and strive to reach it. It’s important to approach everything with success in mind, and to give it your all, but sometimes things work against you.
“This sport has given me a new focus and drive and is something I will continue to do as part of my fitness regime. I’d like to say thank you to Betfair, Richie Woodhall, Duke McKenzie, my team at New Era Global Sports, the guys at GB Boxing and everyone who has supported me so far. It’s been a great journey.”
It’s a journey, I suppose, in the same way a poppadum and chutney dip constitutes a full-course dinner. But we wish Ferdinand all the best in whatever sport he chooses to do next.
And finally… Adam Morallee upstaged Tony Bellew and David Haye earlier this week with a hear-it-to-believe-it war cry ahead of this Saturday’s heavyweight fight, but today reined it in a tad and consequently found himself upstaged by an intruder, someone his alter ego, The Inbetweeners’ Will McKenzie, knows all too well.
“I think there’s been two kind of different varying approaches to the camps in the build-up here,” Morallee said. “It’s been different to the March ‘17 fight.
“On our side, we’ve been pretty cool, calm and collected, apart from my little rant the other day. On Tony’s side, it’s been a repeat. They’ve called names. They’ve called me Will from The Inbetweeners. Dave Coldwell, who I thought liked me, even called me ‘an embarrassing dweeb’. Feisty one you are, Dave.
“It’s all done to get under David’s skin but it hasn’t worked this time because he’s cool, calm and collected. David’s looked at it, broken it down and he now has one of, if not the best, boxing coach in the world (Ismael Salas). He’s got Ruben (Tabares) on strength and conditioning. He’s 100 per cent fit.
“When he gets in the ring on Saturday night, what you’re going to see… I hesitate to say the Hayemaker of old, but it’s going to be a different David. I’m excited to see it.”
So there. Kind of a disappointment, I think we’d all agree.
But then, moments later, as Tony Bellew began to address the media, James Buckley, otherwise known as Jay from The Inbetweeners, gate-crashed the press conference, approached the top table, and handed Morallee a briefcase and a pair of spectacles. (All a bit of fun, Morallee, seemingly a good sport, wore the glasses and then later walked off with the briefcase.)
There was banter. There were videos. It all helps at the box office.
Yet Richard Schaefer, in what was undoubtedly the funniest joke of the day, assured us all that Bellew vs. Haye II is – wait for it – a “fight for pride”.