Mullings on Fighting: the Mayweather v McGregor Press Conference and a Primal Advantage

Wolves: you know, if properly socialised, they avoid settling disagreements with their kin by way of violence, like humans. So a pack of wolves will seek to resolve disputes within its hierarchy without tearing each other to shreds, of which they are fully capable. Rather, they stand off, stare, snarl and bare their teeth at their rival; more often than not in cohesive packs, the confrontation is resolved without bloodshed: these ritualised stand offs, one might even say ‘bluffs,’ are resolved at the psychological level. One wolf breaks eye contact and submits by lying on its back, revealing its neck to the dominant wolf, whimpering and urinating. The dominant wolf could quite feasibly tear out the submissive wolf’s exposed jugular, killing it on the spot, but it deigns to spare it, sniffing and licking it instead. This way, the pack resolves dominance disputes whilst keeping living and social and healthy wolves in the pack. The alternative is a few individual survivors, limping corpses mustering their energy for that last fight to the death.

Chimpanzees: they are far more psychologically advanced than wolves, so we might infer that their social hierarchies are likewise maintained with an emphasis on bluff rather than brutality, which they are, to an extent; but when they do fight, it’s not pretty. They tear their enemies limb from limb, often as a group, snapping and ripping and eating the bodies of their victim, often conscious during these mutilations.

Humans: being much more advanced psychologically than wolves and somewhat moreso than chimps, we tend to avoid fights, especially those that are fought to the death, though these very fights played determinate socioevolutionary roles in our species history. As our societies became more complex and cohesive, we fight wars not between two persons, but between two tribes, or peoples, religions, colours, states, etcetera. War has been a constant and immanent danger for a long, long, long time; it has threatened to destroy all life on earth with its nuclear capacity for generations. But, like the chimps and wolves, we avoid it, because we know that the ultimate logic of war is an irrational one of absolute suffering.

Humans now: we are almost identical to our savage human forebears in biological terms, but far and away from them in cultural terms. It is not normal in our society to hone one’s skillset to slaughter other human beings the same way it was historically, albeit due to technology as much as ‘civilisation.’ But the socioevolutionary inclination itself—an innate phenomenon evolved in society that is inherent to our psychology—to fight and to do harm does not simply disappear from inside of you as it might outside of you in ‘civilisation.’ You can see such aggression manifesting in wars and feuds and fights as you do, to a very much more civilised and entertaining and interesting degree, in martial arts.

We’ve come a long-ass way since our far-flung ancestors tore at each other’s primal hides in unskilled frenzies; it’s been a long time since gladiators fought to their inevitable deaths for the entertainment of an audience; but really not so long since it was the norm, if offended, to ‘demand satisfaction’ before fighting that person to the death by way of duel, be it by blade or revolver. This is something in us. Across time we’ve developed arts of combat, decided against their employment unless absolutely necessary, and celebrated their art for its own sake, over the combat for dominance sake. Such is boxing.

I disclaim my bias here on out: I love boxing and like MMA; boxing is a passion, MMA an interest.

Boxing is, in my opinion, a privileging of an art over combat, which for the most part, balances excitingly. MMA is, in my opinion, a privileging (or perhaps equality) of combat over art. These aren’t absolute generalisations, but you’ll get the gist: when someone goes down in boxing, the other walks to a neutral corner and awaits their opponent to either rise within ten seconds and continue at the referee’s discretion or be counted out; if someone goes down in MMA, you fall on their face fist-first and pound it until you’re tackled off of them. In boxing, you punch the body and head with padded gloves; in MMA, it’s legal to kick somebody in the stomach and knee them to the jaw—“Shin to dome!” What I am trying to say: kicking somebody in the face, for me, is too close to the, let’s say, chimpish aspect: it tends harder towards the combat than the art.

And, really, I don’t say this to deride MMA fighters; I’ve an overwhelming respect for them that more often than not surpasses that which I have for boxers. I would love to develop that contradiction, and there is a host other considerations that I neglect to hash out in this short piece, but I should do so in a future one.

My point is that we all possess an innate warrior; some more than others; like men moreso than women; like humans welling with testosterone raised in violent environments without a choice but to fight moreso than humans raised in cosy environments without the need or will to fight. Yet inside it resides, and perhaps you won’t know it until somebody twats you around the earhole. But all one needs by way of proof is a look at a group of teenage boys at play. Fighting is play: that’s a play fight. You can of course channel these drives and inclinations outside of martial arts: people climb Everest, swim the channel, jump out of planes and play contact sports.

 

Watch from 11 minutes in to see Floyd’s speech and the verbal confrontation I’m going to be writing about, though this is not completely necessary:

So when I see Floyd Mayweather approach the podium , puffing his chest, swinging his arms (listen out at 11:36), shouting two syllable couplets, I see an Alpha-Fighter surveying a troop. Like a peacock, he feathers brightly; unlike a peacock, he looks like a twat. He says, “I don’t give a fuck if it’s a ring, I don’t give a fuck if it’s an octagon: put me in there and I’m gonna kick ass.” I would say he has articulated his repressed anxiety about giving ‘a fuck if it’s an octagon,’ quickly highlighted by McGregor’s quip—“Don’t be talking shit, you do give a fuck whether it’s in the octagon!”—which is met at first by silence and then by the Alpha-Fighter’s shouts, then a few struts. Mayweather is obviously cognisant of the fact that he is a tiger, he is Alpha-Cat on land but he is afraid of the water, he is equally cognisant of the fact that McGregor is a kung-fu crocodile that would death roll his ass if he ever dared jumped in that water.

Mayweather, credit to him, has McGregor out of the octagon and on to dry land to fight him on his terms; but the psychological damage is done, he knows who the superior Alpha-Fighter really is, were it to be mano a mano. But the fact of the matter is, it isn’t; yet still this is evidently a significant psychological factor with which he’s contending, evident in his overly dominant strutting and the arm-swinging and the ‘HAR-WOR!’ He’s trying too hard, harder than usual.

Mayweather, slightly shaken by the comments, compensates by saying, “I ain’t backing down for no-fucking-body… I’m gonna knock this bitch out, too!” McGregor replies, fast as his hands, “You haven’t knocked nobody out in about twenty years!” So Mayweather starts shadow-boxing, generally Alpha-Fightering about the stage, and then, his mind no doubt whirring over and over, manages, “Hey, gimme that backpack!” He ruffles around awkwardly and produces a little piece of paper. “Now lemme show you motherfuckers what a hundred million dollar fighter look like!”

And, well, he raises that little bit of paper in the air, presumably a cheque, presumably for one hundred million, presumably transported especially for this press conference in case he had occasion for its production as another feather amongst his pathetic plumage. Or perhaps it’s not a feather, there’s a more fitting image: Mayweather is a tiger, just he’s a paper tiger. He is a paper tiger when he says, “I don’t give a fuck if it’s an octagon”, when he knows he would wilt in that water! That cheque won’t mean much come fight night.

So he struts and he bowls and he jibes, physically compensating, psychologically wilting. Back to the mic, he doubles down on his Money obsessed persona: “He look good for a seven figure fighter, he look good for a eight figure fighter, but motherfucker I’m a nine figure fighter.” Recommence the bowling, the strutting, the arms swinging. Yes, ‘Money,’ you are obscenely rich, but I think Mr. McGregor’s point was that, were you ever to be so silly as to jump in the water, he would be there, jaws agape, ready to death roll your sorry paper ass. “And y’all know what, this bitch made three million dollars his last fight!” Hooray for Money, the verbal-financial smack-down!—But, yeah, death roll.

Mayweather remembered a sore spot, one he could exploit: “We all know Mr Tap-Out likes to quit!” McGregor’s microphone was cut, so we were unable to hear his replies, but after some to-and-fro, he managed to shout loud enough for Money’s mix to pick up, “I’m here right now!”

Mayweather: “You can get it right now!” Etcetera. Anyway, Mayweather concluded with some dubious biblical scholarship: “God don’t make mistakes, and God only made one thing perfect, and that’s my boxing record.” Christ.

So I’m going to sketch my ideas out on four things regarding the fight itself, and we’ll start off the back of Mayweather’s jibe, which was the only thing to noticeably unsettle McGregor in the conference: the ‘quit’ in him.

 

“Fighting Floyd Mayweather is a Dose of Cold Reality.”

            I remember these words so clearly, spoken by HBO commentator Jim Lampley, in the latter rounds of De La Hoya v Mayweather. And it fucking is: he demotivates and obstructs and confounds and, frankly, disenchants his opponent. Now I’m not going to say that he made De La Hoya or Pacquiao or Cotto quit, none of them did and all performed among the best of his adversaries, but throughout their fights they all at one point palpably… changed. It would be going too far to say that they had quit in them, for they all reckoned with the ‘dose of cold reality’ and performed exceptionally, but it eventually deflated them, noticeably. Mayweather v Maidana II and Mayweather v Canelo are other great examples. Mayweather Alpha-Fightered them.

Mayweather makes a jab at McGregor tapping, which he construes as quitting. Okay, sounds fair. Who did he tap against, when and how? He tapped against Nate Diaz last year, a granite-skulled superhuman with a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu who had him in a rear naked choke after he blew out. Okay, sounds different. McGregor proved himself in the rematch just five months later, in which he dropped his opponent four or five times (from memory). That’s an adjustment and a half. Can the kung-fu Celtic crocodile make such an adjustment out of water, for three quarters of an hour in a big boxing ring against the sports finest artist without feeling that same deflation? It’s a good question. Mayweather’s cold reality is not being able to hit him when he’s at distance, not being able to hit him in close with added elbows, and being punched or countered then evaded before one can react effectively. That’s not going to muster much quit in McGregor, I don’t think: if the man can take twenty five minutes of a Diaz twatting him with fist and foot across the legs and body and head without quitting, he can take Mayweather’s blows without wilting.

 

“McGregor Won’t Touch Floyd”

Well, it’s unlikely, but it will eventually happen, which gives him a puncher’s chance at least. He’s looked a bigger man to me at this press conference, and he has great timing and intuition of distance regardless of what a few minutes of grainy gym footage might show (watch the HD ones in the octagon), so why not a few punches a round? If Mayweather’s nervous enough to make mistakes…

For Mayweather’s part, he needs to feint, draw counters, counter himself, and just (sorry for overlapping the analogies here) take him into the deep water. If he’s not sparked by the middle rounds, he’s bound to win, isn’t he?

 

“Floyd Won’t Hurt McGregor”

You won’t find anybody who’s fought Floyd say that he punches softly, or at least I haven’t. Floyd is an supremely accurate puncher; he is the accurate pot-shotter par excellence, and his timing in this regard is that which his opponents find most confounding. BAM. He’s gone. BAM. I’m being held uncomfortably. BAM! Followed up with elbows. Floyd’s no knockout boxer, but he hits the spot and he times it well; and he exploits boxing’s refereeing conventions to smother his opponents counter-offence. He’s unlikely to knock out McGregor, but be damn sure he’s going to tire his body and use his head for target practice, just not follow up his attack with a spinning kick and guillotine choke.

 

McGregor Will Hurt Floyd

I do so genuinely and emphatically hope so. But, much as Magic Mac’s hands seem special, Mayweather’s experienced and has a chin. He took shots from Cotto, Maidana, Pacquiao, Mosely, big punchers, but he never wilted, nor looked like he was going to. Gloves might make some small difference, but I doubt one which will matter. McGregor, if he wants to hurt Floyd, needs to go flat-out Maidana on his ass, stay awkward and leave out the Floydy pull-back and counter—that’s his opponent’s job.

 

Prediction

I feel obliged after all that I’ve said to predict a winner, and this template might seem familiar: Floyd will win a unanimous decision over 12 rounds after a tough first few. McGregor might well have the psychological advantage but unless he can capitalise on it early and fluster Floyd enough to land something heavy, I don’t see him doing much else.

 

Jack Falla Racing – Burning Treads and Turning Heads.

Jack Falla

Jack Falla is the highest-flying, fastest-driving Guernsey sportsman you may not and should have heard of.

He has shot from zero to sixty in as short a time as one could feasibly manage in a sport where champions are incubated at ludicrously young ages: Lewis Hamilton – coming off the back of a commanding win at the Italian Grand Prix this month – was racing competitively at eight years old; Jack’s very first experience of circuit racing was at twenty-two.

He’s spent twelve hours travelling the length of the country after a gruelling weekend racing in Scotland before this interview; I expect a modicum of patience to be lost with me for my ignorance with respect to his career and sport, especially as I open with the tedious “how did you get in to…” question.

Not so. On holiday to Australia in 2009, fate steered Jack toward his future profession in romantic fashion: “My friend owned a Formula Ford team”, Jack starts, a little nonchalant, “he was testing a load of drivers and he said to pop down to the track, so I borrowed a helmet and drove a racecar for the first time in my life.” Shortly thereafter, a driver in the team dropped out with two races left in the season; Jack was asked, “do you fancy jumping in?”

“And that was that; my holiday in Australia was over!” Jack laughs animatedly. And so it was, with only a handful of hours’ experience driving a supercar, Jack was offered his seat – his debut. Against all odds and in miserably wet conditions, “I came ninth out of a thirty car grid having never raced or trained properly in my life” – a seemingly modest but contextually outrageous feat, moreso as Jack went on to finish eleventh out of another thirty car grid in the following race, proving the first was no fluke.

Jack battling Ryan Cullen round a Belgian circuit
Jack battling Ryan Cullen round a Belgian circuit

It’s in the context of the sport’s ferocious competitiveness, in which entire lives are consumed to shave off that make-or-break tenth of a second, that Jack’s casual ascendance can be realised for what it is: nothing short of astounding.

“From 2009 to 2013 I did nothing. I did those two races”, Jack tells me with an understandable annoyance; raw talent wasn’t enough to capitalise on his success without being ‘in the know’. “Then in 2013 my friend said to me, ‘have you not done anything with your racing? We’re running GT3s in Australia soon, would you consider driving?’”

Jack’s initiation in to GT3 racing wasn’t so much romantic as grounding and grafting. The romance was certainly lost in the initial test circuit after his four-year hiatus, run in preparation for his first season in Australia’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge 2013. With his new teammates clocking laps of a minute, Jack’s first lap reflected his lacking experience: he was fifteen seconds slower, which may as well be light-years at this level. “It was that slow, it wouldn’t have even qualified me to race”, Jack says, laughing. “I spent everyday that week down the track learning to drive this car. It was a completely different beast”.

Jack paints a toilsome picture before saying, “by the end of the week, I was just off the track record for a GT3 car and finished the season fifth in Pro Class”. First season, age 24, no experience and already finishing just out of reach of the podium; it would beckon Jack after a season of near-miss finishes in the podium’s shadow as he went on to finish third overall and first in his class in the Perth 300 endurance race; “a great memory” and vindication after a hard first season in the deep end.

Jack’s work ethic is exemplary and his regimen comprehensive, which he paints as necessary to have a puncher’s chance at ‘making it’ in circuit racing with his relative “lack of experience”. I ask what it is he thinks gives him the edge over his peers in terms of training, Jack pleasantly surprises me with, “things like visualisation, mindfulness, yoga, meditation; I think they’re as important to me as actually being in the car and training.” We agree on the underappreciated benefits of such techniques – and that we can’t envisage many of the more party-prone F1 drivers employing them.

Though Jack made head-turning inroads during Australia’s Porsche GT3 2013 season, the commute to and from the land down under proved unsustainable. Jack bowed out of the 2014 season, racing only thrice, again with a fifth place finish in the frustrating downwind of champagne spray. The travel is arduous enough without the cross-hemisphere travel, Jack tells me, “it becomes a chore very quickly. Moving to three hotel rooms a week, it gets lonely; you miss the normality of family life; seeing Kirsty and the boys”.

Finding Tenths
‘Finding tenths’ (figuratively) on the road

Jack, perhaps unlike many sporting stars his age, is a dedicated family man. He tells me the support from his partner and four-month and seven-year old boys, Otto and Seve, has been steadfast despite the obvious risks – ever-present with recent deaths in the sport – and “ups and downs of racing”, which are as dramatic as they are unforgiving. “They want me to succeed as much as I do. Otto’s too young to know what’s going on, but Seve absolutely loves it. Kirsty knows the risks involved but she trusts me. You can’t jump in a car thinking of the risks and ‘what-ifs’; she knows I’m a clean driver and I rarely make mistakes”. This is evident in Jack’s consistent finishing down to the consistency of his lap times; Jack sums it up with: “I treat every lap like my qualifying lap”.

Jack didn’t lose the momentum he gained throughout 2014 as he did in 2009. He was contacted by Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2014 winners, Redline Racing, with an invitation to drive a test circuit for the 2015 championship, and the rest is history: again in fairy-tale fashion, Jack’s test was behind the wheel of a car he’d never driven, in torrential rain, around an unfamiliar circuit. Despite this, he was the first driver signed by any team for the Carrera Cup GB 2015 season, to last season’s winning team no less.

“My relationship with Redline is like family”, Jack says in no uncertain terms or tone, “there are sixteen other team members; it’s these guys who don’t get enough credit for the work they do. My personal mechanic is like my best friend, he ensures my car is on the grid every race and he will do whatever it takes to fix any damage caused regardless. He’s the guy who belts me up and the last person I have physical contact with while I’m sat on the grid before the race. We have a strong bond”. One can sense the intensity, the sheer anticipation; become infected by the adrenaline’s potency.

Consolidating one and a half seasons-worth of experience; securing hard-won sponsorship deals and advanced training equipment; backed by the Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2014 winning team; and racing circuits just one short flight rather than several long-hauls from Guernsey – the world’s his oyster.

Indeed it remains his oyster, but despite a first season studded with stand-out performances and several podium finishes, it has been beset by setbacks. “It’s a heart-breaking feeling when you are working so hard for the finish you desire and deserve”, Jack admits matter-of-factly, “but I look at the positive and realise not many people get four podium finishes in their first year”. Hugely creditable, with the liberty of context, but as it stands, Jack sits in an unrepresentative fifth in his class of ProAM1 (he overqualified himself for the more rookie-appropriate ProAM2 with a blazing test circuit) in the knowledge that he could, should and would have been higher were it not for a plague of bad luck.

Written Off
The remains of Jack’s metallic stallion

He’s suffered four major and unavoidable setbacks this season already: the first courtesy of a backmarker (a racer who’s been lapped) wiping out Jack whilst he was running seventh overall; the second, in which he was leading his class, the driver in front lost control before Jack collided with him at pace, resulting in his car being written off, missing the next race (the third setback) and suffering a severe concussion; the fourth, the weekend before I meet Jack, he was battling for second in his class before the competing car span through a corner and wiped Jack out. He was sixth-tenths of a second off of pole position – first overall.

So there’s a large and well-weighted asterisk above the fifth place he currently occupies; a position in which he risks being downwind of the champagne he deserves and has worked so hard to be spraying. Jack seems cool and unfazed – “I’m not going backwards, that’s for sure”, Jack reassures me, perhaps as much as himself. “That’s racing. Knowing I could have done nothing to stop what’s happened”, shrugs Jack, “I leave the track, and if there’s any negativity, I leave it on the track”. Wise words, easily talked but harder to walk.

So where from here?

Jack maintains a sustainable, though not always ideal, balance between his career and his family life (and sanity). “I would literally love to pack up everything and escape the chaos, the stress, the highs and lows of racing”, Jack tells me longingly, implying there’s much more to be achieved before he does. I ask Jack what he does to decompress, or if he’s any hobby with which to wind down. “I love motorbikes. Building and restoring old bikes; it’s very therapeutic’, Jack assures me, with my eyebrows raised; the intricacies of mechanical construction after a day’s work don’t strike me as ‘therapeutic.’ “Hmmm, Kirsty can feel a little neglected”, jokes Jack, “I’d like to play tennis or golf too but I’m just consumed by everything else – especially kids!” Jack’s good humour should surely be flashing on reserve after the weekend’s collision and full day of driving, flying and sailing.

The ecstatic podium peaks can contrast taxingly with frustrating troughs; “It always feels, just as I’m taking the next step up the ladder, something takes me down three steps”, Jack says uncharacteristically. “Well, that’s racing!” That’s more like it. “I believe if I’d have finished every race, I’d be in the top three, without a doubt. I still do have time to be in the top three, but it doesn’t give me any room for error – I have to be perfect”.

Podium
Imbibed after the race, Jack assures me…

With perfection the goal, where Jack goes from here is by no means set in the stars, but gauging his boundless determination, dedication and enthusiasm, I’d say it’s undoubtedly up.

You can catch Jack competing in the penultimate round of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB next weekend on ITV4 and support him by liking, commenting and sharing this piece using the social media icons below.

Jack Falla can be followed on:

Twitter – @JackWilliamGF

Instagram – @falla87

Facebook – www.facebook.com/fallasport


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Thank you for the continued support, enjoy our dwindling days of sunshine over the weekend and Happy Friday!

@ApolloDoherty

The Sweet Science

“Boxing is the sport to which all other sports aspire.” – George Foreman

I could not agree more with the statement, not that I have the testicular fortitude to do anything but agree with heavyweight Hall of Famer ‘Big George.’ The sweet science transcends its nature as a sport moreso than any other; legendary triumph and grave tragedy are produced in equal measure – that’s boxing.

When Gallery set the theme of ‘rivals’ for the August issue, I could think of no better subject than my adoptive sport; when I thought of boxing (which I have done for an inordinate amount of time each day of the last two years), I could think of no better person to talk to for this piece than local boxing legend Gerry Walsh.

The punter pays to catch but a climatic glimpse of a boxer’s story. While the themes of persistence and courage ring just as true outside the squared circle as inside of it, the hostility and barbarism the punter pays for isn’t what the boxing community is all about.

“You meet some characters through boxing,” says Gerry Walsh, 80 years old, after driving me to exhaustion at Guernsey’s amateur boxing club. An octogenarian boxing the ears off a man a quarter of his age on a Sunday morning, it just doesn’t happen anywhere but a boxing gym. Gerry’s story, like so many others pugilism has produced, is an inspiring one that started from humble beginnings.

Gerry at twenty and eighty years of age

In the throes of a second world war at an army barracks on the outskirts of Dublin, to which children were often drawn solely on account of the hot chocolate promised them after training, Gerry’s boxing career started at 9 years old; the age at which he had his first bout. He moved to Bristol with his family while still young and trained up until he was called upon for National Service, the delightful British term for conscription, in the early fifties where he furthered his boxing training.

Gerry represented both Ireland and the British army as a light-welterweight boxer, racking up many more wins than losses and turning heads along the way. After serving his time in the forces, Gerry opened his own boxing club in Bristol where he resettled to train competing amateur boxers whilst boxing competitively himself; but one of the heads turned by the dedication and intensity with which he approached his training was a senior army officer offering a role in the forces.

Muhammad Ali once said “he who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” An accomplished competitive boxer running a successful boxing gym needn’t take risk, but Gerry took one anyway. This is the attitude that makes champions in life as well as the ring: grafting the same job and drumming the same punch bag all your life may get you somewhere eventually, but it’s not until you take a risk that life starts to get really interesting.

What I’ve taken from Gerry, and boxing as a whole, is that working your ass off, being humble in learning, confident in action and taking the odd risk is a formula for success. That’s boxing.

Thus one Corporal Gerry Walsh was posted to Northern Ireland, Kenya and Germany as a physical exercise instructor: waking up at 6am for the first of three 8-mile runs of the day with a squad of combat troops, training alongside pugilistic contemporaries such as Sir Henry Cooper and representing Ireland and the British army on the national stage.

(You can find rare proof of Ali’s fallibility by YouTubing ‘Henry Cooper vs Cassius Clay;’ ‘Enry’s ‘Ammer knocks ‘The Greatest’ for six!)

Gerry missed out on representing Great Britain at the Olympics, losing a hard fought decision against Scot Dick McTaggart, who had a then-rare advantage of being leftie, or ‘southpaw’ in boxing parlance. “You just didn’t get southpaws in those days,” Gerry tells me, chuckling. “You were made to box orthodox.” Though Gerry pressed him every second of the fight, pulling back to front punches from unfamiliar angles proved too big an adjustment to make and he lost a narrow decision. McTaggart went on to win gold at the 1956 Olympic Games. (Gerry’s involvement with the Olympic amateur squad didn’t end there – he contributed to the team’s training on an ongoing basis.)

Gerry’s tenacity continued to turn heads wherever he fought and saw him topping bills at shows as far afield as West Germany. “My commanding officer had words with me,” Gerry tells me, “he said ‘you’ve fought 9 times in 11 days Gerry!’” He must have thought him mad. A serving contemporary, CSM Bell, writing in a British paper circa 1955 wrote of his ‘tremendous courage, fighting spirit and 100% fitness… it didn’t matter how good or experienced his opponents were, they were kept busy all the time’ ‘and the spectators got good value for their money.’ Value for money is right – the deutschmarks paid to Gerry for the successful rearrangement of his and his opponent’s faces didn’t just go in to his back pocket; they went to the underprivileged children of the war-ravaged nation. Maintaining good relations with an occupied populace is one thing; it’s another to earn a loyal local following and present the Mayor of Berlin with a boxing glove filled with the money you’ve earned whooping his compatriots’ backsides. That’s boxing.

Corporal Walsh’s return to civilian life was coupled with his retirement from competitive boxing aged 28, with no fewer than 200 (!) amateur fights to his name. Now you’re familiar with the man, you might’ve guessed ‘retirement’ is an ill-suited term; he only hung up his gloves so as to lace up those of future boxers back in his adoptive hometown of Bristol, where he opened Newman’s Amateur Boxing Club, which found quick success on the amateur circuit.

Gerry (left) sparring at his gym in Bristol in view of some mesmerised youngsters

Gerry then moved on to Guernsey in 1969, cofounding and presiding over La Corbinerie Gateway Club, a charitable organisation giving mentally disabled sportspeople equal opportunities in competitive sport, and assuming the role of head coach at the Amalgamated Boys Club.

Predictably, his presence was overwhelmingly beneficial to the boxers competing under his tutelage, dramatically so, as the moral of this article will tell (column constraints prevent my further detailing Gerry’s contributions and accomplishments, certainly not due to a lack of them).

Jersey’s boxing squad, historically trouncing Guernsey’s prior to Gerry’s taking the reins, were in for a shock one night at their home turf: the Guernsey squad had tallied seven unanswered wins against their arch-rivals, won in such emphatic and brutal a manner that Gerry was compelled to refuse sending out the remainder of his squad to fight under the watch of a referee allowing such savage punishment to be absorbed by amateur sportsmen.

And it is in this action, symbolic of honourable rivalry trumping barbarity, taken by a man who personifies what the grassroots boxing community is all about, that our rivalry moral lies: for all the violence of the sport at club, national and international level, what boxing is truly about is breeding respect, discipline, camaraderie and honourable rivalry among those who choose to box, often for lacking these qualities in their upbringings. It’s not the base instinct of dog-eat-dog that prevails in boxing; you wouldn’t survive long in a boxing gym if you thought it did.

The characters you meet, the feats you witness; the friends and rivals you make – that’s boxing.

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You can contact me on liamapollodoherty@gmail.com

@ApolloDoherty