“Any supporter of boxing who does not admit to some residual ambivalence about its values, who has not wondered in its crueller moments if it is worth the candle, must be suspect”.–Hugh McIlvanney, McIlvanney on Boxing
British boxing has found itself once again at the end of its own navel. Firstly, a young 17 year old boxer from Derbyshire has become the latest to die from the sport after a fight last week. Secondly the Olympian Anthony Ogogo, 11-1, 7 KO’s, who lost to Craig Derbyshire in his 12th professional fight has told of how his eye socket injury rendered him technically blind. There is now some doubt – in fairly dubious quarters – being expressed over whether he shall box again.
Ed Bilbey has joined Mike Towell as the latest young man to lose his life tragically whilst following his dream. Treated by medical personnel in the ring, the first time there appeared to be a problem was when he stumbled forward whilst the referee was about to announce the winner of the fight. They got him out and off to hospital but on arrival tragically Bilbey was pronounced dead.
That he was not a highly decorated nor experienced amateur boxer is immaterial; Bilbey did not even win the fight, an evenly matched competitive affair. But his family have returned home without him, his brother has taken to social media to laud and applaud him and the sport of boxing faces an investigation where the police are asking for video footage of the fight. Sad is not a word with sufficient letters to describe the emotion of that evening.
It sounds reminiscent of what happened with Nick Blackwell at the end of his fight with Chris Eubank, JR. Blackwell can be seen in the centre of the ring, with his eye all bulbous, joking with the ring girls before he collapsed.
For the opponent on the night, Tyler Rivers, the road ahead shall be very difficult. It is reported that, as he had been a friend of his opponent, kept in touch via Facebook and had fought him before that this has had an incredibly devastating effect on him; little wonder.
If there was an opportunity to help young Rivers, then the man he should be talking to is Dale Evans, 12-3-2, 4 KO’s. The boxer who shared the last ring with Mike Towell, Evans was unable to come out the house in the wake of the bout. He was struggling with the idea of continuing in a sport that he loved until he met Mike Towell’s mother.
Tracy, at Towell’s funeral, captured the mood of the boxing fraternity when she spoke to Evans with three words and a well deserved hug. “Stop being silly,” she said and so he did. Evans hopes now to fight for the British title at welterweight. The strength of the woman who must have stood in many a corner wondering if her boy would survive, has passed that strength to the man who saw her own boy die; he now wants to win the British for the Towell family.
Anthony Ogogo, had his professional career sent into a siding when he found himself, in Glasgow, losing to Craig Derbyshire, 18-1, 4 KO’s. Stopped in the 8th with blurred vision he has spoken of the issues and problems that may stop him from getting back into the ring again. It led to 2 major operations on his eye so you can see, if you pardon the pun, just how serious things are for the bronze medalist.
Having lost his unbeaten record, losing his sight might seem like a major stumbling block to continuing his boxing career but Ogogo is absolutely sure he wants to carry on. Having never contemplated a career outside of the ring means that he is focussed on one thing only – getting back to boxing.
After consulting 10 specialists and having had his driving licence taken away from him even that does not diminish his desire to return to the ring.
Of course, that would require the British Boxing Board of Control granting him a licence; something they will not do if he is registered blind. Ogogo though has previously passed every medical set for him so we may be in the academic area of what ifs. Should the British Board refuse to grant a licence then other Boards – notably in Malta – could be approached for permissions and sanctions. It was the route favored by David Haye and Derrick Chisora when the British Board refused to sanction their fight.
This last year, of course, the big screen has seen how Vinny Pazienza dealt with received medical opinion. Famously he went on to beat Roberto Duran but now, with the types of checks and tragedies prevalent there is unlikely to be much room for reckless heroism.
For young Tyler Rivers and Anthony Ogogo their biggest fights may not be inside the ring but outside where the real battle scars can grow and the mountains they have to climb seem so daunting that starting the ascent is too much for them.Contact the Feature Writers