THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF 2013

Welsh boxing has had more than a few reasons to celebrate 2013, with the emergence of Lee Selby on the world radar and resurgence of Enzo Maccarinelli being just two of them. However, as I’ve attended more boxing this year than I have in the four years I’ve been writing about the sport, I’ve also witnessed more woes and lows than I ever have. At times, it’s been trying but rewarding at other times. One of my most memorable highlights of 2013 fittingly took place at the home of British boxing, York Hall. It was a priviliedge to be behind the scenes and part of Bradley Pryce‘s win against Michael Lomax in June. In football, there’s nothing sweeter than an away day win but to do that in boxing, it’s ten times better. On that night, Pryce rolled back the years. I wasn’t sure whether he was back or if it was his final hurrah. The Newbridge native went on to fight the world class Sergey Rabchenko and Frankie Gavin. As those two fights were on awfully late notice, I’m no closer to finding out what that summer night in London told me. A month later, Welsh boxing saw its most heartwarming moment of the year. Journeyman Billy Smith had settled with his young family in Wales and he was due to box in Newport in July. Instead, on that night in Newport the audience silently observed a ten bell salute in honour of one of the sports best servants who earlier that week, like his twin brother Ernie had done three years previous, took his own life. Both brothers fought 161 times and in respect of their contribution to boxing, the crowd raised hundreds of pounds to aid Billy’s family with the funeral costs. The lows this year have been hurtful and none more so than Nathan Cleverly‘s WBO world title loss to Sergey Kovalev in August. He had been horribly hounded by many for not fighting against the best, even though he was making every effort to. So, Cleverly jumped at the chance to tackle Kovalev, an eastern beast who brought American exposure but unfortunately, nobody owns harder hands than the Russian. Cleverly took unnecessary shots while on his knees due to the bad positioning and response of referee Terry O’Connor who isn’t mobile enough to referee top class boxing but it’s almost certain that the result would have been the same anyway. In boxing, you deserve what you take once the bell rings and nobody can begrudge Kovalev the win that night, it’s just a sickening shame for Welsh boxing that Cleverly was defeated. The Cefn Fforest man’s contribution to his country hasn’t been fully appreciated. That week in Cardiff was huge, the atmosphere at the Motorpoint Arena thrilling and it’ll take some time before the likes of HBO come back to Wales to broadcast our countries most successful sport on the biggest stage across the world. On the same night, Gary Buckland was victim to the best one punch knockout of the year. It was heartbreaking for many reasons; the 25-year-old was fighting in his home city for the first time, he had paid his domestic dues more than anyone and stood one defence away from owning his beloved British title belt forever whilst being on the brink of a European title opportunity. As mentioned in our second annual awards, Andrew Selby‘s schooling of Cuba’s Gerardo Tejeira in Kazakhstan was unbelievable, literally. Watching the Barry boy make history time and time again has been special but this win in the last 16 of the World Championships in October was my favourite and, in my opinion, the best showcase of his career. It displayed his wizardry in all it’s forms and it’s a performance I’ll never forget. A case needs to be made for Andrew Selby to be considered the best Welsh boxer ever. The two people who are always at the top of the debate are Jimmy Wilde and Joe Calzaghe, they’re both from different eras of boxing that have contrasting variables and it’s impossible to split the pair. With Selby now owning more major tournament medals than any other British amateur boxer ever, I believe that he deserves to be placed alongside Wilde and Calzaghe. Given that Selby operates in the amateur code of the fight game, the factors to be considered between the three are too confusing to conclude who is the best but Selby’s ability is certainly on par with his countrymen and given that he’s only 24, it would be no surprise to see his achievements surpass those of any other Welshman. Sometimes I wonder whether Selby realises how special he is because he’s the most humble of history makers and I don’t believe he’s been best served by the amateur authorities. Due to his involvement in AIBA’s World Series of Boxing, red tape madness means Selby can’t compete in 2014’s forthcoming Commonwealth Games and his absence is a blow to the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association (WABA). Speaking of the WABA, or whatever name they’ve been forced to call themselves by AIBA, the shenanigans under the roof of the Sport Wales National Centre have dragged the name of amateur boxing in our country through the mud. An independent audit by KTS Owens Thomas auditors ruled that 30% of spending by the publicly funded WABA has been unaccounted for and it couldn’t be satisfied that fraud hadn’t been committed. This is the biggest low of the year for Welsh boxing, it’s been confusing to make sense of and it must be sorted when a new leader is voted in during 2014. As for the website, I’m content but not complacent. We’re happy enough with our coverage in our first full calendar year and we’re looking forward to the next one. Thank you for reading, 2014 will be fun. Dewi Powell BoxingWales Edtior

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