Thursday, November 03, 2005

Graeme Jamieson ~ Up Close and at Arm's-Length

Hit to the beat of a boxer
who fought a title fight
he forethought to win.

A knock out defeat leaving him
swarmed by experts and
warmed-to by anchors alike,
in a nineteen month ago manner –
he later described as an ‘accident’ –
on a televised Novembered night.

Ear on a loop he regrouped,
trained harder,
thought smarter,
and won through
in a tougher test,
giving him the home
but non-domestic opportunity
to pin an intercontinental belt on his chest.
One he sized up and ultimately seized.
Sotto retractors relieved.
Our kid’s reputation remade.
Ego now
bright in the shade.

Amazing Alex Arthur
cut a fine figure
in the bigger picture
of the gym
underneath the chin
of the Seat
banked by the meadow,
and the Dykes of Dumbie
with their fellows
- like the long room
at Meadowbank Stadium.

With two yellow T-shirts,
and power in either of his eight pound gloves,
I saw a flicker of the love this lad has
for the toe-to-toe
tete-a tete
And he was all peppered
with some
cause this stud
hits 16 stone bags with a
and a
attacking the maize sack
with uppercuts and hooks
drawing blood.

He didn’t say a word,
either to me,
or my in-man Bugsy.

It was like,
body sculpture,
same weight.
Foot movements going
forward and back.
The mirror,
for his killer will only.
He looked so broad and strong and hungry,
like a guard dog
let off the latch.
His quietly wise trainer nodded approvingly,
they seemed much more than more than attached.

It was super featherweight good.
And only once he’d skipped off onto rope,
did he say “Dope” or was it “Dude,
if you can hit that floor-to-ceiling thing twice, I’ll give you a tenner.”
(It was all I could do to coo,
“Champ, I don’t have a tenner!”)

Cut to British and Commonwealth prizefight night, when it was up-close and mostly won by a wee feint, followed by a fight dictating upstairs straight-jabbing right. He finished Craig Docherty, his one time Kuala Lumpun team mate, with a harm's-length left to the body, and the broken nosed Glaswegian thinking man’s thug, was towelled dry by his cornermen before English ref Richie Davis pulled the plug. I went home knowing that I’d witnessed, both inside and out of the ring, a new phenomenon in professional sport. Not only that, but there was a whole backstory to it too. The phenomenon, to be crude, was the hectic experience of actually being there. I highly recommend it. For me, it was an electric atmospheric interpretation of the Marquis of Queensberry’s language, and all who seem to seek it. The air was mixed with more than the expected St Tropez tans and Ellnet hairspray, it was underplayed by the bums off seats banked tirade which welcomed me to the safer stalls away from the long, short and tall of Tourettes Alleyway. From the bleechers came the panel-beaten preachers proclaiming some unmentionable Mancunian present – the one who put a 1 in Arthur’s L column – to sit down or go getz to fuck. Per capita, the defamatory flames from all sides were also aimed at Docherty’s insides. From ringside, things were escalating quickly, and I was fast getting myself beside. I was terrified, alright. Let’s not pretend it was anything but a baptism of fiery unfamiliarity. And though at first I was thinking candidly not to look at anybody more than momentarily, my buddy Brodie later admitted to feeling without parity, “I’m a civilian, get me out of here!” For amid the central belt posturing, and besuited jostling was the closest to an offshore theatre you could imagine, with lines of actors and stern reactors all wound up ready to fight. For what it’s worth, Arthur secured his 17th paid ranks knockout in nine class rounds. His 20th professional contest saw him regain the Lonsdale he’d foregone, and claim the Commonwealth crown to try on. If Docherty was the thinking mans thug, Arthur was the action mans handsome lug. The thudding bass drum versus the cool snare beat. Docherty, with his straight-ahead style started the faster, but a broken nose bust disaster, and from then on his white shorts told the story. About 24 minutes later, a cracking left hook downstairs, and panic – not resignation – but maybe a realisation shocked across Docherty, whose system simply couldn’t cope. He was finally out of depth and no longer in control. Until that point, the self-styled ‘Hot Property’ was a picture of an exercise in will. He had been no match for Arthur’s pace, power and poise, and yet he was bravely impressive until, just before the flooring blow, I could here Owen Smith, Arthur’s trainer and corner man, go, “Straight right hand, feint with the left. Jab to the body, straight to the head.”

Nearly four months later,
and I find myself
back in the testosterone zone.
With the week-old
advent of boxing
back on ITV,
Arthur was matchmade with
Boris Sinitsin,
the European Champion,
for his CV.
With a sideways glance to the
referee, the fight was almost on
and I was back out my seat.

The homewtown fighter started off with a flurry of impressive punches. His defence and style having been ring fenced and filed under “J” for joy to watch. The sullenly stiff-necked Sinitsin looked something south of five foot seven, appearing every bit the villainous henchman. From the outset, it was always going to be Arthur – who looked like a charming world champion on the make – to parade the higher aesthetics. And he looked so athletic when he danced onto the canvas removing the towel from his brow with a biting jerk of his neck. He was part working it, and part Dick Turpin to class. The Muscovite, in his third reign as European champion, a title he has held for six years, and on and off for the last ten years, cut a meanwhile sight. At the weigh-in, Arthur scaled a comfortable 9st 3lbs 12oz - two ounces heavier than Sinitsin – before saying, “I don’t have an ounce of fear going into this fight,” and from the first bell, he showed how good he is on his feet, and behind a tight guard, he caught Sinitsin up the stairs repeatedly, he got him really hard. His authorative jab became the fight dictator. His physical advantages and swiftness of foot, mixed intensities and socking hooks, meant he could dominate his man from outside. By round three, Arthur seemed free to control the middle of the ring. That was until his teak tough opponent let go an eyeopening immediate sting. There was an audible gasp as the gash made a hash of the rhythm the fight had taken on. Fortunately, cuts man Terry Edwards earned every penny of his fight fee with adrenaline stemming the flow of our kid's blood. In round four, normal service resumed, and no longer consumed, the Scot backed up the Russian roughhouse, who was no match for the textbook shot picking A-cat who made the veteran wrestle in clinches like a mouse. The pleasant lad had expected to be trod upon and elbowed from the cunning, phone booth slugging, Kremlin-assed son. But a headbutt and a second cut – Arthur would later require five stitches, two on port, three for starboard – seemed to articulate the desperate level to which the Sickle could descend. But unperturbed by the close quartered second third, Arthur upped the tempo and got stronger, and was as dazzlingly good as his word. “Like a shiny bullet,” my moll ordained, as his stand up, well honed skills, piercing left, and perpetual motion drills, made the centre ring AAA domain. From there he unleashed his full fistic armoury, work rate and variety, and yes just like a bullet he made Sinitsin blink, at which point the reigning champion was ultimately slain. With a powerfuelled left, he put the Russian on the deck late in round twelve to add an exclamation mark to the triumphant closing bell. Arthur is definitely maturing, and far more equipped to progress on the world stage than he was in the past. With a tighter defence and a heightened head between the ropes, the good ship of featherweight champions are awaiting to take him to task. But after two or three mandatories, he’ll be paired with either Morales, Peden or even Barrera for the WBC. Then maybe lightweight, who knows. But London’s calling, certainly. So maybe ITV2 will make sum money. And the monkey will be sold. After the fight I spoke to Edinburgh’s last world champion, the very Ken Buchanan, who was dressed resplendently in tartan waistcoat and dickie bow, with delicate spectacles bridging his boxers nose, barely concealing a sparkle in his eyes and creating something of a retina corrected halo. What a hero. “Alex threw a lot of good punches tonight which he missed. And I’d said to him before the fight, ‘Choose your punches,’ but he went after him a wee bit. Though he worked him out pretty quick, and as soon as he did, he controlled it.” With signed something safely back in hand, I wandered about the relative lack of body punches our kid pared compared to the Docherty contest, when Sir Ken sagely nodded, “You never fight the same fight twice.”

So what next, then?

“What next?
Another fight.
Back here.
A defence.
This year.”

And after that?

After that,
he couldn’t help
but loom a smile,
while I caught the air
and got the feeling that
he was coming full circle,
sure-fire world champions
do come around twice in a while.

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