Archive for the ‘Boxing’ Category

Armstrong's doping charges make him 2012's biggest loser

Armstrong’s doping charges make him 2012’s biggest loser

For all the great sport and amazing successes that happened over 2012, good cannot exist without the bad, so inevitably a number of sportsmen and women have had some absolute stinkers of a year.

Having reviewed the winners of 2012, it’s now time to visit the losers of the calendar year, those that simply failed to impress anyone with their actions in the sporting world.

FOOTBALL

Let’s get this clear first and foremost, because Olympic goggles distorted the image of football to a ridiculous level, with the sporting community so enamoured with the London Games that football took on a pariah-like status as the epitome of all that is wrong with sport.

It was somewhat over-the-top that for every good example of sporting excellence that happened over that month over the summer, someone was looking to point out that the game of football often promoted the opposite.

However, football really did have a rotten year, It was year defined by racism, diving, cheating and poor management of the game from the top level.

The Premier League had two separate racism charges levied against star players in Luis Suarez and John Terry, while UEFA took the highroad of fining Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner far more money for wearing sponsored pants than they dished out to entire nations for racist chanting.

Time to up the levels of sportsmanship for 2013 and try at least to preserve some form of positive image.

LANCE ARMSTRONG

Possibly the biggest loser of 2012, as his battle to clear his name against doping allegations came to a very unsuccessful end, as he decided to give it up under overwhelming evidence.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) had built up such a compelling argument to show that Armstrong had ‘enforced the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen’, with former team-mates on the US Postal tournament coming forward to give damning evidence against their former leader.

WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) relented to the demands of the USADA and stripped Armstrong of all of his historic seven Tour De France titles, amongst every other title won in his now less-glittering career.

Having been regarded as the best cyclist to have ever competed at the start of the year, the words from Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, of;”Armstrong has no place in cycling, he deserves to be forgotten,” remark an incredible descent in fortunes and public opinion. For shame Lance, for shame.

MANNY PACQUIAO

Pacquiao started the year being given an award for being the WBO’s best pound-for-pound boxer of the past decade and ended it unconscious on the canvas having dodged the fight everyone wanted to see.

His award came prior to his bout with Timothy Bradley, who then beat him on points, although this came tempered with controversy as most people keeping their personal scores had Pacquiao comfortably winning, contrary to the views of the judges.

He then continued his blanket refusal to take a simple drugs test in order to set up the ultimate showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr, raising further suspicion on whether he was indeed as clean as he claims, instead choosing to set up a bout with Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time in his career.

This saw him knocked out for the first time since participating in fights outside of Asia, with Marquez’ right hook in the sixth round leaving him motionless on the canvas. Quite the climb-down for Pac-Man.

Idowu was Britain's biggest let-down of an otherwise successful games

Idowu was Britain’s biggest let-down of an otherwise successful games

PHILLIPS IDOWU

With all the expectation and hype going on around the Olympics, there was always likely to be one disappointment for Britain, but it was just the manner that Idowu went about being that disappointment that lands him on this list.

His relationship with Charles Van Commenee had always been a strained one, but Idowu’s decision to warm up for his home Games away from the rest of the Great Britain squad was perplexing, alongside his mysterious injury concerns that nobody was given any indication as how much of an issue they were. That includes his coach, who was cut off from any communication with his star man.  

Still he talked himself up so highly as the man to land the gold in the sandpit, but consequently failed to so much as make the final of Triple Jump, ending his summer early.

Greg Rutherford’s success in the long jump meant he was practically a forgotten man by the time the closing ceremony came upon us.

BADMINTON

It’s almost strange for a sport that has so little stock outside of the Asian continent to lose so much face, but badminton provided the biggest sporting disappointment of the Olympic Games.

With one Chinese pairing the overwhelming favourites, another two Chinese teams, one South Korean and an Indonesian team tried to manufacture their positions in the league table, which had come in to replace the round robin format in order to build more interest in the sport.

Instead fans began to boo when these teams tried to lose matches in order to avoid harder opponents in the next round, with such obviously deliberate attempts to fire the shuttlecock into the net or miss the court entirely.

It was scandalous stuff, saw the teams eliminated from the competition and has potentially irreparably damaged the sport in the eyes of the world.

KEVIN PIETERSEN

Kevin Pietersen has always been a controversial character in the oft prim and proper world of cricket, but 2012 has been more than anyone could have expected from the most divisive superstar in English cricket.

It all started with his retirement from One-Day Internationals due to the punishing and overloaded schedule being placed upon him and his team-mates, with his relationship with the ECB (English Cricket Board) becoming even more strained that it had been.

This came further to a head when defamatory text messages were found sent by him to South Africa’s players during the test series, with derogatory remarks made about then-captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower, with Pietersen having already hinted at retirement from international cricket.

He was subsequently dropped from the team and forced into a grovelling public apology, which the ECB finally accepted to allow him to be part of the ultimately-successful tour of India.

2013 is a year in which Pietersen needs to reintroduce himself as one of the finest batsmen in the game, if he is to win back the trust of the selectors, coaches and fans in English cricket.

Who were your losers of 2012? Joining the discussion at the bottom of the page or on Twitter @SmParker8

Advertisements

As is the way with most sporting blogs, it’s time to look back at the year past, see what was good and what was not so.

And why should I be any different, as I restart this page with a look to 2010 and do some cap doffing and some sorrowful head-shaking. Here are my five winners and losers from the past calendar year.

WINNERS

A P MCCOY – HORSE RACING

I Can’t do this without acknowledging the winner of BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. And a quite deserved one really, as Tony McCoy has now won everything having completed the set with the Grand National in April.

Still one of the most personable people in the sporting world, this was the crowning achievement on a glittering career that will give him legendary status in the ‘Sport of Kings’.

JESSICA ENNIS – ATHLETICS

It could be said that I haven’t given too much attention to women’s sport in this column. So I’ll apologise and attempt to amend that with recognition to Jessica Ennis, who has had another good year and stepped that up to claim gold in the heptathlon at the European Championships to follow world success in 2009.

In addition to claiming the title, Ennis set a Championship record of 6823 points to confirm her position as the best heptathlete in the world currently. She also announced that she became engaged on Christmas Eve to top off a perfect year for her.

GARETH BALE – FOOTBALL, TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

From the fringes of a Spurs side and potential loan move to the Championship to one of the most feared left wingers in 12 months is an incredible achievement in anybody’s books. With injury problems and a winless hoodoo hanging over his head at the end of 2009, Bale took advantage of an injury to Benoit Assou-Ekotto to reclaim his place in the team and produced several sparkling performances to help Tottenham seal a place in the Champions League.

Having helped get them there, Bale then destroyed Inter Milan’s Maicon twice to earn a spot in FIFA’s team of the year. Linked with Nottingham Forest at the start of the year, Bale now has a £50million price tag on his head, with rumours circulating of interest from Real Madrid and Barca. An outstanding transformation in fortunes for the new Welsh Wing Wizard.

GRAEME SWANN – CRICKET, ENGLAND

There can be few arguments against the notion that Swann is now the best spin bowler in the world on current form. With Shane Warne and Murali Muralitharan’s retired, there is nobody in the class of Swann, who has a knack of being a game changer on any surface.

He has developed a knack of coming into the England attack and breaking batting partnerships, even when the wicket suggests that spin won’t be effective. Nobody turns the ball quite like Swann and it is he that has transformed England into a remotely feared outfit and helped England retain the Ashes Down Under for the first time in over 20 years.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL – FORMULA 1, RED BULL

It may not have been plain sailing with rumours of in-team disputes circling Red Bull’s emergence as a serious force in F1 and a fractured relationship with teammate Mark Webber.

But at the end of the day, Sebastian Vettel came out the other side as the champion, the youngest that Formula One has ever seen to cap a remarkable rise to prominence.

LOSERS

 

WAYNE ROONEY – FOOTBALL, MANCHESTER UNITED

What a year for Wayne Rooney. 2009 ended with him lauded (rightly or wrongly) as one of the best forwards in the world, but 2010 was a whole different story. He failed to score a goal in open play after March, as Manchester United surrendered the title to Chelsea and then proceeded to be unimpressive for England in their failed World Cup campaign.

This included that rant at the England fans who were disappointed with a goalless draw with Algeria for some reason. Few were keen on him after that, and he isolated those United fans by trying to force a transfer away, only to sign an improved deal to make him one of the best paid players in the world despite having been frankly poor upon the resumption of the season.

See Tevez, Carlos under that bracket too. But his performances justify it.

RICKY PONTING – CRICKET, AUSTRALIA

It would seem unlikely that Ponting will remain as captain of Australia after this Ashes series, as his tenure has become somewhat laughable of late. Australia now sit the lowest in the international rankings I ever remember them being in my lifetime, and as stated above, surrendered the Ashes on home soil for the first time 20 years. This is having whitewashed England in their last visit.

Is it his fault necessarily that there is a paucity of talent emerging in Australia? Well, no, but the lack of dignity he has carried in losing positions ensures that he enters this list, complaining at officials for completely absurd decisions as he may well be remembered for this late decline in his tenure. A shame for a talented batsman, but the latest achievements or otherwise are what people are remembered for.

GAVIN HENSON – RUGBY, SARACENS

Rugby has in the past couple of decades held a better class of competitors than its footballing counterparts. Real men played this game, not those preening pansies that adorned the round ball game, afraid to take a tackle or get their kit dirty.

Somehow you feel Gavin Henson has made it into the wrong game. More focused on his appearance than any other rugby player I can care to think of, he just doesn’t fit in with the sport. This is why rumours have circulated about him quitting the sport, to go sailing or whatever nonsense seemed to suit him whilst he dodged his contractual commitments (although injury was stated as a reason there).

Having regained fitness and escaped his contract with Ospreys, he was set to join Saracens, but could only do so having ponced about on Strictly Come Dancing. He’s a bit of an embarrassment to the sport.

AUDLEY HARRISON – BOXING

Why? What was the point? David Haye deserves as much of a mention for dodging a real title fight to engage in that utter waste of time. But Harrison’s talk of knocking Haye out with his ‘big left hook’ seemed the stupidest trash talking to ever have taken place, as he only landed a solitary punch in the three rounds it took for the referee to stop the fight.

It was a joke of a fight and he remains a joke of a fighter. He should never have been put in such a position of embarrassment in the first place, but all the talk prior to his ritual dismantling was just pathetic.

TIGER WOODS – GOLF

What a disaster of a year for one of the most iconic sportsmen to have ever graced the Earth. As stated earlier, people are often remembered for what happens at the end of their careers and Woods remarkable trophy haul will forever be overshadowed by the very public way his marriage fell apart after accusations of infidelities.

On top of that, his sporting performance suffered as well, going the entire season without an victories for the first time in his career. He also surrendered the top ranking spot to Lee Westwood in October, the first time he’d done so since his brief slip up to Vijay Singh in 2005. A year to forget for Tiger.

David Haye’s announcement that Audley Harrison would be his next opponent for the WBA World Heavyweight Championship surprised nobody, but has annoyed people around the boxing world.

Anyone with any remote knowledge about the sport of boxing will know that Audley Harrison has done nothing to earn a shot at the title.

So his rise to title contender is a slap in the face of any boxing fan.

Whilst everyone looked at the exciting prospect of Haye facing one of the Klitschko brothers in a unification bout for one of the other heavyweight division belts, he has in fact opted for a fighter he himself regards as ‘a joke’.

Wladimir Klitschko in particular recorded a video calling out the Hayemaker, but the earning potential wasn’t enough for Haye, so the former Olympic gold medallist was drafted in instead.

Harrison will be 39 when the fight takes place in November. Now I’m not saying age should come into play when deciding title contenders, and fighters older than Harrison have earned a shot.

But Harrison has always been slow around the ring, bringing a cumbersome approach to things. His attack consists solely of a left hook, which whilst devastating as it is when it connects, can be countered by a fighter of any remote intelligence.

Harrison’s only plus point is that he is difficult to knock out. Only once in his professional career has he been stopped before the bell, losing by technical knockout to Michael Sprott in 2007.

Since that defeat, he has generally only competed in the Prizefighter tournaments, which even saw him lose a fight on points to Martin Rogan, whose main source of income is from his taxi service in Belfast.

He may have won European gold last year, but this is the big leagues now. There is a whole different breed of fighter in the world circuit and Harrison just isn’t up to that challenge.

Everyone knows that this fight will not be level. Promoter Frank Warren has issued his fury at this bout taking place, as it appears that Haye is just putting off a clash with the powerful Kilitschko brothers.

Haye’s own reasons simply seem to involve ‘closing the chapter’ and ‘shutting Harrison up’. These aren’t valid reasons to set up a title fight.

So essentially, this fight is about revenge. Revenge for all the talking Harrison has done since Haye’s rise to prominence. Simply to prove himself to the one person that seems to doubt his ability.

It is very unfair to pursue such a personal vendetta, especially on the paying fans who want to see a contest.

Like or not, boxing is in the entertainment industry now and bouts should be organised with the interest of the fans, promoters and media in mind.

Organising a fight like this is so dismissive of those major stakeholders in the sport. There is no contest here, no epic tussle, not even a shred of competition.

Haye himself claims it will be ‘as one-sided as gang-rape’. So organising it for the prestigious award of a title belt is unfair on anyone who will be looking on from outside the ring.