By: Oliver McManus
Much like an obscene crash involving an 18-wheel HGV and a lone baby goat accidentally straying onto the motorway, Amir Khan vs Billy Dib has all the ingredients to be disgustingly barbaric and brutalised; that’s exactly why I’ll be watching. The natural human curiosity to indulge ourselves in the macabre, the freakshows, the car crashes – literally and metaphorically – is perhaps the only thing swinging for the monumental mismatch.
On paper, at least, this is a sensationally vulgar piece of matchmaking: a woefully washed welterweight against a supposedly retired super-featherweight, both some eight years past their best. At least we don’t have to pay for the thrill of watching it. The bizarre trajectory of Khan’s career has seen him fall from the hilt of big-bucks ITV backing to, never-quite, star in America and now scraping the barrel for relevancy out in Saudi Arabia.
Whilst the former super lightweight champion had never officially retired there was a sense, certainly after his fight with Canelo Alvarez, that Khan would pack it in. It would have been the right time, materialistically, to make such a move given his bravery in challenging the Mexican but, also, the fact he’d already reached the pinnacle of his career some years back. Since that ill-fated ‘comeback’ it’s reasonable to say his stock has fallen, without even discussing things from outside the ring, and that the patience of British boxing fans is wearing thin.
Bolton’s biggest name could have been remembered as one of the best British fighters of the 21st Century – maybe he still will – but the likelihood is that he’ll be packed away in the box marked ‘those that just couldn’t stop’ with Danny Williams, David Haye et al. It would be a shame if it weren’t for the delusions of grandeur that make it so easy to take a scoop of satisfaction in his downfall.
Chasing Jeddah’s cheddar against Dib, nicknamed The Kid (which really helps with the baby goat analogy I used at the beginning), could prove a commercial masterstroke for the back pocket of Khan or it could be the slipperiest and most embarrassing banana skin in recent boxing history. His Australian counterpart signed up to the contest on less than three weeks notice following, original opponent, Neeraj Goyat being involved in a car crash.
Goyat, to his credit, at least attempted to provide some sort of needle to the contest by playing up the Pakistan vs India storyline but that was far-fetched from the outset. In truth that was probably overshadowed by inevitable jokes bombarded in the direction of the “Pearl” belt that the WBC sanctioned the contest for. Dib, you’d hope, could mount a more seriously stern challenge than that of Goyat but that’s based on experience and pedigree rather than any available evidence. Of course Dib was a world champion but that was seven years ago and at 1 ½ stone lighter than any of Khan’s professional contest; even when Dib has had ‘blow-out’ fights he’s only ever weighed in at lightweight.
Then again the baby goat goes into the contest with no pressure, having already retired last year, and with no-one expecting him to win. Though against Khan, whose delusion is about as rich as daughter’s ALLEGED birthday party budget, anything is possible. And he is deluded if he thinks he remains relevant on a domestic level let alone the world scene; his speed, the shining factor for Khan, has deteriorated and so too has his marketability. A fizzling star compared to his supernova status of yesteryear.
The undercard features another ‘forgotten fighter’ that hasn’t really done enough to be remembered in the first place. Hughie Fury, for all his ability, just hasn’t been able to carve out a reputation in the heavyweight scene in part due to poor promotion but largely down to the fact he’s been a professional for six years but still, losses aside, hasn’t won a fight in which he’s learned anything.
A fifth round stoppage of Sam Sexton last May certainly proved he’s got the credentials to go far, that’s been evident for a while, but against Kubrat Pulev (his next fight) the 24 year old failed to adapt against a fairly predictable adversary. It is that inability to capitalize on his ability that is most frustrating from an outside perspective – Fury is naturally talented but it seems he just doesn’t know what to do with it.
His latest opponent promises to be no different but it is a former world title challenger, no less. Thunderous words until they’re followed up by Samuel Peter, the imperious American by way of Nigeria that now makes a living in Mexico City, who boasts a menacing record of 4-4 in the nine years since that world title challenge.
Then you come to the unbearable fragile masculinity of Prince Patel, a man so lost in his own arrogance and hubris that the only way to soothe his ego is to clear out a school assembly hall before knocking out a young local for the privilege of a Baltic Boxing Union belt. I won’t devote any more of my word count towards the 26 year old.
But there we are a free-to-air fight night, live on Channel 5, beamed all the way from a country bearing the flag for equality and opportunity – as long as you’re a man possessing a wealthy bank account – with a healthy picking of mis-matches featuring two of Britain’s most wilfully ignored fighters… and Hughie Fury. It really is perverse entertainment; a night of Saudistic pleasure but one you’d be a fool to miss.