Fighting For Respect
04.11.08 - By Ed Clarke - The Super Middleweight division, once again, has real depth. There’s a plethora of talent all waiting to burst through the ranks and become top dog with names like Pascal, Miranda, Lacy, Taylor, Froch, Inkin, Bute, Mundine, Dirrell and of course, the proven Kessler. It’s exciting times ahead to see how this all pans out.
Article posted on 05.11.2008
With all this action lined up in the near future and reading all the fans opinions on each of the names I’ve mentioned above, it reminded me of my one and only fight with a Super Middleweight boxer some 18 years ago. No, it wasn’t a professional fight but a street fight on my local estate..
Here’s the story...
20 years ago, I was a tall, loud mouth 16 year old kid with an attitude. This was typical of most kids this age since the area we lived in was rough. It’s a little seaside town called Hastings in the South East corner of the UK. About 20 years ago, the Millen family migrated South from Liverpool looking for a better life for their two boys. However, they were in for a shock as Hastings wasn’t all ice-cream and sunshine. We were heading into a recession, jobs were hard to find, pay was low and things were tough. High crime, drugs rife and lots of violence, it was not a nice place to grow up so you stuck together in groups or gangs, whichever you prefer, and you stood tall.
The Millen family were different though, their reputation preceded them and news spread before they’d even arrived. The eldest boy, Jimmy, was my age and apparently a hard-nut amateur boxer with a vicious temper. By the sheer demographics of it, he fell into a crowd that was against us and he wanted to make a point on the estate that he was the man.
Never ones to back down, most people in the area had crossed him and he’d been swathing through the community hurting a lot of people. His reputation grew as he was in the local paper for beating on a known thug we all feared and this created a problem for us because we all had that sinking feeling that we were out of our depth and it was only a matter of time before he crossed us.
The time came. Like a proud fool, I stood there and took him on, my friends having either ran off or backed off submissively. He approached me and I just launched into what can only be described as an uncoordinated frenzy with fists, feet and head all going forward in the hope I’d hurt him enough to leave me alone or even better, that he run off in tears with a busted nose. But, no. He fought back, hard, and sent me to the floor within seconds. I got up and hit him back as hard as I could but he just stepped it up and picked me off at will, battering me to the floor again. I’d lost, big. His friends were laughing and he just continued to attack me while down.
It felt like an eternity but it was probably only a minute or two, but eventually, he accepted his victory and left. I saw my chance and went swiftly the other way. Jimmy was the hardest fight I’d ever had in my life and I’d had a few, believe me. There was no shame in my loss as he went on to create what can only be described as a ‘climate of fear’ where everyone knew his name and nobody even faced him. Even the graffiti artists insulting him stopped.
A few years had passed and I’d heard he had settled down a bit, not beating up nearly as many people as before, getting married and having children but as always, his fearsome reputation and the wake of victims never ceased. He also got a job as a doorman which didn’t actually last that long because on every door he stood, business went down. That’s the impact he had on the town which then had a population of some 75,000. He was infamous in Hastings and no one liked him.
With interest, rumour was spreading that Jimmy was about to have his first professional fight, a Super Middleweight contest 40 miles along the coast in Hove with a fighter called Dean Ashton from Stoke. Ashton was an unsuccessful fighter falling victim to people such as Brian Magee, Damon Hague and Wayne Pinder, all sturdy domestic level fighters. He was a gatekeeper for prospects and first time fighters so should have been a fairly good test but sure thing for Jimmy.
After a slow start, Ashton stepped it up, broke Jimmy down and thoroughly outclassed him. The ref called the fight off in round 3 to the shock of Jimmy’s friends, family and even his enemies. Not only had Jimmy trained hard for this fight, he’d even stayed off the streets, locking himself away in the gym with a fierce determination to beat this guy and win his first pro fight. Friday the 13th it was and Friday the 13th it must have felt to him.
How could this happen? Jimmy was a rangy, hard punching, aggressive and super fit boxer. He’d not lost a fight in all the years he prowled the streets and even known violent criminals had fallen victim to his abuse.
Basically, boxing really is a very, very hard sport and even the Peter Buckley’s of this world have enough strength, aggression and technique to give any ‘normal guy’ a nightmare. Jimmy just wasn’t good enough, pure and simple. Thing is, how could we mock him, he’d battered us all. How hard was Dean Ashton? How hard were the people who beat Dean Ashton? And so on...
A new found respect swept us all for the sport of boxing. I was always a fan but never more than after hearing of Jimmy’s defeat. To be even considered good enough to get in the professional ring you need to be something special and this is why I get so frustrated with so-called boxing fans who spout off abuse like ‘chump’, ‘tomato can’, ‘bum’. These guys have no idea what it takes and upon hearing remarks such as these, respect gets duly altered.
Sadly, Jimmy’s ‘live by the sword’ lifestyle cost him dearly. 7 years ago, Jimmy was shot 4 times in the back by a pillion passenger on a motorbike. The murderers have never been caught, no doubt due to the silence and fear that Jimmy helped create. As much as I feared Jimmy, I never hated him, he certainly didn’t deserve what happened to him and he had my respect for someone who would stand and face anyone, regardless of who or what was in front of him. That bravery is what soldiers are made of and to me, that’s what Jimmy is [sic], a soldier.
He lived a tough life and will never be forgotten by the people around him all those years growing up in Hastings. He had a professional boxing record which he can be proud of, 1 loss, which is more than many so called fans would ever get near.
Rest in peace Jimmy.
Back to 2008, let’s revel in the new age of talent that is vying for position in the Super Middleweight division, let’s argue the pros and cons of our favourite fighters, let’s even heat up the debate with fanboism to the point of fanaticism as that’s what boxing does, creates fervent fans, but I only ask one thing:
Please respect the fighters; win, lose or draw. You have no idea what it takes.
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