This week’s action comes not from New York City but from Rotheram. The Magna Science and Adventure Centre, a converted steelworks in the South Yorkshire ‘burbs, presents a crossroads fight in its truest sense. Blue-chip junior featherweight rookie Kid Galahad, 10-0 (4), attempts to break cover in a nationally televised showcase against recently deposed British champion and domestic stalwart Jason Booth, 36-8 (15). Chief support heralds the continuing emergence of another kid, this one already laden with expectation, as Chris Eubank, Jr. blows into town to take part in his second professional outing.
The sagacious soul who once declared it impossible to antagonize and influence simultaneously could never have imagined the forebearers to this piece. Galahad was not yet born when Eubank, Sr. unleashed a peacock-strutting act that had been derived in part from the Sheffield sweatbox instrumental to this promotion. A King Rat figure, Eubank’s incendiary public persona helped to nurture an audience that would pay and then bay to see someone (anyone) dislodge his monocle and relocate his gentleman’s cane.
It would not be long before a by-product of Eubank’s shenanigans somersaulted out from his dust cloud. Naseem Hamed, the spiteful rubber man with a flail for a right hand, absorbed Eubank’s peculiarities from the cheap seats in order to tap (or rather uppercut) into the zeitgeist. As self-aggrandizers go there have been few to compare. And as Brooklyn welterweight Paulie Malignaggi, a Hamed disciple, continues to exhibit through his mastery of social networking device Twitter — encouraging people to talk about a fighter, in whatever context, helps them to stay relevant in an ever-shifting market place.
If one were to map a line of influence from Hamed it would pass through any number of fighters before coming to rest with Galahad (real name Abdul Barry Awad). Redirected from life as a ne’er do well after applying himself to an art which promotes the self control and respect so lacking in the nation’s first sport, his is an altogether familiar tale. Not that repeat recitals should ever be discouraged. On the contrary, the straightening out of juvenile tearaways remains one of boxing’s trump cards in any argument hoping to extol its merits.
His opponent’s version is so unlikely that any scriptwriter attempting to commit it to paper would run the risk of having their artistic licence revoked. Urchin-like in appearance, Booth was once so hopelessly dependant upon alcohol he would scavenge in gutters for unfinished cans and bottles. And still he fought. Described as smooth, he would enter the ring in precisely the opposite state. Broken down and close to ruin, he recovered in spectacular fashion to challenge for an alphabet world title in the autumn of 2010.
Since falling short against Canadian Steve Molitor (an evening marred somewhat after an inebriated associate had to be restrained from abusing one of Molitor’s cornermen between rounds) Booth, a tad small for junior featherweight, has found the going heavy. After rebounding to edge Welshman Jamie Arthur he has been soundly walloped, twice, by the Spaniard Kiko Martinez and Lancastrian Scott Quigg.
Although influenced by Hamed, Galahad is closer in style to the mercurial Herol Graham. Moulded within the fabled St. Thomas’ gym in Wincobank, he’s a highly dextrous, switch-hitting sudoku. With only moderate pop, he concentrates instead on punch output. In 10 professional outings he has exhibited an acute mastery of space and distance along with a canny knack of ambushing opponents, who he’ll step around before attacking with flashing hooks and uppercuts.
Booth, despite his faltering steps, will look to drag his 21-year-old opponent into the marshes. Galahad has ventured past four rounds only twice, and although he’ll have banked endless rounds in the gym, competitive exchanges can very quickly wind a young fighter. Booth is a box of tricks in his own right, meaning the pair could encounter more difficulties trying to land punches than fielding them.
Quite whether Booth will have enough wind in his own sails is something else to consider. The veteran from Robin Hood territory accepted the bout on only four week’s notice and at 35 his quiver is almost empty. Galahad is younger, fresher, bigger and fiercely ambitious. The Qatar-born hotshot will swoop upon Booth like a hawk, bidding to maximise a distinctly rare opportunity to headline on free-to-air TV. The likelihood is he’ll edge more rounds than Booth, yet there remains a distinct possibility he’ll hit a wall in the latter stages of a contest, which seems impossible to predict with any degree of certainty.
Chris Eubank, Jr. brings appeal to the undercard in a middleweight match against Doncaster’s Jason Ball. The wisdom in offering a contest of this level to a national audience has been questioned, yet in promoter Mick Hennessy’s defence there is undeniable interest in accompanying Eubank’s rise from the get-go. His father and Galahad’s boyhood hero were once misguided enough to assume that it was their skill — rather than the former’s iron will and the latter’s demonic punch — that elevated them above their peers. And while the originals will undoubtedly spot something of themselves in the men they have enthused, it’s just possible that in time they’ll be confronted with something else again: the shadows of the fighters they had believed themselves to be.