Monday, 10 November 2008

No Ordinary Joe

Now I can’t confess to being a huge boxing fan. It has never really been a sport that has drawn my attention in a way that sports such as football and cricket have. However when the big fights come around I find myself eager to watch them and take in the spectacle of the event, such was the case on Saturday evening watching Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones Jr.
And what a fantastic fight it was between two true gladiators of the sport, prepared to put mind, body and soul in the hope of emerging victorious and take their place amongst boxing legends.
My allegiance lay with Calzaghe when it came to taking sides for the fight, but in retrospect I didn’t mind who won as long as I saw a good fight, which I thought was the least I deserved after sitting through three mediocre fights on the undercard and staying up till half past four in the morning when the fight I had been waiting for began.
And I wasn’t to be disappointed. The fight was exciting from start to finish. Roy Jones rolled back the years in the first couple of rounds and came within seconds of securing an early victory after catching the Welsh Dragon with a thunderous right hand. Joe, though, much like in his previous fight against Bernard Hopkins, showed the true heart of a champion to pick himself off the floor and comprehensively defeat his opponent. It truly was a joy to watch and at times it appeared that Calzaghe was just toying with Jones Jr and had he chosen to could have knocked him out whenever he wanted to. I think the only thing that stopped him from doing so was out of respect for his opponent. This could well have been Roy Jones Jr’s last fight and he didn’t deserve to finish it looking up at the bright lights from the canvas.
What next for Calzaghe? He had talked about his imminent retirement leading up to the fight, but hinted at a possible change of mind in his after match interview. My personal view is that Joe will probably retire and that his comments after the fight about possibly boxing on were said in the heat of the moment after what was undoubtedly his finest performance. Before the fight I would also have liked to see Joe retire if he won the fight and become one of the only boxers to retire with an unblemished record.
However after seeing just how good Calzaghe was on Saturday night I truly believe that he has one great fight left in him and intriguingly the contract for the fight against Jones contained a rematch clause. Now what about Joe Calzaghe against Roy Jones Jr at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. A wounded former champion against the best boxer Britain has surely ever produced. Surely Joe has one big effort left in the tank?

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The strange case of Jenson Button

Well it was certainly big news for the Brits in Formula One this week. As you will all know Lewis Hamilton thrillingly clinched victory from the jaws of defeat on the final lap of the race and David Coulthard bowed out with a crash on the first corner, after what has been a distinguished Formula one career. But one British man who flew very much under the radar at the final Grand Prix of the 2008 season was the former Golden Boy of British motor sport, Jenson Button.
Button burst on the scene in the sport in the spring of 2000 with the Williams team, who had a one year opening on their roster as they waited for Juan Pablo Montoya who scheduled to join the team for the following season. It was a fantastic opportunity for a rookie driver and Jenson held his own in his debut season finishing in eighth place in the driver’s championship and proving that he had the potential to do great things in Formula One.
However as all British motorsport fans have discovered it hasn’t quite worked out the way it was supposed to for Button. After leaving Williams his next port of call was at the Benetton team that had recently been purchased by Renault, where he was to endure somewhat mixed results as he struggled with a car that was often uncompetitive and always undergoing development. Button, though, continued to show flashed of his ability and narrowly missed out on his first podium finish in 2002 after finishing fourth in the Malaysian Grand Prix after his suspension failed on the final lap allowing him to be overtaken by Michael Schumacher.
In the 2003 season his career took a turn for the worse when Renault boss Flavio Briatore announced his intention to replace Button with the team’s former test driver Fernando Alonso. Despite outcry in the media Briatore stated “Time will tell if I am wrong.” Alonso then went on to win world title in 2005 and 2006. Pushed further on the subject in an interview he gave with the times Briatore had this to say on the subject of the British drivers dismissal. “Jenson is a fine driver but there were too many contracts, too many things in the background.”
His next move was to BAR Honda alongside former world champion Jacques Villeneuve and Button made a promising start to his career at his new team, outpacing his illustrious team mate for much of the season. The season that followed is by far his greatest so far in the sport. He finished in third place in the drivers championship behind the two dominant Ferrari cars, finishing on the podium ten times, and scoring 85 points though his maiden victory was to remain out of his grasp.
What then followed was a number of contractual disputes that became a somewhat messy affair for all those involved with the eventual outcome that Jenson decided to stay where he had been anyway believing that Honda offered him the best chance of securing the Formula One success that he craved.
Despite all this turmoil off the track Jenson was still doing all that he could to wring some points out of what he would once describe as a ‘dog of a car’ and his persistence paid off when in his 113th Grand Prix he achieved his first victory, showcasing all of his talents in winning in the wet after starting in 14th place on the grid.
The 2007 season was one to forget and was described by the man himself as a ‘complete disaster’ and 2008 was no better with Jenson scoring a measly three points in what was undoubtedly one of the worst cars on the grid. However optimism is surprisingly high in the Button camp for the 2009 season after the recruitment of Ross Brawn to the Honda garage, with Brawn being the man who famously guided Michael Schumacher to five World Championships in a row.
I for one hope that next season Honda produce a car to match the undoubted talent of Button. If they don’t he is quickly in danger of becoming the forgotten man of Formula One. However if they do there is no question in my mind that Button could play a major part in what could be one of the closely fought contests in the history of the sport with Alonso, Raikonnen, Massa, Kubica and hopefully Button aiming to steal away Hamilton’s World Championship. I believe that given the right circumstances in the next couple of years we could be looking at another British World Champion.