I’ve got a new mental definition
of quietly smouldering intensity—
and that involves the four punch combination

that Haye laid on the granite density
of Dave Chisora’s chin, and how my wife
was whispering “Do him!” to the TV

and wishing all kinds of unworldly grief
against the roundly booed and hated fighter,
thus proving one can still nurse major beef

while breastfeeding a snoozy baby daughter.


Canto LXIX

I will run today, through the thin sheets
of drizzle Irish champions wear with pride.
After that I’ll go on to complete

those applications I pushed to one side.
I won’t write an O’Hara parody
entitled “The Day Smokin’ Joe Died”

because we did it for Michael and Amy.
Today my business is with the living,
though still, the dead assemble in their armies

on bookshelves, radio playlists, sometimes waving
from photographs, the grainy afterlife,
the light they gave to silver gelatin.

We cannot beat them, we are but the waifs
that scurry in their shadows, though we wield
another weapon to absolve the grief

and guilt of our surviving, for we hold
the prospects of the lives we can deliver,
to double up our wide, ancestral worlds—

the rain of Cork and, sorry Joe, Manila.


We arrive at the same time as he does
to some stirring mid-nineties anthem.
The arena’s almost empty, we’ve got hours

until the main event, the young and handsome
prospect enters next to wild applause
from twenty family members. Then the customs

of referee’s instruction and touched gloves.
The bell rings and the prospect goes in fast,
the journeyman covers, ducks and weaves—

they always rush right in, their flailing fists
are keen to make short work of him, he knows
from all these monthly pocket money fights

fed to the debut boys, his return blows
are known to not cause problems, his efforts
revolve around giving the punters a show

while not taking too many heavy shots
so he can make his losers’ split next time
to pay the bills and keep the missus sweet.

She’s at home watching X Factor, the chime
of the last bell provides longed for relief,
he hugs the prospect, whispers lies to him

about how he’ll have a successful life
and not be a domestic nearly ran.
His string of losses hold back debt and grief—

a rosary necklace of bearable pains
that gives a chance to those he loves the most.
He’s gone before the imbecile refrains

of smash his ‘ead ‘in! ring from post to post,
the slobs in suits, the patriotic orgies
of jingoistic bias and lewd boasts

at ring girls with their labial wedgies.
But all these rituals are yet to come,
with one more L writ in his career’s pages

the journeyman begins his journey home.

Canto LIX

I remember when Saturday night
meant The Big Fight Live, back in the nineties,
a golden crop of super middleweights—

Eubank, always confident and haughty,
made his entrance  to Simply the Best
and proved it, winning easy, winning dirty,

his RP affectations of respect
for all of his opponents, even Benn,
the guy I cheered on every time to knock

Chris Eubank to the ground. It never happened,
the record still stands at one loss one draw,
though the judges must ‘ve been ratarsed for that one.

We watched the walkovers, we watched the wars,
with beer we purchased at the dodgy offy,
until the action pissed off to Sky Sports

our heroes lost their edge, the tragedies
of Watson and McClennan tamed our calls
to beat the shit out of the other guy.

We watched our faded icons finally fall,
to Sugar Boy Malinga and Steve Collins,
and my teen angst required new role models

like Jim Morrison and Henry Rollins,
and though I’m now the poncey London bard
I still hear the ring announcer calling—

one time, while crossing Vauxhall Bridge I spied
a familiar figure, beard and corn rows, jogging
towards me so I called out “Go on David!”

and not finding my fanboy schtick annoying
he touched his fist to mine, said, “Nice one mate”
and vanished into the fog of January morning.

And just like that I knew I couldn’t wait
to tell the next person, then realised
that I was on my way to the old Tate

to attend a symposium on the Sublime.

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