Ali, The Laureus Awards, and a cracking Frampton Defence

I have not updated my Blog in quite some time, I apologise for this, I have been a busy man of late but we have a great deal to catch up on.

With the seventieth birthday of ‘The Greatest’ arriving in January we were given an opportunity to look back on the career of the incomparable Muhammad Ali through various terrestrial and satellite television programs. I was asked to present a four-part documentary alongside Des Lynham for ITV. We were given a couch, a television and some brilliant old footage of the great man while we were asked to express what we thought of him and how he changed our sport and the world around him over the course of his career.

The general perception of boxers before him was one of a tough, rough and dangerous man who you simply pay to see scrap. Suddenly along comes Cassius Clay. He can talk, he can dance, he can charm the women and most importantly he can really fight, he was after all an Olympic champion. It had not been seen before and it will not be seen again. Ali had an appeal that reached out to everyone. He was cocky and down right rude at times, but he would say things with a twinkle in his eye, crack a funny one liner and you would forget any of his wrong doings. It was great to watch the footage of some of those great battles and relive the memories with Des. If you saw it I hope you enjoyed it.

The show was being played right through our January training camp for my fighter Carl Frampton, it provided plenty of motivation for his January 28th fight. Carl defended his Commonwealth Super-Bantamweight Title against a very tough and gritty Scotsman named Kris Hughes. The ending came via a crushing knockout in the seventh round. The finishing punch, a devastating right hook, may not have come out of Ali’s textbook but nonetheless it was a terrific shot. Carl used his skill and boxing brain to dissect his opponent and then employed his power to terminate the contest. A flawless performance all round from a fighter who is improving daily. After a tough and tiresome training camp under the guidance of his coach, my son Shane McGuigan, Carl deserved his week off to celebrate and relax. However hard work has already recommenced for his upcoming Title Defence on St Patrick’s Day, March 17th, and the rise of this great prospect continues.

Back on January 18th I got a chance to see Van Morrison perform a concert in the salubrious surroundings of St James Palace, London. The event was put together by Tourism Ireland and Northern Ireland to promote Belfast and the six counties. It was a fabulous night compounded by the brilliance of Van the Man. He is an exceptional live performer and he was in good spirits. The evening was presented by the silky smooth skills of Eamonn Holmes.

On January 31st I went along to East Berkshire College with my son Jake who helps run my Boxing Academies. We were there to see how the young students in Slough were enjoying the Academy. I’m delighted to report significant progress with the BMBA. Coach Ian Bailey is very impressive and all the young students are progressing well with their boxing and their studies. The Principle and Head of Sport are thrilled with the BMBA’s progress.

On a sad note, that evening I attended an event in Canterbury West Gate where a friend, the very popular local comedian Dave Lee, posthumously received the freedom of Canterbury City. It is the first time the City Council has ever given the freedom of the City to someone who had passed away but Dave Lee was a pretty special person. Dave has raised millions of pounds over the last few decades for sick and terminally ill children to send them on holidays. Dave died of cancer just after Christmas. He was a really great man, RIP.

On February 3rd I attended the IABA Elite Boxing Championships in Dublin with Carl Frampton and his fiancé Christine. The boxing was of a very high standard, punctuated by the standout fight everyone wanted to see, the 81kg final. It pitched the gifted Joe Ward against the Beijing Olympic silver medalist Kenny Egan, and the fight did not disappoint. Ward won, comprehensively dominating Egan with his power and forcing Kenny to take a couple of standing counts. If Ward can improve his fitness he should qualify for London. If he is lacing his gloves up at the Games, he would be a definite medal pick.

On Sunday February 5th I made my way up to London for this Year’s Laureus Sports Awards. I was made an ambassador for Laureus some years ago alongside my fellow former boxer and Hall of Famer ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler. It is an honour to represent this magnificent organisation. Laureus promotes the use of sport as a tool for social change and celebrates sporting excellence. This year’s award ceremony took place on Monday February 6th in London, and all the big sporting names turned out. Novak Djokovic took the Sportsman of the Year Award, and made a very witty yet meaningful speech on accepting the award.

Other winners included Rory Mcilroy for Breakthrough of the Year, and his fellow Northern Irishman Darren Clarke for Comeback of the Year in recognition of his fantastic British Open win in July. An awards ceremony such as this gives me an opportunity to catch up with old sporting friends I have not seen in years. I had dinner with Edwin Moses, a great man and one of the most frightening talents all of sport has ever seen. He was unbeaten on the track for nine years! I cracked jokes with Sir Alex Ferguson and had the pleasure of catching up with my old pal Lennox Lewis, the former undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World. Lennox was on great form and is still as cool as he ever was.

At Laureus events you have greats from different sporting fields and different vintages gathering around and sharing stories, it is a real treat. At the end of it all though we realise why we are there. It is a grand effort to get sportsmen and women, founding patrons and partners to put their reach, support and investment into social projects around the world who are using sport as a tool for social change. Laureus celebrates the universal power of sport to bring people together as a force for good, and it is working.

On a truly light note, I was lucky enough to compete in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special over the festive period and, if I may say so myself, put up a sterling effort for a man of fifty! It was a very intensive experience and I must thank my sparring partner, Erin Boag, a truly patient and dedicated individual who guided me through what was a daunting task. I had only a handful of days to prepare for the event and thankfully my footwork from my days in the ring helped me somewhat master a ‘quick step’ routine that had a high pace. Needless to say I didn’t manage to win outright but came very close and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. 
You can also currently catch me on CBBC’s Ultimate Sports Day, along with fellow athletes Christian Malcolm, Dean Macey and Sinead Kerr. It is on at 9am every Saturday for the next 5 weeks.

Next month I’m hosting The Big Fight Live, London v Dublin at Chelsea FC for charity on Thursday 22nd March. Tickets are available by clicking here. Or you can contact Special Event Exec Kate Ormston on 0207 957 8260. It will be a great night, hope to see you there!

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