|It is Saturday October 25th, 2003. We are at the Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh, where the prodigiously talented Alex Arthur is just moments away from the biggest fight of his professional career thus far, against Manchester’s Michael Gomez.|
The bell rings and Arthur rushes Gomez with a flurry of lefts and rights, giving the war torn challenger no time to settle into his rhythm. Gomez attempts bravely to battle the storm in his path. But Arthur, with visions of Erik Morales on the horizon, will not be thwarted this night. The young Scot drops Gomez with a migraine-inducing right to the temple. Arthur directs a knowing smile towards Barry McGuigan, as Gomez slumps to the canvas, almost lifeless. Our referee, John Coyle, needn’t bother counting; this one is now a statistic.
Those of you who tuned in to Sky Sports on the evening of October 25th, 2003 may have noticed that I veered from the path of reality at the beginning of the second paragraph. My chosen path is one envisioned by all but vehement Gomez fans. Perhaps I went a touch over the top with the hyperbole. However, an emphatic victory for Arthur was, nonetheless, the smart bet.
What actually occurred that night was a far more brutal affair, in which Arthur was stopped in five career-shortening rounds by an apparently possessed Michael Gomez. To say that Arthur was boasting a defence indiscernible to the modern boxing world is an understatement. It would also serve to discredit Gomez, who put in a stellar performance in what would, almost certainly, have been his last chance after a series of setbacks.
Leap forward to the present day and we are merely days away from Arthur’s true comeback fight against Eric Odumase of Ghana. I say 'true comeback fight' out of reluctance to consider his one round demolition of Michael Kizza a 'fight'. Through no fault of Arthur’s, he was pitted against a man whose primary concern was his paycheque. Arthur dispatched his foe in one round. The point of this meaningless exercise? Search me, folks.
At this stage of his career, Arthur needs solid competition to hone his skills. Under the tutelage of Freddie Roach and now, the notoriously tough, Jimmy McDonnell, Arthur will have undoubtedly tightened up his slack defence and fine-tuned other aspects of his game. But at the age of 26, Alex is nearing his peak and needs to be mixing it up with the big boys of the division.
Assuming Odumase is swept aside, as he was against Scott Harrison, a rematch with Michael Gomez is on the cards for early next year. If this bout does come to fruition, Arthur absolutely cannot afford another loss to Gomez. One upset is forgivable. In fact, one could argue that it was the best thing that could have happened to him, as it was a lesson that had to be learned. Defeat is something all fighters, with few exceptions, eventually taste. Cliched though it may be, it is how you respond to defeat that sets the great fighters apart. I just hope that Alex doesn’t have to worry about such cliches being directed at him again in the foreseeable future.
James MacDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org