What it's like to be a journeyman boxer


The BBC reports on the sport's professional midlist: fighters with no prospects, but necessary opponents for fighters who are.

"Nobody ever came to me and told me to take a dive," says Buckley, who fought world champions Naseem Hamed and Duke McKenzie twice each. "But I did have trainers say to me: 'Just have a move-about tonight, the kid's sold a lot of tickets.' I was a professional loser, that's what I got paid to do."

But it's not just about being a competent, pliant punchbag. Journeymen are unsung artists who train younger boxers in the most important place of all: in the ring, before the crowd.

"The lads starting out, they all learnt something from me," says Greaves. "They needed rounds so you couldn't just go in there and get bashed up. I was capable of taking their best and giving them the rounds they needed to get better.

"I'd teach them movement and how to survive. But I'd also get hired by promoters because I'd talk to their fighters, rough them up with my shoulder, punch them in the spuds. A young fighter needs to taste every aspect of the game and promoters knew I wasn't going to give their boys an easy night."

The Telegraph's Mark Turley writes that there's good money in it, too, if you're savvy.

Greaves recalled how he once even took a fight an hour and a quarter before it was due to start. He was at the famous York Hall, in Bethnal Green, as cornerman for his friend, Jody Meikle and was approached by a panic stricken promoter. "Johnny, what weight are you now?" He rasped. "About ten stone three," came the reply. "That'll do, wanna fight tonight?" No sooner had the question been asked than Greaves phoned his wife to prepare his kit, jumped on the train from Bethnal Green to his home in East Ham and was back in the venue ten minutes before first bell. The show was saved.

That said, isn't this a sign of a sport with too few talented participants to maintain an established competitive structure? Do they do this in MMA?