Wayne Alexander. Paul Samuels. Michael Brody. Neil Swain. Okay, that’s proper boxing tag team.
In June, take a step back in time as four fighters take the stage at the Merthyr Tydfil Labor Club in boxing’s mecca, the Valley of Wales. It will be a night far removed from the glitz and ignorance of the modern boxing business. To be fair, Mercer is far from anywhere.
Four men shared maybe 30 televised main events in one night. They were at the heart of the business for about a decade in the mid 90’s. He may not be the four names people remember back then, but they had their own moments. Not everyone can be recognized as king.
Swain was involved in one of the most brutal and neglected British title fights of the time.One night in 1997 at the Wythenshawe Center outside Manchester he lost to Brodie for the vacant super bantamweight title. I was. Swain lost in 10th place and it was his last fight. Writing for the Daily Sports after the fight, Steve Lillis suggested that even Brody needed to be kept out of the ring for six months to recover.
The place was rocking and completely adult. On such a night, there was a deep secret in that venue. Brody continued. Brody’s last fight came nearly 13 years later when he was stopped by Anthony Crolla. Since then, Manchester has had some legendary and lost nights.
In a 1994 match, it was Swain who brought Richie Wenton to tears after several rounds at the Cardiff ice rink one night. Wenton fought and defeated Bradley Stone in an earlier fight. He was fighting a demon that haunts a boxer after a death fight, and in the ring that night he saw Stone, not Swain. It was terrible.
Swain is also central to my favorite story about Barry Jones.
At the Ronda Leisure Center in 1993, Swain was 4-0 and met Jones, who was 6-1. what a fight. Valleys vs City. Add it to the list of matches you regret missing. Regardless, Jones organized a coach from Ely in Cardiff and it was packed, lively and expected. Jones won on points. It was a real night. The coach boys and men were eager to get back to their hometown of Cardiff and start the celebrations. They packed their coach and took off in style. He has one problem. They forgot Barry. To be honest, he was left alone in the empty parking lot of the leisure center at 11pm. No phone. No lift. Stuck with his bag.
Barry Jones hitchhiked back to Cardiff. It was the only way, and no one mentioned it when he entered the pub.
Brody went on to participate in some truly memorable and forgettable battles. He had world title scraps with Willie Jolin, two with Ying Jin Qi and one with Scott Harrison. He won British and European titles and met some of the best players of his time.
The first fight with Chi was a farce ending, but a spectacular one. They fought until they were stuck and were then let down by officials. Bruised and exhausted, they waited 15 minutes to hear the verdict barely delivered to Qi. Brody accepted, closed his swollen eyes, and walked back into this dressing room. However, there were still calculations at ringside and it was revealed to be a draw. It was hard to stomach because Brody had severely deducted points in the opener for illegal use of his head.Yes, the first round is tough for the boy and his dreams. Brody said he would have won the vacant WBC featherweight title that night if the referee hadn’t missed a point, which must still hurt.
Brody and Swain’s reunion is both strange and beautiful.
And then there’s the Samuels and Alexander pairing. It was an event for the vacant British super-middleweight title when they fought at Dagenham’s Goresbrook Leisure Center in 2000. The lucky man was only 15,000 that night. I may not have, but I knew what I was getting. Samuels is undefeated 15 times, Alexander is undefeated 13 times. It finished in his third with 1:09 on him and Alexander was the winner. by the way.
“I’ve never been so exhausted,” admitted Alexander. “Maybe I was the last one.” He was right and that’s what all good shootouts should be.
Samuels went on to meet many very dangerous men. He finished in 2012. In 2009, he participated in the famous double knockdown fight with Chelorenda. Both over, both hurt, both up. Samuels was a dangerous man to the end.
In 2001 Alexander went to Widnes for a chance at the WBO Light Middleweight after fighting the great Harry Simon just one day earlier. Jimmy Tibbs was unable to travel with him. Alexander tried and was beaten in five rounds. Alexander also won the European title by knocking out Takaru at the York Hall with a memorable finish.
The four fought at very different times, a period of transition in British sport. Alexander to Samuels and Takaru will never be in the Gordsbrooke or York Hall of the modern world.
So June at Mercer for a night I never thought of. It will be a little old-fashioned magic. I go in