I woke this morning to two pieces of contrasting sporting news.
The first was Josh Leather’s fantastic points victory over the previously undefeated Fergus Taylor in London last night. Today is the Guisborough-based light-welterweight’s 23rd birthday, and can celebrate in the knowledge that he preserved his own unblemished record against a very tough opponent.
Obviously there are any number of talented young fighters out there, all striving to be the best in their respective weight division, but under the guidance of my good friend Imran Naeem, Josh is making impressive progress and has all the dedication, determination, strength and skill needed to continue his rise through the professional ranks.
Josh is also blessed with lightning hand speed – as I found out to my cost when I stepped into the ring with him for a charity sparring session – and the proverbial boxing sky really is the limit for this likeable young man.
The second story concerned the Australian cricketer Phil Hughes, who was felled by a short-pitched delivery whilst batting for South Australia during a Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales earlier today. The left-handed opener had already passed his half century, when he was hit on the helmet whilst attempting to hook a bouncer bowled by Sean Abbott.
According to reports, Hughes bent forward, and rested his hands on his knees, before collapsing face-first to the ground. He was treated on the field, but required mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before being rushed to hospital for emergency brain surgery. As I write, Phil Hughes is in an induced coma and the outcome of the surgery may not be known until later in the week.
There are some sports where the physical danger is glaringly obvious – and boxing is very close to, if not right at the top of the list. But there are situations when serious injury can be sustained in almost any sporting arena, and the awful scenes at the Sydney Cricket Ground are a stark reminder of what can happen – even to the very best - in literally a fraction of a second.
I remember a New Zealander named Ewen Chatfield being hit in similar sickening fashion by Peter Lever (of Lancashire and England). It was in the pre-helmet days of the mid-1970s and as far as I can recall Chatfield swallowed his tongue and was only saved by the swift intervention of the England team doctor…
Don’t get me wrong, I am chuffed to bits for Josh, Imran and the rest of Team Leather, but my thoughts and prayers today are with Phil Hughes and his family, as the 25 year-old faces the toughest conceivable battle, and also with Sean Abbott, whose feelings I cannot even begin to imagine.
Here’s hoping Phil makes a full recovery.