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Death of one of the greatest of all boxing writers

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Death of one of the greatest of all boxing writers Empty Death of one of the greatest of all boxing writers

Post by captain carrantuohil on Fri 25 Jan 2019, 11:31 am

Obviously I don't contribute to these boards these days, but I felt that I should make an exception today after hearing the news of the death of Hugh McIlvanney, a sports writer of rare distinction, who will be particularly associated with boxing for as long as the sport endures.

We've talked about him on this forum many times; he wasn't without his blind spots, he had his favourites, like the rest of us, and could occasionally tailor his writing to fit preconceived notions rather than what he actually saw, but none of that mattered, because.....

….he was, almost without question, the greatest writer on boxing (horse-racing too) of my lifetime. As a wordsmith, pure and simple, he left the rest at the starting gate. Eclipse first, and the rest nowhere, to use an ancient horse-racing comparison. Whether conveying the atmosphere of a big fight, before during and after it, articulating the terrible dichotomy that all boxing fans face about whether this is really a sport that a sentient human being ought to love, burrowing deep into the psyche of boxing's greatest figures or simply as an observer of historic events, Hugh McIlvanney has been without peer.

I'm not normally a fan of the Hall of Fame's tendency to reward peripheral boxing figures with a place at Canastota - Stallone and co scarcely deserve such an honour. McIlvanney is an obvious exception to that general rule. He contributed so much to the sport that his admission to the Hall in 2009 could only be questioned in its tardiness.

On a personal note, he was one of a handful of figures within the sport, participants or observers, who got me hooked on boxing. I therefore owe him a massive debt of gratitude and freely acknowledge his influence on the way in which I both thought and wrote as a youngster. I shall miss his sage contributions to various newspapers and magazines around the world more than I can say, particularly in this miserable age for sports journalism, one where merely being able to construct a coherent sentence is sufficient qualification to elevate a boxing writer to the pantheon of the immortals.

Well, we've lost one of the true immortals today. Rest well, Hugh.

captain carrantuohil

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Post by milkyboy on Fri 25 Jan 2019, 12:59 pm

Hello Captain. You’re certainly not alone in not contributing on here anymore. Though the Hall of Fame lives On as a museum in everyone’s absence.

It’s been a while. Hope all is well.

I was probably mcilvanney’s biggest critic on here... based on the occasional tendency in my view to fit his narrative to suit previous arguments he’d made... the infamous quiet beating in hagler Leonard! But then we all have our moments! I always also felt he tried a little bit too hard to show how clever he was sometimes in his writing too.

But, these are minor quibbles in the grander scheme of things. No doubting he was a fantastic wordsmith, a great journalist on boxing and other sports. In a world of Twitter sound bites he belongs to a bygone and better era from all perspectives.  RIP

milkyboy

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Post by captain carrantuohil on Fri 25 Jan 2019, 1:46 pm

All is fine, thank, milky, and I hope the same applies to you. Very good to catch you on a fleeting visit....

And couldn't argue with a word you say about McIlvanney. Sadly, I suspect that those who know of him will be commenting elsewhere, if at all. Those who don't will be too busy re-hashing their insistence that boxer A is ducking boxer B, that boxer X is a bum and boxer Y overrated, or that Tyson Fury is the latest manifestation of the Second Coming to care too much about the passing of a link to boxing's golden age one way or another.

O tempora! O mores! as another great writer of even more venerable vintage than Hugh would doubtless have said. I do like the idea of Cicero and McIlvanney chewing the fat over a glass of decent wine somewhere in the afterlife. Can't guarantee, though, that the Roman won't say something sufficiently annoying to Hugh to earn himself the back of a Glaswegian hand at some stage, mind you!

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Post by superflyweight on Fri 25 Jan 2019, 3:45 pm

I was meaning to put up an article about McIlvanney today but work has been getting in the way.  Anyway, great to see the captain posting on here again.  

I'm a massive fan of McIlvanney and his collective writings on boxing is essential reading - his article on Johnny Owen's last fight is beautiful and heartbreaking.  

I may also have a soft spot for him because he's closely linked with the golden era of Celtic and his writings and spoken word coverage of the Lisbon Lions evoke a time that I can only dream of.

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Post by Atila on Fri 25 Jan 2019, 8:36 pm

He was an excellent writer and I do have a book of his somewhere still packed away from my move two years ago. I'll have to dig it out and re-read it again soon.

R.I.P. Hugh.

Atila

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