Speed Bag: Dubois-Gorman to the rescue, Briedis Bullets, revisiting a Floyd Sr. classic, and more (2024)

Welcome to The Athletic Speed Bag, a semi-regular roundup of all things bizarre, macabre, and wonderful in the fight game. As HBO’s legendary ringside analyst Larry Merchant famously said, boxing is the “theater of the unexpected,” and here, we hope to celebrate the smaller happenings in the sport that don’t always make headlines but do so much to unite fans in their love of the “Dark Trade.”

Dubois-Gorman is here to save us from the boxing doldrums

Damn does boxing feel slow right now. Unless you’re the type of fan who gets jazzed over Gennadiy Golovkin rolling through Steve Rolls or Tyson Fury clowning a hopelessly overmatched Tom Schwarz, there hasn’t been a good high-profile fight since Joshua-Ruiz, back on June 1. The situation has become desperate enough that I found myself cueing up three hours of word salad from Kazakhstan, featuring fighters like Abilkhaiyr Shegaliyev, Elvin Akhundzada, Giorgi Gachechiladze, Viktor Kotochigov and Allah Dad Rahimi, and culminating in Nordine Oubaali’s successful defense of a bantamweight title over Arthur Villaneuva. For better or worse, the ESPN+ broadcast peaked in the first five minutes, thanks to a Kazakh ring announcer who treated the entrance of Irish featherweight David Oliver Joyce like one of Mark Dacascos’s secret ingredient reveals on “Iron Chef America.”

The sport comes back to life this weekend, thanks largely to a Saturday card from London topped by British heavyweight prospects Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman. These U.K. prospect showdowns always catch my fancy because they seem like precisely the kind of fight that never gets made in the United States. Two former amateur standouts, both represented by one of their country’s most powerful promoters (Frank Warren, in this case), both identified as potential future world champions, both competing in one of boxing’s glamour divisions at the richest moment for that division in a generation, and they’re putting their undefeated records on the line for a domestic title belt? American promoters often won’t put their blue-chip prospects into anything approaching a 50-50 fight until they’re competing for a world title, and even then, they might target one of the weaker titlists in a division.


Matchups like Dubois-Gorman aren’t outliers in British boxing; they’re part of a tradition that includes, in recent years, George Groves versus James DeGale, Billy Joe Saunders versus Chris Eubank Jr., and Josh Taylor versus Ohara Davies, among others. In an effort to understand why the British scene seems to produce these kinds of fights so much more frequently than U.S. boxing, I reached out to William Dettloff, editor-in-chief of Ringside Seat magazine and author of “Ezzard Charles: A Boxing Life,” whose career covering the sport stretches back decades. Over email, Dettloff told me to follow the money:

The reason prospects face off more frequently in the U.K. is – surprise! – economic. The sport is more robust in the U.K. than it is in the United States, so promoters and managers there know that a loss to another prospect isn’t the end of commercial viability. You just move on and look for another date. The fight game is ingrained in the larger culture, so there isn’t the sense, I think, that a fighter and his team have to catch lightning in a bottle to make money. That’s the way it’s perceived in the U.S.; something akin to winning the lottery, and it’s harder to win the lottery without the “0” at the end of your record. Losing it isn’t worth the risk.

On the other hand, Showtime’s “ShoBox” series, whose entire premise is built on prospects facing prospects, is in its 18th year and the majority of cards take place in the U.S. And according to Showtime, more than 75 ShoBox fighters have become world champions. So clearly, prospects do face one another in the U.S. – Carlos Adames’s win over Patrick Day on the Commey-Beltran undercard is a good example – just not as frequently as they do in the U.K.

My advice: Follow the Dettloff. Boxing’s larger footprint in British sporting culture, compared to the sport’s status Stateside, seems like the most important factor here. By the time Groves and DeGale fought in 2011, they already had national profiles with built-up narratives DeGale as an Olympic gold medalist and Groves as his amateur rival who felt snubbed over not making the Great Britain squad for the 2008 Summer Games. Similarly, Dubois and Gorman trained and sparred together as amateurs with the national team, and leading up to Saturday’s fight, both have spoken the competitive bad blood that developed in those early years. At a similar point in an American prospect’s career, his handlers might be looking to get him a showcase against a respectable but safe opponent in front of a large TV audience think Errol Spence fighting Leonard Bundu on NBC with a 2014 Olympics lead-in.


Domestic championships also matter more to British fighters than those pursuing their careers in the States. When U.K. greats like Joe Calzaghe or Carl Froch look back on their achievements, they tend to cite the progression from amateur tournaments to professional debuts to winning British and Commonwealth championships, and then finally turning their attention to the world level (and in Froch’s case, inevitably to that glorious night in 2014 when he knocked George Groves spark out with a peach of right hand, in front of 80,000 roaring fans at Wembley). On this side of the pond, the NABO something-or-other whoopity-do title is barely worth the pleather it’s emblazoned on. It’s a smaller country where boxing means more to sports fans, and those factors occasionally conspire to create these lovely prospect grudge matches, like Dubois-Gorman.

Khan-Dib is for the Degenerates … And I love it

It is one of the grand old traditions in boxing: Welterweight opportunist Amir Khan rehabbing his reputation after a loss by dragging some smaller man up in weight to challenge him. In the past, Khan had lightweights Carlos Molina and Julio Diaz move up one weight class for bouts contracted in the vicinity of the 140-pound junior welterweight limit. On Friday, Khan’s conquest of tiny men will reach its apex when Billy Dib, who spent most of his career at featherweight before falling short in a couple of 130-pound title shots in recent years, chubs all the way up to 147 pounds for a date with Khan. Dib’s late addition as a substitute for injured challenger Neeraj Goyat dulls the disappointment of missing out on the Indian welterweight nicknamed “Gangster,” who clocks in at No. 231 on BoxRec’s rankings of the world’s best 147-pounders. And, as is almost always the case in Khan comeback fights, the hand-picked, smaller opponent will land a punch that hurts Khan early, and there will be drama until Khan pulls himself together and wins by stoppage or clear decision.

In the words of Sticky Fingaz, “but but but wait, it gets worse.” Heavyweight contender Hughie Fury returns on the undercard versus Sam Peter! The Nigerian Nightmare was last seen in April, weighing in at a svelte 286.5 pounds to knock out 2-12-2 Alejandro Garduno at the true Mecca of boxing, Cheers Bar in Tijuana. The card also features scheduled performances from Rick Ross and that rapper from the “Kardashians.” Like a confused announcer calling referee Robert Byrd’s round that wouldn’t end in Riga, Latvia, all I can say is “WHAT IS OCCURRING?

Heel Canelo update

The all new one of a kind @mansory Mclaren 720s 🏎💨💨💨 pic.twitter.com/hV4iEZ8k03

— Chris Eubank Jr (@ChrisEubankJr) July 8, 2019

Clever move by Chris Eubank Jr. to throw his name into the Canelo sweepstakes by baiting the middleweight champion with a fancy sports car tweet. There are few better ways to get on Heel Canelo’s wavelength, as the superstar ponders which opponent to pluck from all weight classes from junior middleweight to light heavyweight to super Chavezweight. But Heel Canelo does not covet another boxer’s ride, ever.

Briedis Bullets

Let’s talk boxing, let’s talk Latvia, let’s talk Mairis Briedis Instagram deep dives.

  • Now that the WBO has announced its resolution to last month’s Briedis-Krzysztof Glowacki fiasco the winner of Briedis-Yuniel Dorticos will be strongly encouraged to defend the WBO cruiserweight belt against Glowacki within 120 days Briedis can really milk that muay thai elbow he clocked Glowacki with for all it’s worth. Here he is using it to complete the #bottlecapchallenge.
  • Do you want to see Mairis walk GGG to the ring at Canelo-GGG III while playing “Seven Nation Army” on the acoustic guitar? Yes, you do.
  • Are we sure that Briedis’ logo mash-up of the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks doesn’t violate any U.S. trademarks? ‘Cause if it’s legal in the lower 48, I’m calling my Riga merch guy tomorrow.

Even more bullets!

Just because boxing takes an occasional week off from generating fights worth watching, when it comes to spinning off ridiculous junk, the sport never sleeps.

  • A 10-minute 1995 documentary, King of the Gypsies, about Nathan Gorman’s great-uncle, Bartley Gorman V, who reigned as the bare-knuckle champion of Great Britain and Ireland for 20 years. It ends with Gorman delivering a stirring summation of his life: “Out there, this fighting — it’s a stage and I’ve got to play my part. I was born to play it. I must — that’s my destiny.
  • And if young Nathan can overcome once having sported this haircut, then I reckon he’s got real championship mettle.

Happy birthday mate👍🏽👍🏽 back when you had curly hair🍍 and mine was on it's way out👨🏽‍🦲
Now it's the other way round🤣👊🏽

All the best big Nath, hope camps going well for #July13th ⚡⚡ #SpeedKills @GormanBoxing pic.twitter.com/0q1myDd99X

— Тroy Williamson♛ (@TroyWilliamson_) June 25, 2019

  • Tommy Fury can talk about alien bacteria cooking meatballs all he wants, but if he ever floats the “when the aliens come to earth and challenge us to a basketball game, who’s the humans’ first pick?” hypothetical, I’ll never forgive him.

alright but why is nobody talking about this #loveisland pic.twitter.com/2JhQbAKPYU

— daniel (@scarlehforme) July 4, 2019

  • It’s been something like 15 years since fighters in the States were selling ad space for temporary tattoos on their backs, but the practice appears to be thriving in Poland, where several fighters on the Lukasz Rozanski-Izu Ugonoh card in Rzeszow sported skin sponsorships on both sides. We should probably also note that the main event was marred by the referee letting Rozanski get away with a blatant punch while Ugonoh was down, right before counting him out. Ahh nevermind, behold this Styrobud chest art:

Speed Bag: Dubois-Gorman to the rescue, Briedis Bullets, revisiting a Floyd Sr. classic, and more (1)

Speed Bag: Dubois-Gorman to the rescue, Briedis Bullets, revisiting a Floyd Sr. classic, and more (2)

Speed Bag: Dubois-Gorman to the rescue, Briedis Bullets, revisiting a Floyd Sr. classic, and more (3)

Speed Bag: Dubois-Gorman to the rescue, Briedis Bullets, revisiting a Floyd Sr. classic, and more (4)

Speed Bag: Dubois-Gorman to the rescue, Briedis Bullets, revisiting a Floyd Sr. classic, and more (5)

  • Find of the week (which might not be eclipsed for years) goes to Ryan Songalia, who noticed the Fighting Russells nickname pattern on this flyer for Friday’s PBC on FS1 card in Minnesota. So many Gary Russells.

Their nicknames are really “Another” Gary Russell and “The Last” Gary Russell. Next one should be “Just One More” Gary Russell pic.twitter.com/39HoFSWzTi

— Ryan Songalia (@ryansongalia) July 8, 2019

In closing …

Not that we need a reason to revisit this Floyd Mayweather Sr. classic, but since it’s Amir Khan fight week, here’s Senior reacting to the news of Khan’s sorta sex tape.

(Top photo: Bryn Lennon / Getty Images)

Speed Bag: Dubois-Gorman to the rescue, Briedis Bullets, revisiting a Floyd Sr. classic, and more (2024)
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