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Conflict (Cash with no questions)

By Ben Thomsett on January 8, 2020

saudi arabia.jpg

There is a market and an appreciation for our great sport, even in a prison, or a war zone.

Jail. Smell of bleach cleaner. Shouting. Shitty music whining from tiny speakers. Threats and banging doors. The voices of the brave, and the screams of the scared. Testosterone and tears. Actors, all of them, playing the part of hard man or gangster or victim. Whatever and however gets you through the night and the endless days of same, same, same…


Through it all, conflict.


Jimmy dug into the heavy bag at a corner of the cell block. His ‘trainer’—a fat man, inside for dealing a small amount of coke—stood next to him shouting “Jab….ten more jabs, Jimmy… Harder….come on….one more minute.”


No-one else watched. They played pool, spoke on the phone to people who tried hard to remember what life was like before the balaclavas and the late nights, or sat around colluding and plotting more failed schemes for when the gates finally opened. Bored. Press-ups. Gym sessions three times a week. Fit, but inactive. Nothing to do but become paranoid, ready to get vengeful at any perceived slight.


When the sound came, it wasn’t masked by Jimmy’s grunting or the slap of his torn bed sheet hand wraps on the fake leather canvas bag. This sound was different: Ping. Metallic. Like an aluminium bar snapping on a cold morning.


By a row of twenty cell doors, a guy lay on the floor, gaunt, dark-haired, pathetic. Two prisoners, big and tall and full of noise, squared up, pushed. Others got up from molded plastic chairs, a couple of dull shanks sucked in the light around them and focused bleary eyes. Fists are fine inside, but blades are finishers. A couple of razor blades, melted into a toothbrush, slashed at a big bastard who’d punched a couple of teeth out of a guy wearing a pair of brand new Nike trainers. The tiny silver shards in the red handle cut skin and hooked on grey prison clothing as the thin guy wielding them jumped in and out of the sweet spot like an amateur fighter. You could see it was his first bout; picked the wrong sport. Scared. Cowardly. Ready to run.


An alarm droned thick and urgent over the growling and the shouts and the noise of chairs bouncing off of concrete walls and rattling along to a stop somewhere on a concrete floor. Undamaged. Still useable. Prison durable.


When the end came, it was quick and nothing like a movie or finishing hook at a body leaning on the ropes. The guards arrived like fat crows, yawping and ready to pick at the leftovers. People stood still, hands up. Beaten without a blow. Conflict resolved.


And, in a roundabout way, even if it did jog a shitty jail memory, conflict resolution is what it’s all about right now. The new Boxing feeding tube located in Saudi Arabia isn’t a ready or morally justifiable source of nourishment; missiles are hitting targets once more in the region; whatever side you are on is unimportant, and money only draws people so far before sense kicks in. Despite Tyson Fury’s Twitter spat with the WBO and the general hype-driving madness of the Boxing world, maybe something more important is happening and maybe it’s time to ask where the money is coming from and why? Eddie Hearn says the “Hospitality out there (Saudi Arabia) is first class…” He doesn’t seem to be a man to ask questions while the drinks stay iced. He’s looking into at least two more ‘Mega Shows’ in the region this year.


Ultimately, what you or I think doesn’t matter. Boxing remains in the News as much as it ever has. And Saudi Arabia is not Iran or Iraq, but it is a major player in the region and it does back groups involved in the current mess. There is a market and an appreciation for our great sport, even in a prison, or a war zone…

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