• Steve Bunce

Hungry Hall gives 2013 the best possible finish

Steve Bunce December 23, 2013
Stuart Hall overcame severe swelling and cuts to beat Vusi Malinga on Saturday © PA Photos
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In 2013 Floyd Mayweather made just under 100 million dollars, Howard Foster had thugs outside his house and Stuey Hall stole our hearts in a fight that no witness will ever forget.

The great Mayweather handled Robert Guerrero like a child in May, winning with ease and amazingly he was still called a "chicken" by Guerrero's father at the end. It was good but not as good as the masterclass from Mayweather when he beat previously unbeaten Saul Alvarez in September. Mayweather was guaranteed $41.5 million, there is no guarantee that Alvarez will recover from the boxing lesson and now Mayweather is considering his options. He would be a master boxer in any decade, any fistic epoch would receive him kindly.

In November, Foster was the referee in the brutal Carl Froch and George Groves fight. It was a great fight and Foster jumped in to stop it in round nine; Froch was still champion, Groves was desolate and the public voiced its anger on the night and over the next few days. However, boxing is all about opinions, instant experts, the odd fairy tale and too many conspiracy theorists. It is also about cowards, the people that harassed Foster and his family. And no, before you ask, Groves will not get an immediate rematch with Froch.

Buncey's Boxing Podcast: Christmas Special

Tyson Fury had, even by the standards of his extreme life, a crazy 2013. He survived a sickening knockdown against Steve Cunningham at Madison Square Garden in New York in April. It was always a big-risk fight. Fury somehow beat the count in round two, held, pulled and then started to take control before knocking out Cunningham with a combination of brute strength, an elbow, forearm and fist in round seven. However, that was the end of the big lad's luck.

In the hours after Cunningham's disturbing exit the plan started to end David Haye's exile with a fight against Fury. It was, at that point, a fight that Haye wanted and one that the British public were desperate to embrace. In the early summer Haye withdrew from an easy massacre against Manny Charr, claiming a hand injury and then the Fury fight was announced for September. The conferences were prickly, the online debates foul; it was a big British showdown, trust me.

Just over a week before the first bell Haye was cut in sparring. Ouch. A few weeks later the fight was re-scheduled for February 2014. Fury was not happy. Haye then had an operation on a shoulder injury at a secret location in Germany and the fight was off, his career in jeopardy and his reputation bruised. Fury was livid and retired for a day. He's back now and plans to fight a "bum each month until there are no more coward bums left to fight". How can you dislike a man like that?

Less than 100 hours before Christmas Day at a spectacular new venue in Leeds, just under 5,000 people arrived for an early miracle. Stuey Hall had walked away from his amateur career to get blitzed for two weeks in Ibiza but he stayed five years; he was lost and happy and then he sobered up, got clean and decided at 28 to turn professional. "I needed to make a few quid and straighten my life out," said Hall.

He won the British bantamweight title in 2010, made three quick defences to win the Lonsdale belt outright and then came the losses. He was beaten in British title fights by Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins. It looked far from ecstatic for Hall and then came the visit from the Christmas fairy, a nice guy from Sheffield wearing a Gucci tie and talking about world title fights in front of thousands. Hall must have thought he was having an Ibiza flashback.

The fairy was Dennis Hobson, a scrap metal dealer and maker of world champions - Hall became his latest mission. It looked, I have to say, like a fantasy too far even for the metal guru. Forget reality and on the Saturday before Christmas, with pure joy in the air, Hall beat Vusi Malinga on points to win the IBF bantamweight title in the British fight of the year. It's a contender for fight of the year anywhere in the world. Malinga was the betting favourite, the seasoned world-class operator and he finished after 12 rounds a broken little man. He came close several times but it would have taken a dozen surgeons to stop Hall's heart that night in Leeds. I'm not sure that I have ever seen such desire inside the ring.

Hall lost all vision in his left eye by about round nine when a grotesque swelling took over his face and he had blood from cuts above both eyes covering his exhausted body when the last bell sounded. It was a fight, a night and a result from the extreme edges of a business that never fails to shock. It was, I guess, the only ending possible to a classic year for the boxing world.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.