Fight­ing on for­eign soil presents some dif cul­ties, as I know from ex­pe­ri­ence

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The art of fight­ing on for­eign soil

I IHAVE some great and not so great mem­o­ries from my two trips to fight in Ger­many [ver­sus Henry Maske in 1996 and Gra­ciano “Rocky” Roc­chi­giani in 1997]. I remember some­one telling me that Rocky’s fans in Ber­lin were kind of fa­nat­i­cal about him and that if they saw me out in the streets do­ing road­work they might cause me some trou­ble. So I was forced to be careful wher­ever I went while I was there. I also remember plug­ging my boom box into the wall in my room to lis­ten to mu­sic and sev­eral mo­ments later it sounded like a bomb went off. No one had told me about the ef­fect the power source would have on North Amer­i­can plugs. My ra­dio was com­pletely de­stroyed! As for when I fought Henry, I remember be­ing awake all night be­fore the fight. I was lit­er­ally pac­ing my ho­tel room floor, try­ing to get my­self tired. I was wide awake un­til well af­ter the sun came up.

For me, the big­gest dif­fi­culty of fight­ing abroad is that no one there truly wants you to win. In Ger­many, I was ac­tu­ally treated well, but I still knew that when it came down to it, no one there ac­tu­ally wanted me to win. You walk around and peo­ple talk to you, but no mat­ter how nice they are you know that they want you to lose, and you won­der if they’re spy­ing on you. It’s like be­ing be­hind en­emy lines, so your guard is al­ways up. It’s a con­stant mind game be­ing played in your head that isn’t nearly as in­tense when you’re fight­ing in your own coun­try.

On a pos­i­tive side, the me­dia over in Ger­many did a great job of keep­ing the fight alive in the build-up. News­pa­per ar­ti­cles and tele­vi­sion in­ter­views were done on a very reg­u­lar ba­sis. I was con­stantly re­minded that I was there for some­thing im­por­tant – a fight. Also, when I fought there, it was be­fore I’d ever even heard of the in­ter­net, so I had no con­nec­tion with Amer­ica other than my phone calls back home. This al­le­vi­ated some of the pres­sure on my shoul­ders be­cause I kind of thought that peo­ple back home hardly knew any­thing about the fight.

De­spite be­ing the away fighter, I felt that the scor­ing in both my fights in Ger­many was fair in that I did lose fair and square. But I do remember one par­tic­u­lar round against Rocky when he didn’t catch me with any clean shots. I landed more punches and I felt I won the round, but I checked the score­cards af­ter the fight and the judges hadn’t given me that round. There’s also a spe­cific mo­ment in the Maske fight that’s al­ways stuck with me. Be­fore the fight, we no­ticed while watch­ing his tapes that Henry liked to push his shorter op­po­nents’ heads down when they got close to him on the in­side. Dur­ing our fight, he did this to me nu­mer­ous times, yet the ref­eree never said a word to him about it. In the 12th round, I knew I was well be­hind on the score­cards, so when we got close on the in­side and he pulled my head down, I in­ten­tion­ally stepped down hard on his toes. As soon as I did it the ref­eree stepped in and gave me a stern warn­ing. I lit­er­ally laughed out loud and pat­ted him on the shoul­der with a smile. I could only find hu­mour in it at that point.

Food is an­other thing to watch out for when you’re fight­ing abroad. It’s im­por­tant to be careful and err on the side of cau­tion, as you hear sto­ries com­ing up in the game of box­ers’ food be­ing tam­pered with when they’re away from home. You al­ways have to as­sume that stuff like this hap­pen­ing is a pos­si­bil­ity.

For my trips over­seas, Emanuel Stew­ard ad­vised me to go to sleep at the same hour as I would at home. You must get your body clock ac­cli­ma­tised as soon as you ar­rive in a dif­fer­ent time zone, even if it’s a dif­fer­ence of only a cou­ple of hours, like for Hughie Fury in Bul­garia [against Kubrat Pulev this week­end]. Other than this, Hughie’s just got to re­alise that, whether you’re in your home coun­try or your op­po­nent’s home coun­try, a fight is a fight and a ring is a ring.


TEAM ON TOUR: Hughie [right] with his trainer, Peter Fury, and his pro­moter, Mick Hen­nessy, in Bul­garia

John Scully

Ex-light-heavy con­tender

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