Let’s talk about Apollo Creed.
He died in the ring, killed by Ivan Drago.
Drago always gets the blame for that, but it’s revisionist at best and at worst outright Commie baiting nonsense. Creed was a mug for ever getting into that ring, and his corner team were crazy for allowing him to go back out for the second round. What were they thinking?
Let’s analyse Creed’s career as we understand it.
He was clearly a phenomenal boxer. When we meet him at the start of Rocky, he had so completely, and thoroughly, dominated the heavyweight division that he couldn’t get a fight against any ranked contender, because they were all afraid to get in the ring with him.
He must have been magnificent in his prime, a genuine giant.
But we know that he’d already begun to slip.
We know that because he was fought to a standstill by a “lucky club fighter” no-one had ever heard of. Yes, he got the decision in the first fight and in part because he had become lazy and overconfident and undisciplined. But he got his act together and trained hard and well for the rematch.
And he lost the rematch. To a rank amateur nursing an injury, fighting with the wrong hand.
That’s when any sensible person would have hung up the gloves.
How many years between that second fight with Rocky and the Drago fight? Five? More? Drago was a superlative athlete (and we know a steroid abuser) with a punch capable of generating enough pounds’ square inch of pressure it could have stopped a tank.
Whoever thought it was a good idea to let an aging boxer well past his prime get into the ring with a monster like that? And then to watch as he took the first round beating of the century … and then let him back up for another go?
Apollo Creed’s decision to even contest that fight would have ranked as the stupidest of all time except for Dave King’s insane insistence in getting in the ring with Iron Mike Ashley over the Sports Direct contract and their first refusal on any Ibrox merchandising deal.
King is a guy who’s long enjoyed flirting with danger.
There are people like him in every walk of life, but it must be a stomach churning rollercoaster experience to have that man running your football club. No sooner is one potentially disastrous situation behind you but you are hurtling into another one, full speed ahead. This one is a beauty.
King provoked the Takeover Panel to the point where they were threatening him with jail.
He pushed the South African government to the brink of the same.
He has fought with courts, regulatory bodies, he’s picked fights with the club’s commercial partners, he’s pandered to the Ibrox crowd by cutting Celtic’s ticket allocation … the man cannot live without conflict.
But in taking on a billionaire like Ashley, he’s stepping out of his weight class and then some.
What’s more is that this fight is in the closing stages now and Ashley has delivered pummelling’s in round after round after round, and every time the bell rings King comes out of the corner begging for more. It’s a surprise to some that Ashley hasn’t knocked him out yet … you know what?
I think Ashley just enjoys beating on him and so hasn’t closed the show.
Ashley’s record in this fight so far has been stellar; he’s taken each and every round thus far, delivering just enough pain so that King and his corner guys can feel it but not enough to drop his man to the canvas for a ten count.
King’s ego is such that he wants to carry on in spite of the certainty of defeat; what stuns me is that his people haven’t thrown in the towel.
Creed’s corner wanted to, but he refused to agree to it. But there are times when a decision like that should be taken out of a man’s hands. I mean, Apollo was in a bad way at the end of that first round, just as he was in the fights with Balboa. His corner guys had a responsibility to him which transcended his wishes. How did they know he didn’t have brain damage, that his judgement was impaired? Let’s face it, it had to be or he’d never have gotten back off that stool.
The Ibrox board has to know that King is in trouble and therefore that they are in trouble. What are they doing letting him posture and preen and provoke Ashley as he has? Are they not mindful at all of the grave responsibility they have towards shareholders and season ticket buying fans? Take their highly dangerous decision to open shops when this matter was still in the courts … that’s just lunacy of a sort that is frankly hard to credit.
This fight went to the latest round during the week; barring a settlement, which will still cost the club millions, King and his people are going to lose, and lose huge.
There is ample evidence that Ashley has had enough of this particular challenger; he’s a busy guy, and right now he’s trying to strike a deal to keep his manager out of Peter Lawwell’s claws. (Haha!) He doesn’t want to be focussed on this upstart who he thought he’d scared off the manor two or more years back, only to find his stink wafting through Shirebrook again.
The evidence suggests that this time Mike Ashley wants to deliver a knockout blow. I don’t know whether this bores him now or if he just thinks now is the right time to do it, but he’s no longer dancing around the ring and throwing jabs just for the fun of it.
This guy wants to drop King “like a bad habit.”
If I were on the Ibrox board (God forbid) I would be looking to end this without further humiliation. King has brought that club to a place they might not come back from; it is the responsibility of those in his corner to throw that towel in and stop the pain.
Hell mend them if they make Ashley try to go the distance.