Mixed Message Arts

I got to watch the biggest boxing bout this century.

The first for the 'undisputed' World Heavyweight crown since '99.

Gypsy King against The Cat.

And quite the fight it was.

First two rounds to the nippy Ukrainian. Then a row of four, maybe five, to the giant Englishman.

From then on in though, the winner was clear. Not just to the casual observer like me, but all informed opinion. Including, critically, two of the three judges.

That makes it sound close. And to a degree, it was.

But in the moment and on reflection, it was going only one way from halfway.

Not only down to some alleged dark arts with "illegal' inhaler after R7 in the Usyk corner?

Hearing the ringside effects mic blaring from the speakers in-between those middle rounds, a key reason for that turnaround emerged.

Tyson Fury heard three voices when sat in his corner. Oleksandr Usyk seemed to have just one.

In other situations this may have been irrelevant. Or even, better the other way 'round.

Yet here, the difference was audible, and telling.

You needn't understand the Russian spoken to note Usyk was receiving focused, succinct and consistent instruction. Da.

Unlike the chaos engulfing Fury's ears. His two coaches providing one source of tactical advice. His father, no less, drowning them out with what sounded like the opposite. Which to pro observers, was perhaps misleading too.

Seldom a recipe for success.

And so it ultimately proved.

Whatever the main cause of defeat, and lest we suffer the overdetermination trap of elevating a single factor beyond its due prominence, what was undeniable is that when Fury had taken control of his opponent, rather than then ram home his advantage, he surrendered the initiative.

With the inescapable turning point being when given jelly legs in Round 9. Downhill from there. And seemingly set in train by the confusion from his seconds. No-one can both stay back and go forward at the same time. Which is the impossible essence of the two approaches simultaneously yelled at him.

Mixed messages had let this happen.

As is so often said, it doesn't matter how you do something, as long as you commit to doing it in a particular manner.

The beaten man didn't really get the chance to fight fair and square. Too different a pair of paths as he was given.

After edging the first half, and looking strong, the second half ebbed away.

In no small part because being told to follow two incompatible, opposing things at once. Yes, he could have ignored one. Given his boxing acumen, chosen the path for himself. But no, the screaming got louder. And so the once undefeated champion lost.

Let's not let our selling be similarly undermined.

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