For today's fight we wish we got we're not looking at world class fighters for once, but we are looking at a bout we desperately wanted, not due to the talent of the men, but due to the styles of them. In fact this was one of the bouts we clamoured for for yeas, but sadly, never got. It was the #1 present request on our Christmas list, and something we were willing to trade in exchange for birthday and Christmas gifts but still, the boxing gods denied us! Damn them!
Rex Tso Vs Jamie Conlan
For the first time in this series we look outside of Asia for one of the fighters involved as we pit Hong Kong star Rex Tso against Jamie Conlan in a bout we were desperately wanting back in the 2010's. This bout, for us, had all the ingredients for a FOTY contender and would, had it gone ahead, been one for the ages with two styles that gelled perfectly, two solid local fan bases, and cult international followings for both men. This was a bout that would have had two B level guys tearing down the house in what would have been an incredible, memorable, sensational war. On paper it was also an easy one to make, and the two men had long enough overlap in careers to have given us the bout at various times.
Unlike some bouts in this series the time window for this one spans years. It could have taken place from around 2013 right through to 2018. The earliest possible would have been 2013 when Bob Arum was taking the Zou Shiming express over in Macau, with Tso often appearing on those shows, to 2018 when both men seemingly walked away from professional boxing. To be fair both men had taken a lot of punishment by then, having been involved in numerous FOTY but had they fought in a 2018 retirement bout we'd have no complained.
Although the window for the bout is large, though bout would have made most sense in 2015, 2016 or 2017, when both were world ranked contenders at Super Flyweight and when both were were very much cult stars. Maybe early 2017 would have been the ideal time, after Conlan's 2016 war with Anthony Nelson and after Tso's battle with Ryuto Maekawa, but the window was huge for the two men to fight.
There hasn't been many fighters form Hong Kong worth talking about, but the one that was worthy of attention was Rex Tso, an all action fighter dubbed the "Wonder Kid". Tso was one of the very few faces of Hong Kong sport and seemed to realise, relatively quickly, that he was the nation's boxing hero. He was a likeable, friendly, personable man outside of the ring, but when inside the ring he was an all action punching machine. Technically he could box, and we did see him boxing at times, but it was never hard to make Tso becoming a fighter, and draw the warrior out of him. It was that warrior spirit and mentality that quickly made Tso into a star at home and a cult hero among hardcore fight fans.
Tso's career was short, with just 22 bouts, but from those he was involved in a string of instant classics. His bouts with Mako Matsuyama, Michael Enriquez, Ryuto Maekawa, Hirofumi Mukai and Kohei Kono were action packed and drama filled bouts that are all worthy of a re-watch any time you question your love of the sport. Sadly though those wars took their toll and he fell out with the head of DEF HK, his promoter, and decided to fight as an amateur after damage to his eyes forced a long break from the ring.
Whilst Hong Kong is an obscure place for boxing Northern Ireland isn't and that's exactly where Jamie Conlan is from. Despite his roots he was dubbed "The Mexican" due to his style, heart and determination. There was a lot of limitations with Conlan in the ring, as there was with Tso, but there was no doubting the love and good will Conlan had for his thrilling battles. He was very much a fighter who came to put on a show and give fans value for money. He was certainly a less skilled fighter than his brother, Michael Conlan, but in many ways he connected with the fans better than his brother due to his easy to watch bouts and the drama they often had.
Sadly Conlan's career was even short than Tso's, fighting just 20 times, but he helped give British fans some of the best bouts in recent memory. His win over Anthony Nelson was something special, his war with Yader Cardoza was spectacular and his guts against Junior Granados helped him eek out a win. Sadly his determination and heart weren't enough at world level and he was dominated by Jerwin Ancajas in an IBF world title fight in 2017, before retiring.
How would we see it playing out?
We're going to start this by admitting we have no idea who we would have favoured here. Both of these men had almost identical flaws. They were defensively limited, fought with their hearts on their sleeve, and had to grit out some tough moments, even when they took home wins. They made easy bouts hard, and made hard bouts even harder. On paper Tso would probably be the slight favourite, but it would be a 55-45 type of thing in his favour.
Although we could say picking a winner here would be hard the reality is that we, the fans, would be the winner. This would start with both men boxing, for a round or two, before the pace picked up, and from there on we'd be getting a war. Both men would be trying to out last the other in a high tempo brawl of insane proportions. CompuBox operators, if they were working the fight, would give up at the intense exchanges, and we would see a fight fit for a phone booth.
Sadly, given the limitations and determination of both men, they would both be taking a lot of punishment and it may well hasten their retirements, though they would sure give the fans something to remember them by!
Would history of been changed?
In reality this would have been little more than a blip on the wider boxing world. The winner would likely have been offered a world title fight, but we can't imagine either man coming out on top at that level. We saw Conlan being undessed by Ancajas and Tso struggled past a well beyond his prime Kohei Kono, and we suspect any world champion from the time would have done a number on either man. But in many ways we don't think that would have harmed their reputations.
Neither of these men are ever going to go down in any "all time great boxers" list, but both will go down as some of the best warriors and most exciting fighters of their era. In many ways the memories they gave us in the ring is their legacy, it is their history. They will be better remembered than many better and more successful fighters. Had they fought it would have given us another memory of both, but that's pretty much a bout in isolation, rather than a bigger picture thing.
As we write this it is worth noting that Conlan is still involved in the sport as part of MTK Global whilst Tso has seemingly still got eyes on the Olympics, though an appearance in Tokyo does look very unlikely.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces