Mark Watson was one of the contributing factors in me starting this blog. He is quite outspoken on the radio, particularly harsh on New Zealand cricketers. I listen to his show, and used to get quite upset at the things he said. As a result I started researching statistics to challenge him on.
The first time was to do with Kyle Mills, whom he said wouldn't make any other team in the world. At the time Mills had almost identical career figures to Waqar Younis. So I rang Watson and spoke to him about it. To his credit he admitted that he was unaware that Mills had such a good record, but then (in typical Watson fashion) he then went on to say that Mills had obviously been very lucky, and if he actually had the work ethic of a triathlete he would have an even better record.
The next time I challenged him was when he was calling for the New Zealand selector to be sacked after moving Brendon McCullum up to opening the batting in ODI's. Again I rang him and pointed out that after they started picking him there regularly he had scored 644 runs in 14 matches, averaging 56 at a strike rate of 109. At this point he changed from criticizing the selectors for picking him as an opener to criticizing McCullum for not scoring converting his 50's to 100's.
And yet I know Watson outside of cricket, and I actually quite like him. When he isn't talking cricket. He has strong opinions, and plays the villain well. However, the cricket fan in me was really hoping for him to get knocked out.
There were three reasons for this.
1. Watson has constantly bagged Ryder for his weight, but I think that Ryder isn't in as bad condition as people think.
He has always moved well in the field, and is surprisingly quick between wickets. As a former triathlete, Watson thinks that to be fit you need to look like a triathlete, (where they need to carry less weight in order to be able to run/cycle long distances) but carrying weight isn't a major disadvantage in cricket, and as a result the size of a player is not such a good indication of his fitness.
2. Boxing training seems to be a good idea for batsmen
The essentials of boxing are moving your feet, avoiding danger and attacking a target. These are quite similar to the skills required when batting. When Ryder first came back from his first try at boxing he looked a much better player for it. He started moving his feet again, and hit 50 against South Africa, before off-field issues sidelined him again.
3. I like boxing ending with a knock-out.
While we complain about DRS decisions, Asoka de Silva giving out everything that touches the pad, Australian umpires not giving out Australia batsmen, at least we have some positive decisions to compare the bad ones to. Boxing has never been an easy sport to judge, but even given this it has a poor record of terrible decisions.
Given this, I was quite pleased when I got up early in Jamaica and watched the fight. I was happy that Ryder won. Happy that it was a TKO, and happy that Watson didn't get hurt too badly.
Ryder showed what I expected him to, good footwork, good timing, good strength and (better than I expected) hand speed which was good enough to rival professional boxers.
He actually showed enough to suggest that he might be capable of fighting someone with skills that are a better fit to boxing than triathlon. The thought of Ryder vs Sonny Bill Williams is one that all New Zealand sports fans would relish, as would a large number of Australia fans.
If you want to watch the fight, try this link.