Near the end of Ropeburns, author and narrator, Ian Probert, bumps into Rob Douglas. If you’re like me you’ll not have a clue who Rob Douglas is. You’d know who Rab Douglas is – the ex-Celtic goalie that kept making a hash of it in the biggest matches of the season, most notably against Rangers. Football always finds a new way to smack you in the mouth, and I’m biased that way. Think Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch and you’ll get something of the taste of Ropeburns, but the latter outclasses the former in every way. It’s a straight knockout in the early rounds.
I’ve nothing against Nick Hornby, I’m sure he’s a great bloke. But Fever Pitch is kind of wanky. A middle-class kinda bloke, (think Hugh Grant or John Cussack and make them bald) a school teacher, follows his great love for Arsenal to its natural conclusion and they win the league and he gets the girl and some mega-book deal that puts him at the top of the tree and he gets to write screenplays because – just fuck off.
Rod Douglas the former British middle-weight title holder would soon give that short shrift. Like me, I’m sure he’d be more interested in the Rocky road to redemption of living in squats, flinging tellys through the window and pissing your life away before it’s begun. Then that magical moment when Ian does something right, he writes a feature for Boxing News and it gets printed. He gets £50, but more than that. A snowball’s chance for life change and it gains momentum. Ian hooks up with budding world champion Michael Watson at his local gym and he gets lucky. They both get lucky. Watson knocks out Nigel Benn and he’s on the way up. Ian Probert is pulled with him into the orbit of boxing and boxers and the bullshit that makes the news. He should know, he worked as a sport’s writer and agent. He made the connection, then lost them. So when Ian Probert sits down in a café with a middle-aged Rod Douglas and tells him ‘that he is writing a boxing book that is not about boxing’ you’ve got to believe in him. Knock out.