Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Plenty of delights away from rugby

Steven Adams has been a star for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo / AP
Steven Adams has been a star for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Photo / AP

These are the musings of a floating sports voter in a wonderful time for those of us who can't be bothered sticking with one sport or team. New Kiwi stars are doing amazing things on the world stage, so count me in.

A gift for being flaky emerged early in life. The 1970s began with a devotion to Leeds United, in football's English first division. Leeds were second to Liverpool, but when it came to aggro Leeds were first.

Yet by the end of the 1970s it was already time to move on to the very different style of Tottenham Hotspur, inspired by their elegantly creative midfielder Glenn Hoddle. The next bit is very hard to explain, but I was even an Arsenal supporter for a while. I have devotedly supported Leeds, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Manchester United, Arsenal (very briefly) and Leicester.

Anyway, moving on, again...rugby used to be the first love but now I can't stand most of it because of the Super Rugby world domination nonsense - New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew's full-speed-ahead statement was the final straw.

Bon voyage Steve, have a great trip around the globe, but count me out. There are plenty of old-but-new delights to fill the void.

BOXING

A huge part of my sports-mad childhood in the 1970s, the greatest boxing era thanks to a clutch of unique heavyweight characters. Unfortunately, the brain's reward system got hooked on heavyweights at the expense of other very interesting divisions so I subsequently flicked in and out of the fight game, more out than in.

Mike Tyson's trail of destruction and David Tua's strange odyssey were the main attractions apart from watching re-runs of Raging Bull and reading brilliant stories such as a standout on the late punching bag Jerry Quarry. American sports writing at its best is the best, with boxing the most glorious canvas.

Hallelujah. The fight game calls again because there is someone special to follow - Joseph Parker. While Parker is in the ring, I'll be ringside. He has been smartly managed by Duco and Kevin Barry, but the first real judgement night is Saturday in a world title eliminator against Cameroon-Frenchman Carlos Takam. This is a very big moment in New Zealand sport. It is also truly wonderful that this event is being staged in south Auckland, a wonderful place well beyond the cliched coverage it often gets.

A decidedly pensive looking Barry was in our offices and told me the TAB odds of $1.20 for Parker, with Takam at $4.20, were ridiculous. This is a 50-50 deal. Many ranking systems - including the reliable Ring Magazine - have Parker and Takam closely ranked about 10 in the world. A number have the experienced Takam above Parker. Barry kept Parker away from Takam's approaches last year, but the eliminator bait meant it was time to step forward.

Boxing talk is back in. Parker needs to keep his distance. If Takam gets mid-range, Parker will be in trouble. This isn't a step up for Parker, it's a mighty leap which could end in a fall.

People love to bag boxing for being dodgy...like Super Rugby isn't dodgy? Here's the tip: Win or lose this fight, Joseph Parker is the real deal. I have met Parker once, and on that would say he is a humble, genuine and very likable young man. Good luck Joseph, the country is behind you.

BASKETBALL

When Michael Jordan ruled the court, I could name the entire Chicago Bulls starting lineup. Yes, all five of them. True. But when Michael went to play baseball, I checked out as well. And when MJ checked back in, I checked back in. And when he quit playing, I quit watching.

Nobody has ever held my attention like Number 23, even though I'd have trouble distinguishing a basketball tactic from a cheeseburger. Until this week, I hadn't watched a full basketball game since Michael retired although there have been many fascinating books, feature stories and documentary films to savour.

But count me in courtside again, thanks to Steven Adams. The Rotorua Ruffian is amazing. His story is amazing. His look is amazing. Basketball is amazing. The opening game of the NBA Western conference finals was bloody amazing. Steven Adams is a breath of fresh air and he's going to be around for a long time.

The thing about basketball is that you can have a great time by skipping a match until the final 12.3 seconds. But when it came to the Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors, I watched the entire thing (almost, give or take 42.7 seconds or so).

WOMEN'S GOLF

Look, to be honest, my only previous glimpse into women's golf was limited to the many times when my tee shot failed to get past their tee box. Lydia Ko has changed all of that. Her ability to deliver time and time again under pressure is fantastic. She has a quirky humour and an inspiring attitude to life, someone whose fanatical dedication doesn't seem to have screwed with her mind. She's got a healthy perspective on life.

Women's golf is not a wholehearted thing for me - it's very Lydia-centric. If Lydia Ko is on TV then whacko - try taking the remote at your peril. When Lydia retires, I'll retire from watching women's golf. But there are a many good in her yet, and records to be set.

(So, we have the world's best women's golfer, a basketballer who could soon be a massive presence in the NBA finals, and a classy boxer who is oh-so-close to fighting for one of the world heavyweight titles. This is floating voter heaven.)

- NZ Herald

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