“I was sitting in the chair in my nans front room. It was a Saturday night stopover on a night,buried somewhere in my memory from the 1970’s. A broadcast from when live boxing fights were broadcast on main television channels,and many years before they were snapped up by money hungry sports channels and later PPV..

Muhammad Ali was fighting Leon Spinks in what turned out to be a maximum round bloated affair, with little but two men ducking, weaving and trying to knock each other down. That’s how I remember it ! Ali was the winner but after much deliberation and infused with knowledge some many years later. Ali had won but as a shadow of his former self. It was a pinnacle moment for me though. It was the last fight, the great Muhammad Ali would ever make and looking back, had this been a brutal and viciously intense match and a spectator extravaganza to be talked about for many years later. I don’t think I would ever have liked or watched boxing again!

You see, whilst I sat there and watched these two men sizing each other up and jabbing, moving throwing shots. Something fascinated me about the tactical aspect of it all and that click moment would later install something that remains with me, right up this present day, through many years of watching all the great fighters, great fights. To forge and make me a fan through the many years of televised media and especially here, the boxing titles of video gaming history. I’ve seen and played a great deal ..Ali, Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis, Hearns, Leonard, Duran, Hagler and watched champions being made from my side of the pond.. Minter, Mcguigan, Bruno, Eubank, Benn and present day, Joshua and Fury. 

When it came to video gaming, I remember intently playing Barry McGuigans Boxing on the humble Spectrum 48K. It was an era when consoles were far from the technology and power needed to successfully recreate the graphical prowess needed for contact sports and football titles of modern day FIFA standards. If you were really a sports purist, eagerly seeking realism and full coverage of a sport expertly simulated. Then it was down to the releases and sometimes massively successful entries of Kevin Toms Football Manager,Football Director, and later Championship Manager. These graphically minimal and heavily text managed games gave fans what they wanted and needed, by encouraging players to start from the bottom roots and manage players, teams, finances and more importantly play out matches with many tactical styles and options given to you.

It was no different on the boxing front. By the time the Commodore 64 had arrived and seriously contended the Spectrum, with better capabilities and full on colour graphics. One particular title stood out for me, and became a personal and many an hours played favourite.. World Championship Boxing Manager !

The odd static graphical cutscene aside, this title totally fulfilled what other boxing titles couldn’t do. Give players a simulation of the highs and lows of the boxing ring and the boxing business. Manage a gym, hire fighters, train, arrange fights and manage finances, but actually manage in fight tactics and apply strategies, win, win again and become the best gym with the ultimate goal to have a financially successful stable of world champion fighters!

Back to present day, and it’s been a while since the last fight night, fight night champions hit our consoles. When it comes to handhelds and especially mobile formats.We’ve been pretty well stuck with a choice of Real boxing and a good handful of boxing titles that really failed to hit the mark or to ring any kind of bell to mention. 

And yet, there seems to be good things on the horizon to come. EA sports having turned its back on boxing to concentrate on the UFC brand and producing a number of solid titles over the last few years, just may be ready to resurrect a new boxing title after all! Just what that will mean, particularly for Switch owners, we will have to wait and see, but with the recent release of PGA Tour 2021, there’s a chance for boxing fanatics to possibly get a visual and hands on boxing experience on the go, with a little luck and fingers firmly crossed.

The text only tactical management simulation genre has always been most suited to mobile over the last few years. Its suitability for short bursts of gameplay and optimum save game capabilities, meant players could just jump in and out of a game at whatever time and whenever they pleased, and without rooted at a console.

Right here,I’m currently playing Leather (iOS/Android) . A boxing manager text heavy affair, that aims to replicate the highs and lows of running your own gym and managing your own stable of boxers, as you attempt to climb the ranks of weight divisions, earning your gym money and more importantly, reputation. Reputation getting you noticed by the bigger gyms, that lead to bigger fights and a bigger purse!

What’s noticeably apparent from the very start.Is that this game is fully customisable from the word go. You get to name your gym, and then set your starting funds. The business minded players out there, could run with the games default setting at £250,000 or you could set it at much higher amounts,if you’re really the kind that wants to focus on the training and fight aspect more. As losing all your money, loses your boxers and you find you’re having to continue and struggle on a very low purse and getting fighters to join your gym.

Then, it’s down to selecting your fighters from an impressive amount of weight classes from the very light Strawweight division up to the Heavyweights. Each class boasts rankings from generally, the top 50, with fighters at freelance and up for recruitment, usually at the bottom of the list. 

Selecting a fighter, comes with the screen showing age, fighting style and an impressive block of stats from flexibility, mentality, dexterity and fighting attributes such as hand speed, jab, cross, uppercut rated from 0-100 %

Once you’ve established which fighter you’d like to pick.You’re then in a position to make an offer and taken to  a negotiation screen that shows your years in contract, signing fee, and the boxers cut of earnings for each fight. 

If you’re a negotiator, you can offer less that’s being asked and get a better deal. Fighters may cave in and accept your reduced offer or in the following weeks, may refuse and look somewhere else !

Generally, you’ll get your man and establish a list of boxers in your stable and then, you may want to recruit the staff required to coach and train them. Once again, you will be taken to a screen to negotiate deals with coaches, physiotherapists, and nutritionists. These guys have expertise in certain areas of training and the more experienced and older they are, the better the results but at a price of hiring !

Once you’ve established your staff and stable of fighters, you advance the weeks and study the weight rankings and issue a fight deal from your relative fighter. Offers are generally accessible at fighters ranked just above or below you but as you gain victories and success, offers can come in from more experienced and higher ranking opponents, or a lower ranked fighter wishing to try their luck !

An agreement allocated that fight for a fixed date in the calendar, and its then that training starts in the run up to the big night ..

Training is initiated on a screen of boxing exercises that can be selected and used to improve certain stats like strength, power, jab, speed and are generally fixed. What is also available though, is the ability to set a more personal and detailed training program from your boxers profile screen. This gives you a list of attributes and styles that can be moved up a list in order of priority and can allow greater flexibility and focus on a particular area. Want your boxer to improve his jab ? Then move it from 20th in the list to the top 5. Want to be quicker and stronger ? Then move strength and hand speed into your top ten priorities. It adds a great amount of flexibility and depth in your run up before a fight.

The fight itself is presented on the games only graphic screen. Before it appears, you’re given the fight rules like set rounds, knockdown rules and the referee character (for example, he may not be so strict on injuries occurring) from the games large list of referees of varying characteristics and behaviours.

Then, we are in to the fight itself and the screen comes complete with statistics like punches thrown/landed on the left. A text description/commentary of the fight itself at the bottom of the screen and the ring graphic on the right. 

Before the bell sounds and in between each round. Players have the opportunity to access the boxers fight plan. A highly detailed and extensive plan that will allow you to adjust and change how your fighter approaches each round and the style and tactics used.

You may want to weigh up your opponent in the first few rounds and keep mentality set at neutral. You may want to come out guns blazing and throw plenty of headshots, so you choose head on targeting. Or you may want to keep your distance and set your stance on fighting from the outside. Everything from how you position and how you move and fight is here, and fully customisable between rounds.

The bell sounds and the crowd cheers and the players are greeted with commentary, increasing stats, and a graphic of the fighters movement in the ring. As the fight progresses you are constantly studying every aspect from your fighters energy and stamina, injuries, punch rate and success, whilst reading the text and monitoring their ring position at the same time. It’s like pieces of a jigsaw and those pieces creating a larger boxing picture. Followed by the constant between round tactics of adjusting your fight plan and altering your style and approach to outwit and beat your opponent!

The victories are sweet and the defeats are painful. As you advance each week, climbing the rankings and earning more money and facing harder opponents. Training on areas you wish to improve and applying strategies against your next adversary. 

My gameplay experience so far, is one of fulfillment and being pretty impressed by the games overall ability to recreate a full on and deeply complexed boxing simulation. I came up with a game plan of picking outside boxers who had good jabs and decent footwork and hand speed and then picked opponents whose style was coming forward, like big punches and sluggers. It mostly worked as fights were played out and my boxer was keeping away and scoring points with the jab. I despaired at my bad choices as I was eventually caught in a corner and lost to an opponents sudden change of strategy and releasing combinations that crushed me and sent me to defeat.

Whilst it doesn’t set out to impress on any part as regards the graphical front. It’s text based strategy and deep mechanics play out amazingly well and produce a richly engaging and positively addictive experience.

There’s not many downsides either. Players will be buying this game having played previous management titles and know what to expect as regards the pace and the overall presentation. The “continue game”button is constantly being pressed to advance weeks and you’ll be using it a lot to the point of it grating and getting tedious for some. Luckily there’s options to break that somewhat. You can go to the options screen and be notified of fights and results as they happen. Whether it includes your boxers or not, and that least serves to break things up a little and break any monotony. 

This also applies to the fight screen, where the default speed can possibly drag things a little bit too slow.So again, there’s the options to speed up or slow at a pace to suit.

Thanks to Games for Studio Industries for the code.

Leather is the boxing management game that likes to pull punches from the corner of a market that’s not for everyone. Boxing fans like the visual aspect and interaction of titles like Fight Night, Punch Out, Real Boxing but even if EA succeeds in giving us a new title one day to appease the fan demand and give us a top quality title, Leather still stands out as a perfect companion to take a deep boxing experience on the go, and at a great price and great value as well!
  • Boxing management at its best
  • Plenty of tactical options
  • Surprisingly strong at its core gameplay
  • Great boxing companion on the go
  • Lots of reasons to return
  • You’ll “continue game”a lot
Presentation - 8
Realism - 9.5
Accuracy to the sport - 9.3
Replayability - 9.4
Value - 9.9
Written by
Spent over 40 years gaming and played plenty of titles over plenty of platforms. Handheld consoles seemed a natural progression with their portability and ease of use, and with technology forever advancing. It’s now great to play titles I used to play all those years ago…on the go! Switch and Vita are my two main favourites and any title with dark themes ..RPGs, first person or rogue-like my main interest…

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