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A truly memorable night of live televised British boxing

Yesterday I went to bed at 6.30pm, awoke again at 8.15pm, and decided to come downstairs and watch some television. Let me explain that: I’d been up since 1.00am and had not found the opportunity to have my usual late morning or early afternoon nap – how I managed to stay awake until after 6.00pm, I have no idea – but I do know it took a lot of effort on top of a strong sense of duty.

Faced with little choice – it was basically The Queen’s Birthday Party on BBC1, Live Snooker on BBC2, Britain’s Got Talent on ITV and Britain’s Most Historic Towns on Channel 4 … or sport – I eventually opted for The Queen’s Birthday Party and sport.

The former was one of those gala events that somebody, somewhere in a classic  W1A mockumentary scene, decides would be a good idea … then somebody at the BBC later respectfully puts it to the PR department at Buckingham Palace … who later respectfully puts it to whomever puts things respectfully to HRH Queen Elizabeth II … and later ‘The Firm’ reluctantly decides that – for the good of The Firm – they suppose they really ought to pander to public demand if they must and sit through another dreadful evening of grovelling sycophantic ‘artistes’ paying their respects by warbling a series of ditties that the Queen might (or might not) have heard of in front of the cameras – and on a set and light rig at the Royal Albert Hall that must have cost every viewer about 10% of their annual BBC licence fee.

The result? Yes, you’ve guessed it – car-crash television of a rare and compelling nature!

They say every fairy princess has to kiss a lot of frogs and, if I’m not mixing my transgenders or indeed metaphors, every septuagenarian who has ever unexpectedly ‘come to’ outside his or her natural waking hours has to watch a lot of television rubbish to view anything that broadens their mind or (more importantly) makes them laugh.

It didn’t take me too long to appreciate via dexterous use of the TV/Sky box zapper that there was ‘live’ coverage simultaneously also available on Sky Sports and BT Sport 1 (HD) of two different British boxing promotions – featuring returns to the ring by (respectively) Amir Khan, the former Olympic silver medallist and subsequently a world title-winning light-welterweight but left with an ultimately disappointing professional career (mainly to his own ill-discipline, personal life bad habits and a worrying inability to take a punch) and Northern Ireland’s featherweight Carl Frampton who is still at the top table despite being inactive for the past six months.

And thus I spent the next three hours switching back and forth between said Royal Gala and the boxing.

How best to put this?

When you’ve begun with an improbably-ridiculous concept (i.e. presenting to Her Majesty representative music from all eight decades of her life beyond babyhood) you’re pushing a very large boulder indeed up a very large hill.

Partly because – as any old age pensioner like me could have told the BBC – human beings tend to find greatest solace and joy in the music of their youth. And when you were 92 yesterday, as was The Queen, that means two things: (1) anything post-1960 will be very much either an acquired taste or of no interest at all; and (2) all the artistes who created and/or performed the stuff you really like will be dead.

The above in itself always presents a thorny problem for the BBC, the bulk of whose audience for this sort of event will have had little no knowledge or interest in anything before 1980 and will only ‘stay with it’ if they get to see some artistes they recognise and/or like.

Hence one gets exposed to cheese-fests like superannuated 1980-onwards ‘stars’ such as Shaggy and Sting – introduced excruciatingly by compere Zoe Ball with the quip “I like to think of them together as ‘Shing’ …” [and yes, someone actually writes this stuff for her!] – chugging gently through a middle-of-the-road, cod-reggae, version of Don’t Make Me Wait.

Poor old Shaggy embarrassed himself, as I knew he would, doing his desperate best to try and get the ‘well-moneyed Establishment middle class’ near-comatose Albert Hall audience to wave their hands from side to side and/or clap in unison … all to no avail.

That was followed by Tom Jones and Ladysmith Black Mambazo staggering through a treacly version of Green Green Grass Of Home as if treading on eggshells … Alfie Boe murdering two 1930s/1940s Big Band staples [one of the few items on the bill that HRH might just have been looking forward to] … and finally of all things – get this! – Frank Skinner, Harry Hill and Ed Balls leading a thirty-man-and-woman backing band through a ukulele-driven, full orchestra, version of George Formby’s When I’m Cleaning Winders.

I hadn’t enjoyed a television show so much in thirty years.

Some time later, still giggling at what I’d witnessed, I caught the Amir Khan/Phil Lo Greco bout on Sky Sports complete with a beside-the-ring preview build-up featuring Johnny Nelson and Kell Brook and … (one cannot but help respond with rising tension and anticipation in one’s veins) the full walk-from-the-dressing-room entrance to the Liverpool Echo Arena of the fighters complete with the obligatory celebrity US ring announcer.

Did the 31 year-old Khan, who apparently proved himself terrified of creepy-crawlies and eating kangaroo testicles on the recent Get Me Out Of Here, I’m A Celebrity reality show, still have what it takes – let’s leave aside consideration as to whether he ever did – to go in with the big boys after two years out of the ring following his horrendous kayo at the sledgehammer hands of the now drug-disgraced Canelo Álvarez?

Deear reader, after last night’s effort I’m afraid this juror’s verdict is still out. The fight was all over in 39 seconds with the referee stepping in to save Lo Greco from further punishment after Khan had him going with his very-first two punches …

[I missed the climax of the Carl Frampton fight because I had correctly figured it would go all twelve rounds so went to bed to listen to it on the radio … and fell asleep about round seven.]

About J S Bird

A retired academic, Jeremy will contribute article on subjects that attract his interest. More Posts