On the Rust we often nostalgically praise the sporting commentators of the seventies. In boxing we had Harry Carpenter – not perhaps up there with Peter ‘O’Sullivan, Bill MacLaren and John Arlott – he famously called Bugner v Cooper and Ali v Frazier wrong in the same week. I would like to sing the praises of a boxing commentator who would be little known and less remembered here but was an institution in the States, Howard Cosell.
A failed lawyer who wore a toupee that made Donald Trump’s hair look natural he was America’s premier sports presenter in the 70s. In 1978 when working for boxing mag Round One, I and cub reporter Chris Seale Hayes who later made a fortune selling his boxing website aroundandabout.com at the height of the dot.com boom, were sent to New York to cover the background of the fight that actually took place in New Orleans between Ali and Leo Spinks. Making up the team was the legendary Argentine football player and pug Angelo Rudinho who was midfield generalissimo of the equally legendary Assassins FC de Montevideo. He later switched to boxing. Famously he pinned Carlos Monzon to the wall at a party accusing him of making advances to his beloved little wife Rita. Monzon never fought Rudinho in the ring though he beat all the other greats of that era – Nino Benvenuti, Dick Tiger and Emile Griffith.
The Great Rudinho had demolished most of the two bottles of Malbec Gran Riserva he ordered at our meal at a steak house prior the fight and had some difficulty in staying awake. Chris and I settled down to the televised fight. The commentator was Howard Cosell. The fight was going Ali’s way and Spinks would have to do something to avoid losing on points. In the 14th round they went toe to toe. Cue Cosell. His commentary abandoned the match as he recalled the words of another “great American, the poet and songwriter Bob Dylan ” and slowly recited the words of his song “Forever Young “set out here: FOREVER YOUNG
Chris and I were hysterical with laughter and 37 years on I still am. It was not unlike Brian Johnston’s giggling fit inasmuch as it might be regarded as unprofessional but my God how we laughed. We will never see the likes of Howard Cosell again.