Despite extensive advertising all week on Rupert Murdoch’s channels, some masquerading as documentary type programmes, not to mention pages of free ads in his daily newspapers, I have not been persuaded to part with even more money to watch tonight’s Big Fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury. Murdoch has the brassiest of brass necks as it is, making a separate charge for one-off events, given the extortionate cost of his subscriptions and I decided long ago I would not get shafted still more.
In any event, this fight is more about hype than substance. Fury is little known in this country, what with almost all boxing confined to satellite and cable TV, but then neither is Klitshcko. Those who are familiar with Fury know a man with a sometimes highly unpleasant tongue – he once compared homosexuality to paedophilia, for example – and a raucous line in trash talk. Klitschko is the giant Ukrainian who has turned boxing from an art form into a highly effective snooze-fest, with his tedious defence-first, lumbering but highly effective “style” and he’s been world champion for years. Unless you are intimately bound up with the sport of boxing, there will be very little incentive to shell out the price of a good meal and a glass of wine to see what will be, I suspect, given my limited knowledge of boxing, a one-sided beating for the gobby Mancunian, probably the first time Klitschko lands a decent blow.
Murdoch’s Sky cannot be criticised just for removing the noble art from our screens. The BBC gave up on boxing in the dim and distant past, but for a brief dalliance with the less than stellar career of Audley “A Farce” Harrison, and there is never boxing on ITV, as there was in the glory days of Benn, Eubank and Watson. The halls are still packed with 30-something men in sharp suits, but the rest of the country does and watches something else.
Even moderately talented boxers of the past gained huge followings thanks to appearing on terrestrial telly. The limited but well managed Frank Bruno is known and loved to this day because of his appearances of network TV whereas, for example, Joe Calzaghe waltzed unbeaten into retirement with barely anyone other than boxing fans knowing who he was and what he looked like. The prancing, preening Chris Eubank, thanks not least in part for his elaborate and relentless self-publicity, remains a star to this day.
This scenario is not confined just to boxing. Superstars from other sports like Joe Root from cricket and stars from most top rugby clubs, Union and League, are revered by their fans but bathe in near obscurity when it comes to the general public.
Klitschko v Fury does sound like a decent fight, at least on paper and thanks to the hype. The robotic, dreary Klitschko and the wild, trash-talking Brit does have a limited sense of showdown about it but it’s just another fight for some and many others will not have the first idea that the fight is even taking place.
Despite Fury’s occasional crass language, he often comes across as an intelligent man with lots to say but if he’s tucked away on pay-per-view and the absence of a national shared experience, he’s a no one to the public and win, lose or draw he will remain an unknown. But he’ll lose and lose badly. I’ll be amazed if the fight lasts two rounds.