Boxing: Vegas fights rescue 'Judgement night'

From mid-evening in Manchester to Vegas via satellite at dawn. cwas there
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The Independent Online
Six World title fights in 10 hours of television coverage comprised Sky Sports' best boxing bill, dubbed "Judgement Night".

Frank Warren's Manchester promotion ran from eight until midnight on "free" TV and then it was over to Las Vegas for six more hours and Sky's second venture into pay-per-view in Britain.

If rounds 11 and 12 are boxing's "championship" rounds, then the Sky Box Office broadcast took place in the "championship hours", when even the biggest anorak struggles to stay awake - and matters were helped none by disappointing outcomes to the three World Boxing Organisation title fights in Manchester.

By 8.45, with the first featured bout half over, the British light-middleweight champion, Ensley Bingham, clearly was out of his depth against Florida champion, Ronald "Winky" Wright, who won a one-sided decision after 12 uneventful rounds. Not long after 9.30, Naseem Hamed disposed of featherweight title challenger Remigio Molina inside six minutes - exciting but over too quickly. And by 11.30 Nigel Benn's second consecutive retirement loss to the super-middleweight champion, Steve Collins, had left the crowd at the Nynex Arena chanting "What a load of rubbish". Anyone for more?

But early in Part Two, for which Sky charged pounds 9.95 (or pounds 14.95 for late buyers) to receive, there came an omen suggesting the American part of "Judgement Night" would deliver the fireworks lacking from the British section. Where Collins had become involved in a verbal disagreement with Benn Camp at the Manchester weigh-in, Teddy Atlas, the volatile trainer of International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion Michael Moorer, featured in an ugly brawl at the Las Vegas counterpart - all captured by Sky's cameras. The Americans, it seemed, were for real.

The PPV shows extensive and well-produced video profiles, coupled with big-name interviews. Commentary came from the underemployed ITV team, Reg Gutteridge and Jim Watt, and the first action, at around 1am, saw highlights of a rather dull encounter featuring the British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion, Scott Welch. But things started promisingly enough to lift flagging spirits after the disappointments of Part One.

Christy Martin, the world's premier female fighter, featured in an uneven contest that inspired some embarrassingly chauvinistic debate in the studio.

Between 2.30 and 4.30am, kip-catalysts Henry Akinwande and Moorer, respectively the WBO and IBF champions, would defend their titles and both had reputations for dullness. But, thankfully, both excelled, even excited in halting the respective challenges of Alexander Zolkin and Francois Botha.

"Finally", at around 5am, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield took to the ring in Las Vegas with British viewers in decent shape. And by the time it was all over, as dawn began to break, thoughts of sleep had given way to the sense of wonderment that only a major boxing upset can engender. "Tell me that wasn't worth a tenner," Keys said. Nobody did.

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