A 'historic' fight turns into fiasco

Boxing's first world title bout live on the Internet was like watching TV in a car wash.

"This", said a voice from cyberspace, heavy with self-importance, "is a maiden voyage into history. One hundred years from now people will look back and reminisce in the same way as they do about the first radio broadcast of boxing, or the first televised bout. But this isn't the radio or television, this is the Internet, and this is fight night, baby."

"This", said a voice from cyberspace, heavy with self-importance, "is a maiden voyage into history. One hundred years from now people will look back and reminisce in the same way as they do about the first radio broadcast of boxing, or the first televised bout. But this isn't the radio or television, this is the Internet, and this is fight night, baby."

All of which prompted at least three questions. Why can't I see anything? Why is the sound so dreadful? And, perhaps most important of all, who do think you're calling baby? The man in charge of the voice claimed to be called Charles Wriggler, which was something of a worry in itself. But at least it was memorable, which should be useful if, as Wriggler clearly believes, last night's card at the Connaught Rooms in London becomes a staple of sports trivia quizzes.

It was billed as the first world title fight to be broadcast live on the Internet. Zolille Mbityl against Sandro Oviedo for the International Boxing Organisation's world flyweight belt, with all the action brought to you by fightnight.com. Two men you have never heard of, in other words, supported by an undercard featuring half a dozen fighters who took obscurity to new limits, not least because the picture quality was so poor that their own mothers would not have recognised them.

Think of that moment when you are sitting in an automatic car wash and the really serious water guns hit the windscreen. Next, imagine there's a television sitting on your bonnet. You now have a rough idea of the viewing experience offered by fightnight.com, presented in a screen on their web page which was little bigger than a festive postage stamp.

Forget, too, any chance that you might follow the action in a meaningful sense. What they offered was instead a series of still pictures, separated by anything from half a second to five. By the time Pete Long arrived to fight Harry Senior in the third fight of the night, the nagging pain in your eyes had turned into a full-blown migraine. One fighter was wearing black shorts and the other one white, but it was still all but impossible to tell them apart.

"You can almost see the fear on the face of William Webster," the commentator had said during the previous bout. In truth, you could not even see the nose on the face of William Webster. But at least you could hear the commentator. Well, sort of.

There is often a moment, at about ten past eleven on a Friday night, when you have drunk so much beer that the voices and noises of the pub around you blur one into the other, and fade in and out according to the rate at which you are swaying. It is usually a sign that you are about to collapse.

The sound on fightnight.com was just like that. So, the first live boxing on the net was like watching TV in a car wash when you're plastered. Different, certainly. But progress? The referee is probably with the Luddites on that one.

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