Frank Maloney is a little man with big ideas. The manager of Lennox Lewis will turn boxing into a whole new brawl game this week when one of his London promotions goes live on the Internet. Instead of box on, it will be log on as the South African Zoile Mbityi and Argentinian Sandro Oviedo battle for a version of the world flyweight title at the New Connaught Rooms on Thursday. Maloney, no longer a contender for London's mayoral race ("I reckon I could have done a bit of damage if Livingstone hadn't run"), says the experiment could lead to a revolution in the way we watch boxing. For the price of a phone call anyone, anywhere, with a PC and the appropriate software downloaded from Real Player can access www. fightnight.com and enjoy what is claimed to be "near TV-like quality pictures". They can even bet with Ladbrokes.com who will be running a book during the fights, and actually be their own ringside judges, with aggregate round-by-round scores from viewers being flashed up on the screen. But in boxing, there's no such thing as a free punch. The cash will come from accompanying ads as well as the website phone charges, but these will be considerably less than pay-per-view. Will it click on? "We're looking for a different audience," says Maloney. "That's why we'll be featuring a lot of overseas fighters in our future shows because in many countries the web is a far better option than television."
New Lea-way for athletics
Forget Picketts Lock, with or without its debated apostrophe. From now on, say those engaged in getting our new national athletics arena up and running, it will be known nationally and internationally simply as the Lea Valley Stadium. And that's Lea with an "a", not the more popular spelling of Lee, the river from which the valley actually takes its name in north-west London. Confused? Well, you might be when the stadium actually opens for the world championships in 2005, because it will be the first of its kind in the world without a blade of grass. Instead, the in-field area will have the sprint track stripped across the centre with multi-coloured lanes. All the action apart from the longer track races - jumps, throws and pole vault - will take place in the centre of the stadium on a new synthetic surface, with laser beams instantly measuring the distances and flashing lights tracking the discus and javelin like an airport flight-path. First revealed in these pages last November, the proposed innovations were discussed in Paris last week with the new president of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, Lamine Diack, whose enthusiasm for them was instrumental in securing the world championships for UK Athletics.
Red web alert
Reader Colin Travis, of Liverpool, tells us of another of those wonderful web wheezes. The Teletext website (teletext.co.uk) often carries a poll in their sports section, though rarely does it attract more than about 300 votes. Last Saturday, which happened to be 1 April, he says he was surprised to see their best managers' poll actually had over 6,000 votes with GÃ©rard Houllier polling 64 per cent. A glance at Koptalk (koptalk.com) revealed the Liverpool fans had tapped into Teletext and virtually hijacked the site. It didn't end there. On Saturday evening Teletext had changed the poll to "who will finish second in the Premiership?" By 10pm they had had over 600 votes with Liverpool polling 99 per cent of them. On Sunday morning, Teletext realised they'd been had and removed the polls. Obviously, someone saw reds.
Thompson set to meet minister
Geoff Thompson, the aggrieved Sport England member who, as revealed here last week, has received an offer to assist the South Africans in their 2006 World Cup bid, has asked to meet the Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey, and the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, in an attempt to solve his dilemma. No doubt he will go armed with a copy of the Government's newly published Sports Strategy which, among many other refreshing if belatedly progressive ideas, not least in the province of schools sport, promises positive action "to redress the imbalance that exists in leadership within sport and create leaders and role models who are representative of all the people living in our communities". It will be a scandal if Thompson, who fits that bill exactly, is now lost to British sport, something I know the minister does not wish to happen. Since his interview here last week Thompson has been under some pressure to backtrack but he tells us he stands by his controversial comments about the way sport is run which have rattled a few cages in the corridors of power.
Rolling stones in Scotland
Apparently, Scottish televiewers have been captivated all week by the sight of the rolling stones. The world curling championships have proved a big attraction at the Braehead Stadium in Glasgow, with 30 hours worth of icy brush-stroking on the box, although how many south of the border were actually aware that they were on? The stones themselves, hewn out of Ayrshire rock, are being given a run-out before their use in the next Winter Olympics. A touch of poignancy in the championships, too, for the 1,500 Canadian fans present. They stood in silent tribute to their former star curler Sandra Schmirchler, four-times world champion and Olympic gold medallist in Nagano, who died of cancer a year ago.