Boxing: Buffer brings the voice of Vegas to the East End
From Vietnam and Hollywood to Upton Park, MC gets ready to rumble
West Ham's Upton Park, scene of the Chisora-Haye fight, will become boxing's buffer zone on Saturday night. A 16-man security team will be placed across the ring diagonally to keep the fighters apart before the first bell. The warring heavyweights will also weigh in on Thursday on separate scales, divided by a steel barrier.
These measures are to prevent any repetition of the incidents in Munich five months ago when Chisora slapped the face of his opponent, Vitali Klitschko, at the weigh-in and then spat water in the face of his brother Wladimir during the ring preliminaries.
The human security barrier will echo that in New Orleans nine years ago, when a string of burly cops split the ring before Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson fought each other.
The unseemly build-up to that world heavyweight championship bout had similarities to the Chisora-Haye post-fight brawl, Tyson having bitten Lewis's thigh as they rolled on the floor and threatened to "eat" his babies.
It will also be a buffer zone in another respect, with the legendary MC Michael Buffer being imported from the United States to make the ring announcements. Former Hollywood actor Buffer, 67, will bellow his famous trademark catchphrase – "Let's get ready to r...um...ble!" – after introducing boxing's bad boys.
These five words have been patented – no other MC may use them – and have earned him a £300 million fortune. His fee for doing the honours next week is believed to be around £100,000, plus first-class travel. Buffer says he had no qualms about accepting the offer "as this is legitimately the biggest heavyweight fight of the year".
During his 30-year career, the thrice-married, immaculately coiffured Buffer, a Vietnam war veteran, has announced baseball's World Series, ice hockey's Stanley Cup finals, NBA Championships and NFL play-off games, as well as scores of fights around the globe. He has also appeared in a number of fight movies as himself, including Rocky. Four years ago he overcame the throat cancer which had threatened his career, and last month he was inducted into boxing's International Hall of Fame.
However, one name that Buffer may not be announcing from the ring is that of fellow 67-year-old Mickey Vann, the appointed referee, to whom Haye has objected, despite Vann having refereed more world title fights than any other British official.
Vann is no longer licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control because he is over their age limit of 65. But he is still able to officiate for other boxing bodies internationally and has been named by the Luxembourg Commission, who have stepped in to sanction a bout that was officially outlawed by the British Board.
Haye doesn't want him, saying he is too old and too small to control a potentially explosive grudge match between two big heavyweights. Yet Vann, once a circus gymnast and former pro featherweight, had no trouble when he took charge of the similarly tension-charged scrap between Lewis and Frank Bruno, famously warning the feuding antagonists: "I won't take any shit from either of you."
Haye also cites another reason for objecting to Vann, claiming he has been "too close" to Chisora's manager, Frank Warren, having handled a string of Warren-promoted fights, especially those involving Ricky Hatton. Warren responds that this is an unwarranted slur upon Vann's integrity.
The picky Haye wants Luis Pabon, who refereed his fight with Audley Harrison. The Puerto Rican is noted for discouraging boxers from working inside, which Chisora likes to do.
The situation will be resolved later this week, with the experienced South African Stan Christodoulou, also 67, and another "retired" British ref, Paul Thomas, on standby. Doubtless Haye will consider them old buffers too.
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