Inside Lines: Charlie Fitch gets round hitch that threatened big showdown

 

The wrangle over the referee for next Saturday's prodigious punch-up at Wembley seems to have been sorted. Both fighters have finally agreed on 43-year-old New Yorker Charlie Fitch, whose appointment, together with three scoring judges from continental Europe, should be formally ratified by the International Boxing Federation and British Boxing Board of Control this weekend. The Board reluctantly bowed to the demand of Londoner George Groves, who insisted on neutral officials following his bitterly disputed stoppage by Carl Froch when British referee Howard Foster controversially put him in a headlock as he briefly staggered when leading in the ninth round. However, finding the right officials has proved a vexing task. As revealed here last week, Froch's camp vetoed ultra- strict Californian Jack Reiss, claiming he was "too fussy", while the boxing politics ruled out America's top middle man Tony Weeks. He is from Nevada, which does not have a reciprocal arrangement with the Board to use each other's officials. It is also believed Groves refused to accept a judge from Poland because of Froch's Polish ancestry. Fitch seems a sound choice to handle what could be another ill-tempered fight. An athletic former light-welterweight boxer he likes to keep his distance from the action and is known as firm but fair. He has overseen five previous world title fights. Another American in mid-ring will be the renowned Michael Buffer, imported for his usual six-figure fee to announce an event that is engrossing an audience beyond fight fans. "When you get it right, boxing can be one of the biggest sports out there," says promoter Eddie Hearn, a view underscored by a post-war record crowd of 80,000 who will fill the national stadium facing a rapid overnight transition after the England-Peru football international 24 hours before. As Buffer will inimitably declare: "Let's get ready to rumble..."

McKenzie takes a KO

Nigel Farage saw Ukip's lone sporting connection – and a rare black party member – counted out when ex-boxer Winston McKenzie bucked the national trend by finishing bottom of the poll in Croydon in last week's local council elections. The flamboyant 60-year-old elder brother of Duke McKenzie, Britain's only three-weight world champion, former British and European champion Clinton and uncle of footballer–turned-boxer Leon, he hardly enhanced his campaign by labelling Croydon as "unsafe and a dump". Jamaican-born Winston, a national amateur champion lost nine of his 16 fights as a pro light-middleweight before retiring with eye injuries. He vows he'll be back on a political scene he has traversed from Veritas to Ukip via Lib Dem and Tory. He stood as an Independent in the 2008 London mayoral election under the slogan "I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee; I've got the policies they can't see." He'd certainly liven up BBC's Question Time.

Back in business

Political opposites they may have been, but Labour's Dame Tessa Jowell and Tory peer Lord Sebastian Coe were always united in their aim to make London 2012 a success. So much so that the duo have been brought together again by the International Olympic Committee to be part of a key working group to help re-shape the future of the Olympic movement. They will investigate bidding procedure, arguably one of the most crucial areas that the IOC needs to reform. Under the new-broom presidency of German Thomas Bach, the IOC is seeking to freshen up its image and Jowell and Coe are among a number of international figures invited to examine all aspects of the Games in 14 working groups. Others include Glaswegian Sir Craig Reedie, the new head of the World Anti-Doping Agency; Eric Schmidt, Google's billionaire executive chairman; and Vanessa Mae, the Singapore-born British violinist, who will advise on the cultural aspects of the Olympics. No strings attached, presumably.

a.hubbard@independent.co.uk

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