my own goal : Reg Gutteridge

ITV's voice of boxing, who was awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours list, recounts a couple of embarrassing gaffes from a potentially dangerous career which has been surprisingly risk-free
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The Independent Online
'IT was Las Vegas. Mike Tyson had just defended his world heavyweight title in a manner which did nothing to suggest he was beatable. Pinklon Thomas was the man on the receiving end and the ring, as you might expect, was quickly full up with peopl e. My job was to get an interview with the champion.

The agreement was that he would speak to us after he had dealt with American television. This was fine but Tyson, quite understandably, did not want to hang around. The night's work was over and he was eager to get to the locker room.

I clambered into the ring and made my way over to him, anxious to nab him quickly, not least because at that time he didn't really know who I was. Boxers can be wary of interviewers they hardly recognise.

Tyson wasn't that expansive thenin any case. Just as I was about to approach him a smart young bloke in a good suit passed between us and shouted at me: "Ask him about Nelson Mandela." Mandela was still incarcerated in South Africa then, and I'm pretty sure Tyson would never have heard of him. Boxing was all that mattered to him; it was all he knew about.

I didn't know the fellow who was offering me advice on the interview and I still don't. But in the frenzy of the moment I said to him: "Just f*** off will, you?" I didn't have a microphone in my hand, thought no more of it and managed to get a minute or so with Tyson. On reflection, it was fortunate, I suppose, that Tyson didn't think I was talking to him.

With that, we finished the programme for the night, the job done. It had gone out live in the Central and Yorkshire regions but was being recorded for transmission in London the next day. It transpired, as the producers soon confirmed, that viewers in the Midlands and the North had heard me swearing on air, live from Las Vegas.

There were phone calls all right, plenty of them. It had gone out in the small hours, but two or three callers said that profanities should not be allowed at any time and what did the commentator think he was doing? There were about 48 others congratulating me. They were the real boxing fans, I suppose.

I haven't made any major commentating gaffes that I can remember, though obviously I've predicted the outcome of fights wrongly. I was doing a live voice-over for a fight once when I said the guy in the blue corner would win easily. At that moment the guy in the red corner knocked him out.

My old mate Harry Carpenter, whom I went for lunch with last week to celebrate the award and his retirement (and to get advice from him on what to do at the Palace), once went one better. He was remarking on how only one of the boxers before him had anything resembling a knockout punch when the other fellow delivered one.

The prediction game can be risky, even at a distance. It was not so long ago that I wrote what I intended to be a highly authoritative piece for the British Boxing Board of Control Yearbook. In it I said bluntly that this country would not produce a world heavyweight champion this century. Now we have two.

I had reckoned without Lennox Lewis who, not long after, knocked out Razor Ruddock and was on his way. It just goes to show. Lewis has since lost, but I have a sneaking feeling he is good enough to be back. Of course, we have another champion in Herbie Hide, but I despair at the sort of fights he has won to get where he has.

When you think that Tommy Farr had to fight Joe Louis, Don Cockell fought Rocky Marciano and Henry Cooper came up against Cassius Clay, it doesn't seem fair. Hide will lose to Riddick Bowe. And that's a prediction.'

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