It's touching, the BBC's loyalty to Frank Bruno. There was a stack of decent football about on Wednesday, but Sportsnight went live to Birmingham for Bruno v Ferguson - a man who doesn't know when to stop versus a man who barely knows where to start. Lynam gave the cameras one of those conspiratorial looks of his - the one that says, 'this was not my idea'. 'Don't blink,' he warned us. 'You might miss it.'
There was some pre-bout chat from Frank. 'If I did lose again, Harry, I'd have to knock it on the head - y'nommeen? - and say I'd call it a day because common sense has got to prevail, you know. But I'm looking further and thinking much positive than, rather, that - you know, about losing. But at the end of the day at the back of your mind, where else is there for me to go?'
The film ended here, so we never got to hear Carpenter's response (I'd hazard a guess it was 'What on earth are you talking about, Frank?'). Instead we cut back to Barry McGuigan who tried to sound enthusiastic while explaining that Ferguson didn't have 'great legs', nor 'the punch you need for Bruno' and that, all things considered, maybe it was time he took up flower-arranging.
This took about four minutes, after which we went out to the NEC, where the man in the lighting box was giving it his all with the strobes and the coloured bulbs. The place flickered and glowed like Stringfellow's on Ladies' Night. Ferguson appeared in a hood and, amid low synthesiser shudderings, set off briskly on the seven-mile walk across the darkened arena to the ring. Frank entered somewhat more conventionally to Pomp and Circumstance - as Carpenter put it, 'ably assisted by Sir Edward Elgar'.
Out of their robes, the fighters were a comedy contrast. Bruno looked greased and fit. Ferguson looked like someone who was about to get greased. You didn't want to read it as an omen, but his shorts appeared to have been adapted from one of those covers they sling over petrol pumps when they're not working. And when did you last see a boxer with a beer- gut? Carpenter was the epitome of tact: 'what can only be described as the portly figure of Jesse Ferguson.' But it was clear the port he was referring to was Felixstowe. The MC announced 'a contest of 10 three-minute rounds', and even he didn't sound convinced.
The fight itself was, surely, the least satisfactory bout of boxing ever screened, a mess of mishits and stumblings. Offered little to resist, Ferguson somehow managed to offer little resistance. Bruno couldn't muster a single clean blow, but enjoyed an unchallenged round of pat-a-cake on the top of Ferguson's head. By the ring, Carpenter came over all queasy: 'Oh my word, he's not going to go in one, is he?' Yes he was - in two minutes and 22 seconds, to be precise.
And then, the real quarrel: Harry v Frank afterwards. Harry, disgruntled, said Ferguson was a soft option and, all in all, implied that maybe things would have been more entertaining if Frank hadn't come on to Elgar, but had actually come on to confront Elgar; perhaps he would have been more seriously stretched by the 137-year-old tunesmith from England.
Frank said that Ferguson was 'on paper, a durable opponent'. Harry accused Frank of illegal punches to the back of the head. Frank looked annoyed and said he had hit him at the side, illustrating the point, rather menacingly, by angling a glove in the direction of Harry's head.
'I don't know why you're trying to put me down, Harry,' said Frank. Harry said he wasn't, and that while he realised that Frank had had a job to do, he was simply trying to get the fight into perspective. 'I know your wife's here,' countered Frank, puzzlingly. Back to Lynam in the studio: 'I tell you what - I think that was a better argument than we saw in the ring.' The judges scored it a victory to Carpenter, on points. But what are the odds on a rematch?
The BBC's Cheltenham Festival coverage was dreamy - absolutely in time with the pace of the event, up to speed with its bursts of action and untroubled by its languors, a day out at home. Off the course, Richard Pitman won this year's Reclining Armchair Award for laid-back paddock assessments. If it's bookie-defying tips you're after, this can prove slightly frustrating: 'lovely little horse, Minnehoma'; 'class horse, Chatam'. Basically, Pitman would be the last person to say, 'Complete dobbin, Turkey Boy - don't waste your money.' But anyone who can survey a runner in the
parade-ring and remark, in a tone rich with contentment, 'he looks exceptionally well, as horses do in the sun' is clearly enjoying a degree of satisfaction one doesn't expect to see outside cigar advertisements.Reuse content