Why would a referee go into a world championship fight wearing a pristine white shirt? It seems terribly unwise, given the possibility that the evening will end with it splattered with claret.
Though I am no expert in removing blood stains from a white garment I suspect Joe Cooper, the man in the middle at the Amir Khan‑Lamont Peterson title fight, will need a very high-temperature programme, and maybe a pre-wash soak, before he can wear again the outfit he wore on Saturday night.
We got a good five minutes to study the patterns made by the fighters' blood on Cooper's top, while waiting for the judges' verdict in Washington DC. If you were so inclined, you could have filled the time with home-administered Rorschach inkblot tests. I saw moonlight in Vermont and Les Dennis buying processed peas at a branch of Asda in Kettering.
They like to ratchet up the tension when fights end with both boxers still on their feet, delivering each judge's scores before saying which fighter they are in favour of and then pausing before the doyen of fight announcers, Michael Buffer, intones: "The winner, by majority verdict, and …" And then another pause, while we wait for the word "still", meaning Khan has won and retains his titles, or "new" meaning Peterson has the verdict.
We are, of course, all used to this kind of malarkey now from The X Factor, and at least it is Buffer giving the news in his totally unironic way, and not Dermot O'Leary prancing about being all cutesy about it. They should make O'Leary read out ads the way Buffer has to. That would administer a bracing shot of reality and give him an idea of the programme's raison d'etre.
Buffer not only lists all the sponsors of the fight but has to read out sales pitches too, and I have to admit to a tinge of jealousy as he hawked something called AT&T 4G LTE, "with speeds up to 10 times higher than 3G", while I vainly tried to tweet, on Orange, where speeds are slower than a Larry Merchant question.
Merchant is HBO's veteran boxing analyst, who delivers every question as if it were a proposition by Wittgenstein or at the very least cross-examination of a witness in a complicated fraud trial. Once he embarks on his steady inquisition, you never quite know what the culmination might be. The fighter will stand there waiting for a question, often still bleeding, while the 80‑year‑old, bless him, eventually gets to his point.
"You had the chance to fight him last year in Britain," was Merchant's opening to Peterson. "But you walked away from what could have been the biggest payday of your life, and took another fight for a fraction of the money." He continued, slowly, as drinks were brought out from the pavilion. "What does that say about you as a fighter and a person?" Peterson's right eye appeared to be closing, whether as a result of punches thrown in the fight or because he was dropping off it was difficult to say.
Merchant's stately questioning is often a welcome relief from the breathless action in the ring but Khan was still fighting the fight during his interview, repeating the mantra that he was the cleaner fighter and that the referee was more or less responsible for his defeat.
This seemed a little graceless and there was little enthusiasm for Khan's analysis back in the Sky studio, where Johnny Nelson, Barry McGuigan, and Steve Collins correctly identified the story of the night as the gutsy performance and tactical nous of boxing's "real-life Cinderella man", survivor of a brutal childhood and life as a homeless youth on Washington's mean streets. In terms of life dealing you a tough hand, that even trumps being brought up in Bolton.
Sky's team was on exceptional form after a long night – I have to admit to being a wuss, and snoozing through an extraordinarily soporific Gregory Peck film, The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit, while waiting for the fight – even summoning up the energy for a spirited post-fight argument.
Nelson reckoned Khan had performed badly but the other pundits disagreed quite heatedly, ascribing the defeat to the British boxer making tactical errors, notably underestimating his opponent, assuming victory and looking ahead to a possible contest against Floyd Mayweather. This seemed plausible but perplexing since Khan's trainer, Freddie Roach, had been sold to us as pretty well pre‑eminent in his field.
Not unlike José Mourinho, in fact, whose reputation also took a knock with defeat in El Clásico, the commentary on which boasted what I like to think of as a Partridge moment.
"He has lit a stick of footballing dynamite," said Rob Palmer after Karim Benzema's early goal for Real Madrid. To achieve the full Partridge he needed to extend the metaphor – as in "… a stick of footballing dynamite, as deadly to Catalonia as any lit by General Franco and his forces in the Spanish Civil War" – but it was a valiant effort nonetheless.
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