Belfast Telegraph

AJ leaves us feeling Wlad all over

Billy on the Box

By Billy Weir

It may well have been a prize fight for the ages, but I'd fallen for that one before on Sky Box Office and thus the battle to prise 20 quid out of my wallet was no easy task.

Last time out it was Tony Bellew against David Haye and, while it was a decent dust-up, it was hardly what you would call a fight for the ages, so I was naturally wary as Wembley played host to Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko.

There were 90,000 people there, which may just have been the number of Sky troops on the ground, as they were taking no chances, managed by Anna Woolhouse who had come dressed for business in a strange cape-like get-up.

She was joined as always by Johnny Nelson, former fighter and now owner of muscles that put marginally less strain on a shirt than the ever-expanding Garth Crooks over on Final Score who may not fight the winner, but was keen on taking on 12 rounds. Of sandwiches.

Bellew was there too and he tried to put things into perspective for champion Joshua.

"It can't be any more pressure than the Olympic final in your hometown country," he said, and I think we knew what he meant, but then it was time to sit back for four hours of not very good fights before the main event of the evening.

Suddenly we were joined by another heavyweight. No, not Garth, this was Deontay Wilder, nothing to Gene, who was quite keen on fighting the winner and thus was being very polite and saying all the right things.

It was normal service for Klitschko, or Dr Steelhammer to you, as he dandered out in a strange grey outfit, the like of which is normally seen outside a dole office, accompanied by slippers and a smoking child in a pushchair.

It didn't help that everything was festooned with the letters BLAB, which I believe stands for Black Label, something to do with his sponsor, although he was probably just relieved they had abandoned plans for a new fuchsia line.

In the commentary box, Adam Smith was as excited as a Final Score presenter who had just spied the sweet trolley, extolling the pugilistic warcraft of Dr Steelhammer, who by now was in the ring.

"He has the armoury, can he still pull the trigger?" he mused, but before we could answer we were rudely interrupted by Joshua's emergence, as he stood between a giant A and a giant J both festooned in fireworks, and we all prayed that his dressing gown was flame retardant.

Mind you, the screams of a burning man would have been preferable to the anthems with MC Michael Buffer telling us that the Ukrainian effort would be "performed by the beautiful singing voice of Natalia Klitschko", sister-in-law of Wladimir.

I've never heard a stoat being tortured before but I'm guessing it is something similar, although the UK entry on this Eurovision undercard play-off wasn't much better, performed by the beautiful singing voice of some blonde woman off X Factor who I'd never heard of.

Smith assured us that it was now time for the fight, as he was struck down with "spine-tingling anticipation on the grandest of stages", but thankfully there was a doctor in the house, who had taken part in "the classiest build-up to this clash of the ages".

He didn't need to hype it up at this stage, we were already there, and after four intriguing rounds - a bit like Garth getting his first taste of a chicken and grape sarnie (try them, great for wakes) - all hell broke loose in the fifth, Smith telling us they were going to war and "both are swinging big bombs in there". Sounds dangerous to me.

"An astonishing round in this heavyweight fight of the ages," said Smith, just in case you'd missed it a minute ago, and with Deontay now alongside him and Carl Froch, Wilder explained what was going on: "This is heavyweight boxing, ladies and gentlemen." Thanks, I had been wondering.

The war continued, Smith warning us that it was a "fight that's really exploding" and Froch helping out by pointing out an "explosive shot" before more excitement.

"More drama in this blue riband division," added Smith, but there was no time for a biscuit, things were kicking off, AJ battering the Doctor around the ring, attempting to remove his head from his shoulders in the 11th round.

"The fight has been stopped, lift-off for AJ, a new chapter, a new era in this most glamorous division on the biggest stage," yelped Smith, who may well represent Ukraine at Eurovision in the future with his beautiful commentating voice.

Afterwards it was all hugs and kisses, even Wilder and Bellew, who have been slabbering at each other for ages, were friends and the latter was, in Scouse terms, made-up for AJ.

"There is a new king of boxing," he said.

"There is a new sheriff in town and he's called AJ," he added as we wondered, constitutionally, if it was acceptable to hold both roles at once, but this was a night for split lips and not splitting hairs.

Among the final words came from a surprise source, former Oasis star Liam Gallagher tweeting in his appreciation, saying boxing is "the only sport that truly deserves the big bucks".

Perhaps Liam, perhaps, but 20 quid is still 20 quid, whatever way you roll with it.

Belfast Telegraph

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