Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the box: Frampton and Federer are two class acts on world stage

By Billy Weir

Anyone who knows me well is fully aware that I am not a morning person, my demeanour in the AM hours a far cry from the lovable, fluffy, optimistic, unsceptical being I am in the PM.

Add in Sunday to the mix and far from being easy as Lionel Richie may like to suggest, I'm as grumpy as a big bag of grumpy things on a particularly grumpy day, so the thoughts of a double header of sport from the other sides of the world while larks are still tucking into their cornflakes didn't fill me with huge amounts of joy.

My TV destinations were Las Vegas and Melbourne, Carl Frampton's rematch for the World Featherweight Championship down for a 1.00am start on Sky but we're all too smart to be caught out with that old sly uppercut anymore.

You know when Sky says something gets under way at a certain time that there is not a hope in hell of it starting anywhere near it so there were three hours of assorted preamble to wade through with the torture of having to watch boys you've never heard of slapping each other.

In the past I would have probably manned up and stayed up but with a trip to Oz in the form of the Australian Open tennis final to come at 8.30am there was more chance of Venus Williams not letting Serena win a match between them than me keeping awake.

Hence a cunning plan. Set my alarm for 7.00am, still dangerously early I know, get up and zoom through the preamble to the main event in Vegas and be digging in to my Frosties just as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were knocking up on Ramsay Street.

Frampton's clash with Leo Santa Cruz was the 'rematch the boxing world has been waiting for' presenter Anna Woolhouse told us as in my early morning confusion I racked my grey matter trying to remember where I'd seen her before.

We then went to commentator Adam Smith who was alongside Carl Froch in Vegas who also told us 'it was one of the most eagerly awaited rematches of recent times' but I had lost interest as I remembered that Anna is Sky's netball presenter, so the perfect choice then for a fight, that, by all accounts, we'd all been waiting for.

There was still time for Smith to squeeze in a quick cliché that 'Irish eyes could well be smiling here in Vegas later on' while reporter Andy Scott wheeled out that most crucial word in all long, drawn-out preambles - the J word.

"From Tigers Bay to Sin City, it has been quite a journey for Carl Frampton' while back in the studio Johnny Nelson raised the stakes even higher.

"I love everything about him, he's a very honest kind of fighter, he says it as it is, he's not braggadocios," he said, and I believed him as, let's be honest, who has a dictionary tucked into their pyjama trousers?

After 164 minutes the wait was over, back in the studio Spencer Oliver spelling out what was about to happen.

"This is a 50-50 fight, it could go one way or another," he helpfully pointed out while Nelson was, aptly, predicting victory for the Jackal and reminding us that 'it's silly o'clock in the morning and we've woken up now' not realising that some of us had had the foresight to set Sky+ rather than reach for the Pro Plus.

David Haye, the third of the commentating triumvirate, suggested that Shane McGuigan, the trainer of a sluggish Frampton had a more radical solution.

"Shane's saying he lost that round and that may put a rocket up his bum," he hinted but to no avail, as after 12 rounds, revenge was sweet for Cruz as he took a majority decision.

"I want to apologize to the tremendous supporters, the best man won on the night and I'm deeply sorry," said Frampton afterwards, a far cry from the usual bleating, name-calling and downright lack of class that normally goes hand in glove with the noble art.

"It's been a lot of fun as Carl Frampton's Vegas gamble, sadly, comes up short," concluded Woolhouse, but don't worry the odds on another rematch are pretty slim and nothing compared to the price you would have got on Nadal and Federer slugging it out for a Grand Slam title again.

Eurosport were our hosts, presenter Rob Curling, who has no links to netball as far as I'm aware, setting the scene and asking his studio guests for their thoughts.

Miles Maclagan, the former coach of some Scottish bloke sent home to think again ages ago, revealed that 'I want Rafa to win but I don't want Roger to lose' while everyone's favourite Canadian, Greg Rusedski, plumped for Rafa and Annabel Croft added 'I'm so torn with this one I want them both to win but I'm a little bit with Rafa'.

And then disaster. I ran out of memory. I don't mean in a Bobby Ewing way, that in my sleep-deprived manner I dandered out of the shower to find Sue Barker waiting for me to tell me it was all a dream, but the 164 minutes of Vegas preamble had caused merry hell with my Sky planner.

This meant I had to go 'live' but having watched too much of the boxing preamble I'd missed the first two sets so a cunning Plan B was hatched in the blink of a closing eye - the Beeb was showing 'extended' highlights later.

I thought I had switched on the Lottery draw though as Barker talked me through yet another build-up.

"They first met 13 years ago, they have met 34 times, Rafa leads 23-11," she began, as I noted the numbers down for the Saturday draw.

"They have come face to face in eight Grand Slam finals, Rafa leads 6-2, between them they have five Australian Open crowns, Rafa 1 Roger 4. Together they have 31 titles, Rafa 14 Roger 17 and there are two of only eight men to have career grand slams, but numbers don't come close to telling the whole story."

By now we realised this was important and that we would need to do two lines for the lotto, but Barker wasn't finished with the hype.

"In a sport defined by rivalries, Federer v Nadal is perhaps the daddy of them all, so batten down the hatches, it's Roger v Rafa again, are you ready?" she begged.

We were and they were but from the handful of games that the 'extended' highlights showed it seemed that the Beeb wasn't, and by the time we got to 4-3 in the fifth set I felt a bit cheated.

"This is the 14th round of a 15-round championship boxing match," commentator Andrew Castle told us.

"The first four sets were just a measly starter," he added, with co-commentator John Lloyd piping up 'this is the main course alright' which is a shame because I was left feeling empty that we'd seen so little of it.

"It's one of the sport's stories of all times, it just couldn't happen," said Castle, as Federer wrapped up the win and Grand Slam No.18 before taking a leaf out of the Jackal's book.

"Tennis is a tough sport, there are no draws, but if there was going to be one I would have been very happy to accept a draw and share it with Rafa," said Federer and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Two pieces of class from two class acts, Sky have done better in the past but it was very late so we'll let them off, but it has to be an E for the BBC and that doesn't stand for 'extended': go to the bottom of the class.

The good, the bad  and the ugly

THE GOOD: Some drama and romance in the FA Cup at last, Lincoln and Sutton flying the flag for the non-league, and cheeky Premiership clubs getting a good dig in the gub for fielding weakened teams. “You’ve got to be wanting a home draw, I don’t want Man Utd away or Liverpool away, oh they’re out,” said Sutton boss Paul Doswell kicking the Scousers when they’re down and out. And who said wishes don’t come true, they will host Arsenal at Gander Green Lane. That’s the name of their ground and not a nursery rhyme.

 THE BAD: Not just as much drama on Transfer Window day, although Jim White did his best, standing in a darkened studio with only his yellow tie shining. “The lights are almost about to go out on the January transfer window,” he warned. “Let’s start with the day’s biggest spenders – Burnley,” he added as lights went out across the country with TVs being switched off in their droves.

THE UGLY: Dean Saunders showing knowledge we all know he doesn’t possess with this nugget of information on Sky Sports News yesterday morning. “I think I’m right, Stanley Baldwin was the Prime Minister the last time Liverpool lost four games at home – in 1923,” he revealed before a further revelation. “Someone told me that before I came on,” admitted the man who probably thought Stanley was Mike’s dad.

Belfast Telegraph

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