Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Billy on the Box: Taxi for Haye as big Lennox doesn’t relish Hamburg trip

HAMBURG, GERMANY - JULY 02: David Haye of England lies on the floor during their World Heavyweight unification fight at the Imtech Arena on July 2, 2011 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

It may not live long in the memory or sit comfortably in the upper echelons of the pantheon of pugilism, but for sheer drama, intrigue and comedy, it’ll be hard to beat Klitschko vs Haye.

Not for what happened, or rather what didn’t, in the ring on Saturday night, but for all the nonsense beforehand and afterwards in Hamburg.

It was fast getting towards bedtime but wee Rory McIlroy was allowed to stay up to watch.

He’s been everywhere this week — Stormont, Wimbledon, Hamburg, back to Wimbledon, blimey he’ll be on a golf course next. I half expected to turn on Newsline and find him lashing a five iron through a window on the Newtownards Road.

Still, it was worth it to have him there to answer the daftest question of the night from Ed Chamberlin, enquiring could you compare boxing and golf. Cue a thoughtful Rory and the priceless, stone-faced response, ‘No, not really’. Not the first time a Chamberlain has returned embarrassed from this part of the world.

Dave Clark, Barry McGuigan and Johnny Nelson all told us the atmosphere was amazing, but told us so often we couldn’t hear it.

You knew it was going to be good — well Sky certainly told us enough in the build-up that it would be — but the sight of Lennox Lewis emerging from a black taxi in a mocked-up London street scene surrounded by telephone boxes and two Grenadier Guards that looked like extras from Jamiroquai will be with me for some time.

Lennox is now a legend, apparently, but when he first appeared in a silly wee hat and long flowing locks I’d wondered if Boy George had let himself go a little.

Thankfully George Foreman appeared to prepare Lennox a healthy grill, and we were told it takes a big fight to get him to Germany. This is not the first time an American has been late for a conflict between warring Europeans, but at least George didn’t show up three years late.

Lennox must have felt it was about that long as the meter was still running as he knocked the door for Haye to come out to play only to hear strains of ‘wee, wee, wee all the way home’ emanating.

He continued to wait, moaning that it was getting near midnight in Hamburg and he wouldn’t be going south of the Elbe at this time of the night, but just as we were all about to give up hope, ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’ struck up again and Haye was on his way.

Still, it couldn’t get anymore ridiculous. Wrong. Back stage we went again and this time to a mocked-up Hamburg docks with two shady characters reading a paper.

It was George, minus the grill, and Klitschko the elder, with Foreman saying ‘boy, this is going to an exciting fight, are you ready?’ And with all the comic timing Ukraine is noted for, Vitali answered: “Absolutely, I’ll go and get my brother. He will knock his pan in.’ Okay, I made that last bit up.

By the time he arrived on stage, Haye was wrapped in Bacofoil, and looking nervous in case George stoked up the grill, and then we were off, with more awkward falls and excuse me’s than a one-legged hokey-cokey contest.

Haye had promised to make the robot malfunction, clearly by trying to trip him by spending more time on the canvas than a tent fetishist, but in the end it was little toe that malfunctioned.

Lennox wasn’t convinced, saying that if you have a sore toe, broken leg or hurt arm you forget about it. Hang on. A broken leg? I suppose he could have whacked him with his crutch, while Barry thought it seemed like an excuse.

By George I think they’ve got it. That’s ‘by’, not ‘boy’. Must go, someone with bad karma has just pulled up in a taxi and with a limping chameleon masquerading as a boxer.

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