Belfast Telegraph

Message to ITV - please give us a break from the hype

By Billy Weir

And so after all the hype, pre-bout scuffling, unseemly squabbling, threats of violence and accusations of gum abuse, as expected, a fight broke out at the Odyssey on Saturday night.

In fairness there were probably better fights a couple of nights earlier at the same venue when the world's biggest stag do, sorry, the Premier League Darts, was in town and there's no finer sight in sport than seeing Spongebob Squarepants being given a hiding by a Smurf.

But it was a Californian who was left feeling blue, and a little black (or is it white and gold?) on Saturday evening as he was mauled by that most dangerous of beast, a jackal with Tigers in his blood.

Yes, Carl Frampton gave Chris Avalos a good dig in the bake and sent him homeward as unsteady on his legs as most of the patrons of the Odyssey and for the first time ITV had come along for the ride.

Those of us hoping that Adrian 'Jive Bunny' Chiles would be on the undercard against Mark 'amusing surname so I don't need a nickname' Pougatch to settle a few old scores were disappointed as the evening cranked into action over on ITV4, where there was silence as we joined a near-empty arena.

There were just clips of past Frampton fights we couldn't see with the pictures dominated by searchlights scanning across the sparsely populated audience - probably looking for a fugitive Smurf.

"Belfast loves its sporting heroes and his fans will be turning out in their thousands, just like they did for his manager," as Pougatch finally emerged from out of the ether to kick things off.

There was, of course, the obligatory weigh-in scuffle with threats to eat the spleens of various family members to look back at, and plenty of time to show murals, big cranes and remind people across the water that fighting isn't new in this part of the world.

Pougatch was joined by former World Champion Bernard 'I'm' Dunne and US boxing commentator 'You can call me' Al Bernstein and he was turning up the hype.

"It may not be the biggest venue you've been to but I'd wager in terms of man for man, pound for pound, the noise will be up there," proclaimed Pougatch, although at that stage you could have heard a worm cough.

Al had read the script, he wasn't about to rock the cart, there was still three and a half hours to fill before the fight we all wanted to see - not so fast Jive Bunny - took the stage.

"It's a perfect storm, a fantastic fighter, a passionate fan base and a very good and aggressive promotion of the fighter," he said and with that we went to the undercard and I went elsewhere awaiting the main event of the evening much later.

"We're having a party here in Belfast and you're all invited," said Pougatch on his return, now on ITV, as the melodic strains of Wake Me Up, by popular beat combo, Avicii, blared out, but there was dull chance of anyone sleeping as many of them seemed to be as full as a bingo bus.

"They certainly love their sporting heroes here," began Pougatch as déjà vu started to kick in and even more alarmingly, whatever Dunne had been drinking had turned him into David Haye.

"Al, you've been at bigger venues but come on, this is something pound for pound for an atmosphere," added Pougatch as I struggled to come to terms with the parallel universe I had found myself in.

"This is the perfect storm of a passionate fan base, a terrific fighter and an effective promotion," replied Al as accusations of too many repeats on ITV were blown out of the water.

Then, as we had a much bigger audience now, it was time to send for Gabriel Clarke to hit the mean streets of Belfast and a trip down Troubles lane, although they made sure that it was centred around Frampton's manager, Barry McGuigan, who was a boxer that many of the viewers on ITV had heard of.

"The arena is full, it's noisy and it's coming next on ITV," promised Pougatch as the preamble concluded and it's good to get the ad break out of the way now to allow the boxing to take centre stage.

Al had joined commentator Ronald 'not Reg Gutteridge' McIntosh in the commentary booth, before MC Michael Buffer introduced the protagonists, including Avalos, rather aptly named the Hitman.

Even more bizarrely, Buffer told us that one of the judges was a Joe Pasquale, typical of ITV to try and dumb things down on a Saturday night, while the timekeeper was a Mr Antanddec from Newcastle. I may have made that last one up.

"Belfast are you ready?" asked Buffer, and they apparently were, so it was time to rumble and off we went with some fast and furious action, including a good right hand by the Jackal that I missed, but at least I'll see it between rounds. Or not.

Like Pavlov's dog (or was it a jackal?) as soon as the bell went we were distracted and whisked off to ad land, but I'm sure this will be only for the first round. Nope.

I know more about the Suzuki Swift than I care to remember and thankfully the Jackal had the good grace to end things early as I couldn't take any more adverts, although McIntosh sneaked one in right at the end.

"Avalos tried to fight back but he's been overwhelmed by the Typhoo from Tigers Bay," he said. Oh, 'typhoon', well, whatever, he wasn't our cup of tea, and McIntosh concluded that he had 'sent a message to the 8 stone 12 division' as I left down my cuppa and Viscount and worked out I would have had to fight the Jackal when I was 11.

"It was everything we hoped it would be," finished Pougatch and if only we could say the same for ITV's coverage. Anyway, I'm off to buy a Suzuki Swift.

Belfast Telegraph

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