Belfast Telegraph

Johnny Nelson expects Sky to do duty

By Billy Weir

If you're looking for a man to help settle some unfinished business and bring an end to an unseemly conflict, then look no further than Nelson.

That's Johnny, not Horatio, who was at the helm of the good ship SS (Sky Sports) Box Office on Saturday night as Carl Froch and George Groves, who like each other about as much as Napoleon liked Nelson, attempted to rip each other limb from limb in London.

This time though it wasn't Trafalgar, we'd moved north, to Wembley, where battle was to recommence, and much cheaper this time for only £16.95. Last time it was 1805.

That history degree was not in vain.

"The wait is over. It simply doesn't get any bigger than this – the Cobra vs The Saint, two fighters, 80,000 fans and, you know what, everything is on the line," said Nelson, as he walked through the offices of Sky to get into a motor.

"Just a few miles away is Wembley, the focus of the sporting world, so jump in, buckle up, because this is going to be some ride," he added and he wasn't wrong as it was still another four and a bit hours until the protagonists were due in the ring.

First up, to fill the void, Adam Smith took a break from the wealth of nations (that degree again ... ) to join fellow presenter Ed Robinson to talk to two former Super-middleweight champs in Joe Calzaghe and Richie Woodhall.

"It's simply gripped the nation," he began, but no mention the effect the £16.95 would have on its wealth, but I digress.

"Opinion is dangerously divided as we've steered through the pre-hype electricity," he continued, being careful not to hype it up, as is Sky's way.

"What drama we had the first time around – the boos, the cheers, the blood-curdling excitement, the controversy at the end," he added, and I detected a modicum of hype but I think he got away with it.

By now Johnny had arrived at Wembley and was joined by David Haye and Glenn McCrory in Sky's own wee ring away from the main one, and this was the command centre to catch up with roving reporter, Geoff Shreeves.

It was a pleasant departure for Geoff, who so often has to spend his working day trying to prise some words of wisdom out of monosyllabic troglodyte-like footballers, so it made a nice change.

First up was Wayne Rooney. Ahhh.

It didn't start well, Wayne muttering 'ummmm, I don't know, I'm very excited obviously' and it was far from obvious that he was even a wee bit excited never mind very but redeemed himself by being the only pundit in four hours to actually predict the correct outcome.

Other guests came and went as Geoff and Ed went to work, but faced with three Eubanks would have been even too much for Horatio.

He had an eye patch and one arm but Chris had a monocle, cane and a man bag, plus two tough sons in tow, so it was no contest.

Haye, no stranger to a bit of pre-fight hype himself, argued that 'I believe these fighters would fight just as hard in a park with nobody watching' as the Hearn family swooned at the thought of no-one handing over some cash, wondering just how far they'd get on a tramp's half-empty can of Special Brew.

There were the usual stars of sport, stage and screen beside them at ringside, the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Zara Phillips and Jamie Redknapp, but the real stars were the commentary team, Nick Hallings joined by the great Jim Watt and Brooklyn's finest, Paulie Malignaggi.

Paulie played his cards close to his chest, but you got the feeling that he could have got all this kerfuffle sorted out without the need to hire Wembley with some of his cousins putting an end to the unfinished business.

Then, in the blink of an eye, well, if it takes four hours to blink, the hype was over so time for more hype as Groves burst out of his dressing room and stomped off towards the pitch. And then disappeared. Wayne Rooney has often done this at Wembley too.

As air raid sirens sounded, searchlights shone into the north London skies, and a speech from Henry V bellowed out, we waited. And a big red bus arrived.

Thankfully George was on board and managed to shake off some people juggling with fire to make it to the ring unharmed.

He wasn't to remain that way thanks to a sting from a Cobra, Froch missing the bus but walking in to the ring and MC Michael 'Ready To Rumble' Buffer pondering 'will it be validation, will it be revenge?' but I was gone as he'd announced one of the judges was from Mehhhico.

And as our commentary team confidently predicted that Groves was beginning to get the upper hand he didn't notice one coming at him like a double decker bus and there was no need to count to 10 as he didn't know if he was in London, Trafalgar or Mehhhico.

As always, the two men who wanted to eat each other's spleens in the last few months were the best of buddies afterwards, Groves admitting 'I've got to hold my hands up, Carl caught me' and perhaps he should have tried that.

But the final word, or words, go to Nelson.

"The Cobra put the bite on St George, what a night at Wembley, it rocked here," he said, although not as much as Groves when he was cuffed and found out that he'd missed the bus.

Belfast Telegraph


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