Monday, March 22, 2010

"Know What I Mean 'Arry"

Sad news today of the death of former BBC boxing commentator Harry Carpenter has died at the age of 84.

When boxing was in it's hayday, that is before there were 20 differant versions of the same championship, Harry Carpenter was the "voice of boxing" on the BBC, for over half a century.

Known for his double act with British boxing great Frank Bruno, Carpenter also presented Sportsnight, Grandstand and Sports Personality of the Year. Bruno's catch phrase "No what I mean 'arry", became common within the English language.

Carpenter who retired in 1994, also wrote for several news papers, covering many famous events, including the "Rumble in the Jungle" between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. He did though make a comeback in April 2001, when he provided expert analysis of Lennox Lewis's defence of his world heavyweight title against Hasim Rahman

He labelled the end of the contest - underdog Ali won by knockout in the eighth round to reclaim the world heavyweight crown at the age of 32 - as "the most extraordinary few seconds that I have ever seen in a boxing ring".

Of Ali himself, Carpenter said: "He is not only the most remarkable sports personality I have ever met, he is the most remarkable man I have ever met."

Carpenter had the privilege of presenting Ali with the BBC's Sports Personality of the Century award in 1999.

A year later, Carpenter recalled: "It was a wonderfully poignant moment. I was very flattered and pleased that I was asked to do the tribute to him.

"It was such a shame to see the old boy tottering about, but we had a chat afterwards and he is still very, very sharp. He remembers all those old days."

Carpenter was a regular Sports Personality of the Year co-host throughout the 1970s and 1980s, having first worked on the programme in 1958, and also covered a wide range of sports for the BBC, including rowing, tennis and golf.

His immediately recognisable, warm broadcasting style earned him plaudits outside the United Kingdom, too.

In 1989, he received American Sportscasters' Association and International Sportscaster of the Year awards.

Harry Carpenter surmised that other people's suggested epitaph for him might be "they stopped him talking at last". But his voice was one of authority that will echo down the years whenever people review the great days of boxing.

Barry Eva (Storyheart)

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