Walking past a fairly gnarled pub in London's East End last Saturday evening, the sort of creaking watering hole that was probably in its prime when the Marquess of Queensberry was contemplating his rules, there barely seemed room to swing a punch never mind encourage a few as the image of the doomed Ricky Hatton gushed from several protruding television sets ahead of his bout with the Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko.
The place was lit up like a Christmas Tree with characters who looked they had gone a few rounds before Hatton finally appeared.
Hatton is from Manchester yet this was in the middle of Charlie Magri country. One suspects the locals were equally animated when Nottingham's IBF world super-middleweight champion Carl Froch pulverised American Yusaf Mack a week earlier.
Apart from the sight of David Haye collecting a fat cheque from the prospect of chewing on a dead kangaroo's penis on ITV's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me out of Here, boxing continues to lurk away from the mainstream because there is money to be made by flogging bouts to the masses.
The most lucrative action, certainly ones involving figures like Hatton or Froch, comes at a price. Primetime were charging £14.95 to pipe Hatton into living rooms. But there is also cost to such fighters when awards like the BBC Sports Personality of the Year are being doled out to recognise sporting excellence.
The 12-man/woman shortlist for the SPOTY award, assembled by a committee of people apparently in the know, left this onlooker somewhat bewildered.
The omission of the swashbuckling Froch, surely destined to become one of the true greats of British boxing, suggests that the BBC list, with its Olympic-centric formation, has done the credibility of the prize no favours. It includes women almost because a quota must be met. To add to the muddle, there are several men and women nominated from the thought-provoking Paralympics, but is it fair to be judged against figures who have won the Tour de France, Olympic golds, tennis Grand Slams and golf Majors?
Nicola Adams is in there for becoming the first British female boxer to win a gold medal. Try to stick Adams on as a headline act in a men's professional card to gauge the true level of public interest.
A rower in the form of Katherine Grainger is represented, but Ian Poulter has been excluded. Poulter should have been selected for almost single-handedly altering the destination of the Ryder Cup in September with five closing birdies in a fourball match when Europe seemed likelier to be round-housed by the US. Golf will never see such outrageous moments again.
The champion flat jockey Richard Hughes and his seven winners at Windsor in October was another obvious choice. But it is the exclusion of Froch that is most baffling. Especially when one considers Joe Calzaghe garnered almost 30 per cent of the public votes to snare the gong in 2007.
Froch is a figure worthy of rivalling Bradley Wiggins or the US Open tennis champion Andy Murray for the main prize, but weirdly does not even make the chosen dozen. As a boxer he traditionally opts for the biggest fights available to him. He fears nobody.
His points defeat to Andre Ward - arguably the top-rated pound-for-pound fighter in the world - in the final of the Super Six World Boxing Classic in New Jersey a year ago only hardened Froch's resolve to recover in 2012.
Froch regained the IBF version of the world super middleweight title with a slaying of the previously unbeaten Lucian Bute in the fifth round in May despite being rated as an outsider. He finished his year with the win over Mack. Froch must face up to the fact that he could win rematches with Bute, Ward or Mikkel Kessler in 2013 and not be considered for the SPOTY.
To punch harder, run faster, swim further, throw longer or get more shots across the net, most women have had to be like men. Yet they can never play sport at the optimum level because they are not men. This should be outlined in the selection criteria for Sports Personality, but is somehow not considered proper for fear of not sounding PC. Is it so offensive to reward men for being the best at professional sport?
Modern man may cart around manbags and wear moisturisers, but Andy Murray was most in touch with his feminine side in sport when he cried after an exacting loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final.
Women continue to receive equal prize money in the Grand Slam tennis tournaments, but play only three sets. Women compete for the Solheim Cup, but would collapse under the duress of a Ryder Cup crowd, especially in the US. No woman could replicate the antics of Poulter faced by such heat.
If we are rewarding personality, why not hand the award to Harry Redknapp or Ian Holloway? Or Adams for her pleasant demeanour? If we are rewarding success in professional sport, the award should end up with the leading sportsman every year.
The accusation of sexism that accompanied the decision to select an all-male shortlist in 2011 has adversely affected the composition of candidates this year. Gender equality rather than greatness has been bowed to by such a thought process.
The obvious alteration that needs to be made in such times would be to create a female and male personality of the year. This is essential when Jessica Ennis is left without a prayer against Wiggo, but included for the sake of inclusion.
The current format sees common sense cut adrift. It is a fudge of so-called experts overriding public opinion to create a shortlist which the public is forced to vote for. You are either one or the other - a panel-defined Mercury Music Prize, or the pop charts.
At least Wiggo winning will ensure one logical choice is adhered to.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ricky Hatton
- Carl Froch