In 1985, about to be kicked out of our student accommodation, my housemates and I planned one final party – the Tenants’ Revenge – and we sat down to write the invitations in front of the television which was showing Barry McGuigan’s first featherweight world title fight against the holder, Eusebio Pedroza.
It was in the days when pay-per-view was a transaction that got you into a peep show, Channel 4 was so young it still felt strange to have a fourth choice and, though I do not really follow the fortunes of QPR, I imagine it remains the last hour of decent sport ever to have taken place at Loftus Road.
It was one of the great fights, and it enthralled us. McGuigan dropped Pedroza halfway through, pummelled his way to a points victory – and to “Barry McGuigan, N. Ireland” we posted an invitation to our party. He could not, alas, make it but his people sent a signed photograph.
Fast forward over 30 years to Saturday morning. It was McGuigan talking about the Joshua-Klitschko fight on Radio 2 and the fact that, for once, a world title fight involving a Briton was on at a time which would only compromise my bedtime by one hour, which persuaded me to join the record number of pay-per-viewers and fork out £19.95 to watch it.
The beauty of a full Wembley Stadium as a venue from a very part-time boxing fan’s point of view is that the noise drowned out a lot of the pre-fight nonsense chat. The downsides are that from a cheap-seat spectator’s point of view it must be like watching an ant fight, and it is so far from the changing rooms to the ring that any fighter not in tip-top condition would be found out by the time he climbed in.
McGuigan had an excellent line about nerves being like a fire: used properly, he said, it could warm your house and heat your water, used wrongly it could burn your house down. With half a mind on that I was interested to see whose water was a nice temperature and whose thatched roof was going up.
I suppose as a result of too much Rocky I was surprised not to see Klitschko come out like Zebedee, sans moustache, bouncing his way to the ring. Instead he looked nonchalant, as if he were going bird-watching in his dressing gown with no expectation of seeing anything more exotic than a sparrow.
Winner and loser emerged with reputations greatly enhanced both as fighters and son-in-law material
Joshua had good reason to be nervous because part of his entrance routine was to be hoisted on a platform between a flaming A and a flaming J.
There genuinely was a chance of his house catching fire but Joshua could not have been more laid-back had he been carried in on a stretcher, the mode of transport he looked most likely to leave in during round six.
If there were nerves he was not showing them, and in the very early rounds he seemed more troubled by his shorts, which kept falling up, as my daughter so rightly pointed out, rather than down.
It must be annoying when every time you take a step back to avoid a jab from ‘Dr Steelhammer’ you tighten the wedgie which is taking place underneath your shorts. By the time he had decked Klitschko for the first time it had either sorted itself out or he had other, more weighty matters on his mind.
In the end it was a gripping, thrilling fight, chess with sledgehammers and, even to someone who grasp of boxing only extends to a weekly box-fit class, it raised heartrates – the best since McGuigan versus Pedroza.
Winner and loser emerged with reputations greatly enhanced both as fighters and son-in-law material – they were so charming. I will pay again to see him defend his title and if “Anthony Joshua, London” and first class stamp find him, he can be safe in knowledge he will crack an invite to the next party.