Farewell the Voice of Boxing
As a young sports fan growing up in 1980's Britain, when boxing still ruled the world, Reg Gutteridge formed part of a Mount Rushmore of great television commentators, with Harry Carpenter, Richie Benaud and Brian Moore making up my granite-hewn quartet.
While the BBC's Carpenter, with whom Gutteridge went toe-to-toe at some of the world's greatest fights for four decades, exuded erudition, you could almost smell the liniment when ITV's man at ringside appeared on screen.
Gutteridge, who passed away at the weekend the age of 84, was steeped in the sport. His dad and uncle were the famous Gutteridge twins - Dick and Jack - "trainers of champions" during 1920s and '30s.
And after Reg had his left leg blown off during the D-Day Landings - "want to know something really funny?" he once said, "your disability pension was determined by how many inches of your leg they cut off. Mine came to 16 shillings per week" - he became a boxing writer.
He saw most of 'them' fight. Sugar Ray Robinson, Roberto Duran, Muhammad Ali. But, while I will always think of Carpenter as the messenger from the home front, I will always think of Gutteridge and his sidekick Jim Watt as my guides to the exotic world of Hagler, Hearns and Leonard.
"It's like walking into a minefield," Gutteridge, who knew a thing or two about mines, said during the first stanza of the Hagler-Hearns ding-dong, one of the greatest rounds in history. "No scouting reports with these two..."
The slightly washed-out transatlantic pictures, the crackling sound. Magical. After the fights, my eldest brother and I would dig out the battered old gloves from under the stairs and go a few rounds in the living room, with my brother usually pretending to be Leonard while reeling off Reg's best lines.
Coincidentally, Reg is thought to be the only man ever to conduct an interview during a televised fight, shoving his microphone between the ropes and grabbing a few words from Ali during his fight with the Dutchman Rudi Lubbers in Jakarta.
Boxing correspondents got about a bit more in those days. In Kinshasa to report on the 'Rumble in the Jungle' between Ali and George Foreman, Gutteridge went to dinner one night to discover there was only one course, which he took to be chicken, ordered and ate.
The next night the same dish was served, and when it appeared again the following night, Reg demurred. "Have you got anything other than chicken?" he said. "Chicken?" said the waiter. "We only eat chicken on the president's birthday." "Then what have I been eating the last couple of nights?" said Reg. "Roast monkey," came the reply.
As with anyone who covered boxing in the '60s and '70s, Ali loomed large in Gutteridge's life and when Reg woke up in hospital in Hammersmith in 1989 following a dose of blood poisoning, the first thing he saw was Ali praying at the foot of his bed.
Reg remained very much involved in boxing even after retirement. He was very supportive of Michael Watson, who suffered brain damage in his fight with Chris Eubank in 1991, and my dad tells me he was still a vocal presence at the London Ex-Boxers Association right up until December's Christmas meeting.
He'll be fondly remembered and sorely missed. Rest in Peace Reg Gutteridge, the 'Voice of Boxing'.
P.S. Reg was once interviewing a particularly surly and unresponsive Sonny Liston. Irritated by Liston's lack of engagement, Gutteridge turned to him and said: "So you think you're tough?" Reg then picked up a fork and rammed it into his left leg, before rising from his seat and casually walking from the room.