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Farewell the Voice of Boxing

Ben Dirs | 01:53 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009

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.

Marvin Hagler v Sugar Ray 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.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Reg was a legend - simple as that. He will be missed. RIP

  • Comment number 2.

    Very sad to see him go, one of the sports commentators I 'grew up with'. RIP.

  • Comment number 3.

    Wonderful commentator along with Bill McLaren, Peter O'Sullivan & Richie Benaud would be my 4. Like all of them he could hold your attendtion make a relatively dull period in a fight seem pretty decent.
    One of his oft used though not overused was '...well he got the job done there...' which I associate with Hagler (in the main) as he rattled an opponent who was only going one way.
    He was one of the few pundits who gave Leonard half a chance against Hagler as well

  • Comment number 4.

    Very nice article.

    That Liston story, I heard that Reg said something like "you think you're tough, but can you do this" and then shoved the fork in his leg.

    Then Liston said "no, but can you do this" - and went and pulled the door straight of its hinges.

  • Comment number 5.

    I hadn't heard this news, how sad.
    Top man Reg, you will be missed.
    R.I.P.

  • Comment number 6.

    As a boxing fan growing up in the early 80's in England the voices of boxing for me will always be Reg Gutteridge and Harry Carpenter. The sport has lost a true legend.
    He will be missed RIP Reg.

  • Comment number 7.

    RIP.

  • Comment number 8.

    A classic Gutteridge quote, taken from when Tyson destroyed Berbick:

    'This really is the black version of a Rocky Marciano - and two stone heavier !'


  • Comment number 9.

    Very sad to hear Reg Gutteridge as died. I once enjoyed lunch with Reg where he told me the boxer he most admired was Ray Robinson. He also solved the mystery for me, how Kettle is rhyming slang for watch. R.I.P.

  • Comment number 10.

    I loved Reg, a top commentator, gained my utmost respect as well being in the D-Day landings and paying the price for it too, but still, he soldiered on. RIP mate, you were a great example for the job (of commentator).

  • Comment number 11.

    it is wonderful to read all these comments about Reg. I wanted to add that apart from being a great journalist, he was also my lovely dad. The world is a lesser place without him. S

  • Comment number 12.

    As with most posters who grew up in the eighties and being introduced to the sport of boxing by my father, I grew up listening to, and watching Reg Gutteridge. In my honest opinion he enhanced the sport for the British watchers with his typically British sense of dry humour.
    For me he represented not just sport journalism but the ideology of a post war nation, an ideal that has unfortunately been lost to time.
    D.H Laurence wrote of E.M Forster as being the last true English man, D.H Laurence never met Reg Gutteridge.
    In dying, didn’t die.
    R.I.P.

  • Comment number 13.

    As with all great commentators, of sport and otherwise, Reg defined his arena. I loved how reassuring his knowledge was and how he never slipped into hyperbole or exaggeration. We have some great boxing commentators today of course, in the shape of Ian Darke, Jim Watt, Glenn McCrorry et al, but I am sure each and every one of them would agree that they all owe an enormous debt to Reg. Cheers mate, you helped make the sweet science the best sport in the world.

    And I always chuckle at this quote from the Benn - McClellan fight: "Oh dear. It looks like he's done him in the first round."


  • Comment number 14.

    RIP Reg, you were a legend a great help to me and many others in our sport, boxing has lost a great man,

  • Comment number 15.

    Very sad news. Condolences to Reg's family. The greatest boxing commentator and a fine writer too.
    My favourite story of Reg; After Henry Cooper got knocked out by Ingemaar Johanson during an open air fight he complained that the sun had got in his eyes. Reg - "You mean Mrs Johanson's son I presume?"
    RIP

  • Comment number 16.

    Re #9:

    Kettle on the hob -> fob -> watch.

    Simple. Arthur Daley explained it to Dave at the Winchester Club in one of the last episodes of Minder.

    Shame about Reg Gutteridge all the same. He was one of those good writers who was worth reading regardless of what he was writing about. There was a fair few of those who were boxing specialists. Something about the noble art which transcends to life in general, I suppose.

    He was the cousin of Jackie "Mr TV" Pallo. As he once said, "he could say what he liked about Mr TV, as my dad and his were twin brothers". Priceless.

  • Comment number 17.

    Reg was certainly one of the great commentators of his time.

    By the way, the Lubbers fight wasn't a world title fight, as this article states. Ali didn't regain the title until the following year.

  • Comment number 18.

    Sad news to hear. Reg Gutteridge (along with Harry Carpenter) was the voice of boxing to me during my early years as a fan of the sport. They put some of todays commentators to shame.

    I read a story where the morning after Foreman KO2 Frazier in Jamaica, journalist Wally Bartleman (might have the name wrong) wandered out of the hotel and blinded by the sun, stumbled straight into the swimming pool. Reg saw this and quipped "I know you were the only one to predict the fight right Wally, but it doesn't mean you can walk on water!".

  • Comment number 19.

    Reg and I were at Laycock Street School in Islington in 1935, same form, with Clegg,Davenport ,Wilkinsand Hawkins. He was a great bloke, he could lick anyone in the school but always in the nicest possible way.

    After forty years we met again by chance in the City Golf Club off Fleet Street . I greeted him with "Hello Reg"and in response, without hesitation he said" Jack Aspinall, hello" Wonderful.

  • Comment number 20.

    Nice tribute from Ben... and some good anecdotes from contributors.

    On the several threads there have been on favourite commentators on the boxing board on here, Reg has always been highly regarded, and certainly always got my vote. Knowedgeable engaging and all round top guy.

    Jaroma, if you'd like to see more, tributes to your Dad, here's the tribute thread from the board...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/A46460315

  • Comment number 21.

    bianchi1971 - Good spot, all changed

    Many thanks for your comments, especially Jaroma's. It must be comforting to know how much your dad was loved by the nation.

  • Comment number 22.

    Top man Mr G.
    Totally different style to the modern pundits and far more knowledge.

 

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