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Thread: Harry Carpenter: the 'voice of British boxing' dies at 84

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    Harry Carpenter: the 'voice of British boxing' dies at 84

    Harry Carpenter, the commentator who established a reputation as the voice of British boxing, has died in his sleep at the age of 84.

    The BBC sports presenter, famous for his rapport with the former heavyweight champion Frank Bruno, died in hospital on Saturday. His lawyer said he had been unwell since having a minor heart attack last summer.

    Tributes have poured in from across the world of boxing, with some ranking Mr Carpenter among the greatest commentators of all time.

    Mr Bruno was said to be "very upset" at the “terrible” news.

    "Frank has many acquaintances but not many real friends. Harry Carpenter was a friend," a spokesman for the former boxer said.

    Mr Bruno’s catchphrase – “Know what I mean, ‘arry?” became a feature of his post-fight interviews with Mr Carpenter.

    During the boxer’s world title fight against Mike Tyson in Las Vegas in 1989, the commentator’s let slip his support for the British boxer when he urged: "Go on ... get in there, Frank."

    Mr Carpenter died at King's College Hospital in London in the early hours of Saturday morning.

    His funeral, which has not yet been arranged, will be reserved for close family and friends, followed by a more public memorial service in London.

    Mr Carpenter, who leaves a widow and one son, once speculated that his epitaph might read: "They stopped him talking at last."

    Frank Maloney, the boxing promoter, paid tribute to "the voice of boxing".

    He said: "He was probably one of the greatest commentators of all time. His voice was so distinctive and I remember all those Ali fights and Bruno fights he commentated on. It's like a piece of boxing history has been taken away."

    Although it was his boxing commentary that made his name, Mr Carpenter's versatility led to him covering a range of sports.

    Before his retirement in 1994, he covered all the major golf tournaments from 1967, tennis at Wimbledon from 1967 to 1993 and the Olympic games between 1956 and 1992.

    The fish merchant’s son from South Norwood, London also presented Sportsnight, Grandstand and Sports Personality of the Year throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s.

    Article taken from: Telegraph.co.uk By: Heidi Blake

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    One of my first

    "History of Boxing" type books that I purchased was by Mr. Carpenter.

    "Boxing: An Illustrated History-Harry Carpenter 1975

    Very good book that I frequently peruse from time to time.

    RIP.

    Hawk

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    Re: Harry Carpenter: the 'voice of British boxing' dies at 84

    I'm gutted last year it was Reg Gutteridge now his friend and fellow Boxing commentator Harry Carpenter.

    An era of Boxing commontating is truely over, as is the soundtrack to my early years of Boxing. Harry Carpenter was one of the greatest TV Boxing commentators of all time, no question. He was involved in the game for a liftime and counted the likes of Tyson, Bruno and Ali as friends.

    Rest In Peace.

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    Re: Harry Carpenter: the 'voice of British boxing' dies at 84

    Very sad news this. So many iconic Harry Carpenter moments:

    "Get in there Frank!" when Bruno staggered Tyson in the first fight.

    "Oh my God he's won the title back at 32" when Ali knocked out Foreman.

    "And Bobby Wells has done it....<voice breaking> for Britain!" when Bobby Wells won Britain's only boxing medal of the 1984 Olympics.

    RIP Harry you will be sorely missed.

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    Re: Harry Carpenter: the 'voice of British boxing' dies at 84

    A man who never had any enemies, Harry Carpenter was a true gentleman

    The boxing fraternity paid tribute in their droves to the last link to a bygone era of sports commentary

    Kevin Mitchell guardian.co.uk, Monday 22 March 2010 20

    Harry Carpenter has died, aged 84. With his departure goes sporting commentary's last link to an era of bow‑ties, rounded vowels and gentle, post-war understatement.

    Frank Bruno, with whom the commentator developed a firm friendship, was said to be "shattered" on hearing the news yesterday and too upset to speak.

    Carpenter suffered a mild heart attack last year and died in his sleep in the early hours of Saturday morning at King's College Hospital in London. His family will bury him in private and his many friends and colleagues will celebrate his life at a memorial, the dates of which are yet to be announced.

    Carpenter's good friend and ITV rival, Reg Gutteridge, died in January last year, also aged 84, and both had grown steadily disenchanted with the way their favourite sport, boxing, had lost not only its mainstream profile but much of its credibility.

    Carpenter, the son of a Billingsgate fish merchant, had what the former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan described as "an amazing voice". He added: "This man was a legend."

    The measured and mellow Carpenter tones had echoes of his war-time schooling at Selhurst Grammar School in Croydon, and gave him the quiet authority of a friendly vicar.

    Carpenter was as big a name in the households of Britain as were the scores of famous athletes across several sports, from the Boat Race to Wimbledon and The Open, whose deeds he chronicled in a career that started in newspapers and finished in 1994, after 45 years at the BBC.

    It was for boxing, though, that he was best known and Carpenter and Gutteridge gave the sometimes shabby undertaking a veneer of respectability in their contrasting styles.

    They operated at a time when the public at large knew who the British and world champions of the ring were and watched their fights in the many millions. As the number of title-holders and governing bodies grew, so did the sport's broader appeal and credibility contract in keeping with its retreat to non-terrestrial broadcasting outlets. Carpenter was not that sad to let go, when he briefly left the UK to live some of his retirement in France.

    Carpenter had great respect for the fighters he commentated on, none more so than Bruno. Their friendship, and subsequent commercial partnership, grew out of the fighter's habit of finishing each interview with, "Know what I mean, 'Arry?" It was as meaningless as it was endearing.

    Carpenter's objectivity famously deserted him when Bruno briefly discomforted Mike Tyson in his doomed challenge for the world title in 1989 as he voiced the hopes of a nation with the observation, "Go on! Get in there, Frank!"

    His most memorable moment came 15 years earlier in Zaire when Muhammad Ali did what nobody thought him capable of any more and knocked out George Foreman. "Oh my God! He's won the title back at 32," Carpenter screamed as the world took in the wonder that was the Rumble In The Jungle.

    The former world light-heavyweight champion John Conteh said: "We in this sport, including people like Muhammad Ali, can intuitively tell when someone loves boxing - and he was steeped in it. There was always constructive, not destructive, criticism from him."

    The promoter Frank Maloney said: "His voice was so distinctive. A piece of boxing history has been taken away."

    The former world lightweight champion Jim Watt, who knew Carpenter as a boxer and a commentator, said: "He covered all my world title fights and he commentated on me as an amateur – that's how long back we go. He was a real gentleman, a great operator."

    The former Great Britain Olympic coach Terry Edwards described him as: "Mr Boxing, as far as commentary goes".

    Edwards added: "There is nobody who could truly take [Carpenter's] place – not with the same passion and professionalism. He was one of those guys who never had any enemies."

    If that is a rare quality in life, it is almost extinct in boxing, the sport he loved unconditionally.

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    Re: Harry Carpenter: the 'voice of British boxing' dies at 84

    Harry Carpenter was an avuncular companion whose name evokes sport he enriched

    Harry Carpenter was as much a part of the televised boxing experience as Muhammad Ali. Ali was the prism through which the boxing memories of kids growing up in front of a Seventies television set were filtered. Carpenter was always there, the restrained, bespectacled counterpoint to all that breathless violence.

    By Kevin Garside
    Published: 9:42PM GMT 22 Mar 2010


    His commentary in 1974 on Ali’s improbable destruction of George Foreman in Zaire defined the age. “Suddenly Ali looks very tired indeed. In fact Ali, at times now, looks as though he can barely lift his arms up - Oh, he’s got him with a right hand! He’s got him! Oh, you can’t believe it. And I don’t think Foreman’s going to get up. He’s trying to beat the count. And he’s out! Oh my God, he’s won the title back at 32.”

    Carpenter was our connection to arguably the greatest sports story ever told. Ali had adolescent England believing that anything was possible. Carpenter’s narration framed the tale, articulating the drama in beautifully paced commentary that never got in the way. Ali did not need talking up. Carpenter’s great skill was to understand the value of silence and to intuit the moment when to break it.


    Boxing was Carpenter’s professional motif, but it by no means exhausted his range. He talked us through tennis, the Boat Race and sundry disciplines without catching an oar. This was an age when the majority of televised sport came to us through the highlights package. There was none of the 24/7 rolling output delivered by pretty boys and girls teamed up to read the autocue. Sport on TV was a rare treat.

    Carpenter’s talking head was a delicious indulgence for schoolboys allowed to stay up beyond the watershed on Wednesday nights for a weekly diet of Sportsnight. The brain packages the memory in black and white though latterly it was in colour. Either way his avuncular companionship was a magical presence, leading us through an epic period in a rapidly changing world.

    I tracked him down a few years ago to his French house in Cognac country. I imagined his life in boxing would dominate his reflections. In fact he was equally proud of his journalistic ancestry which saw him graduate to the BBC from local newspapers in south London.

    As a sub-editor he would be tied to a desk. Boxing was his release into live sports writing and an association that would make his name. He joined the BBC in 1949 and became the corporation’s house boxing man in 1962, the start of a golden period for the sport. Henry Cooper was emerging as a major national figure and would coincide bloodily with the global phenomenon that was Cassius Clay.

    Carpenter would have struggled to engage the national audience today. The contemporary boxing commentators wander the schedules in relative anonymity on subscription television. Had he been on the mic 40 years ago the excellent Ian Darke would be doing the pizza commercials. His stipend from Sky keeps him fed and watered but he will never occupy the slot in the annals claimed by Carpenter.

    In the age before sporting rights changed the landscape boxing was an important feature of the sporting diet. Newspaper coverage would dovetail with television exposure to make Britain’s boxers as famous as our footballers and cricketers. Cooper’s broken features sold aftershave to millions, inducing men who did not have to try too hard to invest in a bottle of Brut. Carpenter grew in stature by association.

    After Cooper came a Seventies riot of Joe Bugner, John Conteh, John H Stracey, Alan Minter, Charlie Magri, followed in the Eighties by Barry McGuigan and Frank Bruno. It was through his rapport with the latter that Carpenter’s fame reached its apotheosis. “Know what I mean ’Arry” followed “splash it all over” into the lexicon. Bruno was never the circus act he would have you believe. Behind that south London patois was a complex character that Carpenter understood and was careful not to patronise.

    He treated Bruno as he did his audience, like an adult and with respect. Genuine affection was the result. ’Arry leaves behind a body of work as impressive as any because the mention of his name evokes immediately the sport he enriched.

    The same quality attaches to Dan Maskell in tennis, Murray Walker in Formula One, John Arlott and Brian Johnston in cricket, Bill McLaren in Rugby Union, Eddie Waring in League, Peter O’Sullevan in racing, voices indelibly woven into the history of their sports.

    Carpenter was a boxing hall of famer who never threw a punch. Tweaking a touch the words of Eddie Futch, who called time on Joe Frazier during his savage third bout with Ali in Manilla, let us imagine the great trainer in the sky took Harry from us with the words “Sit down son, no-one will ever forget what you did here today.”

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    Re: Harry Carpenter: the 'voice of British boxing' dies at 84

    I have just watched footage of Ali-Frazier 1 from 1971 which was about 4 or 5 years after Ali had changed his name? Anyway, why was Harry referring to Ali as Clay during the commentary for that fight? I mean, surely it was common knowledge that the man wanted to be called Ali?

    Before the bout, Harry spoke to Ali and brought up a point about Ali allowing
    Frazier to call him Clay. Ali responded to Harry by saying, "No, I didn't allow him, he just called me Clay."

    So, after this, and after 4 or 5 years, I wonder why Harry was calling him Clay for that bout?
    Last edited by walshb; 04-03-2010 at 12:52 PM.

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    Re: Harry Carpenter: the 'voice of British boxing' dies at 84

    BOXING legend Frank Bruno paid tribute to commentator Harry Carpenter at his memorial service today.
    The heavyweight champ said in a statement: "You would have to walk a trillion miles to meet a man as nice."

    Bruno couldn't be there due to a commitment overseas, but his words were read to the church congregation by sports presenter Des Lynam.

    The 48-year-old — famous for his catchphrase "You know what I mean 'arry?" — said: "We didn't set out to be a double act.

    "But with my intelligence and Harry's good looks it was inevitable that we would go far.

    "I could go on for ages about how wonderful Harry was. He was a classy gentleman."

    The congregation rippled with laughter when the church echoed with the words: "Go on...get in there Frank!"


    The BBC's Voice of Boxing famously appeared to lose his impartiality as Frank Bruno rocked fearsome Mike Tyson with a left hook before losing their 1989 showdown in Las Vegas.

    It was one of several memorable broadcasting moments from the mouth of Harry relayed to a packed St Bride's in London's Fleet Street through speakers.

    Also there were boxing's Barry McGuigan, golf commentator Peter Alliss and Wimbledon tennis champ Virginia Wade, who read the Rudyard Kipling poem If.

    McGuigan said: "I know my fellow boxers were thrilled when he spoke about them. Every boxer was a fan of Harry because he articulated so elegantly their every move.

    "He had one of the best speaking voices of all and I think we will never have another one like it."

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    Rector David Meara, who led the service, said: "He was unflappable and wholly professional and a much-loved sports commentator.

    "A true gentleman with an encyclopaedic memory and a wonderful voice."

    Harry died in March aged 84, eight months after suffering a minor heart attack.

    At the start of a near five decade career he was a national newspaper sports journalist and joined the Beeb in 1949.

    He was awarded the OBE in 1991, two years after being named International Sportscaster of the Year in America.

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