The fury surrounding Fury took me back to my youth. About 25 years ago I accepted one of my dodgier assignments when I was sent to write an article about traveller boys who boxed. The pair of gypsy kids - they were happy to be called such then - were aged between 11 and 13 and had been in the ring for a number of years. They lived in a caravan under the Bow Flyover in East London. The more successful of them had a club foot so had an unusual ‘float like a butterfly’ shuffle as he moved around the ring. I can still hear their mum yelling ‘come on, my mushie!’ from ringside as her boy’s fists pummelled a juvenile opponent. And I can still see the flying stream of blood droplets that came from one of their faces when he received an accurate swipe in the nose and eye from his opposite number.
I’ve never been a fan of encouraging kids - or adults for that matter - to punch each other in the head for a living. Boxing remains unusual as a ‘sport’ in that the intentional infliction of brain damage on an opponent is its sole aim. In that way it maintains similarities with its ancient precursor that took place in the Colosseum. Both hasten death.
But there’s loads of money in it even if your chance of getting Parkinson's or dementia pugilistica is a near certain outcome as well as your purse. It’s virtually the only sport which is pay-per-view on Sky. The Fury fight against Klitschko was thought to be worth £30 million and Fury should have made £5 million for his pains. This was peanuts compared to Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao who received stunning paydays for their welterweight championship unification fight earlier this year in Las Vegas. The sum to be split was close to $300 million.
It’s a reminder of the astonishing sums of money in global televised sport these days. Bread and circuses are still what the people want. As the year draws to a close the tragic fall of Jose Mourinho and the struggles of the washed-up Wayne Rooney on £300k per week have only been matched for drama by the soap opera of Blatter and FIFA. (Though wouldn't it be a delight to see Roman Abramovich and Mike Ashley's respective clubs relegated in one fell swoop - and the subsequent impact on their net worths?)
The reason international football is so bent is that the World Cup is the most lucrative sporting event in the world, eclipsing even the Olympics. Money has corrupted it absolutely. Those worthies who run it just cannot resist getting their snouts into the trough. The 2014 qualifying rounds and final tournament brought in £3.1bn over four years and, after the many dubious costs are taken into account, Fifa made a profit of more than $2bn.
But Blatter is a Special One all on his own and has to win Dodgy Sports Personality of the Year by some margin. He was recently released from a Swiss clinic following what was described as ‘a small emotional breakdown,’ and unsurprisingly wasn’t a contender for MT’s Most Admired Leader this year. He claims the whole FIFA affair has brought him perilously close to his maker.
The week before last, as he fought back the tears, he stated, ‘I was between the angels who were singing and the devil who was lighting the fire, but it was the angels who sang.’ Thank you, angels. Perhaps we could have a Blatter versus Fury bout next year. All proceeds to the brain-damaged boxers benevolent fund.