'Voice of Boxing' dies

2010-03-23 08:06

London - Veteran BBC boxing commentator Harry Carpenter has died aged 84, his lawyer said on Monday.

Carpenter, the voice of British boxing for approaching 50 years, died at King's College Hospital in London on Saturday.

"He had been unwell since last summer when he had a minor heart attack," said his lawyer David Wills.

Carpenter joined the BBC in 1949 after two years in the Royal Navy. He was their full-time boxing correspondent from 1962 until 1994. He also worked for several national newspapers.

Besides boxing, he also covered golf, the Wimbledon tennis championships, greyhound racing and the Oxford-Cambridge university boat race.

Carpenter was well known for his rapport with British former world champion heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno, whose catchphrase "Know what I mean, 'arry?" featured in their post-fight interviews.

His agent said Bruno had been deeply affected by Carpenter's death.

"When I told him, he said it was 'terrible, sad news'.

"Frank has many acquaintances but not many real friends. Harry Carpenter was a friend."

Carpenter was on air for the "Rumble in the Jungle" between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1974.

He described the end of the contest - underdog Ali won by knockout in the eighth round to reclaim the world heavyweight crown at the age of 32 - as "the most extraordinary few seconds that I have ever seen in a boxing ring".

"We all knew if there was going to be some class in boxing, someone who really brought out boxing and the human being probably, it would be Harry - great Harry," Foreman told the BBC.

"We were all accustomed to boxing people bustling in and arguing but Harry was a real classy human being.

"Always a good smile, sticking right to the point as though he wanted to give the public a bird's eye view of the human being and of the boxer."

British boxing great Henry Cooper, the former world heavyweight title challenger, said of Carpenter: "If you were good then he'd give you a good write-up and if not, he told you one or two truths.

"All in all I always found him a fair guy. I always enjoyed his company and enjoyed talking to him. And he knew the game."

Carpenter's contribution to sports broadcasting gained international recognition when in 1989 he picked up the American Sportscasters' Association and International Sportscaster of the Year awards.

He is survived by a widow and one son.