Monday 19 November 2018

Charity Lords of the Rings

Paul Whitington

Tonight, RTE1, 9.30pm

Some day, someone will come up with a format for a reality show that celebrities will decide is beneath their dignity. In the meantime, there's Charity Lords of the Ring, in which a group of sturdy chaps don the outsize boxing gloves for a series of televised bouts -- all for a good cause, of course. The programme will continue through the week as the 10 contestants are whittled down to an overall winner. However, celebrity boxing is nothing new, and the Lords of the Ring contestants will probably not be advised to dwell too much on the experiences of Ricky Gervais.

In 2003, the not-especially athletic comic agreed to take part in a celebrity bout as part of the BBC's Sport Relief programme. Looking more than a tad ridiculous in his outsize gloves and bright red headgear, Gervais won on points against Grant Bovey, husband of Anthea Turner, but felt decidedly ambivalent about his experiences in hindsight. "I think I won on points because I leaned on him heavier than he leaned on me," he said afterwards. "I wouldn't fight again; it's the hardest thing I've ever done. Considering I don't do anything else -- panel shows or game shows -- I just chose the worst one I could ever do, apart from I'm A Celebrity: Get Me Back On Telly -- I'll Eat A Spider. Christ knows what I was thinking."

However, Gervais, despite his many other accomplishments, is not an Irishman, and in this country, where the sport has such a rich history, practically every male secretly considers himself an undiscovered contender. That will presumably be the attitude with which the Charity Lords of the Ring pugilists will approach the task ahead of them. And for the week-long show, comic Alan Shortt, TV presenter John McGuire, Fair City actor MacLean Burke, journalists Paul Martin and Joe O'Shea, Dragons' Den judge and entrepreneur Sean Gallagher and RTE presenter Rob Ross will be joined by two British contenders -- Ben Clarke and that full-time celebrity contestant, Lee Sharpe.

Presented by Lucy Kennedy, the series will follow the 10 through an intensive boot camp, where they will be put through their paces by internationally renowned trainers Tim Witherspoon and Peter Taylor, coach and father of women's world champion Katie Taylor. The pair will work with the celebs to hone their mental and physical skills, while other well-known faces from the boxing world will drop into the camp to offer advice.

More than €100,000 will go directly to the 10 charities chosen by the participants, and the contestants will have an extra incentive to impress in the ring: the longer they stay in the competition, the more money their charity will receive.

The bouts will be overseen by professional referees and judged by a panel of guest judges from the boxing world. They will be awarding points after each round, with the emphasis placed on style, movement and defence. The celebrities will also have to pass a rigorous half-day medical before being allowed to take part in the boot camp, and protective headgear will be worn for all ring training and bouts.

But remember: they're celebrities, so watch out for the ones that panic mid-fight and start shouting, "Not the face, not the face!"

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