Ricky Gervais once won boxing fight dubbed ‘farcical’ by Frank Warren

Comedian Ricky Gervais is known more for his hard-hitting gags than punches – but there was one time when he was forced to rely on the latter rather than his razor-sharp wit.

A year after his hit BBC show The Office debuted in 2001, the funnyman signed up to make his boxing debut for The Fight, another BBC creation which pitted celebrities against one another in the name of charity.

He would go up against businessman Grant Bovey, the husband of TV presenter Anthea Turner, in a bout consisting of three 90-second rounds, with the winner set to scoop £5,000 for their chosen good cause.

While the benefit to charities was widely praised, though, the show drew criticism from some of the biggest names in the sport.

One of those was the legendary promoter Frank Warren, who admitted he was "p***ed off" with the BBC for funding the unlicensed match between Gervais and Bovey, which was to be the first fight broadcast as part of the series on December 29, 2002.

"One thing I don't want to be seen as is a killjoy – I know they're doing this for charity," Warren said. "But there are certain ways of going about this. What I'm unhappy about is that it's unlicensed boxing.

"It's a very dangerous sport and it needs to be regulated properly. You can't just go to the gym for six weeks and think you are a boxer. It takes a long time and a lot of dedication.

"The brain doesn't distinguish whether it's being hit by a professional or an amateur. If, heaven forbid, something should go wrong, people won't be saying let's ban The Office or whatever Grant Bovey does, they'll be calling for a ban on boxing."

He added: "I'm surprised the BBC got into this at all. I'm also pissed off with the BBC – I wish they'd spend their money on proper boxing."

Should unlicensed boxing fights for charity be allowed? Let us know in the comments section.

The British Boxing Board of Control were also pretty unhappy with the charity bout, and wrote to then-director general of the BBC Greg Dyke to urge him to scrap the planned show.

The BBBoC argued it would make "a farce of the noble art", adding that Gervais and Bovey – both aged 41 at the time – were too old for it to be safe.

Regardless, the programme went ahead and it was later revealed that Gervais had even fought fellow comic Bob Mortimer while training for the big bout.

Lisa Clark, who has regularly worked with the comedian who rose to fame as part of a double-act with Vic Reeves, said in 2019 the practice bout was "brilliant", adding: "Bob gave Ricky a black eye."

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Despite that, Gervais was victorious over Bovey on fight night – and afterwards admitted it was a lot tougher than he thought it would be.

His nose bloodied from the bout, Gervais said: "I would not recommend getting into the ring and punching someone in the face. I always knew it was a very, very hard game that needs a lot more skill and dedication than I have got. Up close, you do see things you never imagined.

More than five million people tuned in to see the fight, but more planned bouts as part of a series were later scrapped as the BBC finally caved in to pressure from boxing authorities.

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