By Terence Dooley
After days of Tweets, leaks and guesswork over the future of BoxNation, a Sky TV channel that was launched in the summer and currently shows reruns of Frank Warren-promoted bouts, BoxingScene.com can reveal the details of channel 456’s fall output, subscription cost and the full scope of their commitment to boxing.
Warren, Boxing Channel Media and Zoom Communications are behind the venture; it will show its first live bill on September 30th when Liam Walsh defends his Commonwealth super-featherweight title against Paul Appleby at London’s York Hall.
"This is what all boxing fans have been waiting for - a dedicated channel, 100% percent committed to showing the best fights from around the world,” declared Warren. “It’s a big challenge in my career, but I’m really excited by BoxNation and it takes me back to my early years when I was at ITV doing a show a week.”
His sons, Francis and George, are at the helm of Queensberry Promotions; they have put together the Walsh-Appleby bill. “We are very proud that the first ever live show on BoxNation will be from Queensberry Promotions,” stated Francis. “We are looking forward to a long standing relationship with BoxNation."
Their will be two live promotions each week featuring action from the UK and abroad, amateur tournaments will also be a staple of their content, starting with the World Amateur Championships and the Royal Albert Hall Cup, Steve Bunce’s anarchic magazine show, Buncey’s Boxing Hour, will also return to our screens, with some episodes broadcast from London’s Planet Hollywood venue, there are to be daily news updates and archive fights featuring Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard as well as reruns of other contests.
Warren has joined forced with Sauerland Promotions for a three-year deal that includes the WBO 168lb title battle between Robert Stieglitz and Mikkel Kessler on November 5th plus other bouts from the continent.
Bunce will be joined by boxing regulars Jim Rosenthal, the face and voice of ITV’s Big Fight Live for many years, Paul Dempsey, Sky’s former boxing anchorman, and experienced journalist John Rawling.
Free-to-air for the first few months, the channel will then switch to a subscription, £10 per month, format rather than the pay-per-event model that some had suspected would be implemented.
September’s Walsh-Appleby fight will be followed by an amateur showdown between the UK Combined Services and US Armed Services on October 7th, the show comes from the Royal Albert Hall, before heading to the Liverpool ECHO Arena on October 15th for Nathan Cleverly WBO light-heavyweight title defence against Tony Bellew, a bill that will be topped by a late night trip to Los Angeles for the WBC 175lb showdown between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson.
Rob Norton headlines the following week, defending his British cruiserweight title at the York Hall, Norton’s defence will be packaged with a live broadcast of the mooted cruiserweight unification bout between WBC boss Marco Huck and WBO titlist Krzysztof Wlodarczyk. Frankie Gavin closes out the month, taking on WBO number four ranked contender Diego Gabriel Chaves in a WBO Inter-Continental title defence on October 28th.
November kicks off with Ricky Burns and Michael Katsidis looking horns for the Interim WBO lightweight title, the clash comes live from Wembley on Saturday November 5th and is supported by George Groves’ British super-middleweight title defence against former holder Paul Smith and Ryan Walsh’s first title shot, a meeting with Liam Richard for the vacant English super-bantamweight belt.
Once the dust settles on that one, the channel will switch to Denmark for the aforementioned Stieglitz-Kessler clash. Kessler is seeking to get back amongst the titles after a mixed Super Six tournament that saw the Dane lose to Andre Ward before bouncing back with a win over Carl Froch.
November 18th features the return of newly minted British and Commonwealth featherweight holder Lee Selby. The Welshman looked top drawer in his shocking victory over the highly regarded Stephen Smith at Liverpool’s Olympia on Saturday night, he takes on Scotland’s tough, uncompromising John Simpson, the York Hall once again the venue.
Richard Brooke will chair BoxNation; Simon Green, their CEO, has two decades of experience in boxing and believes that the channel will help develop British talent as well as delivering international fights; Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy CEO, is also onboard.
“We are very pleased to start working with BoxNation and bring some of the compelling boxing content to the British Fight Fans,” stated Schaefer. “The first one being the historic showdown of Bernard Hopkins against Chad Dawson. This fight illustrates the commitment BoxNation has to boxing.”
The final word goes to ITV legend and fan favorite Jim Rosenthal. “This a truly exciting new venture and I’m delighted that I’ll be involved with BoxNation,” enthused Jim. “Not only am I passionate about presenting at boxing events, but I’m also a big fan of the sport and I think this is great news for boxing fans everywhere.”
Forum reaction to the news has been mixed, with some declaring that they will not pay for the channel despite an absence of the full launch and schedule details. Many British fans, this writer included, shell out for ESPN and Premier Sports, bemoaned the loss of Bunce and Setanta a couple of years ago and have asked for a dedicated boxing channel. News of Warren’s venture has been greeted with one or two groans, which is strange considering the often-expressed need for further TV commitment to the sport.
At £10 a month the subscription fee is not a back breaker. There looks to be a lot of boxing on BoxNation if the early pace is maintained and with one or two declaring in the past that Setanta was worth the money purely for Buncey alone it makes one wonder if the quibbles over BoxNation relate directly to the previously ‘through a glass darkly’ description of what is on offer or are directed towards Warren himself. In the final analysis, the channel will live and die on its commitment to the sport, with punters deciding if the amount of shows and features justifies the monthly commitment.
Certainly, it looks to be better value than PPV, has greater scope than Premier Sports and ESPN as well as catering to the need for both UK and International bills, with those who do subscribe likely to enjoy a number of boxing marathons over the coming season. May we live in interesting times.
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