by Frank Warren
Right now, British boxing is really booming.
Week after week promotions are filling huge arenas across the length and breadth of the country. We can boast four reigning world champions and stars such as David Haye, Tyson Fury and Amir Khan are household names.
Pending super fights between Carl Froch and George Groves plus Haye and Fury are generating heated debates among the nation’s sports fans; always the sign of a healthy industry.
A rung beneath, there’s a plethora of talent such as Dereck Chisora, Nathan Cleverly, Martin Murray, Billy Joe Saunders, Brian Rose, Kell Brook, Frankie Gavin, Liam Walsh, Stephen Smith, Lee Selby, Carl Frampton, Jamie McDonnell and Paul Butler who are already on the cusp of world contention.
And the recent success of our elite amateur program suggests there is a seam of talent coming through to ensure future success for several years to come. It is a source of considerable frustration therefore that this buoyancy is not reflected by terrestrial TV exposure.
Of the mainstream channels only Channel Five is presently broadcasting any live professional boxing and even their coverage is sporadic. Biggest culprits are the BBC who, through licence fees, has more income than any one.
In an age when the government is repeatedly preaching the virtues of sport in the battle to combat youth obesity, their centrally funded TV outlet has significantly diminished its coverage. Access to the biggest stars who might inspire our young people to participate is via subscription television.
Listening to the radio recently, I had to suffer some idiot dismissing boxing as a ‘fringe’ sport. Evidence strongly suggests otherwise. And it’s not just boxing fans who are suffering. Live coverage of Premier League soccer, Test cricket, Horse racing and England rugby internationals has also been sacrificed. What are the licence fees being spent on?
The harsh reality is that the BBC did not forsake these sports but that these sports were forced to forsake the BBC because the broadcasters simply refused, or were unable, to pay the market rate to secure fans the sporting events of their choice.
Boxing hasn’t become a ‘fringe’ sport. The BBC has become a fringe sporting channel which fails to invest in the sports which the public most want to see.
The recent pay offs of Mark Bayford ex Deputy Director General and George Entwistle former Director General would have funded ten decent boxing shows.
Boxing has seldom been more attractive. Subscription channels BoxNation and Sky Sports both provide fantastic in-depth coverage of the sport. Maybe the new Minister of Sport Helen Grant should ask the BBC to explain where their sports budget is being spent.
Having made history as the oldest fighter to win a world title in March, Bernard Hopkins became the oldest to successfully retain his belt when he comprehensively schooled mandatory challenger Karo Murat of Germany in Atlantic City last weekend.
The Philadelphia time lord, just three months shy of his 49th birthday, delivered his most exciting clinic for years, routinely outslugging an opponent 18 years his junior, delivering US Broadcaster Showtime their 5th highest ever rating.
With ‘BHop’ set to turn 50 in January 2015 and stating he can make middleweight, and ‘pound-for-pound’ leader Floyd Mayweather fast closing in on 50 consecutive wins, expect the drum to start beating for a catch weight “50” showdown between the pair 12-18 months from now that could shatter all revenue records.
Alabama slammer Deontay Wilder is gradually revitalising much needed US interest in the blue riband heavyweight division.
Since conceding to an Italian in the semi final of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 28 year old ‘Bronze Bomber’ has iced 30 successive pro victims, all within four rounds. A late starter at 20, Wilder made the US Olympic squad within three years of first lacing the gloves.
He remains stiff, wild and clumsy but, at 6ft 7in tall and a perfectly chiselled 16 stone, he possesses all the necessary physical hardware and is clearly a KO specialist.
After levelling one-time Tyson Fury opponent Nicolai Firtha in four on the Hopkins undercard last Saturday, rumours are circulating that the trigger-tongued Yank will debate the WBC title against mandatory contender Bermane Stiverne of Canada, once reigning champion Vitali Klitschko formally vacates to run for presidency of the Ukraine in the New Year.
WBA middleweight champion ‘Golden’ Gennady Golovkin is a fighter whose talent presently far outweighs his profile.
The German based Kazakh is a clinical assassin with fists of cement. His 89% kayo ratio is the highest in the division’s history. A former world amateur champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist, ‘GGG’, 31, has capsized 24 of his 27 pro opponents and is presently on a streak of 14 straight kayos. I’d favour him strongly to topple any of the rival 160lb world champions, including Britain’s Darren Barker.
This evening, Golovkin defends for a tenth time against New York’s Curtis Stevens at Madison Square Garden’s Theatre. Again, the judges should be redundant. Sky Sports televise live.
Respect to Nathan Cleverly for jumping straight back onto his horse after conceding his unbeaten tag and WBO light-heavyweight title in August.
Following a spot of R and R, the 26 year old Welsh boyo announced this week that he will resume his career up at cruiserweight and boldly dives straight into a Commonwealth title fight.
On November 30th, on my mega title promotion at The Copper Box in Hackney, ‘Clev’ fronts up to Australian champion Daniel ‘Doberman’ Ammann.
Though he began his pro career as a spindly 18 year old welterweight, I think the additional 25 lbs will suit Nathan who has the height, reach and frame to flourish at 14st 4.
The cruiser class, inaugurated in 1979, is one in which Britain boasts a rich history. Glenn McCrory, Carl Thompson, Johnny Nelson, Enzo Maccarinelli and David Haye all claimed world titles. Expect a resurgent Cleverly to do likewise.
Darlington bantamweight Stuey Hall received an early Christmas gift this week when his promoter Dennis Hobson and I helped organise home advantage for his pending challenge for the IBF title.
On December 21st, the 33 year old former Ibiza beach bum confronts South African southpaw Vusi Malinga on the debut boxing promotion at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.
The north-easterner, a genuine hard case, has every chance. Opponent Malinga is well into his 35th year and has faltered tamely at world level twice before. In 2009 he capitulated inside the opening round against Japan’s Hozumi Hasegawa and last year conceded every round to Mexico’s Leo Santa Cruz.
Despite sending a transitional team, Britain’s amateurs nailed a credible two medal haul at the recent world championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Congratulations to Barry flyweight Andrew Selby and Liverpool middleweight Anthony Fowler who both struck bronze.
And it could’ve been even better. In their scheduled semis, Selby, a double European champion, fell victim to a controversial decision against an Uzbek whilst the Scouser was withdrawn by the team’s medics due to a hand injury.
Both will now be fancied to reach the podium at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
BoxNation continues to deliver aficionados with their weekly fix of top action from overseas.
Having broadcast world stars Floyd Mayweather and Wladimir Klitschko recently, this week The Channel of Champions announced it had landed UK rights to screen Manny Pacquiao’s return to battle.
The Filipino legend, who has already won world titles in six weight classes from eight stone up to eleven stone, meets Texan Brandon Rios at welterweight over in Macau on November 23rd.
Also on BoxNation – Andre Ward v Edwin Rodriquez for the WBA Super World Super Middleweight Championship live from Ontario on 16th November.
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