MLB, the NFL, and the NBA all have channels.
Golf has a channel.
Tune in to Willow anytime (really, do…it’s sort of mesmerizing if the game is otherwise unfamiliar).
In the US, boxing has had many outlets but never a 24-hour a day spot to go watch the fights. Considering some of the libraries out there, it’s a shame. Part of the reason the legends of Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson have endured is their fights have never really left the rotation.
A lot of other fighters have.
Sure, anyone can easily look up and find names like Matthew Saad Muhammad, Lloyd Honeyghan, and Iran Barkley on YouTube. Finding, and seeing, classic fights has never been easier. But folks watching them, for research or remembrance, tend to go looking for them.
That’s a different activity than stumbling on something and finding a rabbit hole of discovery.
In the 1980s, ESPN used to carry a series called Super Bouts. Any new, young fight fan who missed it live could find themselves watching Arguello-Pryor, Ali-Norton, or Leonard-Hearns. Those who had already caught the boxing bug found new layers of the onion to peel.
Since the loss of ESPN Classic, the amount of classic boxing on traditional outlets has been less. NSL plays some fights in the middle of the night. Some of the ESPN networks still run an occasional marathon.
But it’s not what other sports have. Recently, the NBA network replayed the All-Star Game where Kobe went heads up with MJ and a young basketball fan nearby was transfixed.
They’d heard the names.
Now they saw their game.
Boxing having anything similar to that can only be a plus.
Now it does.
Quietly, a boxing channel opened up in late November. Tubi, a Fox streaming service available as part of several cable packages and also available as a free app, launched a 24-hour a day boxing channel in concert with Top Rank. Top Rank on Tubi is still something one would have to seek out, but the engagement possibilities are reason to be excited and it’s a whole lot different than what one could grow accustomed to with previous classic airings.
In the last week, the channel has streamed some classics that have alway seemed to be in whatever rotation was out there; Ali-Spinks or Duran-Moore for instance. Some of the deeper cuts are what raised an eyebrow.
How many people recall that, before his wars with Evander Holyfield and Michael Moorer, Bert Cooper and a young Ray Mercer had a violent, twelve-round war that Mercer won despite a busted jaw? Barkley’s first win over Thomas Hearns made his career…but the second win over Hearns was a twelve round war decided by one point. Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik had two excellent fights, not just one, but the rematch is almost never recalled. Lloyd Honeyghan’s upset of Donald Curry was one of the biggest stunners of the 1980s. Saad Muhammad-Yaqui Lopez II is a celebrated classic, but their first fight was pretty damn good too.
Those have all aired, or are scheduled to air, in what appears for now to be a twelve-or-so hour loop where things air twice and the next piece of the rotation comes along. The older classics are aired alongside recent affairs featuring Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue among others. They deliver in a mix of original broadcast and international feed airings so fans who want to know what boxing on CBS looked like in another generation can find out.
Top Rank, along with Don King Productions, have some of the most vital fight libraries of the last fifty years. Fully opening the latter someday will be a joy for those who love to see the history of the sport. Top Rank has plenty to comb through that likely hasn’t aired anywhere since the original broadcast.
There’s so much here to tap, airing off real masters in HD, and the fun of it not being an on demand or YouTube search away is one can find something they never knew they were looking for at all.
The joy of discovery…the chance to relive something one has seen and enjoyed countless times before…the opportunity to see contemporary stars alongside legends all day long.
It’s chicken soup for the boxing fan’s soul.
Despite proving he could make up one half of a superfight, we still don’t know how good Ryan Garcia can really be. He’s back in the ring this weekend and how he performs off a loss will be interesting…There is no super middleweight title fight other than Saul Alvarez-David Benavidez that anyone should find all that interesting…Kazuto Ioka has had some big fights on December 31st over the years. This year, he’s making an appearance…Whoever Katie Taylor fights next, it has the potential to be an event the likes of which women’s boxing has never seen.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com