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Boxing on TV is a weird one at the moment, only a few months back we had it looking like it was on the up, Setanta was buying the best of the American fights, ITV showing Mick Hennesey shows and Prizefighter taking Sky by Storm whilst the likes of Hatton and Khan could be expected to sell big numbers on Sky Box Office. All the while Eurosport was picking up some of the better stuff from the continent either live or on as recently recorded. Then of course Channel 5 got in on the Act and started showing classic fights fights and recent ESPN Friday Night Fights, boxing on TV had never been better, it was looking up up and further up for the sport.
However now with the demise of Setanta, Hennesey's contract with ITV running out (and by all accounts not likely to be renewed sadly) it would seem as though Frank Warren and Barry Hearn have got the TV sewn up with SKY and SBO as far as the British boxing scene is concerned. Eurosport will still likely pick up some of the lesser cavorted fights from Europe, but nothing like what Setanta had been doing with the likes of Miguel Cotto. BBC's complete lack of interest in showing live boxing after the Farce they had with Audley Harrison sadly shows that they aren't all that bothered about some of the sports where Brits have been succeeding in recent years.
In the last 5 years we've had at least 10 world title holders including:
Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, Junior Witter, Clinton Woods, Alex Arthur, Nicky Cook, Gavin Rees, David Haye, Enzo Maccarenlli, Carl Froch and new boy Amir Khan. And these have just been recognised (by one of the top 4 sanctioning body's).
Added to this in the last 10 years we've had a host of Olympians to help sell the sport, such as the abrasive Audley Harrison, James DeGale and Amir Khan, to likeable Darren Sutherland, Bill Joe Saunders and Frankie Gavin (never actually competed at the Olympics). In this case most of them were snapped up by Frank Warren and are being used as card fillers on the SBO cards he has rather sadly.
If we look at the younger Olympians and the current crop of young fighters from these isles we can see the emerging talents of Kell Brook, Nathan Cleverly and the brilliantly named Tyson Fury. In fact Fury's career so far has been televised live on ITV 4 showing that the TV is there for, but when Hennesey's contract runs out, what then? Are we going to be reserved for paying every Saturday and filling the already full pockets of Frank Warren, who regularly comes across as a dislikeable weasel, or are we going to lose a full generation of British boxing talent due to the TV networks?
In Ireland national network RTD have shown almost all of Bernard Dunne's fights and as a result made him a bit of a cult fighter and got him the support that he needed to come back from a devastating loss to Kiko Martinez to claim a world title around 18 month later. ERD (German TV Broadcaster) recently showed Vitali Klitschko facing Juan Carlos Gomez, the TV figures for this fight we're over 50% of all those in Germany watching TV at the time of the fight. Not bad for a "dying sport".
So where will boxing on TV go? Well what's quite possible is the British fights will go off TV altogether, we would be lucky to catch the big ESPN fights of the week on FIVE and the occasional European card on Eurosport. Unless someone in ITV HQ comes to their senses and releases that Boxing on ITV4 often draws larger figures than the regular program in that slot, so hopefully they will renew the contract and we will see more of the great fights that have made ITV4 seem like one of the homes of boxing. Fights like Cleverly v Macintosh may not have been world title fights but it's not the title on the line but the what happens in the fight that matters. I'd rather watch 2 guys tear lumps out of each other, than to watch Nikolay Valuev face John Ruiz for a third time so lets stop being so elitist to world titles and watch fights for the excitement.
Of course when theirs a world title on the line and excitement then they are the top fights, Carl Froch V Jean Pascal which was on ITV saw two fighters tear lumps out of each other in a bright to to toe war. Though sadly (and oddly) Froch's next fight (against Jermaine Taylor) in the first defence of his world title, was only bought for the highlights, this missing the live intensity of Froch scoring an infamous KO come from behind defeat with only seconds left on the clock.
The future of Boxing on British TV looks negative, sadly until someone takes the gamble and allows the best of live action boxing to be production line of the TV schedules. With a sport that appears to be castigated in recent times by the media, despite our success, it may be worrying to think that the next era could be end up being the live youtube era with the fights effectively being recorded in the arena and put on youtube. A sorry for site for boxing.
TV execs get your act together.
I haven't been this excited about a fight for a few years now - and even those these boxers are not the greatest in the world, they fight from the heart.
British heavyweight boxing nearly lost all credability after the despicable Audley Harrison vs Danny Williams fight, which saw two fighters avoid each other for 12 rounds and barely throw a punch. Among the excuses for the shocking display was that Harrison broke his hand - but this doesn't wash with me. I could have fought better without hands. He showed a distinct lack of heart and really damaged the sport in my eyes.
Now, the first fight between Williams and Skelton was a completely different kettle of fish. Skelton really took the fight to Williams and was in his face for the full 12 rounds. He showed a desire that was completely missing in the previous mentioned fight.
Williams was forced to fight Skelton and it brought out the best in the Commonwealth Champion. He threw combinations and jabs by the douzen, more than making up for his previously poor display. He tried to keep the fight at arms length but Skelton kept marching in towards him - and the different styles really did make for an interesting fight.
I was amazed that Skelton was not deducted points for some of his 'rough' tactics which involved punching the back of the head, below the belt and pushing Williams out of the ring. Even these contentious aspects of his fighting indeared me to Matt Skelton though, who is a truly, hardened warrior.
The fight eventually ended in spilt decision, which went in the favour of Danny Williams. I would have called it a draw, but a bad clash of heads caused blood to gush from Skeltons head and probably look like he recieved a bigger beating than he actually had.
This fight has restored my passion for british boxing and I'm eagerly waiting for the rematch which is being fought this Saturday (July 8th 2006)...
I'd love to see Skelton even the score and take the victory but these fighters are so evenly matched that it really could go either way. I can't see this one going to points, mind - it's a stoppage for my money.
Skelton to stop Williams in the 10th round.
Gone are the days when you could sit down and watch a world title fight. You would know the time of the fight and would be able to sit down and enjoy it. Along comes pay per view, £11.95 now to watch a fight, that is provided you have Sky. The time well that depends now, the programme may start at 10pm and the fight you are waiting to see does not start until the early hours of the morning. I think the time has arrived when we should all boycott such events, then the price will come down, or the fight may take place at a time when we can all enjoy it again. I wonder how far the cost will rise before the people do finally say enough is enough. I for one have reached that point, I will not be paying for the pleasure of having a late night and then the fight is over inside three rounds.
It is very difficult to distinguish the money wrangling and hype that is the modern 'sport' of boxing from the actual event itself. The before hand hype seems to last for ever and then the match comes along and is over with half and hour. Is there a sport here? I think not any more. Boxing is obviously more of a business now and is becoming more and more like the WWF, WCW wrestling championship rather than a serious sport. There is so much posturing and growling which goes on here in the months preceding a fight that it is just laughable. I feel that pretty soon the boxers will not hit each other at all but miss by about an inch and then fall down at the designated moments - pure Hollywood. Money is the major factor in the demise of boxing as a sport. With boxers being paid upto $20 million dollars and more for a fight there culd only be one outcome and we are witnessing it now. Months of hype, a big anti-climax and then the same over again, with the general public falling for it every time. Surely people will come to realise in time that they are being ripped off and to shun the sport until it returns to the way that we the people want it - or is this exactly how we want it? There are also so many belts now for each weight that it means there can be 2,3,4 or more 'world champions' running around at once which surely makes a mockery of things. I do not advocate a return to the 'good old days' of boxing for I do not actually believe that there were any. It has always been a sport populated by shady characters it would appear that now they are willing to step up in front of the cameras and smile sweetly for the media as well whilst pocketing an enormous share of the profits. I am amazed that as a population we have not 'grown up' enough yet to find the whole idea of two men, or women, beating the hell out of each other to be abhorent. The sooner we do the better.