A COUPLE of things have become apparent while working on our impending special, 110 Years of Boxing News. The first, and most glaring, is that it was a completely ridiculous project to undertake; my initial idea that we could somehow cram 110 years’ worth of history into 160 pages has since proved to be pure fantasy. The second observation is that boxing, in late 2019, is going through something of a purple patch that compares favourably with other chunks of history.
Looking back over the last month, and ahead to the end of the year, the sport is serving up exciting fight after exciting fight that us hardcore fans can watch in the comfort of our own homes. This is progress. This is great. This should be embraced.
While we all look back on rankings of yesteryear, watch old footage of heroes of the past and yearn for it to be those days again, truth is, if we did venture back, we might be in for a shock. Particularly if we had to start going to the cinema to watch the biggest international fights live or sending off for VHS tapes to watch delayed footage of fights we were forced to miss.
And it’s not just the levels of coverage we should be shouting about, it’s the sheer regularity of top contests taking place. Since August we have had the following fights and each of them exceeded expectation: Sergey Kovalev-Anthony Yarde; Vasyl Lomachenko-Luke Campbell; Tyson Fury-Otto Wallin; Errol Spence Jnr-Shawn Porter; Gennady Golovkin-Sergey Derevyanchenko and Artur Beterbiev-Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
This weekend we have Regis Prograis-Josh Taylor which, however you look at it, is a top drawer 50/50 contest. Week after, Sergey Kovalev-Canelo Alvarez ticks all the right boxes. November 24 sees Deontay Wilder rematch Luis Ortiz and then, in December, we’ve got Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua II which is perhaps the most appealing of the lot.
It’s a schedule that even the harshest critics of modern-day boxing would struggle to grumble about. That is, of course, unless we can’t watch them all. Then, because we’ve become conditioned, in a short space of time, to be able to watch everything, we will moan. And moan. And moan.
Beterbiev-Gvozdyk, to our complete horror, was not shown on British television last week. There was the option to pay £11 for a stream on FITE.TV but it wasn’t quite what we expected. Or, more to the point, gotten used to. And there is still no confirmation that anyone in the UK will show Kovalev-Canelo on November 2.
Ultimately, each broadcasting platform has a budget they must adhere to and, in turn, get the most viewers from. Money isn’t limitless and schedules are busy. Sky Sports (after securing Spence-Porter and Wilder-Ortiz II with money outside of their budget) are unlikely to dig too deep for Canelo’s expedition to light-heavyweight. One, Canelo nor Kovalev will guarantee millions of viewers in the UK. Two, it falls one week before debutants KSI and Logan Paul take to the ring – and do guarantee a gargantuan audience.
Hardcore fans will lose their minds as the build-up for KSI-Paul gathers pace and, though I don’t completely buy into the notion that the event will generate new and long-term boxing fans, I do completely understand why Sky would showcase an event that will draw some serious financial returns. It’s a shame, though, that a bout like that might come at the expense of (and be more popular than) a real fight like Kovalev-Canelo.
All is not lost, particularly in the year 2019 where there are more avenues than ever for fights to make their way to our screens. Boxing News are hopeful that BT Sport or perhaps even ITV Box Office – who, we’re told, are still involved in the boxing market – will step forward and make a play for the Las Vegas Kovalev-Canelo showdown. Certainly, it should be seen as a coup by whoever gets it.
In the end, we must be glad these fights are being made. The more buzz that we create around the proper fights, the best fights, the better. It helps if we can actually watch them, of course it does, but when history books of the future are written, it’s only the real rivalries that will matter.