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Boxing back on the BBC

Joshua John boxing
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Live boxing returns to BBC Wales for the first time in 22 years, writes Matt Christie

WELSH boxing gets a huge boost this weekend when BBC Wales take their cameras to Swansea’s Leisure Complex (LC) to broadcast two hours’ worth of live action. There will be three title fights, two Welsh Area and one Celtic Area, atop the bill on Saturday night (May 28).

The card is staged by Sanigar Events and provides some reward for a difficult two years after pandemic restrictions hit small hall boxing like an unsighted left hook to the gut. Chris Sanigar, one of the stalwarts of British boxing, has been asking the BBC to cover their events for a decade. Now, after some success on S4C, the Sanigars get their wish.

“Locally, this is huge,” Chris told Boxing News. “It’s nice to get TV on board. This is the product of a lot of hard work and endeavour. It’s been a real struggle at small hall level in recent years with Covid and we’ve lost a lot of boxers because of it. They simply haven’t come back.

“It’s very difficult without television. Everything is against you. The prices for everything are up, the officials, the doctors, the hotels, everything has increased by 50 per cent.

“So of course we’ve lost a lot of money. I’m 66 now, I still love what I do, but I wouldn’t like to be 36 and doing it.”

Even though Chris’ son, promoter Jamie Sanigar, thinks his father is “mad” for persevering with the sport in his mid-sixties, the former Southern Area super-lightweight champion can’t think of anything else he’d rather do. “I still love it,” Chris said. “I would never dream of walking away and I’ll probably be involved until my dying day. I’ve had three ‘world champions’ and I hope I can get four or five.

“For me, this is a lifestyle. The money is irrelevant. I don’t get in the gym in the morning and count down the hours until I can leave. This is what I do and I still enjoy every day.”

In a rarity for a show like this, the three top bouts are close to 50/50 affairs, something that wouldn’t have been possible without TV and the sponsorship that platform can bring.

Chris manages the Tony Borg-trained Joshua John, who takes on quality Scotsman, Mark McKeown for the vacant Celtic featherweight title. Coatsbridge’s McKeown, 6-0 (2), was a Scottish international as an amateur and is a good prospect. The Barry Clark-trained McKeown might start as a narrow favourite against John, 4-0, but the Port Talbot fighter had significant success himself in his 97-fight amateur career.

Borg also trains Cardiff’s 31-year-old Lloyd Germain, 5-0, who takes on the entertaining Jake Tinklin, 7-0. Tinklin, 24, is coached by Gavin Rees and this encounter might turn out to be the fight of the night. “They’ll both fight for their lives,” Sanigar promised. “To them, the Welsh title is like a world title.”

The third bout – between Aberdare’s 31-year-old Morgan Jones, 14-2 (5), and Colwyn Bay’s Gerome Warburton, 9-1-1 (1) – is also hard to call and will crown the first Welsh middleweight champion since Chris Ware beat Tony’s nephew, Frankie Borg, for the belt in March 2015.

We reckon this event marks the first time that BBC Wales has broadcast live boxing since 2000, when Lee Swaby shocked Enzo Maccarinelli in the future WBO belt-holder’s fourth professional outing. Maccarinelli will be on co-commentary duties with Gary Lockett, alongside lead commentator Steff Garrero. Olympic champion Lauren Price will be in the studio with presenters Jason Mohammed and Polly James.

It’s believed that if the show is a success, BBC Wales will be back for more. Nick Andrews, Head of Content Commissioning at BBC Wales, said: “Wales has a long and proud boxing history which has produced some amazing sporting heroes in the past, from Howard Winstone to Steve Robinson to the undefeated Joe Calzaghe, arguably the country’s finest fighter. It’s a sport that resonates with us and as such we are really excited to be able to bring three Welsh title fights free to air on a Saturday night.” 

Live coverage begins at 10pm and is also available in the UK on BBC iPlayer.

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