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The glory days of BoxNation

BoxNation
Action Images/Andrew Couldridge
The impact of BoxNation should not be forgotten, writes Steve Bunce

ANY week in British boxing that starts with Vinny Pazienza talking about fighting, sex and regrets and ends with tall tales from the glory nights of BoxNation being remembered is a decent week.

Paz was at Bar Sport in Cannock on Monday night telling bold stories of survival, lining up his rivals for merciless abuse and going through the graphic details behind some of his losses during a career that can be easily read like scripture across his face.

The unscrewing of his halo – the metal contraption that was fixed to his head after he broke his back – made just about everybody squirm and Cannock is not famous for its squirmers. “My skull had grown over the screws and when it was time for doctor to take them out – I swear he was screwing them the wrong way, going in and not coming out,” Paz recalls.

He talked about hard fights, easy fights (not many of those) and insisted that one of his opponents – a high-profile fight – had doctored his gloves and removed some of the padding. “He was hurting me and he don’t hurt nobody – If I saw him now, I’d murder the guy,” Paz vowed, sounding an awful lot like Tony Galento. He also admitted that for that particular fight he had been in bed all night and day with an adult movie star. “I guess that was also a factor, sure,” he added. “I don’t regret the sex, just the beating.”

Paz was a special guest on BoxNation once and he is typical of the men and women that filled both the sofa and the channel’s output. It is too easy to forget that the first broadcast was live from York Hall on Friday September 30, 2011. Liam Walsh won a war that night, beating Paul Appleby for the Commonwealth super-featherweight title. It was a special start and just 24-hours later came the first world title fight when Steve Cunningham lost to Yoan Pablo Hernandez for the IBF cruiser in Neubrandenburg. I was ringside at both. In the first year there were 68 nights of live boxing, fights from all over the globe. That is a figure and total that is unlikely to ever be broken and never forgotten by the loyalty of the subscribers. In Liverpool for Callum Smith and John Ryder dozens of people came over with the same cherished BoxNation memories.

When I was in Las Vegas for the YouTube fight, Shannon Briggs was remembering his appearances, laughing, shouting an issuing challenges to everybody from the BoxNation studio. Riddick Big Daddy Bowe was also a guest one afternoon, fresh from some type of MMA kicking-fight in somewhere like Romania. Bowe was struggling to walk because of his injuries. There was also a lot glory in the ring. The night Andy Lee won the world title and we danced up and down like children in the studio, the night Adrien Broner lost to Marcos Maidana. Those are nights that made the channel special. The early, early fights of Gennady Golovkin, the first fights of Gervonta Davis, the Floyd Mayweather series. The British names that came and went and never come back. Lost forever somewhere. There was also that odd feeling at being up at a hundred dawns after American fights and adjusting to the light or the drizzle of a new morning. That was a great feeling. 

How about the night Tim Witherspoon came in at 2am and had to bring his baby daughter – we did a four hour live broadcast with her sleeping gently next to him. We once did a show with a snowball the size of a football on the table. We also introduced the British public to dozens and dozens of young boxers for the very first time. It is an endless list of the finest fighters in the world and they first boxed on British television on BoxNation. The sofa also groaned with some of the greatest, that’s not an exaggeration, fighters from the last thirty years.  

One of my very first guests on the BoxNation sofa in October of 2011 was Anthony Joshua, a cameo before he went off to the World championships in Baku. He came back on the sofa with his silver medal when he returned. The rest is history, as they say. BoxNation had screened his final live.

On Wednesday, in Sheffield, Joshua went through the motions during a three-hour media day. He served up a smart mixture of tales to tease people before flying to Saudi Arabia a few days later. He suggested people had written him off, doubted him, admitted that he knew what went wrong in the summer in New York and talked about revenge, legacy and pride. He did have an edge, looked leaner, sure, but not necessarily smaller.  

And to end the week, it’s Liverpool close to midnight on the Saturday, when there was an unforgettable scene in the loser’s corner. John Ryder and Tony Sims – boxer, trainer and loyal friends – stood in silence, like two men who had been witness to something they were not meant to see. They stood isolated, in shock it seemed, waiting to be interviewed, but it looked like they were reluctant witnesses, like they had been detained against their will to give a statement to the police. There was a deep sense of loss on their faces. I scored it six rounds even.

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