AS frustrating as it is sometimes to watch as British boxing pivots away from the traditions of the game – namely, British title fights – towards what they consider to be a meal more easily digestible for a “chronically online” audience, consider for a moment how it feels for the boxers left on the shelf, those begging for opportunities.
One such boxer is Nathaniel Collins, the current Commonwealth featherweight champion from Scotland. His upcoming British featherweight title fight against James Beech was originally mooted for the undercard of a Sky Sports show on March 4 in Glasgow only to be pulled altogether once that show’s headliner, Josh Taylor, was struck down by injury. Now, having begged just to get on that undercard, Collins has found his fight against Beech shifted to March 10 at Glasgow’s DoubleTree Hilton, with no involvement from Sky Sports or any other major broadcaster.
“I’m buzzing that I’m fighting in my home city but ideally I’d rather be on the bigger stage, fighting on Sky, or on something like DAZN,” Collins, 11-0 (5), told Boxing News. “There are people who have signed with Boxxer and people who have signed with Matchroom who haven’t got half the accolades I have and it’s frustrating in that sense. I’d love to be on a bigger platform.
“Honestly, it gobsmacks me sometimes when I open up social media and see that so-and-so has signed for Boxxer or Matchroom on a long-term deal. This person might have only have had three or four fights and they’re getting opportunities like that. What then usually happens is two or three fights into that deal they are finally given a half-decent test and they fall apart. I’ve been fighting 50/50 fights for most of my career and so I know I can handle myself when I step up. Still, though, it’s hard to get signed by somebody.
“We pushed so hard to get this (Beech) fight on Sky Sports. Boxxer were like, ‘We’ll let you know,’ and I was thinking, Why would you need to think about it? It made so much sense for it to be in Scotland, at the Hydro, on the undercard of Josh Taylor’s rematch with Jack Catterall.
“After that, once the whole show was cancelled, they said, ‘Well, maybe we’ll be able to get you (and the fight) down south.’ Maybe this. Maybe that. But why maybe? All you have to do is give me an opportunity and then I will become British and Commonwealth champion and you can add those belts to your stable. They were making it out to be a lose-lose situation, but, if you think about it, these were the same belts won by Leigh Wood and Josh Warrington before they went on to bigger honours.”
Collins clearly has a point. Often, in fact, British title fights, especially in historically relevant divisions like featherweight, used to be a staple of televised boxing shows in Britain. They provided not only competitive fights, in the main, but also, as Collins mentioned, helped build the profiles of future European and world champions.
That networks like Sky Sports have seemingly cooled on domestic titles in recent years says a lot about the new approach to the sport from major broadcasters. It is an attitude that has sadly rubbed off on many of the sport’s participants, too.
“It’s funny because every boxer says they want to win the British title, but I’ve never really thought about the British,” said Collins, who, at 26, has cut his teeth in the pro game at a time when the British title has been sadly devalued. “I’ve always just thought about world titles. I was never bothered about the British. I just always wanted to get to world level via the quickest route possible.
“It just so happens that the route to getting there has taken me towards the British title and now it has I am really looking forward to fighting for it. It is a big accolade. There are not many people from Scotland who have held both British and Commonwealth, so I’m looking to get my name in the history books.
“For me, though, this is just another step towards world level. I’m not overlooking James Beech here because that would be a mistake but I am confident in my ability and know what I am capable of.”
To win the Lonsdale belt Collins must deal with a surprise package from the Midlands who won the opportunity to challenge for the vacant title when outpointing the previously unbeaten Raza Hamza in December. That was a result few expected, yet Collins had seen enough in Beech, 15-3 (2), to know he could give Hamza problems.
“I watched Beech against Dennis McCann and I saw that he was quite busy,” he said. “I know Raza as well and know he’s quite laid-back and likes to sit off and not throw many punches. I wasn’t surprised by the upset that much.
“Beech is fit and he applies good pressure, but, in my opinion, he makes a lot of mistakes. As long as I’m fit and I can move, which I can, I shouldn’t have too much trouble. If I want to box all night it’s going to be a really frustrating night for James Beech, and if I want to stand and have a fight, I can do that as well.
“I can’t see a way that he wins, in my opinion. Obviously, he will think otherwise. But, if you look at his record, he’s not a big puncher. He’s had 18 fights and two stoppages. When you watch him, he’s there, constantly in your face, but he also smothers a lot of his own work. It’s just matching that fitness of his really and making sure I don’t get complacent.
“A lot of people are saying to me, ‘Oh, this will be an easy fight for you,’ but, no, absolutely not. Beech has experience doing 12 rounds in title fights. He’s no stranger to this level and a British title fight is a world title fight for him. If you have already experienced a loss, what have you got to lose?”