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Media Review: A busy weekend for BT Sport and Sky

BT Sport Canelo
Amanda Westcott/Showtime
Both BT Sport and Sky Sports excel on another busy weekend for fight fans, writes George Gigney

SKY Sports are certainly finding their feet after the split with Matchroom Boxing, as this weekend highlighted how well their new partnerships can work. On Friday night, they aired the international broadcast of a Top Rank show headlined by Mikaela Meyer, in what turned out to be a breath-taking contest.

Facing Maiva Hamadouche in Las Vegas, Meyer earned a 10-round decision in a non-stop battle. On paper, the fight was decent enough but certainly not a standout, however it ended up exceeding all expectations and was further evidence of Sky’s new deal with Top Rank paying off.

The following night, Sky then aired the BOXXER tournament from Liverpool, harkening back to the Prizefighter days. The format itself – an eight-fighter tournament of three-round fights all staged on one night – is nothing new, but BOXXER and Sky have developed it into a cleaner, contemporary package with impressive production value.

The fights moved along at a decent clip and the commentary and punditry was good value, particularly with Carl Froch dropping pearlers left, right and centre. Natasha Jonas, who was unveiled as a permanent member of Sky’s broadcast team, is a particularly good analyst and breaks down fights very well.

BT Sport, of course, had the biggest event of the weekend with Canelo Alvarez’ destructive win over Caleb Plant in Las Vegas. Interestingly, the show was pay-per-view while UFC 268 was shown on regular BT Sport.

268 was the UFC’s biggest card of the year, with two major world title fights and several other big fights on a stacked show, and it was a PPV in the US. However, BT offered it up for no extra charge to subscribers whereas the Canelo fight came at a premium.

That isn’t to say Canelo is ‘bigger’ than that UFC card – though he is certainly a more prominent name than any of the individual fighters on the UFC show – but is more a reflection of BT’s commitment to getting as many big fights as possible. Their PPV offering is likely the main reason they were able to land the UK rights to Canelo-Plant, and they already have a long-term deal with the UFC.

The broadcast of Canelo-Plant was solid, and the BT commentary team managed to not get wrapped up in the redundant discussion of how many rounds Plant had won before he was stopped that was raging on social media.

Earlier in the evening, BT also aired a show in Birmingham topped by Zach Parker’s stoppage win over Marcus Morrison. It was a fun card with the three main fights all ending early. Since retiring earlier in the year, Carl Frampton has joined BT Sport and is already proving to be an excellent commentator and pundit, and on this night was joined by David Haye, Joe Calzaghe and Mark Tibbs, all of whom also provided valuable insights.

Also on Friday night, Fightzone aired Dennis Hobson’s show from the Banqueting Hall at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with super-welter Hannah Rankin continuing her impressive run in the main event.

Yes, the production value is not in the same league as Sky or BT Sport, but platforms like Fightzone are an important avenue for these smaller shows to gain more exposure and bring in more revenue. Whether the online service can continue to carve out a space in the market remains to be seen, but it’s a lot better for the sport if these lesser-known cards have access to a digital platform like this.

Podcasts

Speaking to Brian Custer on the Last Stand podcast, heavyweight contender Andy Ruiz Jnr gave off all the signs of a fighter back on the right track after overindulging in the wake of his upset win over Anthony Joshua in 2019.

Now training alongside Canelo under the tutelage of Eddy Reynoso, he said: “He [Canelo] gives everybody [in the gym] motivation because we all wanna be like him. When I’m sparring, he’s screaming at me, ‘F***ing train harder, you’ve gotta do things how I do.’ I can’t say nothing [sic] back because he’s the man.”

He plans to fight again in January and openly expressed a desire to meet Deontay Wilder. On form, Ruiz is an exciting part of the heavyweight landscape and now training out of one of the best gyms in the world can surely be involved in some big fights.

Websites

Triller still won’t go away and in their latest attempt at relevance have…created a new sport? On November 27 they’re launching ‘Triad Combat’ which will apparently allow for more of the boxer vs MMA fighter matchups we’ve grown to absolutely hate. The ring will be triangular and holding will be allowed with no interruptions from the referee. Kubrat Pulev is on board to fight as well as some retired UFC fighters.

Triller described the UFC as “old” and said the Triller product is targeted at Gen Z, so they’ve booked the perfect musical act to perform for 18-24 year-olds – Metallica. The only reason this latest announcement is worth mentioning is because it’s so hilarious.

In another indictment of how starved boxing fans are of fights between the best boxers in respective weight classes, there was widespread coverage of a handshake this week. Teofimo Lopez shook promoter Eddie Hearn’s hand to agree, at some point, to fight Devin Haney.

That’s it. No contracts, no details, just two men shaking hands and saying “yeah, alright.” This means nothing, and it’s baffling that the encounter garnered so much media attention. Over the past few weeks these lightweights have been trading barbs in the media and getting in each other’s faces at boxing shows, but we’re no closer to seeing them actually fight each other.

It’s boring and pointless – just let us know once you’ve signed contracts.

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