MAJOR cards across England and Northern Ireland. Arenas and stadiums packed out with fans. Multiple ‘world’ titles changing hands. Vicious knockouts and upsets galore.
But this was not a good weekend for boxing.
Despite giving us all of the above, there is such a lack of cohesion here in the UK that the sport just cannot get out of its own way and fans were left suffering for it. And this wasn’t much of a surprise: we knew heading into this weekend that there would be competing broadcasts on Sky Sports, BT Sport and DAZN on Saturday night.
On Sky, Chris Billam-Smith defeated Lawrence Okolie in front of a delighted Bournemouth crowd. The Belfast supporters who turned out for Michael Conlan were left far more disappointed after their man was stopped in five by Alberto Lopez on BT Sport. And DAZN carried the rematch between Mauricio Lara and Leigh Wood, which saw the Brit outclass the man who brutally stopped him just a few months ago.
They were all terrific matchups on paper and deserved far more than the jostling they had to do in order to grab the attention of fans.
It almost seemed as though fate itself had stepped in on Friday when it was revealed Lara would not be able to make weight for his bout with Wood. Given that Lara barely made the super-featherweight limit, let alone the featherweight one at which this clash was sanctioned at, there were some doubts that the fight would go ahead.
It did, of course, and so we had a three-horse race when it came to prime time on Saturday night. Inevitably there were serious overlaps. If fans at home wanted to take in all the action they would have needed at least three devices to do so. That is ridiculous.
That promoters and broadcasters still haven’t found a way to at least maintain some sort of dialogue when it comes to their schedules is farcical. It makes no sense to stage these competing shows on the same night, especially when there are plenty of opportunities in the weeks preceding and succeeding this date.
It’s not just the main event fighters who suffer, either. The likes of Terri Harper, Jack Catterall and Sam Eggington all earned solid victories on the DAZN and Sky Sports undercards, but their fights were all clashing with one another, limiting their potential audiences.
It’s a real shame that fans will have had to choose between what were very good broadcasts. The Sky Sports team did a good job of handling what was a bizarre main event. Okolie was deducted two points for holding and officially knocked down three times during the bout, though replays later showed that the second did not appear to come from a landed punch.
It was a scrappy, ugly fight buoyed on by a raucous crowd. The commentary team did well to call the action fairly. Andy Clarke did an excellent job of making the rules clear over the point deductions and whether or not they could lead to a disqualification. He, Matthew Macklin and George Groves regularly highlighted what Okolie was doing wrong to bring about so many warnings from referee Marcus McDonnell, while never losing sight of the story of the fight as it unfolded. They perhaps could have done more to highlight how ridiculous the 112-112 scorecard was at the end of the fight.
On DAZN, Wood turned in a terrific performance against a lethargic Lara. Again, the commentators did not get too caught up in Wood’s work and were able to regularly identify that Lara was simply not doing enough. BT Sport, too, avoided the trap of favouring the hometown fighter. Before he was stopped, Conlan was unable to slow the momentum of Lopez and the BT team called it as they saw it.
Yes, it can be argued that we’re praising these broadcasters for the bare minimum but the commentary of a fight can have an enormous impact on how it is perceived by those watching. When they’re called fairly, it provides a much more valuable product for consumers.
Tyson Fury just needs to get a fight signed. Once again the best heavyweight in the world is floating the idea of fights that seem extremely unlikely at this stage. According to ESPN – and later confirmed by Fury himself on social media – his team has reached out to representatives of Anthony Joshua to make a fight for September of this year.
Eddie Hearn clarified that a contract had not been sent, as Fury had claimed, but that the two sides were “talking” about the fight. He also reiterated that Joshua is more likely to face Dillian Whyte in a rematch before targeting Deontay Wilder in December.
There aren’t many who genuinely believe a fight between Fury and Joshua will happen in September, if at all. They’ve tried to make it before and failed. And they’d need to get contracts signed pretty soon if they want sufficient lead-in time to promote such a big fight.
Without Oleksandr Usyk – who will face Daniel Dubois next – Fury is without any legitimately exciting options. Joshua understandably has his sights set elsewhere. Beyond that, Fury is looking at lesser-known contenders.
Bizarrely, the almost entirely unknown Demsey McKean has been named as a potential opponent for Fury’s next fight. Fans are becoming increasingly frustrated with Fury’s teasing of massive fights only for nothing to materialise. If he ends up fighting the likes of McKean in his next outing, it will be hard to take him seriously the next time he says he wants to fight the best and prove his supremacy.