SKY SPORTS had a solid card on paper to play with this weekend, with Chris Eubank Jnr vs Liam Williams topping the bill and female superstar Claressa Shields fighting as chief support.
So, it was refreshing to see Sky mix things up a bit on the broadcast. The live performance of Delilah just before the main event wasn’t expected but, somehow, didn’t feel completely out of place. It whipped the Cardiff crowd into a frenzy and it was pretty entertaining to watch from home, if not just for the sheer madness of it. That being said, it was gone 10.30pm by this point, so it’s not hard to see why some viewers might have been frustrated.
The broadcast featured some fun segments, including a fitness challenge between presenter Anna Woolhouse and debutant Caroline Dubois. Like her older brother Daniel, Dubois is more comfortable in the gym than she is in front of a camera, and little clips like this one are really well suited to building her profile.
Shields performed as expected in the ring, but was also excellent with the media during fight week. Of course, the main reason she appeared on this bill was to build toward a fight with Savannah Marshall, who defeated Shields as an amateur (and remains the only boxer to hold a win over the American).
All those involved in getting Shields to fight in the UK to build toward this Marshall fight can say: ‘job done.’ Shields got a dominant win, and both she and Marshall then did their part to generate even more interest in the fight.
Marshall humorously pretended to be asleep when the Sky cameras moved to her during Shields’ fight, and then the pair were at each other’s throats during the post-fight interview.
A tip of the hat should also go to promoter Ben Shalom, who said just enough to get Shields to bite on the line, and from there she and Marshall gave a pretty convincing display of their disdain for one another.
Shouting matches between fighters at ringside can get tiresome, but in this instance it seems almost guaranteed that Shields and Marshall will fight each other, so this served as effective promotion toward that.
With the superfight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano confirmed and Shields-Marshall looking likely, women’s boxing is set for its biggest year ever.
For this particular event in Cardiff, Sky’s broadcast team was bolstered by two additions who both brought a lot to the show; Mikaela Mayer and Enzo Maccarinelli.
At first glance, it might seem like these two were brought in for their connections to the card; Mayer as a female fighter, Enzo as a Welshman. However, they both proved themselves worth so much more than that.
Mayer, who moved between both ringside punditry and commentary, was terrific. She’s very well-spoken and clearly has a sharp boxing mind; it would have been nice to see her commentating on more of the action throughout the night.
Given that women are still dramatically underrepresented in sports commentary, Mayer’s brilliance on broadcasts is a big deal. Hopefully she can continue to regularly feature on shows alongside and beyond her own fighting career.
Maccarinelli is no stranger to commentary but sadly has been underutilised in recent years. Like many fighters, Enzo is able to cast an expert eye over the live action and then efficiently explain what’s happening, and what could happen.
While the unofficial scores that he and co-commentator Matt Macklin turned in for the main event seemed a little too generous toward Williams, their overall analysis of the fight was astute and valuable.
So, if there’s one thing to be said of this Sky show, it’s this: more of the same please. Continue to try out new things, and certainly utilise the talents of the likes of Mayer and Maccarinelli.
In the wake of Eubank Jnr’s win over Williams, his old rival Billy Joe Saunders spoke to IFL TV about a potential rematch. Saunders outpointed Eubank in November 2014 and a second fight between the pair has been floated numerous times since.
After losing to Canelo Alvarez last year, there was talk of Saunders hanging up his gloves, however he appears to have a fire under him when it comes to Eubank. He told IFL that he is more than open to the fight, though only for the right deal (last year he demanded a purse of £5mil for the potential rematch).
He also said: “Do I think I can do the weight comfortably? It doesn’t matter if I can do it comfortably or not with him. I could do it half dead and still beat him.”
When he isn’t courting problematic subjects, Saunders is entertaining to listen to and if he’s healthy enough in both body and mind for a rematch with Eubank Jnr, it would undoubtedly be a big fight.
Interestingly, Saunders mentioned he is still under contract with DAZN, which could complicate things given Eubank’s current ties to BOXXER and Sky Sports.
Eddie Hearn spoke to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani about a range of topics but noted how Anthony Joshua had apparently told him that he’d beat Oleksandr Usyk in their expected rematch “without a trainer.”
Joshua is reportedly on the lookout for a new head coach, but if these comments are true then they bely a confidence that is now bordering on foolishness.
Hearn also spoke to IFL about Tyson Fury’s fight with Dillian Whyte, and stated that he believes Fury will eventually decide to not take it. It was an odd comment given that Fury’s team won the purse bids for the fight. It was likely more just a jab at Fury and his team rather than a genuine opinion, but it’s one Hearn has thrown Tyson’s way in the past (with regards to each of his three fights with Deontay Wilder) and was always wrong.