WE are now just days away from the biggest fight of the year and one of the most meaningful contests in recent memory. When Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jnr face each other on Saturday night, it will be the culmination of years of anticipation and expectation. It matches two of the most talented and accomplished fighters on the planet to determine supremacy in one of the sport’s most marketable divisions.
But does it feel like it?
Here in the UK, promotion around the fight has felt muted. And when it comes to prominent fights between two international fighters – in this case both are American – that isn’t uncommon. For this particular fight, all the pre-fight buildup has taken place in the US. Newspapers and major sports outlets in the UK haven’t afforded much attention to the fight, but that tends to be how it works with boxing. The sport is not currently big enough to warrant that sort of coverage and neither Spence nor Crawford are crossover stars.
Showtime, who are broadcasting the fight in the US, have produced some incredible episodes of their All Access series over the past few weeks to build up toward the fight. And while these are aired on Showtime in the US, for those outside of the States they’re only available on YouTube, which means you’ll have to search for them if you want to watch. That rules out more casual sports fans stumbling across them.
Again, this isn’t unique to this fight, and it isn’t necessarily a problem – it’s just the way things work. A fight can only take place in one territory, and that country is naturally going to produce a lot more coverage than others.
TNT Sports – previously BT Sport – have the broadcast rights to the fight for the UK and it’ll be the first major pay-per-view since that change of name. There’s no reason to believe there’ll be any change in the high quality we’ve come to expect from BT Sport’s boxing coverage, and for those who were already subscribed to BT Sport they don’t need to change anything, meaning the shift should bring about minimal disruption for customers.
So, we’ll have to wait and see just how much of an impact the fight has outside of the boxing world. We know that, within our bubble, it’s a huge deal. In fact, this whole week is an outstanding one for fight fans.
At the time of writing, Naoya Inoue and Stephen Fulton had not yet fought in Japan, but it’s an extremely exciting contest for more hardcore followers of the sport. Both Inoue and Fulton are exceptional boxers, but are not commercial powerhouses. Inoue is a superstar in Japan, but that fame has not yet fully travelled to the West, while American Fulton mainly suffers from the fact he operates in the smaller weight classes, which do not attract as much attention.
In summary, what seems clear this week is that there is still a significant divide between ardent boxing fans and casual viewers. Spence-Crawford is a far, far more interesting and meaningful fight than the clash between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia earlier this year, but there is almost no chance it does the same kind of numbers in the US. Inoue-Fulton is a boxing purist’s dream, but it’ll barely make headlines outside of the fight media, or Japan. But that doesn’t take away from the excitement for us – it’s safe to assume that those reading this are a part of that club which follows the sport more closely. We are all well aware of what we have in store this week and we should savour every moment.
One man who had no problem captivating enormous audiences was Oscar De La Hoya, who will be the focus of a two-part HBO documentary that airs in the US this week. There’s been no word yet on when it will become available in the UK. The documentary is set to look at the trials and tribulations of De La Hoya’s life and career, and according to the man himself it will leave no stone unturned.
He spoke to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour about the documentary and revealed that the infamous photos of De La Hoya dressed in women’s lingerie during a drug and alcohol-fuelled binge are fully addressed in it. He even explained how he and his team went to extreme lengths – such as bribing a forensic expert to say the photos were doctored – to try to cover up the story.
De La Hoya was one of the most famous and successful fighters of the modern era and this documentary should be fascinating. It sounds as though there will be plenty of revelations within it.
Sports Illustrated published a feature written by Chris Mannix titled ‘Does Boxing Need Another Major Title?’ Sadly, it wasn’t a one-word piece that simply said ‘No,’ which would have been the correct answer, but instead Mannix offered some bizarre publicity to the marginal International Boxing Organisation (IBO).
He interviewed IBO President Ed Levine. The piece talks about how the IBO doesn’t issue mandatory challenges to its ‘champions’ and uses BoxRec’s laughably insufficient algorithm to determine its rankings.
Mannix incorrectly refers to sanctioning bodies as “governing” bodies at one point in the piece – the distinction is important – and the article essentially reads as a puff piece for the IBO. There is mention of how the IBO is not taken as seriously as the likes of the WBC, WBA and IBF, but more attention is paid to Levine’s aspirations of surpassing those competitors.
Boxing doesn’t need another ‘major’ title, it needs fewer belts and more clarity. Offering a platform like this to the IBO with almost no critical thinking included makes no sense.
Boxing on the box
SENIESA ESTRADA-LEONELA PAOLA YUDICA
SKY SPORTS ACTION
Coverage begins at 2am
LIAM DAVIES-JASON CUNNINGHAM
Coverage begins at 8pm
ERROL SPENCE JNR-TERENCE CRAWFORD
TNT SPORTS BOX OFFICE