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Should Katie Taylor vs Natasha Jonas have been the headline act?

Katie Taylor
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
George Gigney looks back on the Sky Sports broadcast that gave Eubank Jnr and Hatton's non-title fights a higher billing than Bivol’s defence against Richards and made Katie Taylor vs Natasha Jonas a supporting act

THERE had been plenty of worthwhile discussion in the days and weeks leading up to Sky Sports’ Manchester card topped by Derek Chisora and Joseph Parker about whether it deserved to be pay-per-view. There’s little point revisiting that discussion here, but it is worth looking at the order of fights on the card. First, the main event. Yes, Chisora is a well-known and popular commodity in the UK and Parker is also a familiar face – plus they’re both heavyweights, which always helps – but this was an inferior matchup compared to Katie Taylor’s defence of her undisputed lightweight title against Natasha Jonas. Not only was there the history of their unforgettable meeting at the 2012 Olympics, but also the terrific form they were both bringing into the fight.

This point was only amplified when Taylor and Jonas produced 10 incredible rounds of action, stealing the show from the headliners. To Sky’s credit, they brought up the issue of women’s title fights only being set at 10 two-minute rounds and how, on this occasion, that robbed fans of more engrossing boxing. Those rules aren’t set by the broadcaster, but the powers at be need to address them, and this show highlighted that.

Dmitry Bivol, defending his WBA light-heavyweight title, was ludicrously low down the schedule. Although he was taking a huge leap in class, Craig Richards was still a British fighter challenging their first world title, making it even more strange that this fight was so early.

It preceded Chris Eubank Jnr in a fight against Marcus Morrison he was overwhelmingly expected to win and the second professional outing of Campbell Hatton. Yes, these two are sons of British boxing icons and, in the case of Eubank Jnr, a proven draw and talent, but there was no explanation as to why these particular fights deserved higher billing than Bivol-Richards. There wasn’t even a Mancunian crowd in the arena to warrant Hatton’s lofty slot on the card.

This, of course, is not an effort to denigrate these fighters or their efforts, nor is it an act of ignorance against the realities of the boxing business. Eubank Jnr and Hatton – even at this embryonic stage of his career – are more bankable names to wider UK audiences than Bivol. So too are Chisora and Parker slightly easier to market than Taylor and Jonas, but this doesn’t ease the disappointment some boxing fans will have felt.

Promoter Eddie Hearn was notably blunt on the broadcast when asked about the latest updates on the Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua negotiations, reiterating what Frank Warren has said on BT Sport the previous evening that they have now received a contract from the Saudi Arabian organisers. Hearn also reacted to recent comments from Bob Arum, who told numerous outlets that the fight is “dead in the water.” An exasperated Hearn insisted that the fight is very much on, and he hopes an announcement can be made within the week. If that’s the case, someone really needs to check in on Arum.

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After withdrawing from his upcoming fight with Javier Fortuna, lightweight star Ryan Garcia confirmed that the reasons behind his decision were to do with his mental health. Not only is this greatly encouraging to see a young fighter being open about this, as discussed in last week’s column, but the understanding from fans was heartwarming.

Middleweight prospect Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams, 24, is also taking time away from the sport to focus on his mental health. After some erratic actions on social media, the middleweight prospect is now being supported by promoter Eddie Hearn to seek professional help for his struggles.

These are serious health concerns and it’s only right that fighters give them the attention they warrant. Whether this is the first signs of an inherent problem for a lot of young fighters remains to be seen, but it’s a positive step that they can highlight the problem and have the support of those handling their careers.

The Telegraph report that British businesswoman Susannah Schofield is launching an all-female fight league, with Sky already on board to air eight fight nights. Rather than target the top women in the sport, Schofield is apparently working to address the gulf in class between the elite champions and the majority of their challengers.

Boxing isn’t exactly an easy business to crack, but Schofield’s objectives could have a real positive impact on the sport and it’s a clear victory that she already has Sky on side. It will be interesting to see where this fight league leads and if it will indeed encourage more girls and women to take up the sport.

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