We haven’t had any live boxing for a while – and it could be some time before we finally do – so instead we’re getting verbal spars between promoters in the media to keep us somewhat satiated. We’ve got Frank Warren’s new Heavyweight podcast to thank for the latest clash, which saw octogenarian Bob Arum go up against the UFC’s Dana White (in separate episodes). First up was White who, before tearing into the sport of boxing as a whole, gave some insight into his background and story. Whatever you may think of him, there’s no denying his talent as a promoter and his insight into how and when he jumped into the UFC is particularly fascinating.
However, the good stuff came when White was asked about his much-discussed invasion of boxing, which was supposed to happen at the back end of last year, and why it still hasn’t come to fruition. In essence, his answer was that he grossly underestimated just how complicated the boxing business is. In his words, it’s a “s**t-show” and stressed that it’s “hard to articulate how messed up it is.”
You’ll find no argument here that boxing is a bit of a mess at the best of times, but White’s comments are certain to annoy, particularly from someone who is yet to put on a legitimate card.
Luckily, we had Arum to swoop in on the next installment of the pod and defend our bizarre sport. He actually made a solid point, too; that, in boxing, the fighters are far better off in financial terms than their UFC counterparts. “They [UFC fighters] fight where he [White] tells them to fight. He sets the purses, and if they don’t like it he goes somewhere else,” Arum said.
“We promote in a very competitive arena … the fighters are able to capitalise on that and get purses that are much, much bigger than the amounts the UFC guys get because they [the UFC] have a monopoly.”
This raises some interesting issues. Firstly, it seems clear that should White eventually step fully into the boxing world, he’s going to do a fair bit more than ruffle a few feathers. Secondly, he won’t be able to use the UFC model should he set up shop on our side of the tracks. While top UFC fighters have many lucrative sponsorship deals, their fight night purses are much smaller than that of commercially successful boxers. White would struggle to attract top talent if he were to create a UFC-equivalent in boxing; there’d be more money elsewhere.
On the surface, DAZN’s decision to withhold rights fee payments to its global partners for content that has not yet been delivered might seem ominous, but it could also be seen as sound preparation.
With live sport completely on hold until the coronavirus crisis has abated, DAZN is at particular risk given its reliance on live content. Sportspromedia.com reported that the online subscription-based broadcaster has written to its global rights holders to inform them it will not be paying for events that have been cancelled or postponed because of the pandemic.
According to SportsPro, DAZN intends to pay these rights fees once live sport is back.
This could prove to be a shrewd move; with no live sport on offer, DAZN may lose a significant portion of its audience and will need to plug that hole however they can.
Another broadcaster facing a crisis of its own – though to a lesser extent – is Sky after a wildly misjudged audience survey was circulated online. In the survey subscribers were asked to rate how “sexy” and “irritating” they found Sky Sports presenters.
According to The Times, a number of female employees rightly raised grievances about the survey. In response, Sky claimed the survey was a mistake and should have asked subscribers the same questions in relation to stars of film and entertainment, rather than journalists.
Whatever the case, it’s another stain on the broadcaster’s reputation, particularly in the wake of historic criticism for pairing young female hosts with middle aged men. That being said, it’s a misstep that many major broadcasters have been accused of, and perhaps speaks to a wider issue in the media.
In more distressing news, British super-welter champion Scott Fitzgerald was arrested and charged with three counts of common assault and one count of witness intimidation. According to talkSPORT, a Lancashire Police spokesperson stated that the alleged victims of the assaults are two women aged 21 and 42 and a man aged 23. The case is set to go before the Crown Court in May.
We obviously shouldn’t pass judgment before the courts do, but this is worrying. Further still, Fitzgerald’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, told Boxing Social in a YouTube interview that Scott was recently discharged from a rehabilitation facility after battles with substance addictions. It sounds as though Fitzgerald has some demons to expel; his career should be on hold until he does so, which will likely be the case as the British Boxing Board of Control have suspended his licence.
Billy Joe Saunders is also temporarily without a British licence after his vile video “advising” men on how to assault women appeared online. The Independent’s Luke Brown penned a piece on whether or not fans should separate gifted athletes from their transgressions – no matter how vile – outside of their arena. It’s up to each person where they draw that moral line, and I know where I stand.
Speaking to the Mirror, Amir Khan claims he is considering retirement from punching for pay. “Am I going to fight again? I don’t know, I’m in two minds,” he said.
“Financially, I’ve done very well for myself. Do I need to do one more fight which could ruin my whole legacy? I don’t know the answer.” He says he’ll see how he feels after a full training camp. If he does call it a day, he can be proud of one of the most exciting careers from a British fighter in recent history.