The boxing broadcast battle is underway

The competition for the boxing audience highlights a healthy marketplace, writes George Gigney in his media review

This past weekend was yet another example of how competition is rife among broadcasters in the UK. We had shows on Sky Sports, DAZN, Channel 5, Fight Zone and YouTube. In a broad sense, this speaks to the health of boxing and means customers have more choosing power in the market.

It also creates more avenues for fighters themselves to explore. While the likes of Sky, BT Sport and DAZN remain the big hitters in the UK, smaller promoters are now able to grant their fighters exposure, usually through streaming services.

This was a topic of conversation across several interviews on YouTube this past week, which appeared to have been prompted when Eddie Hearn commented on how he feels Sky Sports News does not provide adequate coverage to DAZN shows.

Hearn knows full well why Sky won’t roll out the bells and whistles for big DAZN shows. Yes, it has a huge sports news platform, but it’s also a business. Hearn also knew he was giving that platform up when he moved his stable fully to DAZN last year.

So his comments seem a little out of place when looked at with proper context. He also mentioned how Sky was offering up large sums of money to sign new talent such as Olympians.

When probed on this by IFL TV, Sky’s Head of Boxing, Adam Smith, was happy to explain how Sky has indeed splashed out to secure young fighters with lots of potential. That’s the market broadcasters are operating in, for better or worse.

Smith also made it clear that boxing is still very much a key part of Sky Sports’ overall makeup. While he is almost obliged to say that, they’re apparently putting their money where their mouth is by signing Olympians and young fighters, as well as maintaining deals with the likes of Top Rank.

If reports are also to be believed then Sky is on the verge of securing rights to the Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua rematch, which Hearn claims looks set to take place on July 23 somewhere in the Middle East.

Some will point to the fact that, of the UK big three, Sky perhaps has the weakest stable of fighters in terms of established star power. As Smith points out, they have had to essentially rebuild from the ground up after the split with Hearn. In that respect it’s still early days and, if signings like Ben Whittaker are anything to go by, their future is exceptionally healthy.

Those predicting the demise of Sky Sports Boxing after Hearn and Matchroom left have been proved wrong. Likewise, Frank Warren’s relationship with BT Sport is going very well. They recently announced a three-year extension to their current broadcast partnership.

In another interview with IFL, Hearn touched on Canelo Álvarez’ next moves after his loss to Dmitry Bivol. The two leading options appear to be a rematch with Bivol or the planned trilogy out with Gennadiy Golovkin. Had Canelo beaten Bivol, Hearn claimed they likely would have announced the Golovkin fight then and there in the ring.

The promoter also claimed that Canelo-GGG III is now a “bigger fight” after Canelo’s loss. While this might seem like a non sequitur at first, Hearn might have a point. He went on to say that more people might now give ‘GGG’ a chance against Álvarez after this recent defeat to Bivol.

While much of this is coming from Hearn’s promotional nous, he seems to be onto something. Many were expecting Canelo to beat Bivol and then go on to soundly defeat Golovkin in their third fight. The Kazakh wrecking ball is not quite the fighter he once was.

Of course now we have seen Canelo decisively beaten again. The aura of invincibility he had cultivated over the past few years has dissipated. That’s not to say he is no longer one of the best fighters on the planet – of course he is – but it will give Golovkin fans more hope.

While Canelo will ultimately make the decision on what he does next, Hearn’s comments may also have been an attempt to steer the Mexican in a certain direction. An immediate rematch with Bivol provides Canelo with the opportunity to course-correct, but it would also be a huge risk.

Back-to-back losses to one of the best fighters at a weight he shouldn’t even be fighting at is nothing to be ashamed of, but it would make Canelo a harder sell to more casual audiences. However, if he were to box Golovkin instead, a fight he would have a much better chance of winning, he could realign his trajectory again.

This might well be the perfect time to make the Golovkin fight. Canelo’s loss to Bivol adds an extra layer of intrigue to a rivalry that needs a conclusive third meeting.

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Canelo’s former promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, spoke to USA Today about Álvarez’ loss and dubbed the fight “the dumbest move in boxing history.” He said it was a fight with only risk and no reward. Without mentioning Hearn by name, he criticized him for allowing Canelo to go through with the fight.

Of course, De La Hoya said none of this before the fight. He didn’t describe this as a moronic move when the fight was first announced. He didn’t publicly predict that Bivol would beat Canelo. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

His comments also highlight the vapid notion in boxing that fighters at the top should be content with their position and not try to progress further. Canelo’s was a risk he didn’t need to take. He shouldn’t be ridiculed, he should be applauded. Thankfully, De La Hoya’s take is that of the minority in boxing.

Lastly it was good to see so much respect offered to both Amir Khan and Kell Brook in light of their retirement announcements. Khan in particular has had to face wildly unfair criticism during his career but now appears to be receiving the plaudits he deserves.

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