Even in these multi-channel, multi-media times the importance of terrestrial television to the future health of boxing in the UK cannot be underestimated. Sure, boxing survived a long period in the satellite wilderness in the nineties, but with so many exciting fighters currently competing; Hatton, Witter, Calzaghe, Haye, Woods, Froch and Moore it would be a great travesty were their immediate futures consigned to the marginal world of Satellite only viewing.
With just over a week to go before Frank Warren host the first of two excellent cards, the stand-off between his Sports Network stable and ITV, with whom he held a two year exclusive contract up until June, looks set to go unfeasibly close to the wire. Little has been said publicly, and little detail revealed. One assumes ITV are driving for more quality control, and though putting processes in place to promise that will be hard it is certainly impossible to contemplate a repeat of the likes of Maccarinelli v Gunn and Calzaghe v Manfredo. The sport has enough problems reaffirming its place in the hearts and minds of the British public without mismatches like that.
ITV deserve more respect too.
Warren, is of course, a graduate of negotiating with the likes of Bob Arum, Don King and European heavyweights like Mogens Palle so the narrowing of eyes and twitching of trigger fingers that occurs in the late stages of such negotiations is entirely natural to the experienced gunslinger. His options beyond ITV are slim though, and he will know that ITV coverage could make or break his ability to deliver on the present promise of his highest profile fighters.
I cannot imagine ITV failing to cover the show; Amir Khan fights for his first meaningful belt and the card also features Nicky Cook’s bid for the vacant WBO Featherweight belt, not to mention Matt Skelton v Michael Sprott, but they’re taking the negotiations to the wire. Many readers have asked for news on these discussions and I’m unable to shed anymore light, except to say ITV have failed to announce their programming plans between 9-11pm on the night of the fight.
It will be interesting to see who flinches first in the stare down. As consumers we may never know, but the announcement of whatever agreement they’ve reached is being left perilously late.