Once a upon a time boxing coverage was the exclusive preserve of SKY, the premier satellite broadcast network here in the United Kingdom, but it now appears to have stepped out of the sport for all but the major ‘cash cow’ events. It is a peculiar tactic given the revived pulse and stirred interest in the sport. In fact, from a domestic perspective the boxing scene is arguably at its most buoyant.
A clutch of world-class operators in Ricky Hatton, Junior Witter, Clinton Woods and Enzo Maccarinelli (okay stay with me here), world champions Joe Calzaghe and David Haye as well as emerging talent like Amir Khan and Kevin Mitchell illuminate a sport flush with marketable products.
Yes, I know, it was contentious not to describe Witter, Woods and Maccarinelli as world champions and both Witter and Woods could currently possess legitimate belts, but consensus world champions they’re not. In fact, I’d counter it’s contentious to describe them as world champions at all. It’s certainly misleading. However, despite the plethora of belts and weight classes making the notion of seven world champions less noble or meaningful than it was a generation ago, few could deny boxing is more visible and more vibrant then in recent memory.
Gavin Rees and Alex Arthur two more surprise custodians of these decorative belts, though I’d need the support of some of the finest analytical minds in Cambridge University to tell me whether Alex Arthur is actually the WBO Super-Featherweight champion or not. The equation, I’m assured, is x = yz, where y is Joan Guzman’s consumption of Arroz con ducle and z is the depth of the WBO’s integrity.
Back to point, “if there was one!” mouthed the wag at the back. SKY’s recent printed advertising campaign substantiates the assumption that Hatton v Mayweather is the possibly the last time they will bid to show top line action. Every sport conceivable is featured in imagery intend to capture the sense of a battlefield with various sports men and women taking the field. Not a boxer in sight.
All is not lost of course, as aspiring new contender Setanta Sports has seen the age old potential of boxing – media historians relay how quickly television advertising was matched with boxing because the sport’s natural breaks every three minutes lent themselves to commercial breaks so readily. A spirited schedule has seen the network deliver Calzaghe, Mosley, Judah, Jones Jnr and the capture of David Haye v Enzo Maccarinelli this Spring.
Good on you Setanta. Or Sultana Sports as it remains stubbornly named around these parts.
OK, so scheduling needs some attention. Replays often feature the main event only and streamline the presentation to the fight with no time for ring-walks or analysis that so enrich an event but it remains an honest, wholesome production and the network seem genuinely willing to deliver for boxing fans. It isn’t a fleeting or half-hearted attempt to snatch viewers or a cheap alternative to football – though obviously it is – like the fleeting partnerships with the BBC (and ITV if the rumours are be believed) that preceded them.
Exciting times for boxing fans, a strange time for SKY to essentially step back away from the challenge. However, the network shouldn’t be neglected, as the last 18 months have shown – things change very quickly in the world of television and boxing.