There has been an almost gleeful cry from some corners of late, “boxing is dead!”. Many seem to be of the opinion that a fight between two British heavyweights has signalled the end of the sport as we know it.
Much has been said about the fight between David Haye and Dereck Chisora. From, “a slap in the face of the British Boxing Board of Control” to, “a disgusting farce”. I have made my feelings clear on the subject of Haye v. Chisora but attitudes towards it appear to have pervaded the rest of the sport.
We are in an era when boxing has a real battle on its hands to retain an audience. The lack of coverage from terrestrial TV coupled with the rise of companies like the UFC mean that boxing faces a struggle to attract viewers. Or does it?
Almost two weeks ago Floyd Mayweather’s bout with Miguel Cotto became one of the most watched fights in pay-per-view history with 1.5 million buys in the US alone. The public appetite for boxing is still there, clearly. However, the sport is shown almost exclusively on subscription channels. Many are not willing to pay extra for something many only have a passing interest in.
The birth of the Frank Warren backed BoxNation channel appears to have alienated even more fans. The initial reaction to Haye v. Chisora seemed to centre around the issue that it was a money making exercise based on PPV figures.
Let us be absolutely clear on this, Haye v. Chisora is as much a PPV event as the Premier League football on Sky Sports. The fight will appear on a subscription channel, just as any show on Sky does. Yes, you will have to subscribe to that channel but calling it a PPV event is wrong. The England cricket team’s upcoming test series with the West Indies is on a subscription channel. Do we refer to that as pay-per-view?
One of my biggest frustrations over the Haye/Chisora contest is the fact that people who have shown little or no interest in boxing to this point now have an opinion. We have heard the likes of Michael Vaughan and Marina Hyde explaining how terrible events at Upton Park will be.
People are completely within their rights to disagree with the fact that this fight is happening. It saddens me that so many of these views seem to be emanating from an ever-growing bandwagon of ignorance.
I hope people make an effort to see that there is a huge boxing world beyond the likes of Haye and Chisora. There are fantastic matches being fought in a sporting spirit all over the planet every week.
When I mentioned this on Twitter a football fan replied by saying that, “it’s up to boxing to make us care”.
I began to wonder if it really was up to boxing to try and attract new fans beyond what the sport itself offers. Football hasn’t made any particularly radical changes in the last thirty years in an attempt to keep fans interested. The biggest difference is arguably the Champions League, an exercise in money-making rather a fan driven initiative.
There is a public perception that boxing on TV is harder to find than Lord Lucan. That is simply not true. Most football fans I know subscribe to Sky Sports, that in itself gets you at least twenty live fight cards a year, often more. Eurosport shows live and pre-recorded contests too.
Even if you don’t have satellite or cable TV, Channel 5 have done brilliantly with Tyson Fury shows, incorporating Chris Eubank Jr’s early career on many broadcasts. It may be true that BoxNation have taken a niche sport and made it even more inaccessible. It has also given boxing fans a wider range of fights to watch and given us fantastic studio analysis from the likes of Spencer Fearon and Steve Lillis.
This weekend unbeaten Olympic medallist David Price takes on Sam Sexton for the vacant British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles. It’s on Sky Sports 1, a channel many reading this will already have access to. There is a wealth of boxing available to watch on TV in one form or another.
The sport of boxing has done itself no favours in the last week or so but scratch the surface of the recent media frenzy and there is a vibrant and healthy sport just underneath. The added bonus? That in all likelihood it is only a wallet-soothing channel change away.