Death of British Boxing on Free TV Imminent
Whilst across the pond, respected writers such as Thomas Hauser of Maxboxing write about their disdain with HBO and the TV station's attitude to making genuine fights between genuine fighters, here in the UK the average fan is also getting short changed by the TV stations who continue to ignore the fan's calls.
Whilst our American friend's moan (quite rightly) about the cost of their PPV's, at least they have access to them. Us poor Brits miss out on many high profile fights whilst our friends across the pond enjoy regular boxing shows on HBO, ESPN and Showtime each and every month.
The sport of boxing continues to suffer and shrink in the UK as a result of this... and is now reduced to fighting for a slot before or after a UFC card on some obscure satellite channel. It's like our sport is being wrongly pigeon holed. Boxing is an Olympic sport, deep with history and pedigree. The other is a T-shirt selling empire, run by cabbage eared brawlers who spend half their time rolling on the floor.
Whilst I enjoy the odd MMA fight and see how it's characters have lots of adolescent appeal, it will always remain on the same page as American Wrestling and Bodybuilding with the lion's share of it's fans being white, into rock music, tattoo's and machismo. Despite the sport itself having flaws, nobody can argue that the UFC business model is not working. The UFC is growing at an alarming rate with many gyms now offering MMA training sessions and the fashionable Affliction attire being purchased by hundreds of thousands of youths across the globe.
Some of our our leading promoters can certainly look to the UFC and a blueprint for success. The way the UFC website is run, the way the UFC targets males aged 16 - 30 and it's heavy involvement with cash-rich sponsors has catapulted an underground affair to worldwide brand in no time. Despite boxing having a far more interesting and accessible product, the promoter's still fail to sell their wares to the TV execs and casual sport fans.
Whilst I shall give the TV stations a kicking later, the promoter must take a slice of the blame for poor mismatches for alphabet titles over the years. Whilst TV execs have not helped them at times, they need to help themselves, with proper marketing and sponsorship.
But back to TV.
Despite the annual £142.50 we fork out on our TV licence, our national sport is not represented on the BBC in any shape or form. It would seem the toffee nosed 'old boy network' who runs this dinosaur are far keener to splurge our hard-earned on a dull afternoon of rowing or a tedious weekend of horse riding. The average Brit does not care for such tripe.
When I was growing up, my bedroom wall was adorned with Linda Lusardi and Mike Tyson - and certainly not a buck toothed, tweed adorned equestrian champion, nor did I write to Father Christmas and plead for a rowing boat.
Whilst football continues to thrive and have billion's of pounds change hands between TV stations, clubs, player and their fans. Boxing when compared to football, is like a tramp stood next to a Saudi oil prince.
The average British / Lonsdale title defence earns a fighter between £5,000 and £30,000. The reported highest bid for a British title fight was Carl Froch vs Robin Reid for around £120,000 to £140,000 which is split between the holder and the challenger.
That money is paid after months of running, sparring, dealing with injuries, plus the big fight itself which can bring broken bones and cuts after tough rounds of potentially savage action.
Wheras many a Championship level footballer would earn that kind of money in a single week whilst warming the bench - the footballer will not have to then pay his coach/trainer/team a percentage of his purse for their assistance like the boxer will do.
Virgin Money recently concluded following intense research, that the 'average' football fan spends 33 full days per year being a supporter - including travelling to and from matches, watching TV, searching the internet and talking about the game with friends. That equates to approximately 15 hours a week, with several of those hours actually sat enjoying their sport happen.
I'd hazard a guess that boxing fans spend about 15 hours online per week alone, due to the no media coverage , with only around an hour or two a fortnight actually managing to watch any action.
This author knows of hardcore boxing fans who will spend £2500 on travelling to Las Vegas to watch a single fight, which may only last a couple of rounds.
They will spend 2 days alone, simply flying there and back. Domestically they will drive up and down the UK watching appealing fights - and without the luxury of a fan coach to take them, they will pay for their petrol and the heavy price of a decent seat upon arrival at the venue.
Whilst Football will always be the most-supported in numbers, other sports such as Rugby, Golf, Cricket and Tennis also have vast amounts of coverage across SKY, ITV and BBC. The sport of boxing seems to be thought of as being 'poorly supported'.
Yet Ricky Hatton took over 30,000 fans to see him challenge Floyd Mayweather. When you consider that only 6,000 England football fans went to the World Cup in Japan and Korea it kind of makes a mockery of that notion. You'll not see 30,000 follow the cricket or rugby teams - yet one individual boxer alone has that pulling power.
Wheras all of international football, cricket and rugby broadcasts are generally free to air, or part of a monthly subscription package - the poor boxing fan is not only receiving less and less transmissions of their sport, both on an amateur or professional level, but when a decent event is finally televised the boxing fan has to pay over and above for the privilege.
As we begin to enter 'boxing season' again, over the next 30 days we will have only a handful of fights to see. All of which will need to be paid for once and in some cases twice by SKY subscribers.
Whilst we may be afforded the Brook vs Jennings fight as part of our monthly subscription to Sky sports, the meaty David Haye vs Nicolay Valuev fight will be an additional £15 or so on top of your monthly subscription which is difficult to swallow, especially when many of us working class boxing folk are staring at redundancy.
Wheras a football match may always last a minimum of 90 mins of action - a boxing match may last just seconds if an early KO appears. So the true value of a boxing PPV purchase in terms of 'minutes' will never be comparable to football.
The other tasty fight we have happening in the next month or so is the Carl Froch vs Andre Dirrell card at Nottingham Arena on the 17th. In this instance, SKY have not even offered to show this fight despite fans screaming for a means of watching it - and the promoters have had to seek out a new channel, PrimeTime PPV, which will only launch the week beforehand to show this fight.
Froch vs Dirrell is the boxing equivalent of Manchester Utd vs Chelsea and yet despite Froch's last two fights being total thrillers, no station bothered to throw their name into the hat despite multiple email and facebook campaigns with hundreds participating.
Whilst SKY may come in for some stick during this piece, I suppose at least they are still offering the sport of boxing to it's viewers. ITV4 have featured some excellent domestic and European action courtesy of Hennessy Sports, but are rumoured to be leaving the sport after the current deals expires at the end of the year.
It's no surprise, given the media blackout on boxing, that the sport now thrives online. Since national newspapers all but abandoned covering boxing from ringside, it has since barely written a word about it in print. Other than the odd 'soapbox' article from the odd promoter, the national press has all but washed it's hands of boxing and now concentrate on sports that assist their publication sales quota.
Other than the likes of the ever present and hardworking Gareth.A.Davies of the Telegraph, The Guardian's Kevin Mitchell or Ron Lewis of The Times - we have no newspaper coverage at all. Even their valued input is generally assigned to a 'blog' within the newspaper website.
To crystallise the boxing fans' of the last couple of years, we are slowly but very surely, turning into a .com sport. In other words if we want to view footage, see pictures or discuss the sport of boxing, we only have the internet to fall back on. With many of the leading boxing websites run by enthusiasts only, it is a testament to their dedication to boxing that this online culture exists.
If the terrestrial TV companies do not wish to use valuable broadcasting time on boxing, then surely they must consider streaming fights through their websites? The BBC, ITV and SKY all have state of the art media players and transmission software which would enable far more boxing from around the world to be covered and then shown to the .com generation of boxing fans.
If you'd like to air your own opinion's on our sports lack of coverage, then why not spend 3 minutes clicking on the following links and notifying the TV stations concerned. Below are their contact details - it's high time we spoke in numbers folks before our sport vanishes from our TV screens altogether.
This little article, on this little website might only generate a handful of emails to the TV companies, but it is something we all should do as boxing fans before our voices disappear forever.
Following Calzaghe and Hatton's exit from boxing, the second wave of genuine British champions in Haye and Froch, have already run into TV issues. If they lose their forthcoming fights, British boxing will have nobody spearheading the sport whatsoever, so it's important that their next fights in 2010 are seen...and seen by many.
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