Good to see boxing back on TV

07.07.05 - By James Allan: It was a nice surprise when I picked up the TV listings paper this week and saw that the Jamie Moore v Michael Jones match up would be on SKY Sports this Friday. There first fight was a cracker, with Jones losing his title and unbeaten record to late replacement Moore. Their second fight ended in controversy with Moore being disqualified for hitting Jones low. This is a real grudge match and it should be a cracker.. But an even nicer surprise was when I looked at Saturday’s listings and found out that Junior Witter and Carl Froch’s match ups were being screened live on ITV 2 at 9.00pm.

Now, as a boxing fan, I have to say that I doubt that the Witter and Froch match up’s will be as entertaining as the Moore v Jones fight but at the same time, as a boxing fan, I am looking forward to the Witter and Froch fights more than Moore v Jones.

The Witter and Froch bill will be the first time in many years that ITV has put on a professional boxing match on primetime television. True it isn’t on the main ITV channel (ITV 1) but at least it is on a channel that you don’t have to subscribe to (SKY Sports). Anybody who has cable TV, digital TV or a free view box will be able to get these fights. For a long time the future looked bleak for boxing’s chances of ever being taken seriously as a mainstream sport worthy of primetime TV.

Benn, Eubank, Bruno and Hamed were gone. The proliferation of alphabet organisations and the fact that in many cases the best and most obvious match ups were not being made were all driving the floating fan away from the sport. Once boxing was moved away from the main terrestrial television channels and on to Pay Per View and subscription TV then it looked as though boxing was gone forever from mainstream TV.

The BBC brought it back for a short while, as long as you were prepared to sit up until one o’ clock on a Monday morning, and then get up for work five hours later. My father and I used to sit on a Saturday night together and watch the boxing, now, with the exception of Ricky Hatton and Scott Harrison, my father couldn’t name a single boxer.

But after the success of Amir Khan at the Olympic games, the popularity of the TV show The Contender and with Ricky Hatton’s unexpected and excellent victory over a real champion in Kostya Tszyu, boxing is on a real high again, and ITV obviously see it as a potential ratings winner if they are prepared to put it on at peak time viewing on a Saturday night. Now that Frank Warren has also signed a deal to show boxing promotions on ITV, the future looks bright.

But this is only the beginning; the onus is now on the fighters themselves to ensure that boxing remains on the main channels were it belongs. Boxing, while being a serious sport is also a part of the entertainment industry. People do not go to football, rugby matches, horse racing or any other sporting activity to be put to sleep. They go in order to be entertained and diverted away from their everyday life for a few hours, in this case, boxing should, in theory, have an excellent chance of regaining its former popularity.

It is a more intense and exciting sport that any of the others I have mentioned. It requires skill, intelligence, courage and will power to become a top class boxer, and when all of these qualities are properly showcased there is nothing better in the sporting world than watching two boxers testing themselves against each other. ITV have picked two exciting fighters for Saturday’s line up.

If they perform well then it can only have a positive effect and hopefully more people will tune in to the next bill that ITV decide to show. If they perform poorly then it may well turn off more people from bothering to tune in next time. This may not be fair on the fighter’s but that is just the way it is. If boxing wishes to be a mainstream sport again, then it will have to compete in a fickle world. People now have a much greater choice of what to do with their free time, they will not be prepared to watch two men dancing around or hugging each other all night.

Froch and Witter and their opponents Matthew Barney and Andreas Kotelnik have a great opportunity to showcase themselves and the sport, let’s all hope that they do well both for themselves and boxing.

Article posted on 07.07.2005

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