When I was growing up, Boxing was a regular feature on terrestrial TV. Frank Bruno on the BBC and then Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Michael Watson, on ITV. Yes like a lot of you I also follow other sports, mainly Football, where you follow your team through thick and thin from August to May.
Boxing however, was and still is, an event. The anticipation of a big fight and all of the banter that goes with it, is all part of the build up to Fight Night. People used to gather round in pubs, clubs and homes to see their heroes do battle on their TV screens.
This however began to change in 1993 when Sky started to buy up the rights for all of the big fights, and if you didn’t have satellite TV you were pushed out to the pubs. If it was a fight in America, the whole process became more difficult. The word would go around which bar would be showing the fight and you would either have to knock the door in a certain way, or give a Freemasons handshake to let the bouncer know you were there to watch the Boxing. To be fair with less and less Boxing on terrestrial TV my interest started to wane, and I would imagine a lot of other people too.
I think this is where mainstream Boxing started to drift away from the general public. Not only were you expected to pay for your Sky subscription but access to the sport became more difficult. It took a long time for the majority of the UK population to have Sky and then came a couple of recessions and people would cancel it as they could no longer afford the luxury. Boxing’s loss.
Then came PPV, not only were you paying for Sky but then you had to pay for each big fight. This pushed Boxing further away from the public eye unless you were a staunch supporter of the sport. Interest in was dwindling fast and with the addition of MMA, Boxing had a new threat. Long gone were the days when you could talk to somebody in the street about a fight and they knew exactly who you were talking about, Lennox Lewis, Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe being the exception.
The BBC lost complete interest after the debacle with Audley Harrison. Then out of nowhere, Channel 5 started to show Tyson Fury and Kid Galahad. The fighters were all young and wet behind the ears but it was still giving Boxing back to the public, and they were gaining fans. No world championship fights, but it was still Boxing and was a welcome addition to a Saturday night.
Then last year Barry McGuigan managed to get the ITV executives to buy the rights for Carl Frampton in a World Championship fight in Belfast. No coincidence the viewing figures were impressive. At long last, top class Boxing was being brought back to the masses, maybe not regular but enough to whet the appetite.
Much to the surprise of a lot of people, Dave got the rights to show David Haye’s comeback fight and brought in 3 million viewers which set a record.
There is such an abundance of talent in the UK at the minute with big fights to be made, that channels like ITV and Freeview channels must get in on the act, and allow fights to be made free for all. Could you imagine the advertising revenue that would be generated by a world title fight? It would be massive.
Not lastly, our boxers would get the recognition of fighting in front of the general public and the whole country would get behind them.
So if any TV sports executives are reading this, do the right thing and sign up some of these 12 world champions that the UK possesses.
You will not be disappointed.