Matchroom and boxing on Sky Sports are attracting a fair amount of flak at the moment. Part of this is down to the questionable quality of recent cards but a lot of it has been bubbling for a while. Matchroom are the most prominent promoters in UK boxing now, and the amount of critiques correlates directly. The more successful you are, in most walks of life, the more people will have an opinion; good or bad. And Matchroom has both in abundance. The almost cult like ‘casuals’ who will buy tickets, merchandise and lap up iFLTV interviews with Eddie Hearn. On the other side of the fence are the self-proclaimed ‘hardcore’ element who tend to look down on newcomers to the sport and see Hearn as the anti-Christ incarnate.
So, leaving Sky to one side, how are the competition doing? In particular, the newest guests to the party. ITV. It is very early days for ITV’s latest venture back into boxing but the signs are good. We thoroughly enjoyed the show on ITV4, with Robbie Davies Jr headlining against Szabo. A lot of the criticism was that it was like a small hall show but shown on TV. Personally, I don’t see how that is a criticism. I would love it if we could watch a small hall show every weekend and would tune in more often than not. I’m not sure how my girlfriend would feel about this, but never mind.
Where ITV firmly splits opinion is when comes to their newest platform: ITV Box Office. It was inevitable that a new boxing provider would look to test the paid waters eventually, I think what shocked most potential viewers was how soon it was introduce, and with whom.
Chris Eubank Jr is the perfect candidate in some ways. He has fans who hang on his, and his father’s, every word. They firmly believe he is already an elite middle and super-middleweight who would trouble any of the world champions. His detractors will argue that he is only linked to these big names because of his own name, and what it means to boxing fans. Either way, he generates opinions. As with most of our articles, we look somewhere in the middle to find the truth, as that’s where it normally lies. Junior possesses a fantastic engine and what appears to be a solid set of whiskers.
He has some decent, if unspectacular names on his record, posting dominant wins over Dmitry Chudinov, Spike O’Sullivan, Nick Blackwell and Tom Doran. He also ran current WBO world champion Billy-Joe Saunders close over 12 rounds, losing a thin decision. If you looked at him without the name, you would see a top level British champion who has operated fleetingly at the fringes of world level.
With that in mind, former middleweight king and super-middleweight champion, Arthur Abraham, is a good step up. The German based Armenian should provide a tough test and is far more experienced at the top level than anyone else Eubank has faced. Their styles will likely gel nicely together as ‘King Arthur’ is famous for conserving energy over 2/3 of a round then looking to score big in the final minute. He will march forward with his hands high and tight for long periods before unloading in short bursts. This should suit Eubank well, as he will enjoy being given time to land his own flashy shots on an advancing target.
The question of how much Abraham has left in his tank will be answered. Eubank has power but is yet to show one shot knockout power. If he can become the first man to stop AA, it will be an impressive statement. One that will probably be made late on in the fight, if it happens. Look out for our official prediction later in the week.
So the main event is a good contest which should prove entertaining for the fans. Great news for all! Well, for all who decide to pay £17.95 for the privilege. Like his previous outing on ITV, Eubank’s latest will be shown via ITV Box Office, the Pay-Per-View platform, which is where the card draws the majority of its criticism. Is this really the type of boxer to build a PPV platform around? A former British champion whose best win is a durable Russian for a fringe WBA trinket.
Well, this is where you cannot ignore the other elements of Chris Eubank. Junior or Senior. The added extras, courtesy of the name, add to the attraction for many. Can he live up to his father? Even if he can’t, many of Senior’s fans will be tempted to watch. His cold blooded ring walk (normally to an absolute belter of a tune – Dr. Dre’s ‘Still Dre’), chiselled physique and flamboyant technique are all part of the draw. In the modern media world of personalities and star quality, Team Eubank tick a lot of boxes. He campaigns in an historically glamourous division in Britain, and the quality of domestic boxers remains high. There are many all British matchups that can be made which would excite all boxing fans. World champions James Degale and George Groves would both provide entertaining build up and top quality boxing. Contender Callum Smith is also on the cusp, and could prove to be the best of the lot if you believe the hype. So it’s not hard to see why a national broadcaster would choose to back Eubank on his journey to potential stardom.
Generally, the bigger the main event, the worse the undercard. This has seemingly rung especially true in recent times. So bearing in mind this is the best main event ITV Box Office have announced (admittedly it’s only the second, so the concept is very much in its infancy), has the support suffered?
At first glance, it doesn’t look ‘stacked’ however it appears to be a clear ruling of quality over quantity. There is a legit world title defence as chief support, Lee Selby versus Jonathan Barros for the Welshman’s IBF Featherweight strap was initially supposed to be supporting Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton, so that can be considered quite the coup for ITV and the promoters involved, Poxon Sports. Robbie Davies Jr continues his steady march towards world level with a step up in competition. Kid Galahad is talented and name enough and faces a decent challenge in Jose Cayetano. Then a unification of the British and Commonwealth Super-Featherweight titles between 2 undefeated fighters in Martin J Ward and Anto Cacace. Suddenly, the quality of the card looks quite impressive.
Looking at a recent offering on Sky Sports Box Office, probably one of the stronger offerings of recent times, and there is a similar level of calibre. Obviously Kell Brook defending his IBF belt against Errol Spence Jr was one of the best matchups that could be made in world boxing but the undercard shares several similarities. A world title match as chief support, a couple of continental belts being contested as well as domestic titles being on the line.
I’ve already seen boxing fans dismiss this as not being worthy of PPV. Rightly or wrongly, the lines of what is ‘worthy’ of PPV have always been blurred. Truth be told, it’s down to the individual. Or the hundreds of thousands of individuals that promoters rely on. Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay. The same principle applies to a boxing show. Whether you agree in principle or not, is a personal choice. For me, the more channels available and willing to show live boxing, the better.