Boxing is back! On terrestrial television anyway, and this is surely a good thing. Isn’t it? Not according to some. As two people who have long since attended local ‘small hall’ shows we were thrilled that Robbie Davies Jr had been granted the opportunity to showcase his skills on a national stage. Despite this being an entirely free-to-view show, there were still (and inevitably always will be) complaints and critics.
Several supposed boxing fans weren’t happy with the supposed lack of quality on show from Davies who didn’t blow away Hungarian ‘journeyman’ Zoltan Szabo (now 13-4), or the overall level of boxers in the 2 bouts shown. As referenced in the opening, we would quite happily watch any boxing shown on TV. So maybe we have lower standards than most but it’s difficult to see what expectations people had from this show.
The main event itself was hastily rearranged after former British and Commonwealth champion Willie Limond pulled out due to illness. This situation in itself presents its own challenges. Having seen Szabo first hand in both encounters with Stephen Ormond, BBB can confirm he is no mug. Several pro boxers agreed that with some proper looking after, he could yet prove to be a talent. So to dismiss Davies on the basis he didn’t destroy him is immensely naïve. From Davies’ point of view, he did what was expected. After a slow start (still winning every round) he settled well and tagged his game opponent regularly. The Hungarian visibly slowed from round five onwards and started shipping more and more solid looking shots. When the finish came, it was a thing of beauty. A perfectly timed body shot was all she wrote and showed great technique and enough power to leave his opponent writhing around on the canvas. A solid performance overall. Job done.
Even if you weren’t particularly impressed with Davies taking so long to get the job done, it is difficult to use this as a reason with which to criticise the show as a whole. If Anthony Joshua blasts out an opponent quickly it’s roundly regarded a mismatch. But on this logic if he struggled with Molina for example, then this wouldn’t be worth watching either. Seemingly lose-lose. We’ve long dismissed the value of a show based on expectations rather than hope but I’m honestly not sure what people were possibly expecting, that the show didn’t live up to.
Clearly boxing fans want to see even, action packed encounters and some expect this or believe they deserve it. However, when watching a live sport, the end product does not always live up to expectations and that is the risk customers run when paying for an event. With the exception of those in attendance at Preston Guild Hall, there was no cost incurred. We have been to countless shows where local prospects face off against journeymen (who are expected to lose) and entertainment (in the guise of close fights and drama) can be in short supply. Yet these events are key in the development of inexperienced boxers. If you don’t want to watch these sort of shows, then that is your prerogative. However, if you do then certain allowances have to be made.
Since starting our site in late 2015, many people have thanked us for our live Twitter updates of non-televised shows as there is no other way of knowing what is happening. Now that these sort of shows have a nationwide platform in ITV, fans are given the opportunity to witness events first hand. The PPV argument is one for another day but any boxing shows, no matter what level, on free terrestrial television has to be considered a positive in our eyes, as it gives boxers and fans alike, something that has been sorely lacking in the recent past.
Now that the defence is out of the way, the bouts shown on Saturday were well worth watching. Arnfield and Hall was a great watch between two evenly matched combatants on paper, yet in the ring Arnfield adapted brilliantly and secured a one-sided victory late on, via a stoppage due to the massive swelling on the head of Hall. The fact that this was contested between natives of Preston and Blackpool would only have added significance to the locals and interest to neutrals. We’ve already touched on Davies’ performance and how well he boxed. Would he win against a better calibre of opponent with that level of performance? Who knows? That is largely irrelevant. He did what he had to do and got what must have been a satisfying victory. He remains on track to work his way towards the WBA title and boxed well, avoiding any punishment.
From an ITV viewpoint, the success or failure of this venture will solely come down to viewing figures against the cost of televising events. Something that may hit them hard next week… Yet with a multi-fight deal in place, we can expect more and more boxing being readily available to millions of households. And that is certainly a good thing to those who enjoy watching.