2016 - The Boxing Year Ahead
2015 saw some high and low points in the world of boxing.  The fight that had been rumoured for years, Mayweather vs Pacquaio, finally took place.  Expectations were always going to be hard to meet, but amidst the IV drip controversy and piles of cash taken home by both men the fight passed without controversy or excitement.  It did open boarders though; Promotional issues were overcome and gave fans sight of how boxing could work to produce the biggest matchups, not block them.  We saw a change in the highest profile division, as Tyson Fury dethroned Wladimir Klitschko to bring new blood to the elite table.  Straight away though the belts became dispersed as the IBF stripped the ‘Gypsy King’ of his new won title.  A new holder shall be found in the New Year. 
There are talks of the big boys getting it on, Deontay Wilder already talking up a unification with Fury for his remaining belts.  Down the weight divisions fans still anticipate that Sergei Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson can meet to decide the best at light heavyweight but still there seems little breakthrough.  Billie Joe Saunders has waded into the middleweight titles at the last opportunity of 2015, taking the WBO belt from Andy Lee.  Having already stated he is 18 months from being ready to face the feared Gennady Golovkin, don’t anticipate seeing the titles all being held by one individual anytime soon.  Golovkin himself is eyeing up a showdown with WBC holder Canelo Alvarez.
So heading into 2016 what are the biggest issues looming?  What can fans look forward to and what should they be looking out for?  We take a look into the crystal ball for both the UK and beyond…..
Promotional Agreements

Nothing excites boxing fans like long explanations to camera about exclusivity around broadcast rights for certain promoters.  Of course, that’s wrong.  But as 2015 closes out we have had a bizarre phenomena of promoters arguing over the internet about the semantics of ‘exclusivity’.  It seemed to all start with Mick Hennessy (Tyson Fury’s promoter) taking umbrage with Eddie Hearn claiming some of the credit for the making of Klitschko vs Fury.  Hearn’s view was that Matchroom has a mutually exclusive deal with Sky Sports that they, and only they, can broadcast boxing on the channel involving UK fighters.  If anyone else (such as Hennessy) wanted to do so then they have to go through Hearn, who gets the say as to whether Sky broadcast it or not.  As Sky secured the PPV rights for Fury vs Klitschko, Hearn spoke of his involvement in making the fight.  Both Hennessy and Peter Fury were adamant that Hearn had no involvement once his own fighter, Kell Brook, was no longer fighting on the same date as part of the same package.
Move on a week and Hearn then gets broadsided by Frank Warren and his son George, who declare that BoxNation are in discussions to hold PPV shows on the Sky Sports platform and that Hearn was lying to say that only Matchroom could do so.  A long video with Kugan Cassius on IFL TV may not have clarified all the details but the message from Warren was clear:  Eddie Hearn is lying to say that Matchroom are the only promoters able to broadcast on the platform.
The fallout to all of this is that you end up with promoters taking snide shots at each other online, muddying the waters between what fans hear and what they can believe.  Frank Warren says BoxNation will broadcast a Sky PPV in 2016.  Hearn seems to have backtracked, saying his agreement is with Sky Sports as opposed to Sky Broadcasting (more semantics to wrap the head around).  The answer seems to be that we will see BoxNation go against their traditional model of being a subscription TV channel over the next 12 months and facilitate one off purchasing.  Will Sky TV (such as Sky Sports News) invest into the advertising of the show to maximise revenue?  It would seem that to do so would be diametrically opposed to their exclusive agreement with Matchroom on their standard Sky broadcasting, to invest time and advertising into a BoxNation show.  Yet it would seem wasteful if they didn’t.  Hennessy Sports also seem to have thrown their hat into the PPV ring, declaring that more doors are open for them
Away from the fallout for promoters this also opens up channels for fighters themselves.  Another fighter who had a turbulent end of year was Chris Eubank Jr who cut short his Matchroom promotional agreement after they lost the purse bids for his British title bout with Nick Blackwell.  It is clear that the Eubank team see Jr as being a future, if not current, PPV star.  Now free of promotional ties and seemingly with the ability to offer his services to other promoters who can utilise the Sky platform for a one off, it will be interesting to see what Eubank’s next move will be.  Fury will always be with Hennessy you suspect, but whether Hennessy Sports are able to make their own shows on the PPV platform using fighters such as Eubank Jr for short terms deals.  Would this then mean that in the future fighters could become more ‘self managed’?  Anthony Joshua already has been declared a PPV fighter by Hearn; what is to stop him becoming a PPV fighter on his own in the future?
For fans this only means one thing.  PPV is here to stay.  Promoters seem to be making it a priority.  If there is a justification for it, to make the mega fights, then fans can accept that.  It will be interesting to see how much they can stomach though if the different promoters start making their own PPV shows through 2016.  Something will have to give.

As alluded to in the introduction through the Tyson Fury example, the belts are going to continue being an issues through 2016.  It has been much vaunted that Britain is in a boxing boom, currently having 12 world title holders.  But is it a coincidence that we have so many at a time when belts are seemingly available as freely as victories over a worn out journeyman?  The WBA have up to three belts per division; Super, Regular & Interim.  Each can lay claim to the title of ‘World Champion’, it doesn’t mean they are one.  For instance in early 2016 Lucas Browne takes on Ruslan Chagaev for the WBA title.  However their ‘Interim’ title was defended recently by Luis Ortiz in America and their ‘Super’ title was won by Tyson Fury against Wladimir Klitschko. 
Belt issues won’t go away.  They are a way for promoters to advertise their shows proliferated with ‘eliminators’ and ‘world titles’ to help shift tickets.  For the governing bodies it’s a way to sweep up sanctioning fees around the world.  Underneath the world title we will keep seeing ‘Inter Continental’, ‘Silver’ and such like titles.  The recent Frank Warren show in Manchester had no less than 7 WBO titles up for grabs.
The WBA are perhaps the most culpable of all the bodies.  Their belts lose meaning as fans lose track of which titles are legitimate world titles or not.  They recently appointed a new President, Gilberto Jesus Mendoza, who has spoken of bringing uniformity to the sport when he was appointed.  He takes over from his father, Gilberto Mendoza, so nepotism aside it will be interesting to see if he looks to streamline the title scene or, more likely, keep reaping the money from promoters worldwide.
While money is there to be made don’t expect the system to change apart from for the worse.  The only way for change to happen is for fans to turn their back on viewing the shows on TV, don’t turn up to live shows.  But with interest high in the sport at the end of 2015, 2016 doesn’t show signs of decline in public interest (when marketed correctly).  Who know, by the end of 2016 we could have 100 British world champions, wouldn’t that be great?!
Drug Bans
Interesting to see what happens here.  Very recently it has been found that previous victor over both Martin Rogan and David Price, the former European champion Erkan Teper, had failed a drugs test post fight with Liverpudlian Price.  The fight has subsequently been declared a ‘no contest’, wiping the loss from Price’s record.  Teper will now face a two year ban from the sport, possibly lenient for endangering the health of an opponent.  There are rumours of cover ups of the failed test from the German board – something that Price is becoming all too familiar with.  The other of the men to hold a victory over him, American Tony Thompson, also failed a drugs test after one of his victories over Price.  That result has stood and it is unclear what the status of Thompson on these shores is – he hasn’t fought back here since so any ban may be kept quiet by all involved.
2016 will hopefully see the breakthrough in drug testing and more cheats being found.  They are undoubtedly out there in the sport – however the funding simply isn’t there to find them.  In the meantime there are unanswered questions about how the respective Boards of each country handles their own testing and suspensions for both home and overseas fighters.   
Malta Boxing Commission
Speaking of Boards, the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) faces continual challenges on these shores.  The Malta Boxing Commission are a group that are commissioning their own events in the UK and a handful abroad.  There is a huge controversy over their involvement in the UK; they have licenced boxers to fight that had previously failed to gain licences under the BBBoC.  They say their medical checks are as stringent as those as the BBBoC including full brain scans. 
They came to the headlines earlier this year when they attempted to bring Roy Jones Jr to Liverpool to take on home fighter Tony Moran.  The press conference went ahead, but then a week before the event word came through that Jones was no longer taking part.  It served as a blow to all involved who had spent a great deal on promotion of the event, and the Malta Boxing Commission who had this as their headline act of 2015. 
For 2016 they promise that the events will continue, a project 90-100 for the year are pencilled in the diary.  In the background to the boxing there are seemingly endless litigations going on with the BBBoC, court cases seemingly as frequent as the events they put on. 
One thing that the Malta Boxing Commission do it create a strong online presence through Facebook and Twitter.  You will often see that they answer fan questions or post up about events taking place and the belts on offer.  You get the sense that, whether to the detriment or not of the UK boxing scene, they will be here all the way through 2016.  Quite what the intention of their organisation is is not 100% clear you suspect as yet.  To drive the BBBoC out?  They claim not, instead wanting the Board to instead re-evaluate how they work and modernise.  This one could get murkier before it gets clearer.
Premier Boxing Champions (PBC)
Speaking of unfamiliar bodies being in the UK, is it possible that 2016 will be the year that we see Al Haymon land over here?  There are two schools of thoughts here are his Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) setup.  1)  He hasn’t completed his aim of taking over in the US and monopolising the boxing scene, so why spread the resources worldwide?  2)  With all of the promotional issues going on in the UK, what better time to come in and try to take over?
Depending which financial reports you read, Haymon’s investors in the US are either delighted with the seeds he is planting and looking forward to reaping the longer term financial rewards or he is under increasing pressure to start recouping the huge amounts that have been used for buying TV time in the States.  Either way, he is starting to entice more British fighters to his shows.  Nathan Cleverly, James DeGale, Ricky Burns, Lee Selby, Jamie McDonnell as well as Carl Frampton have all appeared in 2015.  Some have ‘advisory’ agreements in place with the rarely seen American.  There is seemingly little value in the fighters from the UK having to be built over in the US, so if he is to keep a long term relationship then it would seem the logical step would be to exploit the relationship in the UK. 
Catch Weights

We hear about it abroad more than the UK, but expect it to come to the headlines once more in 2015 as Alvarez and Golovkin enter negotiations for a super fight.  Although Alvarez is the WBC champion at middleweight, he has yet to fight at the full 160lbs weight limit.  Expect all sorts of skulduggery around weight stipulations to give himself every advantage in the book. 

So, those are a handful of the key issues facing the sports and its fans in 2016.  Some may end up being mountains, others molehills.  What is certain though is that it will leave the fans with plenty to talk about for the following year.