2017 - Some Good, Some Mad
2017 was a year that truly brought us the best and the worst of boxing.  Greatness versus greatness occurred, while the sport also offered up some moments that blurred the lines between madness and humour.  There’s only one way to break this down:
World Boxing Super Series:  For so long as fans we have called upon the best to fight the best.  Fuck the belts, let’s just have it out and decide who is number one in the division.  If the belts come too, brilliant, but let’s stop them being the primary focus.  Along come Comosa, fronted by the Sauerland Brothers, to give us the tournaments we have craved.

Eight competitors, each looking to stake a claim to be the best in two weight divisions and all settled in 12 months.  Of course there were a few questionable names (Mike Perez at cruiserweight, Jamie Cox at super middle – anyone see the link??) but in all, we have to be happy with those who have participated.  The staging has been phenomenal, something never seen in boxing before, while the addition of a knockout series adds a much needed narrative to the sport.  No longer do we wonder who people may fight next; now we know.

Series one comes to a culmination in early 2018, so we can only hope that this carries on to two more weight divisions once it’s all over. 
Anthony Joshua.  Let us of course praise the man with two stadium fights completed in the year, as well as a unification.  The future fights will hopefully see him taking on the best in the division. 

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the madness.  Matchroom have done a phenomenal job of cleaning up the image of Anthony Joshua; acknowledging his shady background, they have turned him into an inspiration for anyone who may be having a tough life on the streets.  Then……..then those messages to Eddie Chambers.  Chambers, a man so irrelevant in the heavyweight division that most Joshua fans will be unaware that he even is/was a professional boxer. 

“Bitches talk.  Real ones move in silence.  You done to (sic) much talking.  U are bum.  Disgrace to the superior black race!  Fuck u”
Woooooooah there Anthony!  Superior black race?  God forbid if Tyson Fury spouted this out regarding his own race (yes, he did in an interview mocking the situation).  Hearn started by telling us that it was a fake account, so Chambers dispelled this by filming the messages.  Then we were told someone within Team AJ had access and was doing this, that it wasn’t AJ himself.  Errrr……OK. 

But then, it all got a bit more surreal.  As Robert Mugabe was ousted from power in Zimbabwe, AJ donned his seconds outfit and took the tyrants corner via Snapchat.  “Why do they despise Mugabe?  Mugabe… is your view what you’ve been told?  Or what you have learnt through research?"

It’s a far reach from the sanitised, corporate AJ that we have become accustomed to.  Where it ends, we don’t know.  However, I’m quite enjoying the rogue AJ and if that is who he is, then let him be that person.
Super Fights.  It’s been encouraging to see those deemed the best in their weight divisions take on their rivals.  In September, Canelo decided at last that he is a middleweight and stepped up to challenge the dominant force, Gennady Golovkin.  A contentious draw, but as fans we can at least be happy that the two were able to negotiate outside of the ring to bring us the action inside.

There was no weight shifting from Terence Crawford, as he became the undisputed champion (and the first in many years) at light welterweight by stopping in three rounds the previously undefeated Julius Indongo.  Impressive as much for the swiftness of the action as the ability to find a diary date for all four recognised belts, the shame is that the ability to keep all sanctioning bodies happy means the chess table gets kicked and all the pieces end up in the air.  We suspect Crawford will be seen at welterweight come next year.

Of course the year isn’t over yet, and perhaps the biggest (on paper, not in paper) is yet to come as Rigondeaux and Lomachenko square off this weekend.  Two double Olympic gold medallists, two world champions and two elite talents.  The real shame here is that neither man will walk away with millions, and the wider public will likely never realised it has happened.  Still, as boxing fans it is our duty to spread the word. 
Sweet Caroline.  The Matchroom favourite.  The sign that it’s time for 80% of the crowd to finish their last line in the toilet and make their way to their seats; it’s the main event.  A song now more synonymous to a boxing generation with Eddie Hearn than it is Neil Diamond.  But what happens when another boxing Promoter dares to borrow the track for a night?  People lost their shit.

Honestly, people actually Tweet Hearn to tell him, as if he has some form of copyright on the song for boxing events.  Couldn’t make it up. 
When Carl Frampton eventually did make his return to Belfast on November 18th, the Matchroom fan meltdown was tremendous:
Honestly, couldn't make this shit up sometimes.

Kugan Kassius.  Just prior to AJ's Wembley showdown with Klitschko there was one man in boxing who wasn’t as elated about it as everyone else.  Step forward Kugan Cassius.  Irate that Klitschko’s Manager, Bernd Bonte, had put a halt on Kugan attending the event as press, Kugan went on a Twitter rant at the undersized boxing mogul.  Quite the tirade it was too:

“Bernd Bonte (Klitschko manager) the silver-haired jumped up midget has barred me from going tomorrow night to Joshua-Klitschko…14 months ago Bonte banned me from interviewing Klitschko because he says im in Team Fury.  We had an argument,I have stayed away since from the whole Klitschko camp to avoid problems.  Still he wants to bar me.  Well bernd bonte you can suck my cock you dwarf.”

Turns out that barring Kugan from the fight made little difference as his man still lost.  1-0 Cassius.

Broadcast Deals.  It comes with the potential for dangerous saturation, however the fact that so many broadcast deals have been handed out for the sport in 2017 can for now only be a good thing.  BT Sport have got involved, as have FreeSports.  Dave and ITV have returned, as well as the branching out to YouTube for live broadcasting.

Is there enough top level talent to support that many platforms in the UK?  It’s questionable.  However of course there is the potential for the smaller channels to show the smaller shows; in January, ITV broadcast from the Guild Hall in Preston as Robbie Davies Jr took his chance to be a TV fighter.  FreeSports have given Dennis Hobson a fresh chance, showing a cracking fight between Sam Sheedy and Liam Cameron in Sheffield. 

These fights often bring well matched excitement, somewhat different to the somewhat typical mismatches fed via Sky.  With plenty of Promoters doing sterling work around the small hall scene of the UK, will we see further opportunities created in 2018? 
Shower Gate.  July 29th in Belfast, Carl Frampton is due to make his ring return against Andres Gutierrez.  Unfortunately, Frampton misses weight the day before, meaning the fight was no longer a world title eliminator.  Not to worry, there’s still plenty of revved up Belfast fans who will turn out to enjoy their man. 

But then……..the stories.  Rumours circulate that there’s been an issue with Guttierez.  More and more details start to get bandied about until finally a statement is made.  It transpires that on the eve of the biggest fight of his life Guttierez has slipped in the shower and cut his chin, as well as breaking two of his teeth.  Fight off.

The whole circus escalated, as it came out in the following days that Carl Frampton had resigned from his position on the Board at Cyclone Promotions.  This was followed in due course by a split from the Promoters entirely, to sign up with MTK and Frank Warren, as well as leaving Trainer Shane McGuigan and joining Jamie Moore. 

It’s all a bit nasty now.  Once seemingly water tight as a group, veiled words are now crossed in public and a case at the High Court has been announced.  What other details will come out as the dirty laundry is washed publicly will be interesting to see.

New Media.  With Sky having their own podcast, as well as BoxNation recently starting their own, as well as the Radio 5 offering, each of the big platforms are covering their own backs with audio content.  It is brilliant then to see that other platforms are emerging to offer fans a more independent and less biased view of the sport, without the corporate edge. 

A mention at this point for all of those that are rolling out content away from the mainstream, such as the Boxing Asylum, Fight Talk, British Boxing Blog, Behind the Ropes, Cheap Seat Boxing – all of which make my podcast playlist for the week and all of which offer something different and an individual angle.  Gone are the corporate views of Steve Bunch and Spencer Fearon, churning out the narratives that suit their bosses, and in come those that actually wish to analyse the sport and don’t have a ready built narrative; willing to praise the good and criticise the bad, irrespective of the platform it was seen on.  
YouTube.  I’m reticent to include YouTube as a boxing platform here.  I admire Mick Hennessy for attempting to roll out Hughie Fury vs Joseph Parker for a world heavyweight title as an online offering.  It didn’t work, but that may be down to archaic promotional skills as much as anything else.  MTK have done a good job in providing free-to-air boxing via the IFL platform with good numbers.  It’s not all bad.  But some is bad.  Very, very bad. 

Hennessy, not deterred by the rumoured buy numbers of a heavyweight world title fight, decided to roll out a card that was poor by even the worst small hall standards, headlined by a women’s WIBF and GBU title fight (no, me neither).  All you as a viewer had to do was hand over £1.79 for the privilege. 
Anyway, there is nothing that I can say here that will come close to the way @boxrecgrey on twitter handled the whole event, so go and check out his live Tweet thread of what is unquestionably the worst PPV in UK boxing history:

I’m sure there are parts that I missed of the year.  Honourable mentions for the shite that was Mayweather vs McGregor, the perennial blood pressure victim Luis Ortiz and the ongoing farce of Tyson Fury’s career (a charity Christmas Eve spar with Frank Bruno being the latest development).  Far too much to cover in details when all of the above has filled the calendar so wonderfully.  Roll on 2018!!