Sky's Boxing Coverage - Good or Bad?
Martin Theobald

The online hate towards the Sky commentary team builds up by the show.  Jim Watt and Nick Halling seem to gather more detractors than fans each month.  Hardcore boxing fans dislike their way of constantly believing the 'way' fighter to look "tired" or "struggling in this round".  Their support of the MatchRoom fighter (suggesting Paul Smith doing NOTHING against Andre Ward was a "tactic") is at times baffling.

This takes us on to MatchRoom.  With Eddie Hearn as the face of the boxing side of the company (they also run the darts on Sky, the ping pong championships and some snooker events on the channel), he has transformed boxing from a show that would take place in a leisure centre to being a sport that now sells out at least once a month in 15,000+ arenas.  The boxing is now an 'event' rather than just the sport.  Does this bring in the casual fan?  Absolutely.  Do they bring in the cash?  Absolutely.  Josh Warrington is being marketed in Leeds in a way that purposefully targets the Leeds fan who has been to the football that afternoon and then carries on the piss up through the evening supporting their local lad.  

All of this is to the ire of the 'hardcore' boxing fan.  But why?  Surely they want the sport to be successful.  Eddie Hearn bringing in the money to the sport allows him to bring over the best fighters to take on his stable surely?  By commoditising what used to be a marginal sport taking place in front of a few hundred to an arena filler, more profile is given to the pugilists.  Eddie Hearn recently signed a new five year deal with Sky to be the sole promoter on the channel, meaning there is stability for any of his fighter on the biggest sports broadcaster in the UK.  So what is the problem?

The next Sky card as I write this is in 4 days time in Liverpool.  Below, I have written the matchups and their respective odds (top 4 fights on the card):

  • Callum Smith (1/25) vs Christophe Rebrasse (9/1)
  • Martin Murray (1/200) vs George Beroshvili (20/1)
  • Tony Bellew (1/100) vs Lubos Suda (16/1)
  • Rocky Fielding (1/3) vs Brian Vera (9/4)

So if I put my £10 of my hard earned money on an accumulator for the MatchRoom boys, my returns will be £14.  This is where the issues lie with Sky's coverage, and their sole dependance on Eddie Hearn as the promoter.  Each of the fights is so heavily weighted in favour of the MatchRoom fighter.  Rebrasse provides a reasonable test for Smith at this stage of his career.  Vera is a name, but is past it.  Checking the history of Murray's opponent (because oddly, I don't know a lot about the 3rd best Georgian Super-Middleweight) tells me he has 19 wins, 5 losses and 2 draws.  Needless to say, the opponents are shit.  Utter shit.  But that won't stop our aforementioned commentators Halling and Watt telling us what a threat the man is, with his 12 knock outs from 19 wins ("the kid can bang a bit").

At the O2 recently we had a card that looked good on paper and delivered.  Some cracking match ups.  However, viewers were asked to pay £15 for the privilege of watching it.  This is on top of the (roughly) £40 a month that viewers already pay Sky just for the sports channels.  Undoubtedly the money goes towards their other sports too (although losing the Champions League to BT surely means they can lower the cost?!) - but as a boxing fan it becomes harder and harder to justify the costs.  BoxNation provide a reasonable alternative - but in reality their domestic coverage is limited.  The MatchRoom semi-monopoly of British fighters means that if you want to see the majority of the best in the UK, you are reliant on Sky or your broadband to stream the fights.  Unless Eddie, Nick and Jim pick up their game, it is inevitable that the streaming services will start to see more traffic soon.

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