By Jack Price
As you may/must have heard by now, British boxing promoter Frank Warren has landed what he believes to be “British boxing’s biggest ever deal.” The veteran promoter’s BoxNation TV launched its collaboration with fast-rising sports channel BT Sport last week at the BT Tower in London.
This is a deal that has been speculated for a while now, and something boxers and boxing fans should be very excited about. BT Sport has become a must-have channel for football fans over the past few years and it looks like they’re looking to do the same in boxing now too, showing just how much boxing has grown and popularised once again over recent years.
According to Warren the first big show will take place in early 2017. Following this, BT Sport will be showcasing 20 live domestic fights a year with BoxNation planning on showing 60 worldwide fights, 30 of them being domestic (including the 20 on BT). Making the deal even sweeter, users that are subscribed to BT Sport will get BoxNation for free.
So, like I said, this can only really be great news for boxing all round! The fighters currently with Frank Warren will be buzzing at this new platform they’ve been given. Whilst BoxNation was a great channel for hardcore boxing fans, it was rare to find a casual fan that was subscribed to the channel, meaning Queensbury Promotions’ talented young fighters weren’t getting the exposure they maybe deserved. Whereas now, millions of people will be watching them fight and following their career, so expect some new stars to be bursting onto the scene next year!
The question I will be asking and maybe answering in this article though, is this: Is Frank Warren’s current stable of fighters strong enough for the new deal?
Warren does claim to have almost 60 fighters on the books, two of them being world champions. WBO middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders and WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan are the two leading stars under Warren’s wing right now. They are both undefeated and are looking to be in massive international fights very soon, so this deal has come at the perfect time for them.
However, when you look through the list of fighters he has, there are not a lot of other names that stand out as being potential domestic and worldwide stars right now. You’ve got the likes of Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith who recently took on Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, falling short and losing his world title, former bantamweight world champ Paul Butler who has bags of talent, Liam Walsh who also looks very talented and set to try his luck on the world stage soon, and 2012 British Olympian Tom Stalker who currently owns the WBO European title but seems to be finding it harder than he thought to make an impact on the pro scene since turning over. Not forgetting the man that beat Stalker – undefeated Lancashire star Jack Catterall.
But when you look at the British stars Eddie Hearn has over on Sky Sports right now, this list doesn’t really compete. That’s nothing against the Warren boxers because they are clearly all talented fighters, but they just seem to be lacking the star appeal that the likes of Anthony Joshua, Kell Brook and Ricky Burns have developed over the past few years. Maybe it’s just because they haven’t had the same exposure, I don’t know. But if Frank Warren wants to put on some big, mouth-watering fights he’s going to have to start turning his fighters into stars and getting the fans really interested.
In my opinion, he could do with signing some new names, or maybe persuading a few Matchroom fighters to jump ship, something he has hinted at himself. I don’t expect many of the Matchroom men to be tempted because Sky Sports is still the No.1 channel in sports television at this moment, and probably will be for some time, and Eddie Hearn is doing a top-notch job with his fighters right now. But then again there will be some fighters that are either unhappy with the deal they’ve got with Hearn or feel they are not getting enough of the limelight. So in swoops Warren and he’s got himself some new potential stars. Obviously it’s unlikely to be any of the big names but I’m sure there will be a few looking over thinking that maybe the grass is greener on the other side.
There’s also the likes of David Haye who isn’t tied down to any specific TV channel or promoter at this moment in time. I’m sure he will be more than willing to have his fights televised on BT Sport as long as the money’s right. Furthermore, Frank Warren would now have a heavyweight superstar to showcase. Right now the only two big men actually signed to him are Alexander Ustinov and Hughie Fury. Whilst Fury, Tyson’s little cousin, may go on to do big things in his career, Haye is head and shoulders above these two in the eyes of many casual boxing fans, still being one of the most popular British stars out there right now. I expect to hear a deal announced between these two very soon.
Another deal I think we could see struck up soon is one with Cyclone Promotions, Barry McGuigan’s, who’s known for not seeing eye-to-eye with Eddie Hearn, promotional company who manage arguably Britain’s most talented fighter Carl Frampton. This would again be another great move for Frank Warren because Frampton is another fighter that has massive star appeal, not just domestically but worldwide too. We’ve seen him appear on most people’s pound-for-pound top 10 lists in recent months.
Chris Eubank Jr and Amir Khan are two more names that spring to mind when you try to think of who Warren will target. The Eubank’s are very hard people to deal with but I think its fairly clear to see they won’t be working with Eddie Hearn again so this will be the next best place to go. And obviously Amir Khan is promoted by Golden Boy in America who have a good relationship with Frank Warren and BoxNation so this is another likely move.
And finally, you’ve got the big man Tyson Fury who will sure to be leading the way, making noise, if he does return to the ring soon. The Manchester giant is the most notorious fighter in the world right now and it’s guaranteed entertainment and fireworks every time with him so I’m sure everyone will be tuning in if he does return on BT Sport.
So yeah, things do look on the up for Mr Warren right now and I’m sure the 64-year-old is immensely excited for the coming year. You never know, we could see him take over and become the UK’s No.1 boxing promoter again. Boxing’s a crazy, unpredictable sport. It’s unlikely that will happen with just the fighters he’s got now, but if he can secure some deals with some of the guys I’ve mentioned it will be a good year for everyone involved because there are so many big fights to be made in 2017, and when it comes down to it that’s all we really want to see isn’t it; big fights being made and boxing growing bigger and bigger!
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see!
Jack Price @PriceyJ97