Frank Warren’s Column – 28.08.15
Likeable Londoner George Groves is on the brink of beating a fistful of other home-grown contenders to the punch by becoming the next boxing Brit to claim a world title when he challenges the WBC super-middleweight champion Badou Jack, one of Floyd Mayweather Jnr’s merry men, in Las Vegas on 12 September.
Capturing the show headlined by Mayweather himself against fellow American Andre Berto, with Jack v Groves in chief support, is a great way for BoxNation, the world’s only specialist 24/7 boxing channel to celebrate its fourth birthday next month.
This is a great opportunity for Saint George, one of the smartest and coolest young men in boxing.
Groves of course twice challenged Carl Froch for a version of the world title, losing the first in highly controversial circumstances but subsequently was dramatically ko’d with a perfect punch in their return.
Now he is back in business after two good wins and is in a typically resolute frame of mind to fulfil his childhood dream and win a world title in his third attempt.
This is a great opportunity for him and if he does it could lead to another stadium-filling domestic scrap, this time with Frank Buglioni, one of the other young British stars also aiming to add to our current crop of seven world champions in what is truly a boom year for British boxing.
Should Buglioni beat Russian Fedor Chudinov at Wembley a fortnight later it is a natural match-up – and what a terrific fight it would be.
Groves has done the right thing, in my view, by training at Big Bear, a renowned boxing boot camp in California, and one thing you can say about him is that he is always thoroughly prepared, a throwback to his days with Adam Booth.
So who is this oddly-named champ who stands in his way. As his moniker suggests, Badou Jack is a bit of a character, one of the most cosmopolitan figures in the game.
The fighter known as The Ripper (Jack the Ripper-geddit?) was born in Stockholm 31 years ago of a Gambian father and Swedish mother, and represented both nations in separate Olympic Games.
A devout Muslim who now lives in Las Vegas, in his early days while boxing out of Europe he was managed by my matchmaker Jason McCrory before moving to the US and setting up camp with Mayweather.
He has almost similar record (19 wins in 21 bouts) to 27-year-old Groves (21 out of 23) and is obviously no slouch having surprisingly defeated Anthony Dirrell to win the WBC title in April.
But both McCrory and I believe he is beatable – and more importantly so does Groves, who says it is a privilege to be boxing on the same bill as Mayweather.
Much has been spouted and written about the validity of Mayweather’s bout with Berto, but you cannot escape the fact that whenever he climbs through the ropes it is as much a happening as a fight.
He swears this will be his valedictory performance, bowing out after equalling Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 retirement record. Well, breath should not be held.
But whether or not this really is a last chance to say farewell to Floyd it is an occasion not to be missed.
The Sinatra of Sock may have taken a bit of stick over the choice of his alleged final foe, especially after his repeated snubbing of Amir Khan, but I have a hunch he will want to put on a virtuoso exhibition for the fans both at the MGM Garden Arena and watching on TV.
Also, boxing is full of surprises and its history is littered with tales of the unexpected. Who knows what might happen if the still slick but slowing TBE gets caught or cut by Berto?
Remember Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks? And what about when Larry Holmes attempted to equal the Marciano record against the other Spinks, Michael, and lost on a dubious split decision? Could it happen to Floyd? It’s a long shot.
Like him or loathe him, Mayweather has always been compelling viewing.
In the run up to the fight, the channel will also air the popular behind the scenes show ‘All Access’ which provides a rare insight into both camps.
The card also features Roman Martinez putting his WBO super-featherweight title on the line against Orlando Salido while Mexican power-puncher Jhonny Gonzalez faces Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo.
The acquisition of the Mayweather and Groves fights adds another great card to a burgeoning BoxNation calendar which sees a number of top bills taking place live and exclusive on the channel.
These include Buglioni’s title clash with WBA champion Chudinov on September 26, Lucas Matthysse vs Viktor Postol on October 3 and the triple world title bill in Manchester on October 10 headlined by Billy Joe Saunders challenging for Andy Lee’s WBO middleweight belt.
Manchester’s new home-town hero Terry Flanagan makes his first WBO lightweight title defence against leading contender Diego Magdaleno while Liverpool’s Liam Smith now meets another American, John Thompson,for the vacant WBO light-middleweight title.
The change of opponent for Liam came about after we did a deal with Top Rank for Michel Soro, but it transpired the Frenchman has had some contractual problems. However Thompson, the next available contender, is also a top quality fighter.
Known as the ‘Apollo Kidd’, he fights out of Newark, New Jersey, and has a record of 17-1 with six knockouts. In May, he caused a huge upset when he destroyed Brandon Adams in the prestigious Boxcino Junior-Middleweight tournament in California.
Thompson, a late replacement, stopped Adams, the tournament favourite, inside two rounds with a brutal left-hook. So ‘Beefy’ needs to be on his mettle – and at his best.
This card marks another milestone for BoxNation and we have some terrific fights lined up for the rest of the year. It has proved a channel that is great for British fighters at getting world title shots.
We are also exclusively showing the new season of World Series Boxing (WSB) – the top international amateur tournament. Though as combatants representing national franchises (including the British Lionhearts) box without headguards or vests under a ten points per round scoring system and get a decent few quid for doing so, they are virtually pros, yet somehow still eligible for the Olympics. Odd that- but its top quality stuff.
BoxNation is possibly the most significant boxing project in which I have been involved in and I am thrilled at the way it is developing. We have made some administrative changes, with myself as chairman and my son George as CEO of both BoxNation and Queensberry Promotions.
It is good to see the channel evolving by attracting younger viewers with the emphasis on all modern technology and communications, like the use of apps. Like boxing – indeed all sport – we are moving with the times.
People tell me that our commentary team is the best in the business, with views that are always objective and balanced. We never interfere with the editorial content because we hire professionals who know what they are doing. Some of the fights we have screened from around the world have been fantastic and obviously well received.
As well as securing top title fights we also have some great young boxers coming through, including Jack Catterall and Mitchell Smith – whose stunning four-punching knockout combination against Antonio Horvatic (below) has racked up over an incredible 700k views on the popular digital sports news platform The SPORT Bible in just 24 hours – have fine futures in the sport – both are currently short-listed by the Boxing Writers’ Club for their Best Young Boxer of the Year award – and they box exclusively on the channel of champions.
There was an impression given in Boxing News recently that boxers on Sky get greater exposure than those on BoxNation.
Comments like this are based on idle gossip and are without substance. Sky Sports are multi sports subscription channel and whilst they may be able to offer their boxers cross promotion across other sports, published viewing figures show this doesn’t always result in high audience numbers for their live boxing.
Sky operate differently to BoxNation and advertising revenue is an important stream of income for them.
Trying to compare the two platforms is not as straightforward as interpreting often misleading figures. In a similar way, it would be like trying to compare actors in soaps such as Coronation Street and EastEnders with those that star in the likes of House of Cards and Mad Men. There is no way anyone can tell me they would rather be Ian Beale than Kevin Spacey, and of course Mr Spacey would not change his platform or pay cheque because he wanted to get seen by the 7 million daily viewers that Eastenders gets on terrestrial TV.
This leads me on to Eddie Hearn’s recent claim that his fighters tell him they don’t want to fight on BoxNation. Again utter nonsense. Fighters will go where the big purses are and where the opportunities come thick and fast. We’ve seen this with George Groves who is the latest to join our schedule as one of 5 Brits in the space of 4 weeks in world title action on BoxNation. Our business is growing significantly year on year, and our next steps in the marketplace should give the boxing journalists the opportunity to review how they comment on exposure.
There’s also more to exposure than the number of people watching a fight, the challenge we took on and the success we have had has been built on growing an engaged audience across multiple platforms and new technology. Engagement of audience is key. Advertisers for instance will pay far more money to be across a Champions League game on a pay TV channel than a soap on terrestrial TV, even though it has a lower audience. It is all about the type of audience and its engagement with what they are watching.
In boxing the informed audience are the ones that are putting money into the sport by paying for premium boxing content on BoxNation and Sky and by buying event tickets, which is what pays the fighters big purses and keeps the sport going.
An interesting example about engagement of audience, came when we ran an event at the O2 Arena back in February. Chris Eubank Jr faced Dmitry Chudinov on our show going more or less directly up against Carl Frampton free to air on ITV. Whilst the 2 million people watching Frampton live was of course a higher viewing figure, the terms ‘BoxNation’ and ‘Eubank’ both trended higher than ‘Frampton’ and ‘ITV Boxing’ on Twitter that night.
Exposure isn’t just about the live fights either, the 700,000 people that watched a digital video clip of Mitchell Smith’s KO of the year in the space of 24 hours yesterday shows we must be doing something right!
Labelling the significance of a fight by the number of people that watch live is short sighted. Whilst boxers like to of course become household names, it is ultimately about how much they get paid. If it was about ‘exposure’ every boxer in the country would fight on terrestrial TV for lower money to be seen by millions. That obviously is not going to happen, pay TV is here to stay and will remain essential in the sport, because boxers want to be paid higher purses and pay TV provides the best opportunity for that.
Jeremy Clarkson’s salary for his new Amazon Prime TV show has sky rocketed from what he was on during his time on the BBC, with him now receiving £10million per series. Do you think he cares at all about the fact that he is going to be receiving a much reduced audience? No, he will be delighted that his pockets are being further filled.
This is the way entertainment and sports content is going and boxing is no different. Entertainment and sports stars will follow the money and the TV platforms that can offer it to them will ultimately prevail with any notions of ‘exposure’ being an afterthought.
Another innovation on BoxNation is that we are screening lively debates around some of the great fights I have staged, starting with Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan in 1995. This is a fight, originally watched by some 17 million viewers that has never been re-shown on terrestrial TV and we can clear up many misconceptions surrounding it.
It was one of the most brutal, feral fights ever staged in this country, and of course there was the a sadness of such a tragic ending.
I think it is a fight that all boxers should see again as it shows that one day they may have to dig as deep as Benn did.
It will be screened on Monday 31st August at 7pm and I urge you to watch it.
Big fight action tomorrow night live and exclusive on BoxNation sees former pound-for-pound best “Sugar” Shane Mosley come out of retirement for a rematch with rival Ricardo Mayorga.
They clashed in 2008 with three-division world champion Mosley knocking out three-time world champion Mayorga with just one second left in the twelfth and final round.
There is no love lost between both fighters and Mosley has promised to do the same again to the fiery Nicaraguan when they collide at The Forum, in Inglewood, California.
Live coverage starts at 3am on Sunday morning.
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