By Frank Warren
The year of 2017 will, I suspect, probably be the most prosperous time for the sport of boxing for many a long time.
With talented youngsters taking up the game in record numbers and television coverage increasing to previously unchartered levels, it can only be good for the fight business and, more importantly, those who support the sport.
Boxing has perhaps never had it so good.
The entry into boxing of BT Sport in tandem with BoxNation, the continuing presence of Sky Sports along with Channel 5 and now ITV making a comeback, opportunities for boxers to make a name for themselves are plentiful.
The appeal of the sport has widened and promoters have become more and more innovative in getting their product out there to as many people as possible.
I am fairly certain that, with the possible exception of the holiday month of August, fight fans will not have to go without their domestic boxing fix on any given weekend. And even in August I am sure BoxNation will continue to deliver exceptional international action.
I hope in 2017 that the fans get the fights they want to see. Believe me, as promoters, we want to see those fights too, but it is not always straightforward.
Hopefully though, there is the desire and flexibility from all parties to get the natural fights made and really push the sport forwards in 2017.
There are a few things I would like to see happen next year. The first thing that comes to mind is to see the heavyweight world championship belts reunited.
It is a fragmented division again at the moment, which has presented some exciting opportunities, but once the champions become established it would be refreshing to see them all sign up to fight each other.
The readmission of Tyson Fury into the heavyweight party would also be a welcome tonic. I maintain he is still the best out there and probably No.1 on my New Year wish list is for a fully fit and healthy Tyson to return to the ring and pick up where he left off.
I have had some contact with him recently and I know how much he now wants to get back, so let’s hope that turns out to be the case.
First things first though. I want to see young Hughie Fury step onto the world stage, he is a tough kid who is more than capable of holding his own against the top boys and I fancy him strongly to put his name on one of the belts.
He will get his fight against the WBO champion Joseph Parker in the first third of the year, something we are working out at the moment and trying to get the deal done.
There was some misinformed talk going around over Christmas, courtesy of the Sky Sports website, floating the possibility of David Price being next in line to face Parker.
The WBO have made it very clear that Hughie is the mandatory challenger for the title following David Haye signing up to fight Tony Bellew. There is no other option, so ignore all the talk, it was lazy journalism that was not checked out.
Some of my personal resolutions include delivering a big year for Billy Joe Saunders as last year turned out to be a waste of time that didn’t work out for him.
A coming together with Canelo in 2017 should be enough to get his juices flowing and I am sure everyone would like to see the winner of that quickly booked in to face Gennady Golovkin.
Terry Flanagan is another who we tried to make the big fights for last year, but the name opponents simply didn’t want to fight him.
We have some potential blockbusters in the pipeline for Terry but, with Anthony Crolla going in against Jorge Linares again, let’s hope the winner has the balls to put it on the line against Terry next time around.
Getting our union with BT Sport off the ground in an entertaining fashion is an obvious early priority for us next year and we have put together a big schedule that we will be announcing publicly in the second week of January.
We are also working on many other things at the moment so we will have a lot to reveal by the time that comes around.
There will be big marquee fights but, equally if not more important to me, is the projection and development of our young talent.
We have a big clutch of exciting young fighters ready to be stepped up – and they will be. It should make for compelling viewing and I am personally very excited over the prospect of seeing these guys really step out of their comfort zone.
For example, I would confidently put our heavy-hitting young light heavy Anthony Yarde into British title combat in the forthcoming months – and a match with the new champion Frank Buglioni would certainly appeal.
For me, 2017 can’t come quickly enough and I can’t wait to get cracking on delivering big fights for our richly talented stable of fighters.
I would like to close by thanking you all for your support over what has been an occasionally trying 2016 and, on behalf of BoxNation and Queensberry, I wish you a happy and healthy 2017.