By Frank Warren
THE DATE OF Saturday April 8 has proved to be a particularly significant one in my long promotional career, spanning more than 40 years.
It was on this date, at the cavernous Manchester Arena, that we launched our partnership with BT Sport, who were newcomers into the sport of boxing. It was a bumper card with a number of big names and a few who would eventually become a big noise in the game.
Terry Flanagan topped the bill in a world title defence, the two Liams – Smith and Williams – went at it for the first time, Nicola Adams and Daniel Dubois made their professional debuts and the likes of Jack Catterall, Paul Butler, Mark Heffron and Zelfa Barrett also featured on the card.
Flanagan made a successful defence, Smith and Williams fought out a thriller and we were off and running in our new broadcast venture.
Since this prosperous beginning, our operation in tandem with BT has moved from strength to strength.
Tyson Fury joined the party and his second coming also started off in Manchester, taking in Belfast and five trips Stateside, before a wondrous night at Wembley Stadium a couple of weeks back.
Both Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce have flourished on the BT platform and this next generation of heavyweight contenders are closing in on the champions. As far as heavyweight business is concerned, BT Sport are in pole position.
It would be far too long-winded to run through every key event and name since early 2017 but I have been informed that, across our BT Sport shows between then and now, we have featured something like 26 world title fights and seven Interim world title battles.
That is not bad going and, with the exception of Tyson’s title fights and the Josh Warrington-Carl Frampton classic, they have been shown on the subscription service and off pay-per-view.
The success of this collaboration has resulted in the signing of a new three-year deal to continue delivering boxing to BT Sport on top of the existing arrangement.
And there is so much more to look forward to.
A crucial element to the long-term sustainability of the partnership has been BT Sport’s complete backing when it comes to the development of young fighters, showcasing their talents and increasing their exposure to the widest possible audience.
For instance, young Daniel kicked off his career on the first show and on June 11 he will fight for the WBA world title against Trevor Bryan. Anthony Yarde was introduced on the second show in Leicester and I don’t think you will get too many arguments with the shout that he is the most recognisable light heavyweight in the country.
Anthony will also be fighting for a world title later this year against the winner of the Joe Smith jr-Artur Beterbiev unification fight, which takes place on June 18. And don’t forget that Callum Johnson will want to have his say over the ultimate destination of the belts.
There are too many to namecheck, but a whole host of top young fighters are coming to the fore at Queensberry and will have a big part to play over the next few years. Mark Chamberlain and Sam Noakes have a slightly simmering rivalry developing at lightweight, Nick Ball and Louie Lynn both hold WBC belts at featherweight, Hamzah Sheeraz is going to develop into a formidable middleweight, while Denzel Bentley will be looking to reclaim the British title on Friday.
At super bantamweight we have Liam Davies about to challenge for the British title, Brad Foster set to get back into the mix with a tough fight against Ionut Baluta and Andrew Cain ready to fight absolutely anybody! That is not forgetting the European champion Jason Cunningham, who is signed up for a cracking fight that nobody will be complaining about.
The likes of Ryan Garner, Dennis McCann, David Adeleye, Karol Itauma, Henry Turner, Masood Abdullah and Tommy Fury will all soon be thrust into meaningful fights, much the same as Eithan James, who will be fighting Connor Parker in Telford on June 11.
Title-holders Lennox Clarke, Nathan Heaney, Ekow Essuman and Anthony Cacace have all got big fights in the pipeline, while young talents such as Willy Hutchinson and Chris Bourke will be navigated back towards major title contention.
We also have the next move of European welterweight champion David Avanesyan to look forward to, as well as Zach Parker’s rearranged date with Demetrius Andrade for the WBO Interim world super middleweight title that has unfortunately been delayed due to injury.
We will always continue to build and look to the future and elite young prospects like Royston Barney-Smith, Willo Hayden, George Bance, Adan Muhamed and many others will be placed in the spotlight.
Queensberry and BT Sport is the premier destination for the best young boxers in the country and, over the duration of this next contract period, we have the scope to fulfil the world title dreams of a multitude of fighters.
It really is the place to be.