By Frank Warren
Not so long ago we entered into dialogue with BBC Sport over the potential purchase of radio commentary rights for a night of boxing that surely demands the attention of our national broadcaster.
It is a night with no shortage of British interest, with WBO world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders making a defence against his mandatory challenger Willie Monroe jr and leading into probably the most highly anticipated fight of the decade between Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez – with the winners of the two fights likely to face each other later in the year or early next.
The Las Vegas leg of this fistic treat also includes our national treasure Nicola Adams in her third professional contest, where she will feature on the same card as her partner and fellow boxer Marlen Esparza.
The BBC, apparently for reasons relating to budget and resources , that’s Beeb talk that they’d spent their budget didn’t have the money for the opportunity to showcase these genuine world championship blockbusters – as well as our Golden Girl Nicola – for their listeners.
Having heard the reasons, it was then to my astonishment to learn that BBC Sport – presumably with no small dent to the corporation’s sporting coffers – at short notice found and chose to invest licence payer’s money in the utterly predictable novelty act between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
Now I am not knocking that event because it was what it was and we all knew, more or less, how it would play out. It wasn’t a true sporting contest between the two best in the business because they specialise in two different fields.
It was always going to drum up big numbers and it was a costly exercise which generated hundreds of millions for the two headliners. No wonder McGregor appeared to be having quite a party after being the first fighter to be stopped by Mayweather since Ricky Hatton back in 2007.
It wouldn’t have come cheap for the BBC, especially as they doubtless dispatched their usual platoon of foot soldiers to cover proceedings.
The point is with pay-per-view offerings is choice – you either buy it or you don’t. Nobody holds a gun to your head and probably the most satisfied boxing punters on Sunday morning were the ones who chose to go to bed and give it all a miss.
The BBC choosing to buy it on all of our behalves is a scandalous dereliction of responsible duty. Whether we like it or not, we’ve all paid up via the licence fee to help fund a blatant mismatch between two non-nationals.
At the same time the BBC categorically claimed there was nothing left in the pot to cover the exploits of a British world champion and one of the biggest icons in British sport.
The Beeb have showed no interest in Nicola since she illuminated two Olympic Games and became one of the most recognisable and effervescent figures in British sporting society.
We have to ask ourselves if it is to do with gender. Would a male double Olympic gold medallist be ignored in the same way by a publicly funded broadcaster? I think we know the answer to that.
Maybe it is a deep-rooted issue within the corporation. The disparity in pay between male and female talent at the BBC was a cause for national concern recently and the question needs to be asked whether there is a similar bias when it comes to apportioning coverage of elite female athletes.
It is not a question that needs to be asked again internally at the BBC because it is something we have questioned on numerous occasions. So it is an issue I would like to take this opportunity to bring to the attention of our female Sports Minister Tracy Crouch who, as a boxing fan herself, I am sure would be in Nicola’s corner on this one.
I just don’t know how the BBC can justify prioritising a fight between a retired boxer – albeit a celebrated one – and the debut of someone from another sport.
Every one of their experts and commentators derided the fight when it was first announced and everyone in our sport knew full well there was only one outcome.
We are not being after timers. Did anybody with any broad knowledge of combat sport of boxing pick McGregor to win the fight? No, so what was the BBC doing there? It is not as if they cover the UFC.
If they did feel it was so important to give a blow-by-blow account of what was always going to be a non-contest they could have covered it quite adequately via a television feed, like other stations do, instead of spending a fortune on flights, hotels and other expenses.
I want to know how they can justify the costly broadcast of something that in no way enhances British sport and perhaps it will take our sports minister, who has a track record of being happy to pose probing questions, to find out.
Over to you, Minister.