WALKING TALL AT THE BT TOWER
By Frank Warren
Very much like the old eighties hit, I too feel like I’m walking on sunshine at the moment and it wouldn’t be over-egging the pudding to say the sun is shining on the great sport of boxing.
On Monday at the BT Tower we were all walking tall as the nuts and bolts of the groundbreaking deal between BoxNation and BT Sport were officially unveiled to the attending media.
At the risk of overdoing the clichés, I really have got the bit between my teeth over this and the prospect of delivering 20 top-notch Saturday night shows for both BT Sport and BoxNation is one that really has the adrenalin flowing again.
There is life in this old boxer-dog yet!
BT’s vision is to deliver a compelling sporting package right through Saturday afternoon and evening for sports fans, beginning with their superb coverage of Aviva Premiership rugby, leading into the 5.30pm Premier League football, on to an evening of quality boxing and then concluding late in the night with the UFC.
Not too much reason to switch channels or leave the old armchair – except perhaps to put the kettle on or for a call of nature.
BT’s strategy for sport and incredible production values were a real draw for us at BoxNation and the presentation they align with their rights portfolio will be very much in evidence at our shows.
It is yet another element for the fans to look forward to and will only add to the captivating drama of a big fight night.
It will only serve to galvanise us to raise our game and the ten additional domestic promotions that will be exclusive to BoxNation will get the same treatment.
BT, like ourselves, want to provide an inspirational platform for young fighters to develop and flourish. They want to tell the whole story, track careers pretty much from the off and bring young prospects to the attention of the public and, ultimately, turn them into household names.
There is no better pool of young talent in the country capable of realising this goal than in our stable.
Nurturing novices into champions has always been what we are about and we now have a broadcast partner with shared aims and ambitions.
Of course, within our squad we have boxers at all different stages of their careers, including world champions and a good number who are poised to take the plunge into elite level.
You will be able to witness it all unfold across our 30 UK dates in 2017.
The question was asked at the media call over whether we will be on a recruitment drive to bolster our numbers ahead of our heavy schedule next year.
We have never really been about poaching fighters and have, for the most part, always looked to develop our own. However, big opportunities are knocking and if an out-of-contract boxer wants to be part of our new era then we would not be unreceptive to talks.
That is not to say we are embarking on a signing spree, far from it, but if a fighter who fits our profile and that of BT becomes available, then this is a good time to jump aboard.
BT Sport entering the business of boxing is in the best interests of everyone in the sport. It widens the appeal of the game and it has always been a case of the more the better.
Competition is always healthy and doubtless there will be a few BT vs. Sky stories emerging in the coming years, though hopefully without the acrimony of that US presidential punch-up!
I think I am right in saying though, there has never been a greater number of boxers licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control, so there should be no shortage of talent to go around. It is up to us to correctly guide careers and create opportunities.
For all us promoters, what is important is delivering the best shows possible for the fans who buy tickets and the broadcasters and their subscribers.
We are rightly proud of the way BoxNation has evolved and it was tough going as a start-up, stand-alone channel at times.
But with the hard work and shrewd stewardship of my son George as CEO and our enthusiastic Deputy Chairman Gareth Jones, plus the brilliant backing of Rainham Steel magnate Bill Ives and the highly professional input of a great production team at BoxNation, spearheaded by Jim McMunn, we have strengthened our position in the marketplace.
Now with BT on board we have also levelled the playing field for the benefit of our fine stable of fighters.
We all get down to the nitty-gritty of scheduling and planning next week. Exciting times for us – and boxing, eh?
All that is left to say is – roll on 2017!
More from Frank tomorrow