SOMETIMES it just all comes together. That was true for Tyson Fury on Saturday night when he outclassed Dillian Whyte before seeing him off with one perfect punch in the sixth round at Wembley Stadium. It was also true for the BT Sport Box Office broadcast, which must surely be put down as a roaring success.
That might seem a little premature given that we don’t yet know how this show performed in terms of pay-per-view sales. But based purely on the product we were provided with over the weekend, BT proved once again they are one of the best in the world when it comes to putting on boxing shows.
First, let’s address the main criticism levelled at this show; the undercard. This was a complaint even before the BT broadcast had even begun, with some becoming upset that there were no standout fights on the bill besides the main event.
While it’s true that the undercard certainly could have been better, is it really that much of an issue? Boxing pay-per-view events have rarely if ever been sold as a package; they live and die on the merits of their main events. When tickets went on sale for Fury-Whyte, there was no mention of what fights might be on the undercard; we’re told 94,000 people snapped up seats to watch the main event.
As it turned out, there have been far worse undercards on big PPV shows. After his six-round decision win, Tommy Fury was the topic of countless conversations online, becoming the top trend on Twitter for a spell in the UK.
The Isaac Lowe-Nick Ball fight was an entertaining and bloody scrap, and provided Ball with a launchpad for his fledgling career. The chief support between Ekow Essuman and Darren Tetley was a dud, there’s no getting around that.
The undercard was wrapped up by 9-45pm though. Ringwalks for the main event were underway by 10pm. That’s partly down to the curfew that Wembley Stadium events must adhere to, but it’s still a win for fans.
Darren Fletcher and Richie Woodhall made a great pairing on commentary. The inimitable John Rawling usually heads up the comms for major BT Sport shows, and the likes of David Haye are often drafted in to provide further colour commentary during main events.
Fletcher and Woodhall called every fight on the broadcast and did a stellar job. Commentary so often gets criticised when it goes slightly wrong – including in this very column – but when done right it’s usually left unsung.
Woodhall in particular provided some great analysis, as he so often does. When Ball stopped Lowe in strange circumstances, he was the first to question what referee Victor Loughlin was doing. While Fletcher mentioned how Fury is linked to a fight with YouTuber Jake Paul, he and Woodhall didn’t solely assess his performance through this lens like many others did. They took it for what it was, another learning fight in the early goings of a career that remains largely unmapped.
During the main event he picked up on something that plenty of other commentators and pundits miss; the importance of how a fighter moves their feet. From the opening round he noted how Whyte’s feet were too slow and how this meant he’d never be able to properly catch Fury unless he sped them up.
To the initiated this could be filed under one of ‘the basics’ but there will have been many more casual fans watching this fight who will have been illuminated by Woodhall’s clear and concise breakdown.
On the topic of commentary, credit should also go to talkSPORT who consistently provide unparalleled radio coverage of major boxing events. Andy Clarke is steadily proving himself one of the best commentators in the business. Spencer Oliver and Ben Davison were terrific alongside him for the main event.
The overall production of the BT show was outstanding. Much of the credit should go to the teams who prepared and executed so much flare on the ground. Both Whyte’s and Fury’s ringwalks – even when watching from home – were spine-tingling.
There was one shot in particular that will live long in the memory. During his entrance, Fury sat down on a prop throne, the lights of tens of thousands of fans recording the moment illuminating the stadium as if it were a whirlpool of stars. The camera panned around Fury as he sat and, when behind him, captured a rather incredible moment. A king surveying his kingdom. Fury was born for moments like that and will be sorely, sorely missed if he chooses to retire.
That question was of course brought up by Steve Bunce in the post-fight interview and while Fury suggested that’s what he’ll do – something he’s done many times before – he didn’t fully commit to it. During his interview with ESPN, who aired the fight on PPV in the US, Fury brought in current UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.
The pair spoke as if a hybrid-rules fight between them is all-but agreed. Ngannou’s contract with the UFC, who reportedly don’t want to be involved in this fight, is up at the end of this year meaning a fight with Fury would likely take place in 2023. If it does happen let’s just hope it doesn’t get in the way of any boxing superfights for Fury against the likes of Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.
One last note on the BT Sport broadcast – this isn’t a zero-sum game. BT put on a fantastic show just like Sky Sports did last year with Joshua-Usyk and countless other times in the past. DAZN has also proven it can stage huge events and pull them off.
There is nothing else on the planet like big time boxing and with so many broadcasters getting it right, we should feel very lucky.
Boxing on the box
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