THERE were a fair few boxing broadcasts over the weekend and all were worth tuning in for. Sky Sports carried the biggest fight of the weekend; Teofimo Lopez’s classy win over Josh Taylor in New York. It’s a shame Sky didn’t send out their team to cover such a big fight – the likes of Andys Clarke and Scott, as well as some of the excellent pundits Sky have access to, would have bolstered things for us UK fans.
Instead we got the international feed from Top Rank, which is by no means a disappointment. There have been numerous examples of big fights taking place overseas not being picked up by a British broadcaster, so it’s encouraging that this one didn’t fall through the cracks, even if that is more to do with Sky’s current contract with Top Rank rather than a conscious effort to show more international boxing.
The show was solid. It was also good to see Lopez and Taylor bury the hatchet after the bout, in particular Lopez’s apology to Taylor – the correct person to apologise to in this situation – for saying he wanted to take the Scot’s life when they fought.
DAZN aired what should have been a bigger card from London, with Sunny Edwards topping the bill. There was a somewhat sparse crowd at the OVO Arena in Wembley, many of whom were there to see popular heavyweight Johnny Fisher on the undercard. The show didn’t get as much of a push as it should have, particularly as it had Ellie Scotney picking up her first ‘world’ title and Nina Hughes defending hers.
It was the first of Edwards’ fights as part of his new partnership with Matchroom and DAZN. The charismatic Brit is building an excellent CV, but it remains to be seen if DAZN is the best place for his talents.
BT Sport aired a lower-level show on Friday night as did, surprisingly, the BBC. Teaming up with Fightzone, they aired (on iPlayer and the BBC Sport app) the Liverpool show topped by flyweights Connor Butler and Matt Windle. It was a small-hall show with Fightzone, still a small boxing-dedicated online streaming service, responsible for the broadcast itself. It certainly felt like a small-hall show, with commentators having to apologise for strong language coming from the fans sat just behind them and cameras cutting off some of the action, and while this might seem unpolished to more casual fans who caught some of the broadcast, there’s a certain charm to it for the more initiated.
That being said, given that it was only available online it’s unlikely that many people were stumbling upon it, as they might while scrolling through a TV Guide.
And it’s a positive sign that the BBC is showing an active interest in boxing. For years the national broadcaster has done a poor job of covering the sport on television. Radio broadcasts like Five Live and talkSPORT have always been excellent, but the BBC barely mentions boxing in its television broadcasts, let alone actually show it.
Earlier in the week, ESPN released an interview with Lopez, held by Mark Kriegel. It was actually quite a disturbing watch given that the 25-year-old was just days away from stepping into the ring for a big fight. Many topics were addressed, including controversial comments Lopez has made in the not too distant past. About two minutes into the interview, Lopez’s father walks into the room and Lopez Jnr’s demeanour entirely changes. He switches from at ease and confident to angsty and angry. At one point he even stands up and argues with his father, before then getting frustrated with Kriegel. Lopez also revealed he has suicidal ideations and is clearly going through a very difficult time. At the time of the interview being aired, it seemed like it might be a bad idea to let Lopez fight this weekend – though he clearly proved that to be a misguided notion.
A few days later Lopez would appear on The Porter Way Podcast, hosted by former welterweight titlist Shawn Porter. Lopez, sporting a black eye and a small cut, doubled down on the announcement he had previously made on social media that he is retiring from boxing. Porter, who makes for a great host, didn’t actually push for Lopez to address his apparent retirement, but Teo spoke about it nonetheless.
He explained that some of his family have become concerned after his incendiary comments in the media and he wants to “take the pressure off” of those loved ones. He also spoke about how he intends to go into promotion and coaching, but a clear point of contention for him is clearly pay. He claimed he is being paid $1 million per fight, despite making “$100 million” for ESPN.
What was interesting is that he also spoke highly of his father and how he is as both a parent and trainer, despite the fact it looks from the outside in that their relationship has become strained.
Whether or not Lopez remains retired is unclear – he told Porter that it would take a “nine-figure contract” to lure him back – but, at least for now, it actually seems like a wise decision. Lopez is going through what appears to be a messy divorce and even prior to that has spoken about struggles with his mental health.
If he has had thoughts of taking his own life, a boxing ring is the last place he should be. Hopefully, with some distance from the sport, he can seek out the help he might need.
Zab Judah, on his own show Champ Talk with Zab Judah, caught up with one of his old training partners to reminisce about old times alongside the likes of Arturo Gatti and Pernell Whitaker. It’s a really funny conversation with some great stories.
Adam Azim-Aram Faniian
Sky Sports Action
Coverage begins at 7pm
Regis Prograis-Danielito Zorrilla
Coverage begins at 1am