FOR all the speculation and reporting about UK broadcasters of boxing – in particular Sky Sports – this weekend served as a timely reminder of just how valuable their investment in the sport has been. On Sunday night Sky aired the London card topped by Frazer Clarke and Fabio Wardley clashing for the British heavyweight title. Sky had done a good job of seeding the fight over the past few months, both in the platforms Clarke and Wardley had been given on other fight nights and through general promotion. And this event was quite smartly staged on the Sunday night of a bank holiday weekend.

The fight, on paper, was intriguing but by no means a blockbuster. But what transpired in the ring on the night was a true spectacle, a gruelling battle worthy of the historic trinket on the line. It was a joy to watch and undoubtedly a boon for Sky and promoter Boxxer, headed up by Ben Shalom.

A couple of weeks ago The Sunday Times published an article claiming Boxxer had links to convicted cricket spot fixer Mahzar Majeed and that the revelations of these alleged ties lead to “conversations” between Boxxer and Sky Sports, who are currently in business together. There has also been speculation – including in this column – about Sky’s future involvement in boxing, particularly in the face of the prospect of promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren teaming up over at DAZN.

So Wardley-Clarke over-delivering in the way it did was a huge win for Sky Sports. And rightly so; the broadcaster has been a stalwart in boxing for decades and after Hearn’s Matchroom moved from Sky to DAZN several years ago, many were claiming it was only a matter of time before the company leaves boxing altogether. Instead, it partnered with Boxxer and has continued to stage regular shows here in the UK. While there is a notable reduction in the amount of star names now boxing on Sky shows – the most prominent loss being Anthony Joshua – that doesn’t mean the quality of shows has taken any sort of hit.

Which brings us to Wardley-Clarke. It did not, for example, have the attention that Joshua’s fight with Dillian Whyte for the Lonsdale Belt had back in 2015 (a pay-per-view fight, no less), but the action ended up being just as enthralling, in fact, more so. It’s proof that you don’t need to rely on star power – sometimes, following the recipe of a well-matched British clash, sprinkled with a bit of genuine needle, can garner a delicious result.

But what is also encouraging about what Sky and Boxxer have been doing is their clear commitment to nurturing up-and-coming talent. Ben Whittaker was on the undercard on Sunday night, dazzling with his showboating and continuing to generate an impressive amount of buzz before he steps up to more formidable opposition. Adam Azim is another rising star that Sky have been consistently pushing and while he didn’t box on this card, we were given word on the broadcast that he will be fighting Harlem Eubank for a European title at some point soon.

Obviously, Sky is not alone in deploying these tactics. Both DAZN and TNT Sports stage excellent UK shows and have their own stables of promising talent that are being carefully nurtured and grown. But those outlets are tied to established promoters with genuine superstars on their books. Boxxer (a much, much younger outfit) and Sky seem like they are building for the future and that can only be exciting for fans of the sport. With rumours continuing to swirl around Sky’s future involvement in boxing, all signs point to the broadcaster sticking around.

In terms of how the Wardley-Clarke card was aired, Sky did a commendable job. One of the most pleasing aspects of the broadcast was the decision to skip post-fight interviews with both Wardley and Clarke in the ring immediately after their war. Instead, both were taken backstage straight away to be assessed and treated by the medical teams, and this was communicated to those watching at home.

Lo and behold, the show missed absolutely nothing by not having these interviews. This, really, should be the norm; when fighters have just spent the last half an hour to 45 minutes punching and being punched, immediately interviewing them isn’t a great idea. It’s just as likely to lead to unintelligible or embarrassing things being said as it is to some great promo being cut or a potentially viral moment taking place. The priority should be for the fighters to go and receive medical attention and get checked over; let their nervous systems regulate, let them get some food, see their loved ones, let them shower for goodness sake. Unless there are medical reasons not to, the headline fighters always take part in a post-fight press conference anyway – that is the opportunity for questioning, analysis and discussion.

The BBC – who produce plenty of boxing content for podcast and radio format but rarely promote the sport on their TV channels  – dropped a four-part docuseries focusing on Shane McGuigan’s gym and the fighters he trains. ‘Stable’ was filmed a little while ago – before Daniel Dubois split from McGuigan, so he and his sister Caroline both feature – but gives a really interesting glimpse into the lives of the McGuigans, Chris Billam-Smith, Anthony Fowler and more.

There won’t be any major revelations in it for more hardcore boxing fans but it is still well worth watching and plenty of topics – some much more serious than others –  are addressed, including Carl Frampton’s acrimonious split from both Shane and his father Barry.

Boxing on the Box


April 6

Richardson Hitchins-Gustavo Daniel Lemos


Coverage begins at 11pm