AS things stand, it would be hard to argue against Sky Sports having the strongest upcoming boxing schedule in the ongoing broadcast wars in the UK, when it comes to boxing. This weekend they’ll air one of the best fights booked for the remainder of the year when Anthony Joshua defends his heavyweight titles against Oleksandr Usyk on pay-per-view.
The undercard is nothing to write home about – Lawrence Okolie marks time after a career-best win, while Callum Smith will venture into the 175-pound division for the first time – but the main event certainly has enough intrigue to pull in a significant audience.
What’s interesting is that this is Joshua’s last fight on his current broadcast deal with Sky, who have shown all of his professional fights to date. Should he move to DAZN, where the rest of Matchroom Boxing took their services, Sky Sports’ prospective schedule will take a big hit.
That being said, Sky’s new agreements with Top Rank and BOXXER have bolstered their offerings over the next few months. A week after Joshua-Usyk (October 2) they’ll air a show headlined by Chris Eubank Jnr, and while his opponent – Sven Elbir – is unheralded, Eubank’s name is enough to carry it. It has been whispered that the Brighton man could secure a scrap with none other than Gennady Golovkin in December if he wins. Plus, the undercard features a fascinating clash between David Avanesyan and Liam Taylor.
In fact, October is a busy month for Sky. Savannah Marshall fights on October 16, with Hughie Fury fighting Christian Hammer on the same bill, and a week later Jamel Herring and Shakur Stevenson meet in an excellent super-featherweight bout, courtesy of Top Rank.
There’s a BOXXER tournament scheduled for November 6, and then the next fight on the Sky Sports slate is world super-lightweight champion Josh Taylor’s homecoming against Jack Catterall on December 18.
Outside of Joshua-Usyk, that’s the best fight on Sky’s schedule. Catterall may be somewhat unproven at world level but he’s clearly very talented and will ask some difficult questions of the champion, who at long last will be back in front of a Scottish crowd.
While there are a few uninspiring matchups included in Sky’s timetable, there are enough standouts to put it above anything confirmed by any other broadcaster at the moment. There’s also potential for it to get better; Terence Crawford, a Top Rank fighter, is scheduled to take on Shawn Porter on November 20. Naoya Inoue is also expected to venture out before 2021 is over, with John Riel Casimero a possible opponent.
Sky’s is also the most robust schedule, with six confirmed shows for UK audiences, though DAZN is not far behind with five.
So, what is the fledgling streaming service offering? As mentioned, UK subscribers will not get Joshua-Usyk, though DAZN has the international broadcast rights to the fight.
On October 1, they’ll stage the next of their Italian shows with Devis Boschiero facing Francesco Patera. Though both men are best known to UK fans for their mixed results against British fighters, it’s actually a solid matchup – they’re well matched against each other.
The best card on DAZN’s UK schedule comes a week later on October 9, when a stacked Liverpool show takes place. Super-welters Liam Smith and Anthony Fowler collide in a genuinely enticing main event over 12 rounds. The 154-pound division is clearly the focus of the bill, too, as Ted Cheeseman fights Troy Williamson and Kieron Conway will meet JJ Metcalf elsewhere on the show.
It’s a really solid domestic show, very much in the vein of the Saturday Fight Night cards that Matchroom would stage back when they were working with Sky. It also doesn’t clash with Tyson Fury’s trilogy bout with Deontay Wilder on the same night (more on that below), as that is taking place in the US.
On October 16, Mikey Garcia returns against Sandor Martin, marking his move back down to 140lbs after an unsuccessful move to welterweight. Martin isn’t exactly the most exciting choice for Garcia, a multi-weight belt-holder, though to have the 33-year-old back at a weight more suited to his frame is good news. The undercard also features two separate light-flyweight title fights.
On October 30, Dillian Whyte will face former Fury victim Otto Wallin over 12 rounds in London. It’s a decent fight but one wonders if it’s enough to draw the subscribers the channel needs.
On December 18, we’ll get a wholly pointless rematch between Derek Chisora and Joseph Parker. It’s the same night as Taylor-Catterall and will be a direct clash. Depending on your stance, it’s either a shrewd or underhanded move from promoter Eddie Hearn, who will be both aware that heavyweights sell and Taylor, if you only judge his PPV numbers at Sky Sports, is less appealing to the masses.
However, Chisora-Parker 2 will not have the Sky Sports media behemoth behind it, while Taylor-Catterall will. So, at the very least, it will be an interesting experiment in marketing.
This could all change in the coming weeks, of course. It has been reported that DAZN are on the brink of buying BT Sport which would alter the landscape considerably.
BT’s current schedule is the most sparse – perhaps due to the DAZN deal being on the horizon – with just two shows on the calendar. However, one of those is a pretty big deal. On October 9, Fury and Wilder will finally meet in their third fight with BT Sport airing on pay-per-view, which is at least on a par with Joshua-Usyk for widespread appeal.
It might not be the fight fans wanted (Fury fighting Joshua) but it’s still hugely significant for the landscape of boxing as a whole, and tops a fairly decent card that also includes the rematch of Robert Helenius’ stunning win over Adam Kownacki.
Aside from that, the only other show currently confirmed by BT Sport will take place on the same night, though aired from the UK. Brad Foster tops the bill against Jason Cunningham for the British, Commonwealth and European super-bantamweight titles. Playing support is the British and Commonwealth welterweight title fight between Ekow Essuman and Danny Ball.
Elsewhere, expect contests for heavyweights Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois, flyweight star Sunny Edwards, middleweight Liam Williams, light-heavyweights Lyndon Arthur, Anthony Yarde and Callum Johnson (who fights on October 9 in Brum) to be announced shortly. Frank Warren is also spending worthwhile time building an impressive stable of prospects.
Should BT move under the DAZN umbrella, it remains to be seen how the schedules of Matchroom and Queensberry are juggled. Needless to say, working together, they could become a force that is more than a match for Sky Sports.