WHEN it was first announced that Artur Beterbiev’s light-heavyweight title defence against Anthony Yarde would be broadcast on BT Sport rather than on Box Office, the news was met with universal praise among boxing fans. Here was one of the best fighters on the planet, a true terror, coming to England and defending his crown against a popular, marketable Brit. In this day and age, that’s an ideal recipe for a PPV event.
So it was particularly pleasing to see the main event explode into life and become a true barnburner. Far more people will have seen the incredible action than would have done if this fight had been placed behind a paywall.
BT’s coverage of the fight was up to its usual high standards, though at times the commentary was perhaps a little biased toward Yarde’s work – which, for the record, was impressive. The Londoner continued to impress after his corner had stopped the fight when he gave a humbling and, frankly, quite inspiring post-fight interview.
Thankfully the thrills and spills of the main event washed out the bad taste we’d had to endure beforehand when it was announced that YouTuber Jake Paul would be facing Tommy Fury later this month, and that that fight [i]would[i] air on BT Sport Box Office. There was a face-off between Paul and Fury in the ring where childish insults were thrown and empty promises were made.
It’s not surprising that this fight will be on PPV, but it is depressing. This event being announced at a premium during the broadcast of a far, far superior contest is a rather fitting microcosm of the state of boxing right now.
The Guardian’s excellent Jonathan Liew penned an interesting column about the likes of Paul and KSI venturing into boxing and how, despite the fact that what they’re offering is basically an inferior version of something that already exists, it’s bizarre that they’ve been so successful with it.
But Liew’s most fascinating point is that boxing as a sport needs to look at how it is “so ripe for parody,” noting that many of these YouTubers became famous for recording pranks and posting them online. These influencers and their legions of young fans will eventually walk away from boxing, at which point the sport will be no better off and just another used commodity left in the wake of shrinking attention spans.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, we’ve hit yet another turn in the road of the Conor Benn alleged doping saga. For those living under a rock, Benn failed two separate doping tests last year – both for banned substance clomiphene – and there are now two distinct investigations taking place to determine whether Benn was intentionally cheating or not. The WBC are conducting their own investigation while the other is a joint venture between the British Boxing Board of Control and UK Anti-Doping (UKAD).
Back in December it was revealed that Benn and his team had supplied the WBC with a 270-page document in a bid to back up their claims that the fighter is innocent. The details of that document have not been disclosed but it is believed that Benn’s team are arguing the banned substance entered his system as a result of contamination.
According to the Daily Mail, neither the Board nor UKAD have received that lengthy document and cite a “lack of cooperation” as the reason why there has not yet been a resolution, or even a major development in this process.
It’s worth noting that we would be none the wiser if it weren’t for the reporting of journalists covering this story – none of this information was offered up by the parties involved beforehand, despite their proclamations to be as transparent as possible.
The obvious question here is: why? Why would Benn’s team supply one investigation with apparent evidence and not the other? Why is there still so much smoke and mirrors around doping investigations?
In response to the Mail’s report, Benn took to social media to apparently threaten the Board, stating “you’ll be hearing from my lawyers!” which, surely, is exactly what the Board wants. It seems like they’d very much like to hear from his legal team and find out why they’ve not received information that a separate investigation has had for over a month now.
Whatever the reason, this is not a good look for Benn. He continues to insist he is innocent and never knowingly took banned substances in a bid to gain an illegal advantage in the ring. The only clear evidence we have to go on at the moment are the two failed tests so, if he is indeed innocent, it is very much in his best interests to help these investigations as much as possible and clear his name as soon as he can.
In a much more heartening report, the BBC highlighted the incredible work of an all-female boxing gym in Gaza, the first of its kind in that region. Run by head coach Osama Ayoub, the gym allows women and girls to train freely without fear of judgement or persecution. The report shows how much of a positive impact the gym has on younger girls in particular, who now have a place to feel empowered and release negative energy. Some even have goals of representing Palestine in international tournaments in the future.
Lastly, despite some truly baffling claims from Chris Eubank Jnr’s team about an alleged illegal elbow, it seems like he and Liam Smith will take part in a rematch later this year. Promoter Ben Shalom is eyeing Anfield as a potential venue.
Boxing on the Box
Emanuel Navarrete-Liam Wilson
Sky Sports Arena
Coverage begins at 2am
Amanda Serrano-Erika Cruz
Coverage begins at 1am