By Robert McCluskey
For a long time, boxing was in decline and arguably is still in a very fragile state. The arguments for how this has come about differ widely depending on who you speak to, from blaming subscription based viewing only (Sky, Boxnation) right through to it being culturally objectionable.
One thing that most will agree on though, boxing could be on its way back from the brink. Last weekend was the World Boxing Super Series’ first event in the action-packed cruiserweight division, sadly it wasn’t aired live apart from on their very own website; but for those who did tune in, it delivered on what was promised – a pleasant change in the all too unpredictable world of pugilism and padded records.
This weekend sees the opening night of the super-middleweight show downs, another that promises to be an interesting and competitive night, only this time it will be aired on terrestrial TV here in the UK. This is something UK fans have been missing out on for a long time (except for occasional shows on C5/Spike and Dave), let’s hope the viewing figures really do justice to the chance ITV and the WBSS are taking in launching on this platform. I for one, certainly hope this new platform becomes a success, having been a long-time subscriber to Boxnation and Sky Sports, the quality of shows has certainly dipped with some questionable PPV choices being made. It seems (to Matchroom in particular) that they can count on subscribers to stick with them through thick and thin due to the very large marketing budget they enjoy; this needs to change for the good of boxing not in only in the UK but worldwide.
In terms of the show itself, I can’t help but look forward to seeing just how good Erik Skoglund is, his reputation proceeds him and I cannot help but wonder if he has been avoided at certain points in his career which has prevented him from becoming a household name – why else would he have been so visibly happy to be picked by one of Britain’s premier boxing talents in the form of Callum Smith?
The night could go one of two ways, an early finish with Smith blowing through Skoglund or a long drawn out affair in which a lack of plan B on Smith’s part put his ‘0’ into jeopardy, and it wouldn’t be the first time Joe Gallagher has displayed naivety (or should that be complacency?) in setting his men up for a big night would it!
Meanwhile on the undercard we have an interesting chief support in the form of Luke Blackledge taking on Zach Parker, Blackledge has enjoyed being in the top 10 British rankings for a considerable amount of time without ever managing to quite break into the upper echelons those around him seem to enjoy. As such, I can’t help but wonder if this bout could be the beginning of his transition to gatekeeper, to avoid this he needs to win and win convincingly against an untested and relatively unknown opponent. A loss here could be one too many to bounce back from, although to his credit he has demonstrated a remarkable tenacity in bouncing back previously, much like his performances in the ring he is a man who is not afraid to bite down and dig deep. I do wonder if Zach Parker and his camp have bitten off more than they can chew in eagerness of a ranking.