DO WE have a new player in the boxing broadcast landscape? That’s probably an unfair question given that BLK Prime have only just entered the fray, but their opening salvo wasn’t a bad one. The new streaming channel managed to lure Terence Crawford – arguably the best fighter on the planet – with a reported $10 million guaranteed purse, and ‘Bud’ delivered a scintillating knockout of David Avanesyan in return.
For a new, purely digital-based broadcaster, BLK Prime did a decent job with this past weekend’s show. They didn’t reinvent the wheel nor did they blow the doors off, but the production value was higher than expected and the team involved knew what they were doing. Perhaps this assessment is a little kind on BLK Prime due to what were relatively low expectations; this is a streaming service that had previously never been involved in boxing.
That said, Crawford-Avanesyan as a fight was never a particularly great matchup. Avanesyan is a solid welterweight and undoubtedly underrated but there was nothing to suggest he was ever on Crawford’s level.
It’s hard to imagine BLK Prime’s eight-figure offer to Crawford didn’t play a part in the breakdown of talks with Errol Spence Jnr. There is absolutely no issue with fighters receiving huge purses – what they do takes unfathomable courage and skill. The issue is the proliferation of promoters, broadcasters, sanctioning bodies and really any sort of body that would have power in the sport.
With so many avenues, fighters – particularly free agents like Crawford – aren’t necessarily being led down the ones that are best for boxing. Of course, the health of the sport isn’t completely their responsibility. Who can blame them if they pursue enormous amounts of money for less risk?
After his win, Crawford highlighted his status as a free agent and spoke of his desire to get big fights made. Broadcasters and promoters alike should be scrambling to snap him up. However it was what he didn’t say that spoke the most. He didn’t once mention Spence. Crawford is a seasoned professional and knows full well the impact a post-fight callout can have on public clamour for a fight.
BLK Prime’s future is also unclear. We know that they will stage a card headlined by Adrien Broner next year, a risk that not many in boxing would still be willing to take. The funding and financial status of BLK Prime isn’t widely known, nor are the viewing figures for Crawford-Avanesyan – they would have needed 250k just to pay Crawford.
Then there was Manny Pacquiao, soundly beating internet celebrity DK Yoo in South Korea on another fairly obscure streaming service. Afterward, Pacquiao – now 43 – spoke of his interest in fighting both Crawford and Spence. It’s upsetting that “Pacman” getting a fight with either of those two is more likely than the pair facing one another.
Hopefully the powers that be will see sense and keep Pacquiao away from the two welterweight kings. Exhibitions for charity, as the one against Yoo was, are all well and good but Pacquiao should not be taking part in competitive bouts against elite opponents like Crawford and Spence. Not anymore.
Over on Sky Sports, there was a telling moment in the ring after Teofimo Lopez had shared 10 hard-fought rounds with Sandor Martin. Lopez was given the nod by the judges in the end but it was a contentious decision. Clearly deflated, Lopez was filmed inside the ring leaning back against the ropes after the fight asking someone in his team “Do I still got it?”
It isn’t a question you expect to hear from a 25-year-old. It also speaks to the countless doubts, debates and struggles that must go through fighters’ minds during their careers. No, Lopez did not look like the sparkling talent who stunned Vasiliy Lomachenko a couple of years ago. But he also did not look like a faded fighter 10 years his senior.
Let’s not forget he was also operating at a new weight class against a very decent fighter. It may be that Lopez has some issues outside of the ring he wants, or needs, to resolve but he’s an exciting addition to the super-lightweight division and one hopes he can find his form again.
According to those involved, talks are progressing well for a superfight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk with the Middle East now emerging as a likely location to host. In anticipation of this, Lyle Fitzsimmons wrote a column for BoxingScene outlining why he feels Usyk doesn’t stand a chance in that fight.
Mostly his argument comes down to size and that Fury is simply too big. It’s a valid point; the Brit will have huge advantages in height, reach and weight. Plus he is a gifted boxer. However it’s simply not true that this is a “walkover” for Fury and not a “fair fight,” as Fitzsimmons writes in his piece.
Lyle’s analysis grossly undersells Usyk’s talent and his ability to make opponents fight in the way he wants them to. He’d rightfully be an underdog going into a clash with Fury but it would be ignorant to claim he has no chance in winning.
There was a smattering of reports about Demetrius Andrade’s next fight, which will be against the relatively unknown Demond Nicholson. Andrade claims he will “put on a show” against his compatriot. But even the reporting of this matchup is uninspired.
For a fighter with so much talent, Andrade’s career has been a disappointment. He’s failed to build a worthy following and big fights have consistently eluded him. Now, once again, he’s treading water against someone he should beat with ease.
In fairness he is returning from a shoulder injury, but it’s probably time to admit that the ship has well and truly sailed for Andrade and he’s been left ashore.
Boxing on the Box
Chris Billam-Smith-Armend Xhoxhaj
Sky Sports Action
Coverage begins at 7pm
Raul Curiel-Brad Solomon
Coverage begins at 2am