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BoxNation: Make or Break for British Boxing

Add it to your favourite lists. Frank Warren’s BoxNation, which can be found on SKY channel 465, prepares to go live this evening with the highly anticipated clash between Norfolk prospect Liam Walsh, and Scotland’s Paul Appleby in a Commonwealth Super Featherweight title clash. The channel, which will eventually become available via subscription after an initial free-to-air period, will aim to bring us two live fight cards every week from all over the world.

The schedule for the months to come does look impressive. The all British WBO Light Heavyweight Title fight between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew will be aired free of charge, with James Degale looking to erase the defeat by arch rival George Groves from his mind, as he challenges for European honours on the undercard. Aside from Warren shows, BoxNation has also signed an exclusive three year deal with German based promoters Sauerland, and will also be working closely with US based Golden Boy Promotions, as the Light Heavyweight clash between Bernard Hopkins and ‘Bad’ Chad Dawson will also hit our screens.

Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, said, “We are very pleased to start working with BoxNation and bring some of the compelling boxing content to the British Fight Fans. The first one being the historic showdown of Bernard Hopkins – who will make his first title defense of his Light-Heavyweight World Title against Chad Dawson. This fight illustrates the commitment BoxNation has to boxing – bringing you the best and biggest fights not just from the UK but from around the world

As well as live fights, Warren has also promised boxing fans that the channel will be screening classic battles from years gone by, as well as reintroducing Steve Bunce’s Boxing Hour, bringing us Amateur shows so fans can keep an eye on emerging talent, as well as doses of MMA.

Steve Bunce said “The return of the Boxing Hour – it might actually be Two Hours – fills a gap that Ringside never tried to fill. I think that was a pity and a mistake.
All boxing on television – Primetime, Premier, Channel Five, SKY and now BoxNation needs consistency. Fans need to know where to go and they need to know that there are months and months of fights. It’s simple. This is a competitive time – there will be great British fights in the next 12 months because there has to be great British fights in the next 12 months. We don’t have a Joe Calzaghe or Ricky Hatton to dominate – we have terrific fighters at all levels and that makes competition. It’s down to the promoters, the TV people and the fighters to make the fights happen.”

His optimism, however, isn’t shared by everyone. ‘Happy Drinks’, a poster on EastSideBoxing says ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea to further marginalise an already highly marginalised sport. Primetime might get good numbers for Khan but that’s because Khan has already built up a fan base and the general public have an interest in him. Do any of Frank’s fighters have a following? I’d like to know how Frank plans to bring new fans into the sport.’ Another poster, Wrimc added ‘It has to be seen ultimately as a bad thing for the sport in terms of exposure in the same way that moving boxing from ITV to SKY marginalised the sport. No longer did we get the millions tuning in for big fights, it was thousands. You can only assume that the same thing will occur here. How does boxing fare without the backing of Sky Sports News and major national media outlet. The casual fan is alienated further.

Others have highlighted other problems with the channel. Rob Palmer, another EastSideBoxing user said ‘My main concern from a personal point of view is that the production levels will be low – no HD, poor sound quality. I do not think Frank Warren is the right person to be at the top when it comes to creating something new and innovative. He is frankly too old school and contently fails to listen to the opinion of the fans. A show of his that you went to in 1990 is exactly like one you go to today right down to the music played in between fights.’
The negativity, of course, is not shared by everyone. ‘We’ve been crying out for a dedicated boxing channel. And now it’s happening people are turning their noses up’ said another internet forum user. Others concur by adding ‘As a hardcore boxing fan you can’t help but think it’s a good idea, depending on whether all the mooted ideas, such as amateur boxing, documentaries, news, magazine shows, international cards etc, come to fruition’.

One thing is certain, BoxNation seems dedicated to bringing boxing fans high quality shows we usually would not get to see. It seems that Frank Warren has until the end of the free-to-air trail period to convince many to subscribe. If the promises are kept and live shows continue to be broadcasted on the channel, it will certainly be worth the cost of a pint of beer a week.

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