The Brits Are BackHot
British boxing is back and back with a bang.
Much has changed during the summer break – Sky Sports announced they are withdrawing from the pay-per-view market for the foreseeable future and all fights will now be shown at no extra cost to subscribers. This effectively leaves Primetime as the UK's only active PPV boxing channel, with Premier Sports showing selected live domestic and international cards within their monthly subscription package. But with Channel 5's coverage of the Tyson Fury 15-0 (10) – Dereck Chisora 14-1 (9) showdown drawing impressive viewing figures on terrestrial TV and the mysterious Box Nation also appearing on our screens, the future of televised boxing in the UK is suddenly looking brighter than those dark days of the ITV withdrawal and Setanta collapse.
So after a brief summer recess dominated by social unrest and urban rioting in UK towns and cities, the fight game made a welcome return to our screens this past weekend as Jamie McDonnell 18-2-1 (6) edged a unanimous 115-113, 116-114, 116-113 decision over Stuart Hall 11-1-1 (7) to win the British, Commonwealth and European Bantamweight titles in an enthralling fight that had Frank Maloney (Promoter) laying down a "follow that" gauntlet to his promotion rivals and the home crowd in Doncaster, Yorkshire sent home happy after the exhilarating curtain raiser live on Sky Sports.
Matthew Hatton 42-5-2 (16) actually got the new televised season underway on August 19 with a low profile win over Andrei Abramenka 15-1-2 (3) at the Tower Circus, Blackpool, shown free-to air on satellite channel Eurosport, but tonight saw the return of the popular 'Saturday Fight Night' and the season proper.
One of the Britain's brightest prospects, the reigning British and Commonwealth Super-Middleweight Champion George Groves 13-0 (10), his decision victory over James DeGale 10-1 (8) still fresh in the memory, moved from Hayemaker to Frank Warren Promotions in a surprising summer move that caught most boxing fans and many in the fight game, by surprise. While it signals a formal white flag from Hayemaker Boxing on the promotional front in the absence of a TV deal, Adam Booth remains as manager/trainer and Frank Warren can undoubtedly deliver George a world title shot if he continues to progress. The move also increases the likelihood of DeGale-Groves II and perhaps a return to the glory days of domestic Super Middleweight battles such as those between Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn.
David Haye's summer silence has been deafening and with the head of boxing at Hayemaker, Dave Coldwell, on the record as suggesting it is unlikely Haye will box on past his long held retirement date in October, the baton of British Heavyweight king will surely now be passed to Tyson Fury who has a huge season ahead of him.
With Haye 25-2 (23) having surrendered his world title in Hamburg in July, Britain starts the new season with four world champions, each with big plans of their own.
The marquee names are undoubtedly now Carl Froch and Amir Khan. Froch 28-1 (20) is preparing for his Super-Six showdown in Atlantic City against Andre Ward 24-0 (13) on October 29 and win or lose Froch will surely follow that up with another huge fight in the electric Super Middleweight division – Bute, Kessler II, Pavlik or Pascal II, even Hopkins up at Light Heavyweight are all possibilities and big money fights seem guaranteed as the Nottingham hard-man continues his amazing sequence of consecutive bouts against elite-level opponents.
Khan 26-1 (18), fresh from a trip to Mecca to celebrate Ramadan and sporting a shaved head as a result will be eyeing up his options for a December showdown in the States for his final outing at Light-Welterweight before moving up a division with Floyd Mayweather Jr 41-0 (25) firmly in his sights. 'King' Khan's dominating victory over Zab Judah 41-7 (28) cemented his position as the best of the current crop in his division in the unfortunate absence of a unification fight with Timothy Bradley 27-0 (11) and the partnership with Freddie Roach continues to grow from strength to strength.
Nathan Cleverly 22-0 (11) is slated to meet stablemate and fierce rival Tony 'Bomber' Bellew 16-0 (10) on October 15th in Bellew's home city of Liverpool in a hotly anticipated domestic match-up with world honours at stake. If the Welshman can use his superior skills and experience to come through that, he should be in line for a match-up with a top 10 ranked fighter – Frank Warren Promotions has even suggested Bernard Hopkins 52-5-2 (32) a possibility with provisional talks having taken place.
Ricky Burns 32-2 (9), having now made three successful defences of the Super Featherweight crown he collected in his sensational victory over Roman Martinez 24-1-1 (15) will be pushing for a high profile unification bout but may have to get past the highly rated, big punching American Adrien 'The Problem' Broner 21-0 (17) first.
Then follows a batch of UK fighters on the verge of world titles. First up is Darren Barker 23-0 (14) and his mouth watering opportunity against Sergio 'Maravilla' Martinez 47-2-2 (26) in Atlantic City on October 1. Barker is now back on track after a number of personal problems in recent years including the untimely death of his brother Gary, suffering a street attack which required hospital treatment and then a hip injury and has a fantastic opportunity to show the US public and global boxing audience that he deserves more respect than perhaps he is getting ahead of the big fight. Make no mistake, Barker is a quality operator and while a KO victory against Martinez is unlikely, he has the skills and work rate to take a shock points victory if he can avoid shipping too many big shots early on. Barker is now enjoying life as a proud father to daughter Scarlett Rose and those doubting Barker's heart for a crack at Marravilla's title should note the words of Judge John Plumstead who commended Barker for his intervention in the street assault which resulted in his own injury - "He is a brave man. He behaved in a way most of us are not brave enough to do and suffered as a result."
Matthew Macklin 28-3 (19) will be seeking to bounce straight back onto the world scene following his controversial defeat to Felix Sturm in Cologne where the judges appeared to unfairly favour the home fighter. A new multi-year promotional contract with Lou DiBella will see Macklin appearing regularly in the states in high profile fights.
Kell Brook 24-0 (16) continues his domestic domination and appears to be peerless at Welterweight in the UK. His WBA Welterweight title eliminator against Rafal Jackiewicz 38-9-1 (17) in his home town of Sheffield in October should move him onto the verge of a world title fight.
Kevin Mitchell's 32-1 (24) sensational win over the brave John Murray 31-1 (18) has propelled him back on to the radar at world level but a rematch and opportunity to put the record straight against Australian warrior Michael Katsidis 28-4 (23) is likely before a tilt at a world belt. The slick Lightweight from Dagenham has Brandon Rios 28-0-1 (21) in view and now has a real chance of fulfilling his early promise.
John Murray is by no means done and a strong comeback can't be ruled out if he can improve a leaky defence, the same goes for the slick James DeGale who may yet keep his promise to beat George Groves to a world title. Stephen Smith 12-0 (6) the current British and Commonwealth Featherweight champion is another heavily fancied by those in the trade to go all the way to world honours.
With all this, the noble art back at the Royal Albert Hall and a crop of talented amateurs preparing for the 2012 London Olympics, the resurgence in British boxing continues apace and long may it continue.
But Saturday, Jamie McDonnell took 'all the marbles' in the televised thriller and in a division that contains Donaire, Mares, Agbeko and Darchinyan, must now be gunning for a world title chance next year.