RingSide Report

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Sure, It Happens…

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

An opinion piece from the only Donald worth listening to…

Full Stop – In British English grammar a full stop is a lengthy pause, in the US, you call it a period. In the UK that tends to suggest feminine products. Here it means a period of time where I look at something in boxing in a little more depth. I am typing from my perspective of a fan who watches the sport closely. It’s an opinion. It is my opinion. Don’t like it? There are other opinions out there but if you don’t like it then good, debate and democracy are a good thing. If you do like it, feel free to spread the word.

Sure, it happens…

So, towards the tail end of January and the beginning of February 2024, two things happened that were momentous. And what makes them even more memorable is that both concerned the same fight.

Firstly, broadcasters announced they are going to be showing the Oleksandr Usyk/ Tyson Fury fight. TNT Sports, which is associated with Queensberry Promotions came out and said they would have it on their Box Office Pay Per View. Then came DAZN, the platform for Matchroom, who had fighters on the undercard announcing that they too were going to be showing it on their Box Office Pay Per View. And to finally join the party Sky then came into the mix and announced that they too would have it – yes you guessed it – on THEIR Box Office Pay Per View. Three broadcasters all showing the same fight for a fee!

Everyone had gone a bit doolally after it was announced that Queensberry, under Frank Warren and Matchroom, under Eddie Hearn would provide five fighters each for a 5 v 5 tournament in Saudi Arabia. They confirmed they would match fighters from their stable against fighters from their rival’s stable. Now it was rival broadcasters that would square off and people in the boxing world could match one against the other if and when figures for PPV buys were announced.

Noticeably, the one major TV company out of the Saudi mix had been Sky. Boxxer, their partner has not had much, if any involvement in the deals being done in Saudi. One of their boxers, heavyweight Martin Bakole, did fight Carlos Takam there on the Fury/Ngannou undercard, but it is noticeable that a company who has been a massive supporter of boxing is now looking on from the sidelines. They have been building up their stable of domestic boxers including world champions Natasha Jonas and Chris Billam-Smith, but they are out of the big picture for just now. To be fair to them, they did lose a massive global partner in Eddie Hearn and Matchroom when they moved to DAZN, so they needed time to build back up – and they have begun to do that better now. Domestic tear ups like the Dan Azeez/ Joshua Buatsi WBA light heavyweight eliminator was one such decent deal and their platform will probably, over 2024, going into 2025, become far more of a global player.

But for now, it is Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren making the headlines. And the big fights.

And then boxing took a familiar turn.

But before then it was all rumours…

Now we do like a training camp secret to be spilled and Tyson Fury gave us not one but three. First came his dad, John Fury. John is a familiar figure, who is becoming the working-class version of Chris Eubank Sr.: looking after his boys and making his very vocal opinions heard. He did a number of clips and interviews where he claimed that the people around Tyson were not working him properly and his camp was a shambles. To be fair, he had done this before, and people nodded sagely saying, it’s only John.

Then Jai Opetaia, the cruiserweight, left the Fury camp. Much the same build and size as Usyk, you could see why he was employed as a sparring partner. The rumor was that Fury had been dropped by him and as a consequence he was asked to leave the camp. It has since been denied by a number of people but suddenly credence was being given to dad’s stories and grumbles.

But then, Johnny Nelson, a Sky pundit came out with serious rumors that Tyson was looking really bad in camp and was frequently being dropped in sparring. Serious credence was now being given to how Tyson had looked against Ngannou. Fury won that fight but looked terrible in it. The revelations from Nelson came after the Fury/Usyk fight being postponed.

That postponement came due to Tyson suffering an 11 stitch cut above his eye – same place that Otto Wallin had opened in one of Tyson’s comeback fights. Suddenly the rumors and the counter claims, the suggestions he should retire, the apologies and the excuses, the denials and the accusations flowed freely.

We do have, however, a new date. The undercard has been saved for then too, so the fighters due to fight in February shall now reschedule for mid-May. Clarity has been swiftly returned and the possibility of Usyk having an interim fight is gone. Fillip Hrgovic and Martin Bakole, as well as many others I am sure, had offered or announced they would step in and have the dance with Usyk.

But the cash cow which is the undisputed fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk has been saved for another rainy day.

But for the Saudis, it is the first time that the sport of boxing and its unpredictability has swept across their desert sands. That they have worked quickly and without too much fuss, may well be down to a country where if the leaders say jump, people ask for measurements in height. It’s something in a democracy and with free and liberated venues you cannot always guarantee, but here we are, with plenty to debate and fall out over. Isn’t boxing wonderful?

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