It was around the end of 2008 when the amount of boxing on television took a dire turn for the worse. Wednesday Night Fights on ESPN2 had died off, and Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo would meet its maker, too. For a while there it looked like Versus might step up to the plate and take over some of that missing programming, but it never really did — in fact, it was airing less boxing than it had in the days of its universally loathed deal with Top Rank. And TV Azteca’s programming never really grew the way people hoped.
But look at things now. As friend of the site WF pointed out last week, we’re in the midst of “quite a recovery for TV boxing in just the last year since its nadir.” Solo Boxeo has come back to life via a deal with Golden Boy, beginning in April. Top Rank under its Top Rank Live banner in 2010 is putting on what has been an excellent series of fights so far, and it’s happening nearly every Saturday night. Golden Boy is also on Fox Sports Net, airing its Fight Night Club show there this year once a month, and threw another fight card on the network in January for good measure. HBO and Showtime still lead the pack, of course, and Telemundo and Box Azteca still feature boxing on the opposite end of the quality spectrum.
And maybe this post is a little mislabeled: Thanks to the Internet, there’s more boxing available still than what’s only on TV. Lots of it. It’s really flourished there, far from the days when DonKingTV was really experimenting with it back in ’08. A fight for the heavyweight championship of the world aired last weekend on www.klitschko.com between champ Wladimir Klitschko and challenger Eddie Chambers. GoFightLive is airing quality boxing events where once it hosted only club shows, like this weekend’s Steve Molitor-Takalani Ndlovu junior featherweight title clash (not that there’s anything wrong with club shows — I’m glad it does both). RingTV doubles up on Fight Night Club. PrizeFightTV brings us regional cards. The occasional foreign network airs something on its website. The goddam WBC airs quality boxing matches on its dedicated website, like it did last weekend. Hell, even Brian Minto’s website aired a fight of his recently (again, not that there’s anything wrong with Minto, whom I love, but he’s no Klitschko and that gives you a sense of the breadth of this).
I wish I knew why it was happening. I have theories. Maybe it’s related to everyone in the television biz finally recognizing that boxing was doing good business these days; maybe it’s related to a push by promoters to put on good programming via its exclusive network deals, recognizing that unless the product is good no one will watch; maybe it’s that everyone finally figured out you can webcast boxing at minimal cost and maybe even make a little money off it with some advertising/modest fees/future exposure for up-and-coming fighters. Maybe it’s the kind of thing I ought to pitch as a freelance story somewhere so I can really report it out.
But for now, it was such a good trend that I wanted to share with everyone the real scope of it, in case you hadn’t noticed it happening. (And I hadn’t really noticed it until WF pointed it out and I started thinking about it.)