2020 hasn’t been a lot enjoyable, nevertheless it has been revealing. We started the 12 months robust, with Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder squaring off for a second time in February and Fury delivering a career-best efficiency. It earned strong pay-per-view numbers within the US and noticed BT Sport transfer into the PPV sphere within the UK as a official operator and competitor to Sky Sports activities.
In fact, a month later, all the pieces modified. Lockdowns had been introduced worldwide in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and boxing, together with all different sports activities, was placed on maintain. Main combat playing cards had been scrapped or postponed, together with Daniel Dubois vs Joe Joyce, Canelo Alvarez’ subsequent combat, Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Teofimo Lopez and a 3rd Fury-Wilder combat. On the time, nobody knew how issues would pan out.
Then, in late April, an in any other case nondescript present in Nicaragua was held with related security measures in place. The UFC had made plans to stage combat playing cards on ‘Battle Island.’ All of a sudden, there was hope.
What adopted in boxing, as in different sports activities, was a show of perseverance, adaptability and braveness. High Rank led the cost, holding a few occasions in June within the US, airing on ESPN. Frank Warren adopted swimsuit within the UK with a prolonged collection of weekly playing cards on BT Sport, whereas Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom additionally kicked off their outside ‘Battle Camp’ collection of reveals on Sky Sports activities.
There have been, in fact, teething issues – no crowds meant a diminished environment and broadcasters piped in canned viewers noise, which was simply bizarre and rapidly scrapped. Gaps in between fights had been longer to permit for the ring to be correctly cleaned. There have been, by advantage of presidency guidelines, much less fights on every card. But nonetheless, boxing was again, and we had been handled to some glorious fights.
Boxing had proven an uncharacteristic means to roll with the punches and adapt to the instances. Nonetheless, there have clearly been casualties over the previous 12 months. Smaller promoters have struggled, and nonetheless are. Whereas some have discovered success streaming on YouTube, numerous others haven’t been in a position to stage reveals with out crowds.
Within the US, Showtime and FOX unveiled spectacular schedules regardless of the circumstances, with fights like Gervonta Davis vs Leo Santa Cruz and Jermall Charlo vs Sergey Derevyanchenko standing out.
It was additionally a tumultuous 12 months for DAZN. In the beginning of the 12 months the streaming service launched spectacular figures for 2019, reaching tens of tens of millions of viewers. Early in 2020, they introduced plans to launch globally – together with within the UK. Then the pandemic hit. DAZN had no stay sport to indicate and reviews emerged that they had been on the hunt for funding to maintain themselves afloat, whereas additionally notifying organisations they held rights to that they’d be paying much less. Issues appeared bleak.
These issues started to worsen when it emerged Canelo Alvarez, boxing’s brightest star, was in search of to finish his record-breaking contract with the streaming service. An unsightly court docket battle appeared inevitable, and whereas this could have been equally damaging for the flame-haired Mexican, DAZN had been clearly not shaking up the sport the way in which that they had meant. Earlier than the 12 months was out, nevertheless, the dispute was settled exterior of court docket and Canelo ended up combating on DAZN in December, when the service lastly rolled out globally.
As we transfer into 2021 they appear to be on sturdier footing, however in these unpredictable instances there’s no telling how lengthy that floor will maintain.
Finally, boxing could be pleased with the way it responded to a hellish 12 months. Broadcasters, promoters, fighters, managers, trainers and extra all labored as exhausting as they might to maintain the game alive and kicking below torrid circumstances. The work, in fact, continues however there may be now a transparent blueprint on the best way to function with these restrictions in place.
Naturally, most boxing podcasts predominantly concentrate on weekly information and motion, that means for important chunks of 2020 they’ve needed to change issues up. The 5 Reside with Costello and Bunce pod did this notably nicely, with their ‘Biggest Fights’ collection wanting again on historic clashes with outstanding names on the present like Sugar Ray Leonard, Ricky Hatton, Evander Holyfield and David Haye.
On the subject of wanting again on previous fights, Costello and Bunce are two of one of the best round and the content material they’ve produced this 12 months has been glorious.
Equally, Tris Dixon’s Boxing Life Tales has additionally been a potent tonic to all the pieces that’s happening round us. Prolonged interviews with outstanding – and a few lesser recognized – names in boxing, wanting again on their careers and experiences, makes for gripping listening. Standout episodes are these with Duke McKenzie, Mikkel Kessler and Nicky Piper.
There’s clearly been loads of motion to answer as nicely, and pods like The Battle Disciples and Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell have been entertaining to observe – each embody loads of persona and humour. And, in fact, there was a welcome return for The Opening Bell – the Boxing Information podcast.
What has been noticeable this 12 months is how some outstanding fighters – comparable to Oleksandr Usyk, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Anthony Joshua – are pivoting to their very own YouTube channels to launch interviews. Sitting down with a member of their crew, or generally simply to digital camera, they’re controlling their very own narrative and talking on what they need to communicate on. It’s on no account a sea change in how content material is created, nevertheless it’s price maintaining a tally of, particularly if extra fighters observe swimsuit.
Channels like IFL, Boxing Social and Seconds Out have continued to supply mountains of interviews, a lot of which have needed to happen over video calls this 12 months. Loads of these exclusives have damaged essential information, and YouTube continues to be one of many key avenues of boxing figures getting the phrase out.