By Anthony Evans @anthonyevans97
ITV has another free-to-air world championship fight this Saturday night as Manny Pacquiao defends his WBA (regular) welterweight title against Adrien Broner at the MGM Garand in Las Vegas.
The UK broadcaster showcased its first world title fight from over the pond last week when it aired undefeated American Caleb Plant’s unanimous points victory over Jose Uzcategui to claim the IBF super-middleweight belt.
British boxing fans will now get to see one of the sports biggest stars in action as 40 year old Manny Pacquiao, who has won world titles in eight different weight classes, prepares to put his latest one on the line against an opponent over 10 years his junior.
ITV announced a ground-breaking new deal with US promotional companies Haymon Sports and Premier BoxingChampions (PBC) to bring exclusive coverage of world-class boxing events to the UK.
The three year deal will guarantee a minimum of 15 televised events annually and is the first time in history that Haymon Sports have been in a partnership with a UK broadcaster that will stage fights on a regular basis.
These events will showcase some PBC’s unrivalled pool of boxers, with over 160 fighters, 60 of which are current or former world champions. This huge stable includes the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr and Deontay Wilder. PBC broadcast their events on cable and network television in the US.
ITV Box Office is the channel’s pay-per-view platform that was launched in February 2017. So far it has showed Chris Eubank Jr’s victory over Renold Quinlan and 14 bouts from the 2018 World Boxing Super Series, including the WBA super-middleweight contest between George Groves and Callum Smith.
Eubank Jr will be part of the channel’s next PPV event in a huge domestic clash with James DeGale at the 02 Arena in London on February 23.
Boxing is as big as it has been in a long, long time, with broadcast giants Sky Sports, BT Sport and now ITV at the forefront of the scene in the UK.
The competition is fierce, with politics and financial differences often determining if fights happen. Whether certain events should be pay-per-view or not, is also something that can cause controversy or debate.
Although James DeGale is a former two time world champion, his showdown with Eubank Jr is a non-title fight, and many fans feel that it is therefore not worth the £20 booking fee.
Sky Sports have also faced similar criticism over the last year, with their decision to bill the non-title fight between Dillian Whyte v Joseph Parker as a PPV event.
Tony Wheater, who works for the social media platform, The Boxing Post, is one of those who does not believe that viewers should have to pay for DeGale v Eubank.
He said: “DeGale vs Eubank should not be a PPV event but due to the amount of diluted PPV’s we have had in the last two years it is not surprising.”
As ITV Box Office is still fairly new to the boxing industry, he also understands what they are up against in the market.
He said: “It’s quite hard for new PPV platforms to compete and the difficulty is getting the right fights for the right price that generate enough profit to further the profile of a channel.
“At this level boxing is a business, so I don’t begrudge the model and the boxers themselves for making the most of their careers.”
Wheater also sees the benefits and the downsides of the fights that ITV have and will continue to broadcast from the States.
He said: “It’s great that ITV are now showing free boxing as well but I would prefer small hall shows here than fights in the US that happen at 4am our time. But once again it makes sense in targeting a specific audience.”
He also has doubts about how well Pacquiao’s bout with Broner will go down with fans in the UK.
He said: “I think it will have a minimal impact. Although Pacquiao is universally known the TV audience numbers will be very hard to get as it is at 4am unless a big British star is involved.”
Wheater is also quite sceptical about how ITV will fare in competing against its two main broadcasting rivals, Sky Sports and BT Sport.
“I think the problem here is that the promoters are all tied in with TV deals, for example Eddie Hearn is with Sky and Frank Warren is with BT.
“It’s hard for me to see how a kind of hybrid channel of PBC, Poxon Sports and the World Boxing Super Series will gel but I’m all for more boxing regardless. But I can’t see them competing with a monster like Sky or BT just yet.”
So although it has come in for criticism for its business module and its structure, having high profile boxing back on ITV (which a lot of the time will be free to watch) can only be good for the sport which continues to flourish universally.