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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Khan TV Debacle Bizarre At Best, Commercial Fatalism At Worst

I normally post my stuff for thescore.ie on this blog but I didn't get a chance to do so this weekend. As a lot of it is out of date now I shall leave it off here, but I'm told it's well written so head on over there to check it out, after you take a nose at this.


The twists and turns regarding the televising of Saturday's fight between Amir Khan and Paul McCloskey are likely to be more dramatic than the contest itself. And devastating as a loss this Saturday would be professionally, the events that have occurred in boardrooms over the past dew days would likely be more harmful to his career in the long run.

The fight was initially due to be televised on SKY Box Office, with fans paying around €22 for the privilege of tuning in. However, late last week the plug was pulled on the pay-per-offering after a number of blows to the undercard were deemed fatal to the chances of commercial success.

SKY then intended to show the card on a normal SKY Sports channel, showcasing Khan to a wider audience. However, the Olympic medalist baulked at this situation, as it was set to see him take a pay cut of at least £1 million. (Note - it should be pointed out that Amir Khan insists he has not been involved in any of the negotiations outlined here, which for his own sake I hope is correct. However, given that his representatives have negotiated on his behalf, and that one presumes he could have as much say in the talks as he chooses, I will continue to say the decisions outlined here are his, even if his involvement in the decision-making process is not complete.)

Further protracted negotiations continued, and fans of the sport posited theories that an 'unfortunate' injury was set to spell the end of this seemingly doomed card. It is understood that Khan's contract with SKY specifies his fights are carried on PPV, and that he shunned the chance to promote his skills to a broader audience ahead of an expected contest with Timothy Bradley. In the end, it has been decided that the card will now be broadcast on a PPV basis, albeit by Primetime and not SKY.

One need only look at the recent career of Carl Froch to see the potential problems associated with this. The Nottingham super-middleweight has gone from fighting before audiences of 6 million on ITV to barely 100,000 on the fledgling Primetime network. Lacking the commercial clout of SKY, but still maintaining the pay-per-view option, the financial aspect of Froch's deal are presumably adequate, given that his last three fights have been carried by them. However, there's no denying that the public acclaim that should have come from his performances in the Super Six contest has been notably absent.

Now, Amir Khan is not Carl Froch. His Olympic medal and subsequent showcasing on ITV means he is much more of a media darling. He is also a favourite of American network HBO, who will still screen Saturday's contest. However, if he has frustrated SKY with this weekend's shenanigans, then there is the danger that Khan will have effectively cut himself off from the paymasters of British boxing.

Insiders within the sport agree that the decision to shun SKY is not wise. Eddie Hearn of Matchroom has labelled the decision 'commercial suicide'. Few blame SKY for their decision to pull the PPV offering (it has been reported that the show had barely attracted 50 advance sales), and coming six months after the Haye-Harrison debacle, the network has to be seen to be offering value for money to it's boxing fans. It's also unlikely that the terms agreed with Primetime will see Amir receive much more than he would have received under the reduced deal with SKY so the question remains, why do this?

Perhaps Khan's people feel better-than-predicted sales are possible. A few juicy quotes and perhaps even a press conference brawl wouldn't hurt in this regard, but something will have to he done because it's almost certain that marketing for the PPV will be minimal.

Khan has lost this commercial battle in the short term, but whether this amounts to a knockout or merely a body blow in years to come remains to be seen. Personally, I feel it's unlikely that this will be a significant setback as a blockbuster summer bout will likely lead to a mutually beneficial reunion. SKY have seen Lennox Lewis and Ricky Hatton walk out on them in the past, only to return to them for the biggest nights and paydays of their respective careers. Khan's US TV support is also an asset, without which Saturday's fight in Manchester would probably have fallen by the wayside.

However, HBO's support is unlikely to weather any significant storm, such as a win for Paul McCloskey for example. That may be highly unlikely, but if Amir was to be defeated this Saturday then his fallen stock and soured relations would almost certainly make his comeback more difficult than he can imagine, and his Primetime gamble the worst decision of his career.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Irish Cricket Knocked For Six By ICC Buffoonery

Let’s re-imagine sports history, briefly.  It’s July of 1966 and on the back of a successful World Cup, won by the hosts, FIFA is meeting to outline the future of the tournament and has decided to streamline their event, limiting it to ten teams.  England is invited –defending champions after all – as are previous winners Uruguay, Italy, West Germany and Brazil.  Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Hungary and Argentina have all lost finals – that’s 9 teams - and the tenth team will be Portugal, who have just won the third-fourth place playoff.  These countries, say FIFA, will contest the next two World Cups, up to and including 1974.

It seems bizarre.  What about Holland, who went onto reach the ’74 Final, or USSR or France or Spain or the USA or any team from Asia or Africa?  These teams don’t meet the selection criteria now but maybe they will in time.  Well, they’ve been excluded, and won’t be given the chance to qualify for another eight years.  The same applies to North Korea, despite being the sport's Cinderella just weeks previously.

Such a move is illogical, yet this is the sort of decision taken today by the International Cricket Council.  36 years after their first World Cup (like in the fictional football example above), cricket officials have decreed that only the sport's ten full member nations will take part in the 2015 World Cup excluding associate teams like Ireland.  Ten teams will also participate in the 2019 Tournament, and while Ireland and others will have a chance to qualify on that occasion, the ICC have effectively put the brakes on the sport's development here and in the likes of Canada, Holland and dozens of other nations.

Officials, players and fans here, unsurprisingly, are disgusted at the decision which has been described as a ‘travesty’ and an ‘outrage’.  Warren Deutrom, chief executive of Cricket Ireland, says this “as a black day for cricket.”  Irish captain William Porterfield said of his team that they “have done everything they asked of us over the last few years in terms of restructuring Irish cricket and I can’t come to terms with how they can just shut us out, do away with the qualification period and then try and call this a World Cup.

“We are currently ranked 10th, ahead of Zimbabwe, and there is no reason we can’t move up another position, if not two, by the next World Cup. Instead, the door has been closed in our face. It is an embarrassment."  

Other players have also taken to their twitter pages to give out, even some not playing for Ireland.

What would a World Cup, or any sporting event for that matter, be without minnows?  If FIFA had taken the above decision, there would have been no Quarter Final appearance for Peru in 1970.  The stagnation in the growth of football elsewhere would have also had disastrous consequences, meaning it less likely for other small nations to experience some of the best days in the history.  Football is a very different case to cricket, absolutely, but the difference between the best ten teams in 1966 and the best of 2011 shows how sports evolve and how giants can fall and minnows soar.  The ICC’s policies, which have already seen some of Ireland’s best players line out for England, effectively kills our national team and any chance of the sport making further inroads in this country, following wins over Pakistan in 2007 and England just weeks ago. 

It smacks of hypocrisy, of protectionism and narrow-mindedness.  It is choking a sport, rather than letting it grow.  Ireland are not calling for automatic qualification, just the chance to compete, something which our nation has done on every possible occasion at 50- and 20-over World Cups in recent years.  The win over England in Bangalore shows the potential of our players, and the media response to the victory demonstrates the genuine appetite for the sport here.  There is no rational reason for destroying that, but that is what the ICC have effectively done today. 

Shame on them. 

SBP Headline FAIL!!!

Taken from the Huffington Post, perhaps the most unfortunate headline ever.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Quick Jabs 2

I've written another article for the fine website, thescore.ie this week. You should go there to read the snappy intro they've written for it, and all their other fine stuff. My merely adequate contribution is below.


Despite two Irish fighters losing in fights for World Titles last month, 2011 may yet prove to be a successful year for our own with, it seems, another pair of World Title shots to look forward to.

Paul McCloskey is continuing his preparations for his fight against Amir Khan on April 16th, but one man who won’t be fighting on that card is Matthew Macklin. The Tipperary native was due to take on Khoren Gevor in an Eliminator fight for the WBA Middleweight Title at the MEN Arena that night, but has withdrawn with promoter Ricky Hatton citing ‘contractual issues’ in an interview on RTE Radio.

However, word on the grapevine is that the real reason for this decision is that Macklin is set to get a straight shot at a World Title, probably against WBA ‘Super’ Champion Felix Sturm. The German last fought in February, so a fight in the next two months would not be out of the question. Regular WBA Champion Gennady Golovkin and IBF Champion Sebastian Sylvester are also both regarded as options, but Sturm is the most likely opponent for the Tipperary native.

The fight is fraught with danger however. Macklin was initially due to fight Winky Wright in the US on April 9th, before the American was injured, and now that he has pulled out of the Gevor fight it means his training schedule, presumably aimed at peaking this month, will now have to be changed. Also, Sturm has never lost a decision in his homeland and if a fight is to be made with the German, it’s likely that Macklin will have to travel. He’d best work on his knockout punch...


Speaking of judging decisions, it was interesting this week to read Katie Taylor tell The Score that boxing ‘is a corrupt sport at times.’ The statement is not news in itself, especially coming after Taylor’s recent shocking loss in Bulgaria, but it does serve to underline the difficulties facing Ireland’s amateur boxers ahead of the London Olympics.

For Taylor, there will be only one Qualifying event – the World Championships in China next May. Failure to progress to at least the Quarter Finals there, be it due to an off-day, a lucky punch or questionable judging will end any hopes the Bray woman has of winning an Olympic medal, long before the Games begin.

For Ireland’s men, the Qualifying process begins much sooner than that with this year’s World Championships in Azerbaijan in September. While not their only chance of reaching the London Games, it is one of the best for the Irish boxers who will continue to jockey for places on the team in tournaments in Finland and Poland next week.


Two years ago, Kelly Pavlik was one of the hottest things in boxing. As a middleweight champion who had twice beaten Jermaine Taylor, the Youngstown native was likable, a big ticket seller, and always entertaining.

However, alcoholism and a staph infection almost halted his career, and Pavlik is to make his comeback in his first fight in over a year on the undercard of the Shane Mosley – Manny Pacquiao fight next month. Pavlik has moved up to the 168 pound division, and will take on the unbeaten Alfonso Lopez. The show is set to be a cracker –Humberto Soto is also due to take on Urbano Antillon in a rematch of one of the best fights of 2010.


Congratulations to veteran promoter Bob Arum, who this week celebrates the forty-fifth anniversary of his first show. Arum has put on many of the most famous events in the sport’s history, including over 500 World Title fights. His Top Rank company are also going as strong as ever, and will put on the aforementioned Pacquiao-Mosley card on May 7th.

When asked about his career so far, the 79 year old said “It’s a good start.”


Tributes have been paid to former broadcaster and trainer Gil Clancy. The Hall of Famer passed away at the age of 88 on Thursday. Best known for his work with Emile Griffith, Clancy also trained a host of champions and contenders before beginning a career on US TV in the 1980’s.


This weekend is a fairly quiet one for boxing fans, though Setanta Ireland will have live coverage of Ivan Calderon’s bid to gain revenge over Giovani Segura in their WBO Light Flyweight Title fight from Mexico in the early hours of Sunday morning.


This Week in Boxing History

This past Thursday marked the 21st anniversary of one of the finest nights in one of the most under-rated boxing careers. An all-action fighter, Terry Norris was exciting as anyone in the ring, particularly from 1988-1993. He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005, after a career which saw him win four World Titles and the support of many hardcore fans. ‘Terrible’ Terry’s gung-ho style is best encapsulated in this devastating first round knockout of John Mugabi on March 31st, 1990. It was Ring Magazine’s Knockout of the Year.

Greys Off Key

My other half has impeccable taste.  She goes out with me.

She does, however, watch Greys Anatomy, something I don’t.  That said, it does be on over on the other side of the bed from time to time, including tonight.

This is a show which has had it’s moments, good ones I mean, but this week’s one was not.

I won’t say much, as I’m aware that the show is on RTE during the coming week, except to say that the episode Song Beneath The Song reminded me of two moments from TV’s past.