The Guardian from London, Greater London, England on March 12, 1999 · 19
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England · 19

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Friday, March 12, 1999
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The Guardian Friday March 12 1999 K '..j H', )( :',;,i':''.v '- i'i God and avid 1 Pr-M;; Blanket! The hoopla surrounding tomorrow's big fight is deceptive. British boxing is a sport on the canvas. But, reports, the fighting spirit is still strong. T has been clubbed the Holy War and it promises to be one of the most gripping contests in boxing's recent history. In the early hours tomorrow. Lennox Lewis, the World 13oxing Council (WBC) champion will step out at Madison Square Garden to meet Evan-der Holyfield, heavyweight champion of two other world boxing organisations the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Association (WBA). Whoever wins will become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and that's a rare accolade in a sport riven by competition among organisations. 10 in total, each claiming world authority, each with its own champ (see graphic). It might even give the sport a champion worthy of the name and help restore the fortunes of a game a way of life that lias lately seen its popularity waning on both sides of the Atlantic. Boxing is hardly on its uppers. Its heioes still have name recognition and they're rich. Lennox Lewis is getting 8.5 million for this fight and Holyfield nearly 20 million. That other member of British boxing royalty. Prince Naseem Hamed. is a multi-millionaire with fame enough to be invited to do pizza ads. Whatever he does to a thick-crust pizza, Naseem demolishes opponents in the ring in a brash, egotistical manner and the sponsorship deals have piled up. As for Lennox Lewis, if he wins tomorrow he will make a staggering 30 million from sponsorship and promises of future fights to defend the title. The man who would be king of the ring is already worth an estimated 38 million. That makes him second only to Nick Faldo as Britain's wealthiest sports star. So boxing is awash with money and those who ply the trade at its top levels are earning sacks of cash. Literally. Prince Naseem once banded over two bin liners containing 500.000 each to his parents after a world championship victory. But try the following for name checks. Joe Calza-ghe, Picky Hatton, Danny Williams, Howard Eastman and Carl Thompson. Household names they aren't yet those are British boxing's future. The sport's future champions remain unknown outside their home towns, families and fandom. Something has happened to boxing's visibility. When Prince Naseem and Lennox Lewis first exploded on to the scene ten years ago their fights were shown on ITV: even without the cachet of SUNNY spells and blustery showers. Patchy rain lingering in the south-east. London, SE England, E Anglia. E Midlands: Mild but dull with light ram. A light south-westerly wind. Max temp 11-1X (52-55F). Tonight, cloudy. Min temp5-7C (41-45F). Channel Is. Cent S England. W Midlands: Dull and damp but sunny spells. A light southwesterly breeze. Max temp 11-i:iC (52 -55F). Tonight, mist. Min temp4-7C Ci9-15F). SW & NW England, Wales. Yorks: Cloud breaking to leave sunny spells and isolated showers. A light south-west erly breeze. Max temp 9-12C (48-5 IF). Tonight, clear breaks. Min temp 4-6C (39-KiK). Lines, NE England: Cloud and rain clearing to sunny spells. Moderate southerly wind. Max temp 8-11C (4G-52F). Tonight, clear. Min temp.'i-5C (37-,'!9F). Stephen Lee HT HAS been a warm week in u the Alps, with foehn since Monday. Yesterday there was snow above 2,250m, rain below, in much of Austria, with light snow in France. Avalanche risk is down to,'!5 in many places. Swiss Zermatt (a5-2(i0cm) is showing a few bare patches on lower runs, but is otherwise jgBKf & 4&fel v:;'Ay JT, '''frmm 'laBiSy ':1SKS83S world champion status they were draws. Saturday night fights attracted audiences of five million. By contrast Ricky Hatton and .Joe Calza-ghe are lucky to get 500.000 viewers when their fights are shown on Sky. There's money but no exposure. Boxing, it's argued, got seduced. Millions are offered by satellite and cable television companies here and in the United States and yet more comes from pay-per-view deals. But meanwhile the fighters lost their place in popular imagination: the lack of boxing on terrestrial television has meant less celebrity for up and coming boxers. The general standing of the sport has declined. It's a controversial thesis. "Complete nonsense," according to Vic Wakeling, managing director of Sky Sports. The channel has signed deals with Frank Warren and Frank Malloncy. two of the country's leading promoters for exclusive coverage of bouts, including some pay-per-view. "You just have to look at the cover 777.. 3 5 rc v. 101- 75 . w -.v j rt S i3 2j or slighi NE & SE Scotland, Edinburgh: Blustery showers in the north. Becoming dry in the south. A fresh south-westerly wind. Max temp 7-10C (45-50F). Tonight, showers in the north. Min tcmp0-3C(.'!2-.T7F). NW & SW Scotland, Glas- good on piste. Verbier (95-200cm) has 420cm on Mont Fort, all 82 lifts working, 35 avalanche risk and great skiing above 2000m; snow is wet clown to resort level. Villars (80-260cm 8C) still has 45 avalanche risk, is soft on piste, heavy off piste. 2830 lifts are working in Grindelwald (80-320cm), which expects plenty of powder after yesterday's storm has cleared, St Moritz (90-200cm. 7C) is best in the morn r frviTfn. . .) . - . . - - . 1 i n m rm k?sih n a n - n age given to the Lewis fight to see how popular the sport still is. Fighters like Naseem are probably better known than Henry Cooper was in his day. When we came into boxing 10 years ago the BBC and ITV were pulling out of the sport and the younger boxers got fewer chances for exposure." ' ' ; R Wakeling estimates that Sky has ; - V; spent around ; v ". ; 20 million on . - . . : boxing over the decade, with much of the return coming from pay-per-view bouts. This weekend's fight will cost viewers 11.95 rising to 16.95 for those who book late. Sky was put on one of the first pay-per-view events in Britain when it broadcast the Frank Bruno v. Mike Tyson fight in March 1996. An estimated 600,000 people subscribed at an average of 10 per head. Since more than one person is watching m a subscriber household, estimates of audience size are difficult. Mr Wakeling con- -'''';' - ) -m ZLK -- Arouna ssrssasra anewona Aar quality JX H l '' " Warm Iron! wov III LS j y ,-; A n Occluded front ,'- lei y y y - yy Tfu9h Noon today: Low Q and S will will continue to move north-east gow, N & W Isles: Sunny spells and blustery showers. A fresh south-westerly wind. Max temp 6-9C (4:i-48F). Tonight, showers. Min temp 0-:3C Ci2-37F). N Ireland: Sunshine with showers. A light to moderate ings. French resorts remain good, with spring snow on lower slopes, best skiing on upper slopes in Argentiere (100-390cm), Avoriaz (280-300cm) and ValD'lsere(129-315cm). There is plenty of good skiing in Austrian Kitzbuhel (60-170cm), Obcrgurgl (90-320cm) and St Anton (90-360cm). The Italian Dolomites have improved with new snow from last weekend. Madonna (70-140cm. 8C) has spring-like ski Saturday night at the York Hall, Bethnal Green (above). The punters turn out to watch young contenders on a bill promoted by Frank Warren. It's on screen but satellite television draws a relatively small audience. Can boxing ever return to its glory days as a mass spectator sport when (in 1946) the fight between Freddie Mills and Bruce Woodcock held Britain in thrall? PHOTOGRAPHS: ANDY COULRIDGEACTION IMAGES, HULTON GETTY, MSIALLSPORT cedes that while fighters such as Naseem and Lewis were first exhibited on terrestrial television, nearly all their world championship bouts have been shown (in Britain) on Sky. When Naseem's former promoter Frank Warren signed with Sky, the young Sheffield fighter was not even world champion. "Our coverage isn't just about the well-known fighters. We also bring in regular Saturday night boxing from around the country. Promoters were arguing that young boxers were not getting the right exposure but with the amount Sky is showing younger fighters are at last getting that exposure." There is little doubt that the interest shown in boxing by Sky and cable companies such as HBO in America has helped increase the take. Purses are bigger than ever. The argument, then, is that (selective) television has been a lifeline. Go back two decades and British boxing was clearly in decline. It wasn't just that there were fewer professional remain stationary. Low M and weaken. south-westerly wind. Max temp 8-10C (46-50F). Tonight, showers. Min temp 2-4C (36-39F). Outlook: Rain in the north. The south will be dry and mild. Overnight mist and fog clearing to sunny spells. ing, but is still good on north-facing slopes. Canadian Lake Louise (145-169cm) has all 11 lifts operating on excellent, fully groomed trails. Whistler retains its 417cm base with -11C at mid-mountain, fully open and some snow flurries. Conditions in Deer Valley (US) are "fantastic", with all 18 lifts open and largely untracked fresh powder. Cooler weather is expected to spread across the Alps. fighters around 400 by the early Eighties(l). Highly publicised accidents in the ring, some fatal, led to calls for the sport to be banned. Television companies began to lose interest except in a handful of high-profile bouts involving the likes of Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Naseem Hamed, drawing audiences of 10 million plus. Fewer emerging boxers were seen and smaller promotions at halls around the country were not featured at all. Sky now broadcasts live boxing from all over the country every Saturday. It's a sport that lives or dies on the box. As John Morris, general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, said recently, if television were removed from boxing there would be no major championships(2). "BBC and ITV were only interested in cherry picking the events," the promoter Frank Warren says. "They only wanted to put on the big shows and that was not good for the sport because it made it harder to develop young talent." Mr Warren does concede that the move exclusively to satellite channels has not helped to draw a big public. "It's not as easy to bring a young fighter to the attention of the nation without terrestrial television exposure. We have to find a way around that. In the long-term we will have to see Sky's effect but so far, it's been very good for all of those involved." But what about fans, actual and potential? Greedy television executives and promoters could be blamed for depriving us of the chance to watch boxing. As a National Heritage Committee report noted: "The fact that professional boxing Met Office report for 24 hours to 6pm yesterday Sun Rain Temp Weather Sun Rain Temp Weather hn In H L (day) hrs In H L (Jay) Aberdeen 1.4 0 5 3 cloudy Jersey 3 0 001 13 6 bright Anglesey na Kinloss 1.1 0 9 3 cloudy Aspatna 4.8 0 01 9 1 rain pm Leeds 0 0 7 0 bnghl am Aviemore 1 4 0 6 1 bright Lerwick 0 0 01 6 3 rain pm Belfast na Leuchars 2 2 0 7 1 cloudy Birmingham 2.7 0 02 6 0 ram pm London 0 4 0 9 3 cloudy Bognor Regis 0 2 0 01 9 1 cloudy Lowestoft 2 0 0 7 0 bright Bournemouth 08 0 01 11 0 cioudy Manchester 3 7 0 01 7 0 rain prn Bristol 0 1 0.01 10 2 dull Margate 1.2 0 9 2 cloudy Buxton 2.1 0 5-2 cloudy Mmehead na Cardiff 0.1 0 01 7 2 ram Morecambe 4.7 0 01 8 2 sunny am Clacton 3 3 0 6 3 bright Newcastle 2 6 0.01 6 1 ram pm Cleethorpes na Newquay 0 0 03 9 3 blio'.vers Colwyn Bay 2 1 0 01 7 0 cloudy Norwich 0 8 0 6 0 cloudy Cromer 4 4 0 6 1 sunny Oxford 0 4 0 01 9 -2 cloudy Dunbar na Penzance 0 0 01 10 5 dull Eastbourne na Prestatyn na Edinburgh 09 0 01 8 2 cloudy Ross-on-Wye 0 4 0 03 7 -3 showers Eskdalemuir 15 0,01 6 -3 rain pm Saunton 0 5 0 10 3 dull Exmouth 0 0 01 9 3 dull Scarborough na Falmouth na Shrewsbury 0 7 001 6 -2 bright am Fishguard 06 002 8 0 ram pm Skegness 7.1 0 01 7 0 sunny Folkestone 1 1 0 8 2 cloudy Southend 0 3 0 5 -3 cloudy Glasgow 02 0 01 7 3 rain am Southport na 0 01 7nadnzzle pm Guernsey 2 2 0 02 13 4 bright Southsea 1 6 0.01 9 3 rain pm Hastings 0 2 0 10 3 cloudy Stornoway 0 3 0 83 5 1 sleet Hayling I 0 4 0 01 9 2 showers Swanage 0 9 0 01 B 2 showers Heme Bay 4 2 0 7 2 sunny Teignmouth 0 1 0.01 9 na cloudy Hove 1 0 0 10 2 cloudy Tenby 0 3 0 03 8 5 showers Hunstanton 610 7 -2 sunny am Tiree 0 0.15 6 4 showers llfracornbe na Torquay 0 0 10 6 cloudy Isle of Man 2 8 0 01 7 4 rain pm Weston-s-Mare na Isle of Wight na 0 01 9 4 cloudy Weymouth 05 0 01 9 4 bright National Greater London Kent. Surrey & Sussex Dorset, Hants, low Oevon. Cornwall Wilts, Gloucs, Avon, Som Berks, Pucks, Oxon Beds. Herts. Essex Norfolk. Suttolk. Cambs Glamorgan. Gwent Slirops. Hereford. Worcs Central Midlands East Midlands Lines & Humberside Dyfed 8, Powys Gwynedd S Cly.vd North West England West & South Yaks. Dales North East England Cumbna & Lake Oistnct rjr?GuardianO Interactive appears to be entirely dependent on television coverage for its survival puts it in a different category from any of the other sports examined by the committee. It places special responsibilities on the boxing authorities to ensure that professional boxing is properly regulated. The absence of a boxing organisation with overall responsibility for television deals is not good for the sport or the pub-lic"(3). T the moment, television companies deal ',' ; directly with ". .. ' promoters. Don . -' King, the extro vert American, sold the rights to the Lewis-Holyfield fight. His deal includes a percentage of the proceeds of pay-per-view amounting to millions of dollars. Perhaps if the sport's governance were different, some of that money might be usefully redistributed. For if boxing has been decreasing in IBF(lnternational Boxing Federation) Evander Holyfield WBA (World Boxing Association) Evander Holyfield WBC (World Boxing Council) Lennox Lewis WBO (World Boxing Organisation) Herbie Hide The new muscle WBU (World Boxing Union) 10 II 12 13 14 15 16 17 South West Scotland 20 West & Central Scotland 21 Edm, Fife. Lothian. Borders 22 East & Central Scotland 23 Grampians & East Highlands 24 North West Scotland 25 Caithness, Orkneys S Shot 26 Northern Ireland 27 World Weathercal! 20 18 19 10 Day National Fax Forecast 0897 200 520 Xjlcisc",! 0037ci-SWJi:i XV-iIOcHTO VW.-.' a rodixl of TIS L'd popularity part of the reason is the rivalry between the various world bodies. Amateur boxing has fared little better. The Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) is split between Ireland and Scotland, each operating its own governing body. The once high-profile ABA championship, a breeding ground for future professionals, no longer exists; Britain sent only one boxer to the last Olympic Games. According to Daniel Herbert, assistant editor of Boxing News: "Parts of the sport are complete disaster areas. The quality of competitions has declined. There are people who claim that having lots of different world titles gives boxers a chance to win something but what we are getting in some cases is that boxers who are not good enough are winning things. " Some of the auguries are good. The triumphs of Prince Naseem and Lennox Lewis have played some part in pushing up audiences and Corrie Sanders WBB (World Boxing Board) Iran Barkley WBF (World Boxing Federation) Joe Bugner (right) IBC (International Boxing Council) Mike Grant IBO (International Boxing Organisation) Brian Nielson I5A (International Boxing Association) Lou Savarese Reports tor noon yesterday (previous day in the Americas) A;accio F 17 Algiers C 22 Alicante C 1B Larnaca S 20 Lima F 4 Lisbon Sh 1 1 London C 7 Los AngelesC 13 LuxembourgF 7 Madnd C 16 Majorca C 25 Malaga R 17 Malta C 17 Melbourne F 20 Amsterdam S Athens S 16 Auckland B Aires C 24 C 23 Bahrain Bangkok Barcelona Beijing Belgrade Berlin Bermuda S ?5 F 3S F 16 Mexico CityS Miami F 26 Milan Montreal Moscow Munich Nairobi Naples C 12 F -6 Sn -7 C 5 C 22 S 18 Biamtz Bombay Bordeaux Boston Brussels Budapest Cairo Calcutta S 29 F 20 C -1 C 6 C 9 New Delhi S 26 S 20 S 33 New OrleansC21 Now York C 2 S 16 C 16 S -5 C 13 F 36 C 3 C 0 Cape Town C 24 Caracas F 27 Nice Oporto Oslo Pans Perth Prague Reykjavik Rhodes CasablancaC 19 Chicago F 1 ChnstchurchF 21 CopenhagenF 0 Corfu F 15 Dakar Dallas Dhaka Dublin Faro Florence Frankfurt Funchal Geneva Gibraltar Harare Helsinki C 21 C 16 S 33 Dr 5 Sh 12 C 14 S 4 F 17 C 12 C 16 F 26 S 17 Rio d Jan F 32 Rome S 17 Santiago S 27 Sarajevo F 15 Sinoapore C 3? Stockholm sn -2 Strasbourg C 7 Sydney C 23 Tel Aviv Tenenfe Tokyo Toronto Tunis S 18 S 22 C 9 F -6 C 19 Sn Hong Kong C 14 Innsbruck Sh 5 Istanbul S 12 Vancouver Sh 5 Jerusalem F 15 Jo'burg S 25 K Lumpur C 32 Karachi S 30 Katmandu G 26 Kingston Sh 29 C. dourly. F far, S z SI sKt, Sh Jxjwr. Venice rg 1 1 Vienna S 10 Warsaw C 1 WaslrngtonC 1 Wellington C 22 Zunch M 8 jnrr. Dr dnzAi, R rain, Sn r. Til IhunrW.Fg (rjq M mr.t attendances at live events have also grown. There are now some 800 boxers fighting professionally in Britain, up on the Eighties but a long way from those halcyon days of the Fifties and Sixties when there were 6,000 professional boxers in England alone. For the future, the career structure looks odd: relative anonymity but once fighters are within a punch of glory they can bo assured of untold riches and financial security. Daniel Herbert says: "We can't live without television and that is just a fact of life", Sources: (1) figures from Boxing News, 1 999; (2) Evidence presented to National Heritage Committee on sponsorship and television in sport, 1 994; (3) Commons' National Heritage Committee report 1 994. Graphics Sources: Gould Media; Boxing on the web Research: Matthew Keating Vivek Chaudhary is the Guardian's sports correspondent. Yesterday Today N02 SOz N02 S02 London S England Wales C England N England Scotland N Inland Md Gd Gd Md Md Gd Gd Gd Md Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Md Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Gd Sun and moon Sun rises 0623 Sun sets 17S9 Moon sets 1201 Moon rises 0317 New Moon March 17th Belfast 1821 to 064S Birmingham 1B05 to 0628 Bristol 1809 to 0630 Glasgow 1813 to 0639 London 1759 to 0620 Manchostor ie07 to 0630 Newcastle 1803 to 0628 Nottingham 1803 to 0625 EKUgfa tides London B'ge Dover Lverpoo! Greenock Hull Avonmoulh Dun L'haire Leith Glasgow Aberdeen Bella',; Harwich 0838 0606 0616 0706 0107 0115 0715 0943 0722 0848 0617 0C28 5 4m 2103 5 0m 1 854 7 0m 1903 2 5m 1923 6 7m 1342 9 2m 1406 3 2m 2002 4 2m 2233 3 6m 1939 3 3m 2140 2 8m 1056 2 9m 1906 5 5m 5 0m 69m 2,4m 6 8m 9 3m 33m 4 2m 3 5m 3 3m 28m 29m Ollil

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