Well another UK pay-per-view has come and gone.
I begin with that as my opening line because it is the subject of PPV and not what actually happened inside Liverpool’s Echo Arena on Saturday night that has set pulses racing for the wrong reasons and been the subject of much discussion with UK boxing fans.
Was it worth the £16.95 we were asked to pay? I’ve got every right to place myself under that black cloud of a question because a few weeks back I went on something of a rant on Twitter. The complaints regarding Tony Bellew vs. Nathan Cleverly 2 and its undercard not being part of our Sky Sports monthly subscription and it being PPV had wound me up to the point of my head exploding like a scene out of ‘Scanners’.
I could not believe the amount of time people were giving to the subject. When it comes to boxing, costs to the fans, free-to-air or on PPV –I don’t care. My gripes with the world are far bigger.
But on Saturday night, I did feel let down.
Again, the cost doesn’t bother me. I chose to purchase it. You make your bed, you lie in it. I wasn’t looking at the value for money angle. But that said, I wanted to be entertained and to not lose interest during the fights.
The PPV broadcast began, once host Johnny Nelson had put his teeth back in and started pronouncing words correctly, with Jamie McDonnell defending his WBA Regular Bantamweight title against late substitute Javier Chacon, an Argentinean who lost wide to Anselmo Moreno back in March. Now, the match-up didn’t have anyone thinking ‘oh shit, this is gonna be some test for Jamie’ but, sadly, it actually turned out to be the most entertaining fight of the night. A bout which took place just after 6 pm, some five hours and a bit more before the main event. There were some decent exchanges, some mild moments of success for Chacon and the action was back and forth before the challenger pulled out in round ten citing an injury to his shoulder.
McDonnell moves on to 2015 with a unification match against Tomoki Kameda, possibly in Las Vegas. The down to earth 28-year-old could make his Vegas bow before Carl Froch, a man who is keen on getting there before the final curtain draws on his career. You couldn’t make it up. Good luck to the man. Guys like McDonnell make boxing the humble and down-to-earth sport it should always be.
Moving on from there we had Callum Smith against Nikola Sjekloca, followed by Scott Quigg against Hidenori Otake, the former billed as ‘his toughest test to date,’ while the latter was always going to be routine. Smith got the 12 rounds against Sjekloca, a former world title challenger at 168lbs. Callum produced some eye catching stuff on the front foot and looked reasonably comfortable on the back foot although some additional head movement wouldn’t go amiss. It was predominantly one-sided but, like the whole card, never really caught alight.
Quigg was taken the distance by a durable Otake in the fourth defence in 12 months of his WBA Regular Super Bantamweight title. We didn’t learn much about Quigg that we didn’t already know. And we won’t until that move up to top level opponents, an old debate but one that needs to be addressed in 2015. This level of opposition can’t go on for much longer.
James DeGale stole the show, performance wise, with his clinical three-round dismantling of Marco Antonio Periban. A banana skin on paper, but a banana skin that had been out on the pavement for a while and hadn’t been slipped on in some time. But Kudos to DeGale. He took on what looked like a reasonable test, risked his IBF world title shot against Carl Froch (or TBA should he vacate), and looked thoroughly impressive. A big 2015 awaits.
Alas, still no fireworks at this point, and I was regretting I had bought only one bottle of wine.
George Groves walked to the ring looking like he wanted to kill someone. Who’d have thought a ‘Momma’s Boy’ was going to give him so much trouble in the early stages? Dennis Douglin, a 26-year-old southpaw from New Jersey gave ‘The Saint’ plenty to think about. Going back to Groves’ ring walk, I suspect he had seen DeGale’s performance and wanted to go in there and blast his American foe out of the ring.
DeGale vs Groves equals history, rivalry, and disdain for one another and after Friday’s scuffle between both teams a probable PPV show in 2015 or 2016. In the end Groves got another ‘job done’ box ticked just like he did against Christopher Rebrasse in September, post Froch-Groves 2. The Wembley hangover still lingers in my opinion. Groves needs a break; he looks jaded and potentially burnt out. Based on last night he doesn’t become a world champion in 2015, but a well-earned non-boxing rest before facing Anthony Dirrell might change that.
Anthony Joshua? Well I did learn that the wife found him to be quite easy on the eye. So immediately I thought “Right, he needs to be cobra’d’ (copyright Carl Froch 2014)” but a 39-year-old Michael Sprott was never going to be that man. Step 1: Joshua lands a big right hand and forces his man back and unloads with both hands. Step 2: fight’s over. Joshua is an impressive specimen and possesses wrecking ball power. Kevin Johnson might be a wall he can’t break down come Jan 31, 2015. If not, then we’ll at least see how ‘AJ’ copes with the pre-fight verbal shots from ‘Kingpin’.
And so the main event. Bellew vs. Cleverly 2. Repeat or revenge. It’s after 11pm by now and we’re approaching a Frank Warren finish time. Make no mistake, the first half of the fight was boring. I sat with my head slumped on my hand. Not tired, but just waiting for something to happen. Fast forward to the last four rounds after a world-record jab attempt from Nathan Cleverly and it became a phonebox fight. They traded, they were jaded and Bellew prevailed. The Scouser’s off to Hollywood to star in ‘Creed’ and good luck to him. He got the job done and the score was evened and hopefully settled.
I don’t miss the £16.95 I’ve paid. Heck I haven’t paid for it yet and I’ll deal with that when the Sky bill comes in. I’ve paid a lot more for a lot worse in life but former pro boxer, now trainer, and TV pundit Gary Logan summed it up perfectly for me. ‘PPV is for PPV fighters only!’ He’s right and perhaps that’s a party line Sky needs to adopt from here on. — Shaun Brown