Alan Hubbard

Boxing has been getting short shrift in the public prints of late. Are sports editors giving it the elbow?

I hope not, though some of my acquaintances couldn’t tell a left hook from a meat hook and are totally obsessed by the great god football.

OK, so it has been a busy British summer with the Ashes, doping scandals in athletics (so what else is new?) and the re-start of the footy season and all that, but some of our daily newspapers haven’t had a line about boxing for more than a month.

Leaving aside what has been going on in the pro game, the fact that GB had its best-ever European Championships, with six medals, including only the fourth-ever gold, hardly merited a mention.

Don’t blame the boxing correspondents for the absence of fight news.

It seems they can’t get their pieces into the paper because their bosses have been obsessed with groin strains, Wayne Rooney and transfer windows that Arsene Wenger wouldn’t open.

As a former sports ed myself (but one who appreciated boxing) I find this a shame. It never used to be like this.

It is true that while boxing struggles to fight its corner in the newspapers there is a fair amount online if you scour the websites.

But as it is one of the few sports in the UK with an increase both in interest and participation it deserves better exposure.

Hopefully things might change with some massive world title fights coming up involving Brits George Groves, Frank Buglioni, Billy Joe Saunders, Terry Flanagan, Liam Smith, Tyson Fury and others, including Scott Quigg and Anthony Crolla.

Plus of course Floyd Mayweather Jnr’s "farewell" fight and the potentially mouth-watering epics between Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux.

Floyd Mayweather Jnr will face Andre Berto in Las Vegas on Saturday night
Floyd Mayweather Jnr will face Andre Berto in Las Vegas on Saturday night ©Getty Images

The only problem is they will have to fight for space not only with football, but the Rugby World Cup which is about to kick off.

The great success of Britain’s amateurs (if we can still call them that) in the European Championships was grossly underplayed despite the annexing of six medals in Bulgaria - one gold, four silvers and a bronze. It is GB’s best ever result in these Championships and a testimony to how superbly the system is working under head coach Rob McCracken in the well-funded set-up in Sheffield.

Joe Cordina, the young Welsh lightweight, is now the fourth Briton after Frankie Taylor, Frankie Gavin and Luke Campbell to become a European amateur champion. It is also another boost for boxing at a time when the sport as a whole is undergoing a remarkable ring renaissance.

It is interesting that boxing is one of the few sports (only five out of 46 which took part in a recent Sport England survey) which continues to grow in terms of young people taking it up. Sports editors take note. There has been a significant rise in the past year, exceeding its growth target with 140,000 survey respondents saying they take part in boxing training at least once a week.

Parents now recognise it is a good, clean sport for their kids to participate in - for both boys and girls.

It is not just learning to box. So many women are using boxing techniques, as in Boxercise, to improve their fitness, which has to be good for the well-being of the nation in times when there is so much emphasis on lifestyle being important to health.

The intake into amateur clubs is also on the up and overall boxing has become one of the UK’s most successful sports at amateur and pro level for such a relatively small nation.

Moreover, it is likely to have a knock-on effect for the pro game because there is no doubt that after the Rio Olympics some in the squad will turn professional – super-heavyweight Joe Joyce, who has already qualified for the world championships, along with those who medalled in Bulgaria, is already on record as saying that is what he plans to do.

Also, some of those good quality boxers who don’t quite make the Games are likely to go pro too, thus enriching the talent that already exists in British boxing. It is certainly a heartening situation for a sport that is often unfairly maligned.

There are scores of terrific fighters who never made it as Olympians but have gone on to become great champions, like Naseem Hamed, Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton. There is a wealth of fistic talent out there now which augurs well for the future of the sport.

British pro boxing is certainly enjoying a "golden age" with more home-grown world champions than at any time in history; more television channels are showing boxing, more fans are attending fights and more boxers are joining the professional ranks.

There are now seven current British world champions: James DeGale (IBF super-middleweight); Kell Brook (IBF welterweight); Terry Flanagan (WBO lightweight); Lee Selby (IBF featherweight); Carl Frampton (IBF super-bantamweight); Scott Quigg (WBA super-bantamweight) and Jamie McDonnell (WBA bantamweight) who successfully defended his title in Texas last weekend.

Three other boxers hold interim world titles: Lee Haskins (IBF bantamweight), Chris Eubank Jnr (WBA middleweight) and Derry Mathews (WBA lightweight).

Likeable London super-middleweight George Groves could become Britain’s next full-blown world champ by beating the exotically-named Swedish-Ghanaian WBC belt holder Badou Jack, AKA The Ripper, but sounding more like a rapper, in Las Vegas on Saturday night on the undercard of Mayweather’s threatened valedictory performance against Andre Berto.

Billy Joe Saunders and Frank Buglioni have upcoming title bouts, Anthony Crolla has a re-match with Colombian Darleys Perez, and Tyson Fury challenges Wladimir Klitschko for the Ukrainian’s fistful of world heavyweight titles next month.

Of course the proliferation of governing bodies, all dangling their own world title belts, makes it easier to achieve championship status but even so British boxing has never had it so good.

The Telegraph, one of the few newspapers which regularly gives boxing a fair crack, reports there are now 60 licensed promoters and just under 1,000 professional boxers registered with the British Boxing Board of Control which, according to general secretary Robert Smith, is more than he can ever recall.

And more fans are attending fights. Some 80,000 saw the 2014 re-match between Carl Froch and Groves at Wembley Stadium, a post-war record at the venue where, 20 years ago this month, the nation celebrated one of the most popular-ever British ring triumphs when Frank Bruno, arguably the the best-loved of all British sporting figures alongside David Beckham and Sir Bobby Charlton, became the WBC world heavyweight champion, outpointing the flaky American Oliver McCall.

A huge crowd of 80,000 saw Carl Froch fight George Groves at Wembley last year
A huge crowd of 80,000 saw Carl Froch fight George Groves at Wembley last year ©Getty Images

Almost 14,000 were at the "Rumble On The Humber" last month in Hull, when Olympic gold medallist Campbell beat local lightweight rival Tommy Coyle, and London’s 18,000–capacity O2 Arena is expected to be jumping when Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua goes for his first pro title, the Commonwealth crown, against unbeaten Scottish giant Gary Cornish on Saturday night. Expect another early night.

“I don't think there's ever been a time when we've seen crowds like this,” says promoter Eddie Hearn. “It used to be just for the big events but now there are rarely less than six or seven thousand at any show.”

The same goes for those staged by Frank Warren, who believes that the increasing exposure of boxing on television has also helped re-invigorate the sport.

"Everything just seems to be clicking at the moment for British fighters," he said.  "The key to it is that there's so much boxing on TV - TV companies are getting behind it and, if they get behind it, it enables the promoters to actually be able to invest in boxers' careers and deliver opportunities.”

Warren believes that much credit is due to his own TV station BoxNation, the world’s only 24/7 boxing channel now celebrating its fourth anniversary with an exclusive live screening of the Mayweather and Groves fights this weekend; plus a fascinating new series on all-time boxing classics called “A Fight to Remember” of which Bruno v McCall is next up on Monday with yours truly alongside Warren and The Sun’s Colin Hart on the ring walk down Memory Lane.

”A lot is down to BoxNation,” says Warren. ”I think that was the catalyst for all this happening. Sky were withdrawing from boxing. We all know that. And then suddenly 'bang' they're back in the game and they've done a great job.

"Sky, BoxNation, ITV,  Channel 5, BT,  Eurosport and ESPN have all featured boxing recently. Virtually the only channel that hasn’t is the BBC.

"It shows just how out of touch they are with the sporting public.”

Yet while the sniffy Beeb shun boxing, they aren’t shy of promoting boxers - as long as they aren’t actually biffing each other.

Their latest fistic recruit for Strictly Come Dancing is the Olympic bronze medal winner Anthony Ogogo, now unbeaten in eight fights since turning pro with American promoters Golden Boy.

Lowestoft-born Ogogo, 26, had not fought for 12 months before his last bout with Ruslan Schelev because of an Achilles problem and recently underwent shoulder surgery.

Presumably all is fine now that he has decided to slip on the dancing pumps and follow fellow fighters Audley Harrison and Joe Calzaghe on to the dance floor.

It will be interesting to see if quickstepping Anthony can make Ogogo of it.