Messrs Honda, Gushiken, Ohashi and Watanabe show Bob Arum and Eddie Hearn how it's really done with value for money
This past weekend was an expensive one for boxing fans in the west who didn't seem to have been very pleased by the sport nor the supposed "value for money" that they were getting as fans.
In the UK they were being asked to fork out several times to watch all the fights. Firstly they were asked to pay for Sky Sports Box Office at a cost of £16.95 to watch the much hyped card headlined by a rematch between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew. The show was full of mismatches with the selling point being the big names on the show rather than the fights. It was, all in all, a farce and a card that was a cash grab of the British fan base who were very vocal online with their views of the card. The fans however were fobbed off in their complaints being told the card was full of great matches and that fans who were complaining should "get a life" from Barry Hearn, the father of promoter Eddie Hearn.
Following the per-per-view card on Sky British fans were then forced to turn to Boxnation, a subscription services that costs £12 a month, to watch a Top Rank card from Macau. That card turned out to be significantly more interesting than the Sky one but was still mostly a case of show case bouts with the most interesting contest in the ring being a very good bout between Jessie Vargas and Antonio DeMarco on the pay-per-view's opening bout.
Whilst British fans were watching the Macau card on a subscription service American fans were being asked to fork out big money for the same card which was priced at $59.99 for most people. That was for exactly the same fights as the Boxnation show though it had a different commentary team with HBO's team doing the card instead of the team doing the international feed.
For British fans in particular this was a frustrating weekend with many of those who bout the "Cleverly V Bellew 2" card, pictured above, also forking out £46 a month for a Sky Sports subscription. In total those fans will have felt the pinch in a nasty fashion, especially given it is just a few weeks before and the fights themselves were all lacking in quality.
Between them Hearn and Arum managed to put fans into a serious feeling of regret. They made fans regret not only paying for the action they saw but also regret following our great sport. It was the ultimate lose-lose for the fans who felt like they had been sold an absolute dud.
Thankfully not all promoters are like that.
On the same day Japanese fans had a pair of world title fights on free TV as Takashi Miura defended his WBC Super Featherweight title against mandatory challenger Edgar Puerta and Roman Gonzalez defended the WBC Flyweight title against Rocky Fuentes. The fight was shown free as part of the WOWOW Touch! Event which allowed everyone to watch the WOWOW channels for free for a day and helped give the boxing fans a little bonus.
The WOWOW card was promoted by Japanese promotional giant Teiken, ran by Akihiro Honda, and there was no need to pay for anything with the promoter using 2 of his 4 world champions on the card, for what it's worth the other two have been in action recently.
This coming Wednesday Yoko Gushiken, the boxing icon in charge of Shirai Gushiken Gym, will stream his coming show free and legally over the Gushiken ustream channel (external link). The show, admittedly, doesn't have a world champion on it though it does promise action with 2 of the 3 Eto brothers on it. The show is unlikely to be an amazing one though I suspect the main event will be all action for as long as it lasts, after all it does feature Koki Eto who has given us a trio of sensational fights in the last 18 months.
Whilst the Gushiken show isn't great it's a similar level to what we expect Eddie Hearn's “Fight Pass” cards will be, and they are put on a subscription service leaving the fans even further out of pocket to follow our great sport.
At the end of the year Japanese fans get a trio of shows, all of which are on free to air TV.
The first of those is an Ohashi card dubbed “Super Boxeo” with 3 world title fights and 3 prospects all in very interesting match ups. The card's headline bout will be Naoya Inoue's WBO Super Flyweight title bout with Omar Andres Narvaez in what looks like one of the best fights left this year whilst a co-feature bout will see Akira Yaegashi fight Pedro Guervara in what promises to be an all action bout for the WBC Light Flyweight title. The fact this show is on Fuji TV, for free, is a masterstroke by promoter Hideyuki Ohashi who is giving fans a wonderful late Christmas present. The show didn't need to be stacked but is it, the show didn't need to feature several 60-40 type bouts but it does and the show sets a high bar for promoters going into a new year, a year that could well be one where fans in the west start talking with their money.
A day later, on December 31st, we get two Japanese shows. One of those is an Ioka card set to be headlined by Kazuto Ioka fighting against Jean Piero Perez though also featuring Ryo Miyazaki, Sho Ishida and, if the rumours are to be believed, an IBF Minimumweight title bout between Katsunari Takayama and Go Odaira. The card isn't stacked by any means but TBS, the channel carrying the card, is another free to air one and the card is the sort of card that Sky Sports subscribers get via their paid service.
The other card on December 31st will see the return to the ring of the very popular Takashi Uchiyama who will be defending his WBA Super Featherweight title in one of 3 world title bouts of a Watanabe gym card. The show, like the Ioka one, isn't flawless but it is a solid card with a combination of big names in the shape of Uchiyama and Kohei Kono as well as a very interesting bout between Alberto Rossel and Ryoichi Taguchi in what is the show's stand out bout. This card, on TV Tokyo, is another free to air show and with 3 genuine world title bouts it's hard to really complain what is likely to be a very enjoyable card.
Whilst the western promoters may be in for a short term cash grab I need to beg you not to give up on the sport. Instead do your best to watch the Japanese cards. With 3 of them being on free-to-air TV and one being free to stream it's fair to say not all promoters are the same, not all of them want to make fans regret the sport they follow and not all will pretend that they "need to do" pay-per-view to make big bouts. Well done to Mr Honda, Mr Gushiken, Mr Ohashi, Mr Ioka and Mr Watanabe for doing the right thing and not ripping fans off, instead they have helped to grow the sport, retain fans and keep interest in a sport the western promoters appear determined to kill as quickly as they can.
(Images courtesy of Sky Sports and Watanabe)
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.