Thursday’s announcement of Dillian Whyte vs Dereck Chisora on Dec. 22 was a signal of intent from Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn. A pay-per-view event on Sky Box Office three days before Christmas, but more notably, the same evening as Frank Warren and BT Sport’s highly anticipated clash between Carl Frampton and Josh Warrington.
Sky and BT are in direct competition for viewers in the UK, however, they haven’t ever clashed on this scale before. This means war.
Pay-per-view is the current buzz-word in British boxing. Having gone years without having to fork out the extra cash on top of Sky or BoxNation subscriptions, the past 18 months have seen a real spike in paid events, with all broadcasters now wanting a slice of the pie.
ITV Box Office leap at the chance to charge for the WBSS season 1; Sky will end the year having put on six pay-per-view events; BT Sport will have aired three pay-per-view bouts inside three months; even YouTube got in on the act by charging for Joseph Parker vs Hughie Fury, as well as the YouTubers in their bizarre recording-breaking “grudge-match”.
We are forever being told that we have to pay extra if we want the best fights to materialise, however, with streaming services offering boxing fans in the States a more affordable, streamlined way to follow the sport, it’s clear that there is a ceiling to the pay-per-view surge in the UK. This ceiling, unfortunately, looks to be a few years away. Until then, choices will have to be made as promotors go head-to-head in the ratings.
So, Dec. 22, who wins? Warrington-Frampton, or Whyte-Chisora?
With unbeaten Josh Warrington’s IBF featherweight title up for grabs, the challenge of Carl Frampton (26-1) is a real high-quality domestic dust-up. Warrington was labelled early in his career as just a ticket seller, capitalising on the Leeds United football fanbase; his lack of punching power was considered to be a restriction when it came to world level.
Besting Lee Selby with ease in May to clinch the strap shut the critics up. A mature performance from the Yorkshireman raised his stock considerably, despite Selby’s struggles for regular top-class opposition during his title reign.
Carl Frampton is still a huge name in world boxing. His solitary defeat to Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA (Super) version of the feather gold is the only blotch on a glittering career. Regaining a world title would throw the ‘Jackal’s’ hat back into the ring for unification bouts in the US, with WBO titlist Oscar Valdez seemingly top of the list.
Whyte vs Chisora was an unexpected war. Setting alight the undercard for Anthony Joshua’s title defence against Eric Molina in December 2016, the British heavyweights slugged out a 12-rounder in which Whyte was adjudged the victor on a split decision.
It was close. Close enough to demand a rematch. A pay-per-view headliner, I’m not so sure. If we get 90% of the first fight in this rematch then we are in for a fun contest.
Despite claiming to be a “born-again Christian” with a newfound morality, it won’t take much for Dereck Chisora to be riled up by Dillian Whyte. With the infamous table flip at the original press conference, the brawl in the ‘Gloves are Off’ recording and the personal threats slung at each other throughout camp, the bad-blood made this fight unmissable.
It feels a little different this time around with each fighter declaring their respect for one another, however, with pay-per-views to sell, expect this one to explode once again in the run-up.
Things seem very respectable between Warrington and Frampton. Sure, they’ve clearly made a decision to act professionally in the belief that this fight sells itself, but with direct competition from Sky, it’ll be interesting if Warrington decides to goad Carl like he did Lee Selby in May.
Frampton seems too long in the tooth to play a part in another pantomime act. His verbal sparring with Scott Quigg led to one of the worst pay-per-views of all time. Lesson learnt?
With James Metcalf taking on Liam Williams at super-welterweight, a vacant British middleweight title bout and the addition of Michael Conlan, the Warrington-Frampton undercard looks likely to outshine the Matchroom undercard fairly comfortably.
There have been no announcements of the Matchroom undercard, but with many of their big attractions already tied up with dates and camps, we can expect the same recycling of hopefuls on the card. Dave Allen will no doubt get a run-out, with Lawrence Okolie and possibly even Luke Campbell in tick-over fights.
Whyte and Chisora argued long enough over splits for this rematch, so it’s hard to believe there is going to be much cash left over for the undercard.
Thankfully, both Whyte and Chisora are from the same stable, so Sky’s typical biased commentary will be rendered pointless. Saying this, Adam Smith, Carl Froch, Johnny Nelson and whoever else takes to the mic will all be keeping an eye on April 13, with Whyte the favoured opponent for Anthony Joshua.
Matthew Macklin is the jewel in the Sky crown, with a balanced and insightful opinion on the action; Tony Bellew - if featured - often gives a useful narrative to fights despite letting his emotions cloud his judgement.
BT Sport’s team seem less tied to the company line. Steve Bunce’s ringside interviews offer more than most post-fight, with the commentary team of John Rawling and Richie Woodhall working well; their technical analysis overshadows the repetitive cliches of the Sky team
Warrington-Frampton will be a competitive card for the purists. Despite being considered a big favourite for the bout, Frampton’s hunger will be tested against the heart of Warrington. There’s no reason why their styles won’t gel, with a couple more pick’ems down the card.
We know what we are getting with Whyte-Chisora, but that’s not a bad thing. If they both put it all on the line again we could witness one of the best all-British heavyweight contests in recent history, however, it’s likely to fall just short.