MATCHROOM SPORT AND KLITSCHKO MANAGEMENT GROUP INK DEAL FOR U.S. TELEVISION RIGHTS TO HEAVYWEIGHT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BLOCKBUSTER EVENT: ANTHONY JOSHUA vs. WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO
American Premium Television Giants SHOWTIME and HBO To Produce Separate Telecasts on Saturday, April 29 From London’s Wembley Stadium
SHOWTIME Live at 4:15 p.m. ET/1:15 p.m. PT;
HBO Telecast in Primetime at approx. 10:45 p.m. ET/PT
Matchroom Sport, Klitschko Management Group (KMG) and K2 Promotions have reached agreement with U.S. premium television giants Showtime and HBO to televise the most significant heavyweight world championship match in more than a decade. On Saturday, April 29, IBF Heavyweight World Champion Anthony Joshua will face former unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko from a sold-out Wembley Stadium Connected by EE in London.
Showtime is the exclusive U.S. television partner of Joshua, while HBO has an exclusive agreement with Klitschko in the States. Each premium network will produce its own separate telecast of the main event match for the U.S. audience. SHOWTIME will televise its SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING presentation live at 4:15 p.m. ET/1:15 p.m. PT, while HBO will televise its WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING production at approximately 10:45 p.m. ET/PT.
Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) and Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) will meet for Joshua’s IBF World Championship and the vacant IBO and WBA World Championships. The British sensation Joshua has knocked out all 18 of his professional opponents in a meteoric rise to stardom, while the long-reigning world champion from Ukraine, Klitschko, aims to win back titles he previously held in his 11-year rule as heavyweight world champion. Joshua vs. Klitschko is promoted by Matchroom Boxing, KMG and K2 Promotions and has officially sold out Wembley Stadium with a record-setting 90,000 tickets sold.
“I’m extremely happy and thankful that our respective U.S. TV partners Showtime and HBO reached an agreement,” said Bernd Boente, Managing Director of Klitschko Management Group. “This happened before in the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and the Lewis vs. Tyson fights and shows you the magnitude of our event at Wembley Stadium on April 29.”
“I’m delighted to announce this historic deal that will see Britain’s biggest ever fight shown on both HBO and SHOWTIME in the U.S.,” said Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport. “It takes a special fight to break down barriers and boundaries but also networks and executives who believe in working with the best interest of fight fans in mind. With the obstacles in place it would have been any easy resolution to not air the fight in the States but I want to thank HBO and Showtime for their perseverance and allowing America to see one hell of a fight at our national stadium in front on 90,000 passionate fans. Joshua vs. Klitschko is a fight for the ages and we look forward to the show!”
“We are thrilled to be delivering Joshua vs. Klitschko to the U.S. audience live on SHOWTIME,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports. “On the afternoon of April 29, U.S. sports fans will be able to tune in to SHOWTIME to join a record-breaking crowd of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium and a worldwide television audience in witnessing an event that represents not only the contesting of the heavyweight world championship, but potentially the changing of the guard in the most influential division in boxing. We are proud to be Anthony Joshua’s exclusive U.S. television partner as he attempts to establish his legacy against the legendary Wladimir Klitschko, live on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING, as Showtime continues its unrivaled commitment to the sport.”
Said Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports: “Both promoters and both networks have found a solution that enables boxing fans in the U.S. to watch the world heavyweight championship. This agreement ensures that our subscribers have access to same-day primetime coverage of the fight. It will mark Wladimir Klitschko’s 22nd appearance on HBO and the first for Anthony Joshua.”
The 27-year-old Joshua has been perfect since turning professional shortly after winning Gold at the 2012 Olympics for Great Britain. Joshua, of Watford, England, won the IBF Heavyweight World Championship with a second-round knockout of defending champion Charles Martin in April 2016, earning a heavyweight belt in the fewest number of fights in more than 20 years. He has since successfully defended the title twice—against Dominic Breazeale in June and Eric Molina in December.
Joshua is just the sixth Olympic Gold Medalist at super heavyweight to go on to win a professional heavyweight world title, joining Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Alexander Povetkin and his rival on April 29, Wladimir Klitschko.
HBO has been the long-time home of Klitschko’s professional boxing career in the States. The 41-year-old has been a kingpin in the heavyweight division since winning Gold at the 1996 Olympic Games. He turned pro shortly after the Atlanta games and ran an undefeated campaign for 24 fights before suffering his first defeat to experienced veteran Ross Puritty. Klitschko quickly rebounded by winning 10 in a row and captured his first world title (WBO) with a unanimous decision victory over Chris Byrd in 2000, a win which avenged a loss by his brother, Vitali, earlier that year.
Klitschko’s most recent reign at heavyweight began in 2006 when he captured the IBF and IBO belts via knockout in a rematch against Chris Byrd. He went on to make 17 consecutive defenses of the IBF and IBO crowns, 13 consecutive defenses of the WBO belt, and eight consecutive defenses of the WBA title. Along the way, he amassed victories over Sultan Ibragimov, Hasim Rahman, Ruslan Chagaev, David Haye, Samuel Peter, Alexander Povetkin, Kubrat Pulev and more. In total he has fought in 28 total world title fights – a unique record in the history of the heavyweight division – compared to just 18 total professional fights for Anthony Joshua. He was the longest reigning world champion (2006-2015) after Joe Louis.
This will be Klitschko’s first outing since losing the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO titles to Tyson Fury in 2015, his first defeat in 11 years.
2015 has been a mixed year in British boxing. Several of the biggest possible PPV events have not transpired – Frampton vs. Quigg; Khan vs. Brook and for reasons entirely disparate DeGale vs. Groves 2 or Froch vs. Anybody. Anthony Joshua’s rise has continued apace & Tyson Fury upset both the boxing world & the world in general in one act of sporting greatness & one of moralistic vulgarity that will forever be linked to his legacy within wider society. Eddie Hearn has continued his utter dominance of the domestic landscape with his nearest competitor in many ways now, oddly, being his quasi-partner Al Haymon who has signed up a succession of elite British talent in Carl Frampton, James DeGale & Lee Selby.
2016 brings with it much optimism as the aforementioned Frampton vs. Quigg has, after a solid 2 to 3 years of frustrating negotiation ala Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, been agreed. The two super bantamweights are, though, still within the limits of their primes & the event promises to showcase a meaningful domestic super fight of the era.
I have had the privilege of seeing several of the best fights of 2015 in a British ring from ringside & submit my listing of the ten best as follows:
Eddie Hearns’ Matchroom Boxing provided London fight fans with the Card of the Year at London’s 02 Arena on Saturday evening.
Hearn has had bigger nights in the last 2 years but I’d wager he’s never offered such a long; varied & stimulating from multiple perspectives card as was the case last night:
Dave Ryan W John Wayne Hibbert TKO 9
Scott Cardle W Craig Evans UD 12
Kell Brook W Frankie Gavin TKO 6
John Ryder L Nick Blackwell TKO 7
Jorge Linares W Kevin Mitchell TKO 10
Evgeny Gradovich L Lee Selby TD 8
Anthony Joshua W Kevin Johnson TKO 2
Nathan Cleverly W Tomas Man KO 1
Lucien Reid W Elemir Rafael TKO 4
With the exception of the Cleverly bout which was over in under 25 seconds none of these contests failed to deliver some dynamite in one form or another. The events production value was also world class with Michael Buffer & Paulie Malignaggi both drafted in for the big night.
The promoter’s chargers endured a mixed bag of results on the night with losses for John Wayne Hibbert, Kevin Mitchell & John Ryder. John Wayne Hibbert was on the wrong side of a fight of the year candidate against Derby’s Dave Ryan. Mitchell put in a valiant effort against Jorge Linares in what was nominally a ‘world’ title fight. Indeed the entire concept of a world title has taken on the utility of marketing tool first; being based on reality a distant second.
Mitchell had been on a six fight winning streak following his last loss to Ricky Burns in 2012 – against varied opposition. This marks Kevin’s first loss under Hearns’ promotional banner. The end, when it came, was as humane a referring decision as you’re ever likely to witness.
Nick Blackwell’s 7th round TKO victory over the quality international level operator John Ryder was a minor shock to many. Ryder has suffered from a dearth of quality opposition since losing a highly competitive contest to the world rated Billy Joe Saunders back in September of 2013.
Anthony Joshua made the most noteworthy statement of his 13 fight career with a brutal 2nd round TKO victory over Kevin Johnson – a man who once went 12 rounds with Vitali Klitschko. His display of sickening power punching will have got the attention of every major name in the division. Referee Ian John-Lewis was rightly chastised in many circles for allowing a near out-cold Kevin Johnson to continue beyond the first round. Throw in his laughable scoring of the Mitchell-Linares bout (he had Mitchell up by 6 points at the time of being stopped in a far more competitive bout than that implies) & you do ask yourself what qualifies someone to officiate in these contests.
James ‘Chunky’ DeGale was also on hand to parade his recently won belt in front of an adoring London crowd of some 18,000.
Lee Selby boxed his way to a somewhat fortuitous 8th Round Technical Decision over Evgeny Gradovich who was stopped on a cut caused by an accidental clash of heads which meant they went to the scorecards with the Welshman leading 72-80, 73-79 & 73-79 at that time. Selby entered this contest as the #9 ranked featherweight in the world according to Boxrec.com & is in the perverse position of having won an alphabet title against a man ranked below him on that same mathematically grounded ranking system. According to Hearn there are no plans for Selby to unify any titles anytime soon – so where they’re headed in terms of matching remains somewhat unclear at this juncture although Gary Russell Jr might be a name they’d consider in the medium term.
Frankie Gavin failed to consistently exploit the awkwardness his southpaw stance created for Kell Brook. Besides the second round where the former (& Britain’s first ever) amateur world champion presented a very illusive target he was systematically dismantled by the far larger at the weight opponent. Brook appears resigned to being swerved by Amir Khan as another big fight appears to go begging for the time being – Keith Thurman; Manny Pacquiao & Brandon Rios are all possible next opponents for Sheffield’s now 35-0 welterweight. After consecutive sideways steps since beating Shawn Porter this would represent some form of positive professional development for one of the more protected 35-0 records in boxing history.
Frankie Gavin, who drops to 22-2, for his part is apparently heading down a level to campaign at European level.
All in all a superb evening of boxing with upsets, devastating performances & a uniquely 21st century British fight atmosphere – London was buzzing under the wave that is the Eddie Hearn factor – a man who has seemingly single-handedly reinvigorated the trajectory of the once ailing UK fight scene. News that Hearn & SkySports have extended their exclusive contractual relationship through 2021 can thus only be viewed in a positive light by anyone with an interest in British boxing – bar the now largely irrelevant other promoters in the United Kingdom.
Hearn’s continued willingness to play a high risk brand of matching his impressive stable of fighters is good news for fans – although John Ryder; Frankie Gavin; Kevin Mitchell & John Wayne Hibbert all suffering defeats on one night might well have the net effect of slowing this tendency or impulse in the Matchroom boss in the short term.
DEGALE: I’LL FIGHT ANYONE AT 168
Newly crowned World champion on cloud nine after historic night in Boston
James DeGale MBE created British boxing history last night when he claimed the vacant IBF World Super Middleweight title in Boston against Andre Dirrell – and told his rivals at 168lbs: “I will fight anyone”.
DeGale became the first British Olympic Gold medal winner to land a World title with a superb performance at the Agganis Arena, in a fight that started in explosive fashion for the Londoner.
‘Chunky’ began well in the opening round but then appeared to be hampered by a cut on the right eyebrow early in the second session. Dabbing away at the blood, DeGale touched Dirrell to the body and then unleashed a thunderous left that sent the American to the canvas. Dirrell bounced straight back up but was on unsteady legs and another flurry of punches saw him crumbled to the deck again – and the Michigan man was fortunate that it was late in the round so he could get back to his corner and regroup.
DeGale rocked Dirrell again late in the third round as he dominated the first half of the fight, but to Dirrell’s credit, he not only regained his composure but began to close the gap on the Brit in the mid-to-late rounds.
The visitor sensed he needed to claim the last two rounds to create history though and finished strong – and was rewarded for his part in an enthralling contest with a unanimous decision and his father Leroy placed the World title belt he had craved around his waist to the delight of the travelling fans.
“I am speechless,” said DeGale. “In my whole career, what I have been building up to is winning a World title and I have finally done it. It is an unbelievable feeling. I have made history, I am the first British Olympic Gold medallist to become a World champion.
“I am back now and injury free. I will take on any Super Middleweight in the world. There is no other Super Middleweight in the world who will beat me. I am hard to beat when I am at my best. Let’s not forget he is a very good opponent, very, very talented and hard to beat. Andre Ward is top of the rankings and then there is me.
“I am super fit, feeling good and I am ready. I am IBF World champion and I intend to keep this belt for a long time, and add more titles by beating more great fighters.
“I was surprised he managed to get up from that shot so credit to him for that. I didn’t want to just steam in and try and blast him away. I stayed composed and assured and although he got back into the fight I always felt in control, my fitness was great and I had more gears to go through.”