Before watching the debut of the new Ringside, I tweeted (more hopefully than naively) that I hoped a platform as big as Sky would use this show for the good of boxing, and not as a merciless Matchroom propaganda machine.
I hoped, not expected.
In their defence, it wasn’t solely Eddie Hearn’s boxers that were featured. WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder had some rare limelight which is nice as he has no affiliation to Matchroom at all. What’s that? He’s fighting on Sky and being teased as a potential AJ opponent? Oh, right. As you were.
Before I give it both barrels, it is completely understandable that there was a heavy focus on Kell Brook as he was boxing this weekend. He is arguably the biggest name in the stable after Anthony Joshua. By focusing on him, having Johnny Nelson visit the gym in Sheffield, they were only keeping the show topical. Except the visit to the gym didn’t really appear to have anything to do with Brook.
So what did Nelson do at the boxing gym in Sheffield if it didn’t link to Kell Brook? He announced that “boxing gyms up and down the country are buzzing” before four youngsters ganged up on him and punched him. Banter, I suppose. It then cut to Nelson in New York talking about Wilder vs Ortiz.
We then visited the weigh in for a one on one interview with the Special Terminator, or whatever he’s calling himself these days, from where Anna Woolhouse was doing the presenting / hosting. The exclusive Brook interview, with Andy Scott, wasn’t particularly more in depth or better than the many others available online. Dom Ingle also gave his thoughts on the fight, which were genuinely interesting and more of him would have been welcomed. Instead, Woolhouse came back on screen to link to Nelson at the Wincobank Gym, again.
Then came the bit where I really felt all of my 31 cynical years. The “Freestyle Battle”. The obvious comparison to Soccer AM. Now, I feel at pains to admit I’ve never properly watched Soccer AM in about 10 years. I’ve occasionally flicked it on, on the rare occasions that Saturday Kitchen is flagging, and normally flicked back over sharpish. Anyway, I am aware that there is a similar skills challenge on there, where two players face off over 3 rounds trying to outdo each other with the sort of keepy ups I could only dream of. This can genuinely be impressive and some of them seem to defy gravity.
The problem with the boxing version is that, well, it wasn’t particularly impressive. Amateur boxer Alex Taylor faced off against unbeaten professional Kid Galahad on the heavy bag. They took it in turns working the bag with the occasional winding up of an arm or shuffle of the feet. By round 3 the young amateur had seemingly exhausted his bag of ‘tricks’ but did manage to punch the bag while looking in the opposite direction. “Doing a Roy Jones” as I imagine the youth may call it. Galahad countered this by dropping to his knees and working the bag from there. Somehow this was actually the most entertaining part of the segment! Nelson promptly announced the 15-year-old talent as the winner. One can only imagine the shame Galahad is currently experiencing.
A short vignette (these were quite cool and did make me more determined to set my alarm for 2am) of Luis Ortiz and Deontay Wilder preceded the ad break.
When we returned, Meridian Dan (no, I didn’t have to Google him) told us that “music and boxing go hand in hand” so asked a few youngsters, as well as Nelson and Galahad, what they are listening to currently. Anna Woolhouse then welcomed us back to JD Ringside (so that little music bit might not have been part of the actual show) where she stood at the weigh in with Eddie Hearn. If this review seems disjointed then I’m doing a great job of how I felt watching it. She opened the interview with “Sweet Caroline, we all know, always sets the tone but there is nothing quite like Kell Brook’s All of the Lights.” Now I’m as big a Kanye West fan as the next man, but it took some effort to continue watching at this point.
Eddie then said his bit to Woolhouse. He was asked some fairly routine questions and rehashed some standard responses such as old concerns about Brook’s weight, Brook-Khan being on the cards and his input into boxers’ ringwalk songs (he doesn’t have any in case you were wondering). I honestly don’t mean to be entirely critical and I’m not actually sure what I’d do differently but it just feels like this is a missed opportunity.
Following the Hearn segment, Woolhouse announced “A fight that Eddie would love to make is Amir Khan versus Kell Brook”. Another impressive vignette followed (although this could’ve been recorded at any point over the past few years) before we returned to the weigh in. Anna Woolhouse again?
No, this time Andy Scott stood in between Dave Coldwell and Jamie Moore, and introduced Khan-Brook as “the fight everybody wants to see in British boxing”. Not strictly true… but anyway, these are two of my favourite boxing pundits. Even if I’m not particularly bothered about a hypothetical match-up between two boxers currently in different weight classes, giving these two significant airtime would probably be worthwhile. So who decided to give them literally 30 seconds to make a case (one for Khan, one for Brook conveniently)? At the end of this little head to head, Andy Scott arbitrarily declared Moore the winner, based on I’m not sure what exactly. Scott then summed up this portion of the show with “It’s all opinions.”
When I tweeted about this earlier Dave Coldwell responded that “It’s a bit of fun mate” which of course it is. I imagine a conversation with those three would be great fun (not being sarcastic here) but considering the power and sway Sky Sports have in boxing at present is it too much to expect a little more? These are among the most knowledgeable people Sky have at their disposal and we didn’t really get any more insight than if they’d spoken to a couple of fans from the weigh in. I must reiterate that I have nothing but respect for Dave and Jamie, however many of the other Sky pundits are all too happy to point out their experience and knowledge counts for more than the common fan. If that is the case, our expectations should be higher for professionally made content with a big budget.
Woolhouse and Hearn then linked into Wilder’s title defence against Ortiz and Johnny Nelson interviewed the heavyweight champion. Wilder came across well and I’m warming to him more and more every time I see / hear him. Adam Smith then appeared with Nelson in front of a New York (Manhattan?) skyline sharing his excitement for the new Ringside and advertising the Wilder-Ortiz fight. We returned once more to Woolhouse and Hearn and some viewers questions. These provided Eddie with the opportunity to hype Joshua-Wilder, link Dillian Whyte with a Wilder or Ortiz fight and remind us that Joshua is actually fighting Joseph Parker on March 31st.
There was still time for Johnny Nelson to ‘compete’ with Meridian Dan at the JD Reaction Challenge, back at the Wincobank Gym before the programmed ended rather abruptly. I wasn’t sure if this was because I was catching up on YouTube or if it was meant to conclude like this. I’m still not sure but I’ll try not lose sleep over it.
I think my main issue with the new direction of Ringside is that it convinces me, that as an ardent boxing fan, I’m not the target market of those producing boxing content. I know I’m not alone. Those who buy into the hype (literally in the case of PPV events) are who these shows are aimed at. I said I hoped that the Ringside reboot would be more than merely another advertising vehicle for Sky and Matchroom, yet I always knew it would be.