Some of the best fighters in the world hail from Britain. Tyson Fury is currently the heavyweight champion of the world and one of boxing’s up and coming stars, Anthony Joshua, is also from Britain. There are two factors that are largely considered to be the most vital in producing star fighters. First, fighters like Ricky Hatton created a surge in popularity and the fighters who were inspired by Hatton have now reached an elite level. Second, the amateur system is well-funded with many excellent trainers.
Dan Rafael did an excellent analysis of the system with many fighters, trainers, and promoters voicing their opinion. Rafael points out that there are 14 reigning champions in the United Kingdom and that two subscription networks, Sky Sports and BoxNation, have been very successful with boxing as their main broadcast content.
The amateur system has produced 11 Olympic boxing medalists in the last three olympics. Young heavyweight Anthony Joshua rose through Britain’s amateur system and won gold at the 2012 London Olympics. Lee Selby, a featherweight title holder, says that the funding, training, and sports science in the British amateur program is unparalleled.
Eddie Hearn, a prominent promoter in the United Kingdom, placed a lot of emphasis on selling tickets to fights. He has used the live event to make the broadcast experience better. In the United States the broadcast experience is the most important, which can lead to disappointing turnouts at the gate. Hearn said:
“One thing we do is we know how to give people a good night… We know how to make fans leave the arena believing it was worth the money. And this is a difference between the British and U.S. markets — they were getting so much money from the broadcasters in the U.S. the gate became irrelevant. Our gate income is probably 70 percent and 30 percent is from the broadcaster [except pay-per-views]. So we have to work every day to sell tickets and you have people in the arena with passion and that comes across on television.
“You used to see a fight at a leisure center with 600 people and no atmosphere and a s— fight for a commonwealth title and no noise. Now you see a Brit in a world title fight with 10,000 fans going mad. You’ll watch that. It’s not hard to grasp. Our broadcast money was so small you had to sell tickets.”
The US boxing amateur system has been in decline, which can be determined by the lack of medalists at the Olympics. HBO’s Jim Lampley has said that the amateur system was where top PPV fighters first sharpened their technical skills. When the US boxing system weakened the PPV stars also started to fade. It appears that the UK amateur system, and the eastern European amateur systems, have picked up the slack in producing top PPV attractions.
Eddie Hearn’s takes a long-term approach to building up his fights. In American sports the events are designed to be watched on television. In some ways spending so much time focusing on making the viewing experience great for people at home can be counter-productive to the long-term success of the events. When the in-arena experience lessens then people are less likely to attend and more likely to find that staying home is much more convenient. Eventually, fan avidity can lessen as people are pulled away from the live experience and their attention can be drawn to other sports and shows available.