Boxing in Britain is booming right now. A week on Saturday Anthony Joshua will fight in front of nearly 80,000 people in Cardiff, just months after defeating Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in arguably the greatest heavyweight fight for a decade.
This comes at a time when more broadcasters than ever are showing the sport live, as everyone attempts to get a slice of the lucrative Pay-Per-View pie that Sky Sports have been in pretty much sole ownership.
Participation at an amateur level is also on the rise, with more people trying out the sport for themselves thanks to the influence of undisputed superstars within boxing to look up to and greater access given to them through social media and online content.
In many ways, boxing could not be in a better place and the sport now offers affluent ‘casual’ fans a genuine high-end evening’s worth of entertainment to rival any other in the country.
However, with an increase in popularity comes an increased spotlight and boxing is in danger of showing large imperfections under the brighter lights.
Crowd violence has always been an issue, to some degree, in boxing. It’s rare to attend a show where there’s not a very small pocket of people who have had too many beers and for a brief moment think they’re Mike Tyson from Brooklyn, instead of Mike Tyler from Basildon, so decide to put on their own undercard show outside of the ring.
Of late though these small pockets have been getting bigger, more visible and more violent.
From the two recent Copperbox shows of note, to Stuttgart two weeks ago, Wembley Arena on Saturday night and, far more seriously, the horrifying death in Walsall that’s resulted in a murder enquiry, boxing needs to sort out its act. And fast.
There will always be idiots when alcohol and sporting events are involved. However, promoters, venues and even fighters themselves have a duty to ensure fans are watching the violence in the ring…not participating in it themselves.
Whether that means investment in more security, wider searches before entering the premises, limitations on alcohol served or allowing police inside venues. Something needs to be altered.
If it doesn’t, the sport that’s all about the sweet science could turn sour just as it’s about to soar.
Paddy Hobbs is Head of Sport at PrettyGreen