Sky Sports replace Eddie Hearn with Bob Arum, plan Top Rank UK shows
It did not take long for Sky Sports to find a new provider for its boxing programming in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It will be promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank, multiple sources told World Boxing News on Wednesday.
Last week, Matchroom Boxing, which has had an exclusive deal with Sky Sports since 2012 and did many events with the channel in a non-exclusive capacity before that, announced that it had signed a five-deal deal with sports streaming service DAZN for its U.K. and Irish broadcast rights that begins in July.
Matchroom Boxing’s deal with Sky Sports runs out at the end of June, and it will put on one more event under that contract, a card headlined by an IBF junior welterweight world title elimination fight between Lewis Ritson and Argentina’s Jeremias Ponce on Saturday in Ritson’s hometown of Newcastle, England.
Hours later, Sky Sports and Top Rank will kick off their deal – one that has been in the works for some time since it has been an open secret for months that Matchroom Boxing and Sky Sports would part ways at the end of their contract — with a live broadcast from the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas of the card headlined by undefeated former featherweight world titlist Shakur Stevenson taking on Jeremiah Nakathila for the vacant WBO interim junior lightweight title.
The Sky Sports broadcast of Stevenson-Nakathila will be the first of what will be a minimum of 18 live Top Rank cards per year, according to one of the sources, and the deal will run concurrent to Top Rank’s existing contract with ESPN, its main broadcast partner, which expires in August 2025.
A formal announcement of the Top Rank-Sky Sports deal is expected before the end of the week, the sources said.
The Sky Sports deal with Top Rank will also give Sky Sports access to Top Rank’s massive library of classic fights, according to sources. Top Rank, which has been in business for 50-plus years, has a library filled with fights involving many of the biggest names in boxing history, including Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, Erik Morales and many more.
Because of the time difference between the United States and the U.K., most live events will begin in the middle of the night U.K. time but with replays available. However, not all of the events will take place in the wee hours. According to the sources, Top Rank will ramp up putting on events in the U.K. that would air on Sky Sports in prime time, with those events live in the late afternoon/early evening in the United States.
The sources also said that Sky Sports would appoint a U.K.-based promoter to serve as the local promoter for Top Rank’s U.K.-based events that would include fighters from the U.K. but with Top Rank also planning to have some of the top boxers headline those cards.
Although lineal and WBC heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury is co-promoted by Top Rank, he is not part of the deal as he has a contract in place with British rival broadcast BT Sport through his association with co-promoter Frank Warren, who has a deal with BT Sport, according to sources.
But the rest of Top Rank’s deep stable of top fighters would appear on Sky Sports, including recently crowned undisputed junior welterweight world champion Josh Taylor, who is in line for a homecoming fight in Scotland against mandatory challenger Jack Catterall later this year; unified bantamweight world champion Naoya Inoue, whose first fight on Sky will be a mandatory defense against Michael Dasmarinas on June 19 in Las Vegas; former unified lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, whose first fight on Sky will be his bout with Masayoshi Nakatani on June 26 from Las Vegas; welterweight titlist Terence Crawford; unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez; unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev, light heavyweight titleholder Joe Smith Jr.; junior lightweight titlist Oscar Valdez; junior lightweight titlist Jamel Herring; featherweight titleholder Emanuel Navarrete; and Michael Conlan, the popular junior featherweight contender from Northern Ireland.
While Top Rank has in the past had some of its fights air on Sky Sports, they were on one-off deals, this deal will regularly give Top Rank’s fighters substantial exposure in the U.K. and another revenue stream to the promotional company’s bottom line.
Sky Sports and Matchroom Boxing regularly put on pay-per-view events on Sky Box Office, so it is expected that at times some Top Rank events could also go the pay-per-view route.
Top Rank officials declined to comment. Sky Sports officials could not be reached for comment.