British boxing stars react to the sport's return to ITV

​Boxing is back on British terrestrial network ITV, beginning with tonight's Jose Uzcategui vs Caleb Plant super middleweight title fight.

Members of the thriving British boxing community are thrilled at the return of boxing on ITV. Last December, ITV announced a three-year deal with Premier Boxing Champions have been moving at a blistering pace ever since.

The terrestrial network made superstars out of Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank Sr., and “Prince” Naseem Hamed in the glory-laden 1990’s. The new deal begins with a potential Fight of the Year candidate when IBF world super middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui put his 168-pound title on the line versus undefeated contender Caleb Plant tonight at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

ITV will also broadcast the highly-anticipated Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner battle, set for January 19th in Las Vegas, Nevada. Then, on February 23, they’ll deliver the domestic grudge match between James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr.

The news has reinvigorated a British boxing base that can now watch some of the world’s best fights on an accessible network. Here’s what several members of the U.K. fight industry had to say:

James DeGale: Former two-time world champion and current contender

“I’m absolutely over the moon to have ITV back and I can’t wait for February 23 so viewers tuning in can see exactly what I’m all about. Winning the Olympic gold medal happened for me on terrestrial TV when I was on BBC and I know firsthand what it means to be fighting in front of a huge TV audience as people would come up to me in the street after what I had achieved for myself and my country.

“For some reason, the big channels that are free haven’t always wanted to commit to boxing, but things seem different now and ITV have hopefully got some great ideas to give PBC a massive push in the U.K. and put on the best fights possible. I’m going back a few years with the PBC now and I know how ambitious they are so they will want to do the very best they possibly can to make their link-up with ITV as successful as possible.”

Callum Smith: WBA world super middleweight champion

“It was brilliant for me in the World Boxing Super Series because it gave me a little bit more exposure fighting on ITV. England was playing football a few days before and they ran an advertisement pushing my fight and my phone went crazy with people saying they’d seen me on TV during the England game so it does help get you get noticed a bit more.

“You still hear people today go on about the old days when Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank were fighting so it shows that if you can make the right fights with the right names, you can certainly get people interested. Any boxing on any channel is always good news for the sport, but when you’ve got the reach that ITV has then it does feel that little more special.”

Joe Gallagher: Trainer of current WBA world super middleweight champion, Callum Smith

“I remember being a young man trying to watch whatever boxing I could and ITV would have all the big fights from America on a Saturday afternoon. I’d be on the couch all excited getting ready for the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard against Dave Boy Green and every single person from where I lived would be excited about the fight.

“Some of the best fights I ever watched were on ITV and I can still recall sitting there watching Alexis Arguello and Aaron Pryor just going at it and being mesmerized by what I was watching. These were fights that made me fall in love with boxing. As I got older you get to the likes of Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank and who can ever forget their first fight and the way they brought a nation to a standstill fighting on ITV?

“I’ve had a good experience with ITV in the last couple years as they were the channel showing Callum Smith’s exploits in the World Boxing Super Series, but I wasn’t sure if they were going to stick around. So, it’s absolutely brilliant that they’re going to remain in the sport and try to get boxing big again. The more eyes on the sport is the best thing possible for boxing and even though Britain has a handful of world champions, how many of them are household names that you’d recognize walking down the street? ITV has that appeal to put boxing in the spotlight in a big way.”

Dave Coldwell: Trainer of former world champions, Tony Bellew and Jamie McDonnell, and rising prospects Jordan Gill and Anthony Fowler

“As long as they get this right and give it a good go, then I think this can be brilliant news for everyone involved in boxing. I’ve been a long-term believer that the more channels showing boxing and handing out opportunities in the sport can only be good for boxing and this is no different.

“It’s huge that a channel like ITV wants to throw their support at boxing because we’ve seen in the past just how popular the sport can be when it’s on a terrestrial platform. They’ve had a few flirts in the past when they were showing the likes of Amir Khan and Joe Calzaghe. Boxing is on a high at the moment in Britain and if ITV can help push it even further then it’ll be excellent news for everyone involved.”

Mick Conlan: Touted amateur and current pro prospect

“The whole of British boxing should be buzzing with this news because it gives more chances to fighters that might not have been in the position to get such a deal. The days of boxing just being shown on one channel seem to be a thing of the past now and it’s fantastic to see a big platform like ITV get into boxing and deliver fights to a massive audience just like they used to in the old days.”

Anthony Crolla: Former world lightweight champion

“I can remember being a young prospect fighting on ITV on an Amir Khan undercard when I had no idea what the future held for me. All I knew was there going to be millions watching on TV and that this was a big moment for me to try and make a name for myself. That’s what having TV exposure can do for a young fighter with dreams, so I’m glad that ITV is back because it’ll enable people to have the same opportunities that I did when I was coming up and that can only be a good thing for boxing.”

For a closer look at DeGale vs Eubank, check out our fight page.

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