As Katie Taylor prepares for Saturday night’s fight live on pay-per-view, PrettyGreen’s head of sport Paddy Hobbs gives his views on what boxing can learn from other sports, and the potential for ‘Brand Taylor’ moving forward…
Boxing in this country is booming right now. This Saturday Sky Sports will be showing their fifth pay-per-view show of the year, while the recently announced David Haye vs Tony Bellew fight sold-out within minutes and BT has just confirmed it will be partnering with Frank Warren’s BoxNation for 20 live broadcasts in 2017.
However, as a commercial proposition the world of professional boxing still lags behind others and is facing serious competition as the leading combat sport by the incredible rise of the UFC.
With world champions including Anthony Joshua, Billy Joe Saunders, Kell Brook and James Degale (Britain currently has 12 in total) it’s not exactly a sport lacking in stars but its closed book on women entering the professional ranks has narrowed its brand appeal to newcomers looking to dip their toe into boxing for the first time.
With the introduction of Katie Taylor to a sport that’s already seen a huge increase in female participation at grassroots level in the past 12 months, this is going to change in a big way.
Katie fighting at the Baku 2015 European Games
Taylor is going to breathe fresh air into the marketability of boxing by being about as far from a Trojan horse as you can get. A pioneer for the women’s amateur game, multiple world titles, a gold at the London 2012 Games and pay-per-view live on Sky Sports, her profile is already bigger than most male boxers.
Where Taylor has taken the plunge, you’d anticipate others will follow. BBC Sports Personality of the Year nominee Nicola Adams can surely only be months away from joining the professional game herself, while you’d be forgiven for thinking that current retired ex-Team GB boxer Natasha Jonas has managed to find time for some shadow and bag work these past few weeks.
Could Nicola Adams follow Katie Taylor into professional boxing in 2017?
The UFC has done remarkable things for women’s combat sport and boxing shouldn’t be ashamed to follow their very simple model - get talented athletes to compete against each other and allow the cream of the crop to share a podium with their male equivalents.
And in the same way Ronda Rousey has led this rise and opened the door to many others, there is absolutely nothing to stop Taylor doing this here. We’re told ‘if the product is good, it will sell’…and this product is very good.
Rousey smashed through the gender barriers in a sport which was seen as the epitome of masculinity by bringing commitment and immense talent to the Octagon. Taylor is bringing exactly this to the boxing ring.
When Ronda Rousey returns to the UFC later this month it will be to a sell-out crowd in Vegas with an array of brands attached and a not too shabby (depending on your tastes) movie portfolio under her belt that includes cameos in Fast & The Furious, The Expendables and Entourage.
In 12 months time you wouldn’t bet against something similar happening over here in boxing. Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams toping the bill on pay-per-view at The O2? The smart brands will have already started to lace up their gloves ready to fight their corner.
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