- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Sky Sports were at a crossroads last summer when Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing left them to sign an exclusive broadcasting deal with DAZN in the UK. They have managed to rebuild pretty well over the past year, thanks largely to partnerships with BOXXER (in the UK) and Top Rank (in the states). Much of their focus has been on the cruiserweight division. Richard Riakporhe has headlined multiple cards in recent months as he has grown to become a top contender for Jai Opetaia's IBF world title. BOXXER's roster also includes Viddal Riley. KSI's ex-trainer had a glittering amateur career and as an unbeaten professional, he himself is working towards becoming a world champion down the line.
Over at Matchroom, Commonwealth and European cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith and WBO world champion Lawrence Okolie are among their stable. This may not be the case for much longer though.
Billam-Smith has defeated fellow Brit Tommy McCarthy twice in recent outings. He has made it clear that it is his dream to headline in his hometown of Bournemouth.
With Hearn/Matchroom unable to deliver, Billam-Smith has signed a one-fight deal to face Isaac Chamberlain on July 30 on the south coast at the Bournemouth International Centre.
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) July 1, 2022
Depending on the success of this event and the main event outcome, this is likely Billam-Smith's first step to becoming a feature on Sky Sports. His only pro defeat came against Riakporhe back in 2019, so a mega rematch between the pair could now easily be set up. While Billam-Smith's exit from Matchroom appeared good-natured, the same cannot be said for Okolie. Hearn has claimed that Okolie has been made an offer to become the new "face of Sky Sports boxing". The sticking point comes with him still having one fight remaining on his current contract with Matchroom.
Okolie - who stopped Krzysztof Glowacki last year to become world champion - appears to have had his head turned by this offer.
You can see why, with Sky Sports/BOXXER outbidding rivals to sign ex-Olympians such as Whittaker and Lauren Price. Liam Smith has also jumped ship from Matchroom to pen a multi-fight deal with BOXXER, so they certainly mean business. On the surface, it seems that Okolie has no intention of seeing out his contract with Matchroom, with him taking shots at Hearn. Over the weekend, he compared the promoter to Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of a plantation owner in Quentin Tarantino's hit film 'Django Unchained'. Take from that what you will…
Lawrence Okolie watches this movie, pictures this scene and thinks of Eddie Hearn. If you've seen the movie, it's not difficult to assume what he was trying to say and it's pretty brutal. pic.twitter.com/xWO80ZpX5h
— EverythingBoxing (@EverythingBoxi2) July 7, 2022
Now, Okolie has rightly been slammed for this post, especially considering the great work Hearn has done with him. The cruiserweight was labelled boring early in his career, but Hearn always stuck with him and the fighter has been one of the Matchroom supremo's success stories in recent years. In his last two fights, he went from the chief support for Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk to headlining his own card at The O2 Arena in London. Hearn also splashed out to buy Okolie a £50,000 Rolex when he won his world title, so it's difficult to make a case for him being mismanaged by his promotional team. You can only take so much from Okolie's stance in recent days. As unprofessional and unprovoked as it may be, he is just trying to do everything he can to force through a quick exit from Matchroom. The 29-year-old clearly sees grander prospects for himself financially and professionally with Sky Sports/BOXXER. A stadium fight against Riakporhe and world title unifications suddenly become easier to make once signed with Hearn's rivals. Just a year into Matchroom's exclusive UK partnership with DAZN, worrying trends are starting to emerge. Not only are fighters looking to leave, but they also failed to secure the rights for Usyk-Joshua 2. That rematch will be shown on Sky Sports box office despite AJ becoming an ambassador for DAZN only a couple of weeks ago. Hearn's move to DAZN was never going to be a smooth transition. They appear to be thriving in the states. Jesse 'Bam' Rodriquez is shining and they also have the Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin trilogy coming up in September.
They have not been as strong in the UK though. Viewership remains low with no licence agreement for pubs or link to the DAZN app via Sky TV in the offing anytime soon.
There is pressure on them to deliver in the UK. Disgruntlement within their stable is likely to grow if there is no upturn in growth anytime soon. BOXXER are in a strong position, with the backing of a massive platform in Sky Sports being a significant boost. Billam-Smith and Okolie are aware of this and they will be major assets to the platform should they agree on permanent deals. Taking away the nature of their switches, Sky Sports is the best place for them. With that, boxing fans will be treated to some tantalising matchups in the cruiserweight division.
The article Sky Sports the home for British cruiserweights if Okolie and Billam-Smith ditch DAZN/Hearn appeared first on Planetsport.com.