ITV Sport is to step back into the boxing ring for the first time in almost five years after announcing it will screen live coverage of IBF super bantamweight champion Carl Frampton’s eagerly-awaited first title defence against Chris Avalos.
In a one-off deal with Barry McGuigan’s CWM Cyclone Promotions, boxing fans will be able to enjoy live free-to-air coverage of this highly-anticipated world title bout from Belfast’s Odyssey Arena on Saturday, February 28.
Frampton’s fight against Avalos will be broadcast live and exclusive on ITV’s flagship main channel, which spearheads a top quality undercard, featuring a world title eliminator plus a number of exciting international bouts involving some of the best prospects in British boxing, which will be screened live on ITV4.
The fight will be the first world championship match staged in the UK to be broadcast live on terrestrial television since Carl Froch beat Jean Pascal for the WBC Super Middleweight title in December 2008.
Amir Khan featured in ITV’s last live boxing broadcast against Paulie Malignaggi in New York back in May 2010, while the channel also covered Frank Warren and Mick Hennessey events between 2005 and 2009.
Since 2011, Channel 5 has been the sole free-to-air broadcaster of professional boxing, following the fortunes of the likes of Tyson Fury, James DeGale and Kid Galahad, in a rolling deal with Hennessy Sports.
ITV’s re-entry into the ring will be welcomed by many within the sport who have suggested in recent years that boxing has failed to capitalise on the massive cross-over audience available on terrestrial TV, instead preferring to go down the pay-TV or pay-per-view route.
Undefeated Frampton, who’s previous fights have been televised on Sky Sports and BoxNation, is one of the most explosive talents in world boxing and follows in the footsteps of mentor McGuigan, himself a former ITV boxing pundit, as the latest superstar to emerge from Belfast.
The Odyssey Arena, known as ‘The Jackal’s Den’, will be packed to capacity with 9,000 devotees creating one of the most daunting atmospheres in world boxing for the American Avalos, ranked number one challenger by the IBF and WBO.
McGuigan said: “This is a great day for Carl Frampton and CWM Cyclone Promotions but it is also a great day for the sport of boxing. We are very excited to be partnering with ITV in bringing World championship boxing back to the mainstream public.
“ITV have for the past thirty years been at the forefront of big time boxing on terrestrial television and it is excellent news that Carl Frampton will become the latest in a long line of World champions who have boxed on ITV.
“Frampton vs Avalos is going to be a cracking contest between two of the best Super Bantamweights in the World. The viewers on ITV are in for a fantastic evening of World class boxing.”
IBF champion Frampton said: “I am delighted to be defending my World title live on ITV on the 28th of February. When I was a young lad all of the big fights were on ITV so to be defending my World title on the channel is a dream come true.
“Boxing needs mainstream exposure and I am thrilled to be part of its return to terrestrial television with ITV.”
Niall Sloane, ITV’s director of sport, said: “This fight presents an opportunity to showcase a young, exciting British boxer to our audience. We’re looking forward to bringing viewers an evening of world class boxing.”
‘This is a first step back into boxing for us and it is very exciting. It used to be that fighters were built up on terrestrial television before going on to pay-per-view with the likes of Sky.
‘But lately the wider public have been deprived of the chance of seeing brilliant youngsters like Carl.’
“Carl is a very exciting boxer and we regard this as a major opportunity for him to showcase his talent on terrestrial TV.”
If Frampton’s fight delivers significant audiences, Sloane also hinted there could be more live boxing on ITV in the future, with the potential to revive the golden era when Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Michael Watson were ratings winners in Britain’s dominant age of middleweight fighters during the 1990s.
Craig Droste, General Manager of London-based Forex trading company CWM FX said: “As proud sponsors of CWM Cyclone Promotions we know how hard Carl and the team have been working in the build up to this world-class fight and it’s fantastic news that this momentous occasion is going to be shared with millions of viewers live on ITV.”
Under the guidance of promoter Barry McGuigan and his trainer son Shane, Frampton is already a national hero in Northern Ireland – now he wants to enhance his reputation with a win against the loud and confident Avalos in front of the ITV cameras on February 28.
Details of ITV’s coverage of the fight, including presentation, commentary line-ups and broadcast schedules, can be found below.
Top-level boxing returns to ITV for the first time in five years with the IBF World Super Bantamweight title fight between champion Carl Frampton and Chris Avalos from the Odyssey Arena in Belfast on Saturday, February 28.
Billed as ‘The World Is Not Enough’, the fight night is on home territory for Frampton, 28, who won his belt in September in Belfast by defeating Kiko Martinez by unanimous decision, after knocking him down in the fifth round.
The undefeated Ulsterman boasts a 19-0 win record, with his last six victories coming in his hometown, and now he faces 25-year-old American Chris Avalos, the current WBO NABO Bantamweight Champion who has only lost twice in his 27 professional fights.
ITV Sport will screen full coverage of its first major fight night in nearly five years, with Mark Pougatch, who recently took over as ITV’s lead football presenter, anchoring all the live action across ITV and ITV4.
Joining Pougatch at ringside throughout the evening will be a host of special guests, including former WBA Heavyweight champion David Haye, renowned American broadcaster Al Bernstein, and former world champions Richie Woodhall and Bernard Dunne, with big fight commentary led by Ron McIntosh.
For the main event, Frampton and Avalos will be called into the ring by world-famous announcer Michael Buffer, whose catchphrase, ‘Let’s get ready to rumble!’ has become synonymous with big fights.
Live coverage begins on ITV4 at 7.30pm with the main undercard fights and the build-up to the big fight, before switching to ITV for the main event at 10.50pm.
Among the fights on the undercard is a ten-round contest between exciting Brixton heavyweight Dillian Whyte, who boxes Georgia’s undefeated Beka Lobjanidze.
ITV’s coverage will be available to watch live online via ITV Player, where fans can also catch-up on all the action shortly after broadcast.
Commenting on his role as an ITV pundit on the night, David Haye said: “I am really looking forward to going to Belfast. The atmosphere will be electric as it always is for the big fights there.
“This fight is going to be tough and extremely exciting. A win for Carl Frampton against Chris Avalos will rubber stamp Carl’s world class credentials, but he must not take anything for granted.”
Haye added: “It’s fantastic that Barry has secured this fight to be shown on terrestrial TV. Not only will it be fantastic for Team Frampton but its also superb for boxing as the sport is back on major terrestrial television again.”
Saturday 28th February
CARL FRAMPTON v CHRIS AVALOS
Undercard – LIVE: 7.30pm-10.45pm ITV4
Main Event – LIVE: 10.50pm-12.30am ITV