By Clive Bernath: Baby faced boxing hero Amir Khan not only proved to be a big hit for Great Britain by winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece last weekend but he was also an overwhelming television ratings success.
An incredible 7.9million viewers tuned into BBC 1 on Sunday lunchtime to cheer on the 17 year-old teenager during his unsuccessful bid to try and topple Cuban great Mario Cesar Kindelan, representing a huge 64% of the available market. And add to that the miles of column inches the Bolton basher's march to the final demanded on nearly all the national newspapers back pages for the last two weeks, and British boxing is firmly sitting on the hottest sporting Icon Britain has produced since Johnny Wilkinson kicked England to World Cup glory.
Once again it has been proved beyond any doubt that when there is a major amateur competition or professional fight night on terrestrial television, the viewing figures stand proud against any other major sport including football.
Khan started the Olympic Games as a relative unknown, even within boxing circles. But the British public soon took the young Pakistani boxer to their hearts when they discovered how young he was and the fact that he was Britain's only representative across all the weight divisions. The audience interest in Khan built as his bouts went on 1.7m watched his first bout against the Greek boxer, but by the time the final came around the audience had peaked at 7.9millon for a Sunday lunchtime, an incredible audience share 64% at that time. The semi final on Friday on BBC 2 averaged 7.2m, a 39% share and peaked at 7.4m. Those figures are the biggest for boxing on the BBC for at least 4 years.
I guess by now you must know whats coming next? Yes you guessed right. Why on earth then are the BBC looking to pull the plug on a sport that they have supported and invested millions of pounds in over the last four years? Why will they choose to lose a sport that is relatively cheap to air in terms of funding and broadcasting? Why with a now experienced and knowledgeable team in place do they decide enough is enough. And lastly, why, when they have just discovered a bright new talent in khan and are about to feature the single most genuine domestic fight of the year (David Haye vs Carl Thompson Sept 10) do they choose to wave goodbye?
I for one really do not understand the logic in spending millions of pounds bringing back a sport and featuring the country's brightest stars in David Haye, Carl Froch and Howard Eastman, only to drop them even before they have fought for major titles.
As I have mentioned previously, there has been no official release from the BBC that they are leaving boxing but the word around small but well informed boxing grapevine is that after the Beeb has honoured their existing contract with David Haye they will walk. The reason, they cannot afford to fund the sport because they have just shelled out £105 million for Match of the Day highlights.
Can someone please explain to me why boxing will soon disappear from our free to air screens? Am I missing something here?
Editor Clive Bernath can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org