Carl Frampton offered chance to give Boxing mainstream exposure it deserves

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British boxing fans have every reason to be delighted with this week's blockbuster news that IBF super-bantamweight champion Carl Frampton's first title defence will be broadcast live on ITV, but will the return to terrestrial television be a one-time deal or the building blocks for a return to the big time?

Frampton has considerable backing in the form of Barry McGuigan, a man who enjoyed the kind of genuine mainstream exposure that current fighters groomed to maximise their potential on pay-per-view with Sky Sports can only dream of.

McGuigan captured the public imagination on a whirlwind run to world featherweight glory in 1985, with his win over Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road watched by a quite incredible 19.2 million viewers on the BBC.

Three decades have passed but McGuigan still carries the same determined, single-minded streak that catapulted him into the public consciousness in Britain and Ireland like no boxer before, although his energies are now focused on fighting to ensure Frampton can navigate his way through the political minefield of prize fighting in the 21st century.

He's done quite a job with the 27-year-old so far too, but both must now prove they are the men to make sure ITV stick around at a time when competition for the rights to show any top sporting event have never been fiercer.

Frampton is a force to be reckoned with

Frampton certainly ticks many of the boxes of a potential crossover star in the same vein as ITV's former stars of the sweet science, a hugely talented but above all exciting fighter at the peak of his powers.

There's a story to match the work in between the ropes two, with Frampton following a strikingly similar path to his more-famous mentor.

McGuigan's own tale is well told but still striking, crossing divides at a time of unparalleled tension in Belfast to be cheered on by both republicans and loyalist towards the top. He was even a catholic that married a protestant, but that didn't stop the bandwagon building to almost unparalleled levels.

Frampton's found his way to the top of his profession along the same lines, blasting past 19 opponents in succession before winning the IBF belt in front of 16,000 countrymen in a purpose-built outdoor arena.

He's genuinely a symbol for hope in Belfast, as sharing Northern Ireland's Sports Personality of the Year award with Rory McIlroy earlier this week proved, but will that add up to strong viewing figures that keep ITV on side and turn him from a provincial to a national or at a push even global commodity?

ITV persuaded to take a gamble

McGuigan certainly thinks so. On the 21st floor of the plush Heron Tower in London last week the 53-year-old was positively purring, working the room like a man on a mission to cut through the 'bullshit', as he put it, and show ITV that Saturday night is still alright for fighting.

He told GiveMeSport: "We wanted the casual fan to know Carl and to get involved in his career and now we have this amazing platform.

"It's an amazing opportunity, its a chance for us to prove boxing has a home on terrestrial television.

"I don't listen to criticism unless its constructive and I don't believe bullshit, which there's so much of in boxing. I know what I'm capable of doing.

"I've got a son who's an extraordinary coach and two boys who are brilliant boxing promoters. I have a fantastic talent in Carl Frampton. Now I have a company that can elevate us two or three rungs up the ladder as far as developing talent, growing out stable. Growing in every shape and form exponentially.

"It's not just good for ITV or Carl Frampton, its good for boxing. I have always believed that boxing has a home terrestrial television, if the deal is right and the figures add up and if we can produce the numbers and provide not just a boxing show, but an event. That's what Frampton does and produces.

"We have always been serious players, people have got to realise we are not in this just for the good of our health. We want to make a major statement and we will do."

Shift in gear for sport in rude health

Boxing was last transmitted live on ITV way back in 2008, when Carl Froch got the best of Jean Pascal in a fight that was shifted to a graveyard early-morning slot in order to accommodate US television networks.

That proved the final straw for a broadcaster with a long-standing reputation of giving boxing every chance to thrive on terrestrial TV, although given the heavyweight triangle of doom involving Audley Harrison, Michael Sprott and Danny Williams that followed a decade ago its a surprise the curtain didn't come down sooner.

Since then the landscape has changed considerably, with Matchroom using the behemoth of an exclusivity deal with Sky Sports to take over with impressive results.

Last summer's super-middleweight showdown between Carl Froch and George Groves at was watched by an incredible 80,000 at Wembley Stadium, a post-war record for live spectators at a boxing match in this country.

Throw in the huge public affection for Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell and following their success at the 2012 Olympic Games and the appetite for boxing in this country has never been bigger.

Fight fans spoilt for choice

Purpose-built satellite channel BoxNation continues to defy the odds as it stretches into a fourth year, while Channel 5 have dipped their toe in the water with some strong returns in terms of ratings.

Broadcasts from Eurosport and highlights packages on BT Sport mean boxing will be transmitted in the United Kingdom on no fewer than six channels when Frampton takes on American Chris Avalos on February 28th.

Fight fans may have justified grievances with being asked to shell out £16.95 for thoroughly underwhelming fights such as Tony Bellew's rematch with Nathan Cleverly, but there's enough choice for them to vote with the remote and look elsewhere in the current climate.

Across a fortnight in February there'll get the chance to watch two fantastic fighters in Frampton and Gennady Golovkin, the Kazakh fighter on a path nothing short of destruction in the middleweight division, for free.

That is surely something to be celebrated, particularly with ITV back at the table and with funds to invest elsewhere after deciding not to try and compete with match the BBC's £204m investment in Match of the Day over the next three years.

Boxing can fill the void but first its up to Frampton to go head-to-head with MOTD and come out with credit, a challenge that he's more than capable of passing with flying colours.

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