The Big Fight Live
|The Big Fight Live|
|Presented by||Jim Rosenthal|
|Opening theme||Drive to the Boatyard - Ilan Eshkeri|
|Country of origin||UK|
|Original channel||ITV, STV, UTV,
|Picture format||Originally PAL,
later 720x576 (anamorphic 16:9)
|Original airing||1984-1995, 2005-2010|
The Big Fight Live is a British boxing television programme, broadcast by ITV Sport regularly until 1995 and again since 2005.
ITV's boxing coverage had largely been confined to big fights from the USA in the 1970s and early 80s, which were covered as part of World of Sport and as separate programmes. Until 1984, they were largely shut out of British domestic boxing due to a cartel operated by promoters such as Jarvis Astaire, Harry Levene and Mickey Duff, who had contracts with the BBC.
ITV obtained the rights to show fights promoted by then-rebel promoter Frank Warren's Sports Network in 1984. Until the early 1990s, the programmes were titled Boxing, World Championship Boxing, or shown as part of Midweek Sport Special. Until 1985, boxing continued to be shown on World of Sport, before the programme was axed. In the early 1990s, all boxing on ITV was branded The Big Fight Live. This was a particularly fruitful period for ITV's boxing coverage, as they featured fights involving boxers such as Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Naseem Hamed. These were produced by LWT for the ITV Network, and drew large audiences.
At the start of 1996, Sky Sports won the rights to show Sports Network fights, leaving ITV with only occasional boxing for the following ten years. Their only networked boxing during this period were a few fights involving Shea Neary, thanks to a contract with Merseyside promoter John Hyland. Other bouts were shown on ITV2 and the ill-fated ITV Sport Channel. Other boxing was shown on a regional basis, but this was rare.
In May 2005, ITV returned to the ring, with live coverage of Amir Khan's last fight before becoming professional against Mario Kindelan. It achieved a peak audience of 6.3 million viewers, encouraging ITV to reach a long-term agreement to show future Sports Network boxing promotions.
In June 2005, the network won back the rights to show Frank Warren's Sports Network fights and as a result broadcast fights involving Amir Khan, Joe Calzaghe, Danny Williams, Audley Harrison and others. As of September 2007, their coverage of Sports Network promotions was shared with Setanta Sports, with only Amir Khan fights remaining with ITV.
On 6 September 2008, Amir Khan switched to Sky from ITV, signalling the end of the network's contract with Frank Warren's Sports Network. Later that month, ITV announced a 2-year deal with Hennessy Sports for coverage of 26 fights. The majority of fights are due to be screened on ITV4 and once again will be hosted by Jim Rosenthal, who returned to ITV having previously been sacked in early 2008.
The main host of ITV Boxing is Jim Rosenthal, who returned to the programme after presenting ITV's Formula One coverage from 1997, on its return in 2005. Barry McGuigan left Sky Sports in 2005 to continue his role as a pundit on ITV. Commentary is provided by John Rawling and Duke McKenzie. Gabriel Clarke provides reports and interviews with the boxers. The main event is usually shown on the ITV Network while undercard matches are often televised on ITV4. Before 1996, the main commentators had been Reg Gutteridge and Jim Watt, both of whom moved to Sky while continuing to commentate for the few boxing shows ITV televised in the late 1990s, which were presented by Russ Williams[disambiguation needed]. Graham Beecroft commentated on boxing on a regional basis during the late 1990s.
- "Hatton, Calzaghe and Khan on ITV". BBC News. 1 July 2005. Retrieved 20 March 2007.
- BFI Film & Television Database: "The Big Fight - Live!"
- . http://www.frankwarren.tv/drill/News/Articles/2007/07/11/text-warren-signs-deal-with-setanta.html Press Release at frankwarren.tv - 'Warren Signs Deal With Setanta']