SKY SPORTS believe they will keep Anthony Joshua out of the clutches of new boxing broadcast rivals DAZN.
The streaming service has already snapped up Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn and his stable, with stars like Josh Warrington, Conor Benn and Katie Taylor fighting on the app this weekend in Leeds.
Hearn hopes his long-running relationship with the WBA, IBF and WBO king will help him take AJ over to the market’s new £7.99 a-month force.
But Sky Sports’ head of boxing Adam Smith believes Joshua’s proven loyalty, especially to trainer Rob McCracken after he faced blame for the Andy Ruiz defeat in 2019, will prove to be the deciding factor in keeping him on Sky Box Office.
Launching Sky’s return to boxing with stars like Chris Eubank Jr, Josh Taylor and Caroline Dubois, Smith said: “Anthony was already a star after winning gold at London 2012 and we think we have made him a superstar on Sky.
“He has almost become an ambassador for us and is on pictures all over Sky’s offices all over the country.
“We look at how we build fighters, clever matchmaking and taking people around the country and then taking them to PPV at the right time.
“AJ is loved by the nation, he has the looks and the skill and now he has had the comeback.
“AJ is a massive part of our business so I would be naive to say I will happily watch him leave, we will be fighting hard to keep working with Anthony going forward.
“I think he is a very loyal guy who has stayed with Eddie and Rob McCracken and I think he will be loyal to Sky.”
AJ’s September 25 defence against Oleksandr Usyk at the new Spurs stadium will be Joshua’s last on his current contract with Sky.
AJ has been amazing for us and we are hopeful we can continue doing business in the future
The bidding war can commence on the 26th but bullish Smith believes his company’s PPV platform can hold off DAZN’s advances.
He said: “We have AJ’s next fight vs Usyk and we have worked for a long time getting that to Spurs.
“We have been with AJ for a long time, helping him build up from London 2012 and we are excited about talks and movement in that direction.
“AJ has been amazing for us and we are hopeful we can continue doing business in the future.”
Hearn was a brilliant driving force for Sky boxing in front and behind the camera and eyebrows were raised when Britain’s youngest promoter Ben Shalom was named the Essex mogul’s successor.
But Smith has revealed that Shalom, who created the Ultimate Boxxer brand that recently morphed into BOXXER, is going to take a more low-profile approach to promoting.
“Eddie went and we wanted to stay in boxing,” Smith said.
“We had some great times but we needed to go again and change direction slightly.
“Ben is a very smart and cool guy, he’s different to Eddie, he does not want to be front and centre, the fighters are going to do and be that.
“Ben gave an extraordinary presentation and he has a very strong team behind him.
“It may have been a bit of a shock for the boxing world but he has really impressed me.”
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