IN many ways, Andy Raymond is the voice of Australian boxing.
For the best part of a decade, Raymond has diligently served the domestic boxing audience on Fox Sports, providing a service as both a fledgling ring announcer as well as a play-by-play commentator.
Over time, he has grown in both stature and influence to the point where he is now the go-to-man for promoters who are looking to have their cards televised.
“My role away from fight night is simply the link between Fox Sports and the sport itself,” said Raymond in an exclusive interview with Aus-Boxing. “Be it a promoter, a trainer or a boxer, I serve as the go between trying to organize and assist with the TV calendar. The right or popular decisions may not always be made, but they are always made with one hundred percent passion for the industry and its progression.”
Whether promoters choose to admit it or not, at one time the domestic product that was being offered with regularity on Fox Sports was poor. We saw mismatches and plenty of them, with fighters matched on their ability to sell tickets, which in turn produced a product that reflected negatively on both the sport and its combatants.
However, in recent times that has changed, with promoters competing to produce the best quality cards, with only a selection of any event making it to our airwaves. This has lead to better match ups, more competitive fights and a general improvement in interest between domestic fights.
“The promoters are working together and also in conjunction with the trainers more than they have in years past, and that’s seen a huge improvement in quality of individual fights and cards,” Raymond explained. “Having two local boys matched attracts two separate supporter bases, effectively doubling the interest in a fight compared to when one of the boxers is an unknown, as has been the case in the past.”
“It is critical for the progression of the domestic industry that we grow the supporter base first. From there the corporate supporter base grows and promoters start making money. From there it filters through to the trainers, managers and boxers themselves.”
“The final link in this chain is that it naturally generates more TV viewers, and that’s when the whole thing grows.”
In spite of the terrific local fights that are now being regularly offered by promoters – numbers in recent times have declined – as Fox Sports now potentially looks for an alternative way to deliver our boxing fix. And although the interest on social media appears to be high, as of now, the numbers do not reflect a similar story.
“Boxing on free-to-air television is gone, forever.” Raymond bluntly noted. “As a result Fox Sports is the only possible mainstream avenue and from a television perspective any program is judged solely on ratings and revenue. The sport just doesn’t enjoy the spectator support it once did, not even close.”
“My perfect world sees a live TV card every second week and a studio based magazine style show every alternate week with news, interviews, previews, reviews, feature stories and promotions. However my world is anything but perfect and this will remain an unattainable dream for the time being.”
“Some are of the opinion that live streaming is the way of the future in terms of local boxing and it may well be, but currently numbers are frighteningly low. Its not profitable either. Sad, but true.” Raymond said. “Sadly there are not enough hardcore boxing fans to sustain the industry in Australia. It’s a very small percentage of the population. Even the majority of hardcore sports fans aren’t attending or watching.”
“In 2014 there are so many different entertainment options, be it TV or not. Boxing is now fighting for a very, very small percentage of that and must grow to continue. Of course, opinions vary and this is only my opinion but from my position looking into the industry and not looking from inside out I think it’s pretty close to being on the mark.”
While the viewing audience appears to have dropped substantially with time, there is no disputing both the presence and relevance of social media when it comes to boxing. Facebook and more specifically has revolutionised the way we discuss sport and share information.
Through the use of hashtags, fellow boxing fans, insiders and participants alike are able to converse and share knowledge while fights are being fought. It’s impossible to watch a card on Fox Sports with Raymond duly noting the #ozboxing hashtag to both encourage participation as well as promote its existence.
“Social media is extremely important, but realistically it is extremely limited too,” says Raymond. “However, it’s free advertising and that’s hard to ignore. In terms of the Twitter hashtag, it’s positive that’s its being used in raising awareness of the sport locally. If it can attract just one new attendee to a venue or a new viewer on TV, it’s worth it.”
The interest in Australian boxing both nationally and internationally has been highlighted in the past month, with Australian boxing facing as unprecedented purple patch. In the space of a month, four Australians challenged for legitimate versions of the world title in the US back-to-back.
While their performances were admirable, they were ultimately unsuccessful. In spite of this, Raymond was optimistic about both the performances of our Aussies abroad as well as the next generation of stars that are on their way, such as rising prospects Jeff Horn, Jake Carr and Kye MacKenzie amongst others.
“Our boys are killing it overseas. Not only are they competing, but they are representing positively,” Raymond said. “There are some massive challenges ahead over the next few months for our guys and they all thoroughly
deserve their shot.”
“For a country with about 100 registered active boxers, we are punching well above our weight globally. I’m not convinced overseas success directly relates to immediate domestic growth, but it can’t hurt.”
“The one constant with the fighters coming through, is the fact that these guys are all genuine fighters. Different styles, yes, but their personal makeup and strength of mind is the backbone of their success’. Us Aussies are a tough, resilient bunch.” he continued. “Our fighters coming through have shown that already in their young careers. It’s a huge positive and is setting a trend for others to follow.”
“On the other side of the equation there’s still some with the mentality that protecting a record is the most important part of a career. Most times it’s not the fighter himself, but those around them. Hard to fault a protective manager or trainer though, they’re just looking to do what’s right and best for their guy.”
Words: Brock Ellis
Photo: Louie Abigail/Photography by Rockfingrz