Character is key to David Haye’s new stable of boxers – who had their first outing on Dave last week
Former MMA fighter Michael ‘Venom’ Page opened proceedings, dancing his way around his opponent and mocking his rival’s woozy stumbling by pretending to stagger. The headline fight, which saw Olympian Joe Joyce face off against south London rival Ian Lewison, was similarly memorable as Joyce maintained a strong defense against his aggressive rival before mounting an offensive against his tiring opponent. Dave's inaugural Fight Night proved one thing: big personalities define Haye’s stable of fighters.
Page set the tone by arriving in the ring in a gladiator-inspired outfit. Joyce, who won his fight after Lewison’s team threw in the towel in the eighth round, celebrated his victory with a backflip in the ring. Willie ‘Braveheart’ Hutchinson rejoiced at his win by strutting around the ring to the Proclaimers’ ‘I Would Walk 500 Miles.’
Entertainment is at the heart of UKTV’s sports proposition. Director of Commissioning, Richard Watsham spoke to the RTS earlier this year, explaining, “we wanted to commit to a series of fights that would take place free-to-air, but to do so with a certain level of production values and a kind of entertainment spin.”
The new stable of boxers – “Think of them as an ensemble cast,” he said – is made up of “characters that [the audience] can get behind… We’re going to build their stories over a number of fight nights.”
The UKTV team have been successful in that too. Ahead of the fight, former Olympian Joe Joyce – who was making his professional debut – was featured across the media. Much was made of the fact that his mum, who is partially sighted, wasn’t able to attend the fight as she was due to be summitting Mount Kilimanjaro around the time of the final bell.
The campaign was a success. The fight drew double the slot average and was the most watched programme from a non-public service broadcaster.
“You have to have an emotional connection with a boxer if you are then going to be willing to pay for a ticket or really speak the fighter’s name with excitement,” David Haye explained when the RTS spoke to him earlier this year. He agreed that entertainment is at the core of the Dave Fight Nights, adding “We’re going to give you guys some real good entertaining evenings of boxing for nothing.”
The boxing deal UKTV have struck promises five fight nights a year for the next three years, and in their debut outing, all of David Haye’s stable won their fights.
You can catch up on Dave’s Fight Night on UKTV Play.