First of all, on behalf of the Internet community, I'd like to apologize to the fine folks of Manchester, England, and the rest of the United Kingdom for the highly anticipated junior welterweight clash Saturday between Kostya Tszyu and Ricky Hatton (Showtime 9 p.m., ET/PT) taking place at 2 a.m. local time at the MEN Arena.
"It's primarily your fault," said Showtime's boxing czar, Jay Larkin, of the highly unusual start time to this event. "And by you, I'm speaking of the generic Internet boxing reporting. A few years ago we had no problems going over to the U.K. and taking shows on a five-hour delay basis.
"However, since the Internet has become so incredibly popular in reporting, we can no longer take a five-hour delay because the results and the round-by-round action and very often the video clips are available to our prospective viewers five hours before we hit air. So, as a result, we've had to change our policy and for a major show like this one we had to insist that it take place in a live, prime-time zone for us."
For years, boxers have adjusted their training regimens to acclimate themselves to differing time zones or later start times to their bouts. Hatton admitted that he had made some changes in his workout itinerary.
"The previous two weeks, I have been doing my road work at 2 a.m., the same time at which the fight will take place. To be honest, the first three or four days were a little bit awkward and tiring until my body got into the swing of things," Hatton said. "This is my second week now and it just feels like second nature and we have two weeks to go. This week I will go in and do a couple of gym sessions because working out at 2 a.m. is very different, doing sparring and pad work. Obviously, your brain needs to be taking over to do the pad work, where with the road work, to a certain degree, you can just basically get your head down and go with it."
But Tszyu's approach is very much business as usual.
"It does not matter what time it starts if you are ready," he said. "If you are a professional, you have to be ready to fight any time and that is what I am doing. I am fighting 2 a.m., in a different country in the backyard of Ricky Hatton, and I am very confident of my ability to do the job."
"King Kostya" went about this fight like he did any other. For him, it's pretty simple: Go through an arduous and physical training camp, getting his body and mind to come together as one, and then when it's time to punch the clock (no matter when), get to work.
"I decided not to adjust anything," he said of his camp. "Right now, I am very comfortable with what I am doing and I have had lots of discussions with different advisors about it. One bit of advice I have got is, if I am 100 percent ready and prepare really hard and am in good condition, I do not need to change anything really because when it comes to the day of the fight, you are going to be ready. If you train at 2 a.m. every single day, it is like a night shift; you are going to get tired eventually."
Tszyu believes that during the day of a fight most especially in the electrified atmosphere of the MEN Arena in front of 22,000 Hatton partisans that staying up late one night will not be a hindrance.
"Everyone, under special circumstances, can stay up overnight without any problems," said Tszyu, who mentioned that the latest he has ever had to begin a fight was around midnight. "But if you do it over and over again, eventually you will start to get tired. That is one of the reasons why I decided to not adjust my schedule. I decided to live normally, train normally, be ready normally and when it is time, be ready only once."
While the respective boxers had a choice in making any special concessions to the late start time, the organizers did not.
"We at Showtime did not, but the promoters did," said Larkin of Frank Warren, who is putting on this event, which sold out in less than two hours.
"Certainly, in this case, Frank Warren had to have permission from a variety of municipal offices to get this done. Now, the night before we have a fantastic ShoBox card coming from the same venue, Scott Harrison versus Michael Brodie. That one will be on our five-hour delay. That's a concession to our colleagues at BSkyB and to the local fans and it's not a fight at the level of Saturday night's fight. It was a bit of a trade-off for us.
"But a lot of the permits all had to be secured on an individual basis," Larkin continued. "And there were a lot of things to take into
consideration. For example: What times do the pubs close? Two o'clock in the morning in a town like Manchester is a difficult time to stage an event. Things like public transportation have to be taken into account, hotel availability; people can't come to the fight at 8, 9, 10 at night and then drive home three, four hours away. They want to look for places to stay in town.
"By going at 2 a.m., it presents an entirely different menu of problems we have to address."
Larkin can't ever recall his network's televising a fight at such an hour.
"I'm trying to think back and I don't think so. We've done a few fights from Asian locations and the Southern hemisphere, a few from Australia, and the timing there is such that you could do a fight in the middle of Sunday afternoon and it coincides with prime-time Saturday night here in the East Coast," he said.
"So that has never been an issue before. This is a first for us."
And with the late start, the telecast will consist of just the main event.
"That's what it came down to," confirmed Larkin. "I mean we have to acknowledge and recognize that this is a home fight for BSkyB and they don't want a main event going off at 4 o'clock in the morning. So there's a great deal of cooperation that has to take place in order for an event like this to
"If we come on the air with an undercard at 2 a.m., that would go to three, you're looking at ring walks for the main event at 3:15 in the morning and that's asking a lot."
But it seems that the city of Manchester will be staying up as if it was Christmas Eve.
"We've been told that the Manchester City Council is acknowledging that prior to this event, the biggest event they had, the most
moneymaking event for the city, that means restaurants, taxis, hotels, taxes, all the revenue generated by a single sporting event including soccer the biggest event they've had was Tyson-Julius Francis. And Tszyu-Hatton has now surpassed that," said Larkin.