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ZDF makes boxing return with reborn Universum

Live boxing will return to the screens of ZDF after the German public broadcaster announced a rights agreement with Universum, the German boxing promoter.

From November onwards, ZDF will air live boxing during its ‘Aktuelle Sportstudio’ programming, with the first bout to take place on 9 November in Hamburg and another fight card on ZDF is planned for next year.

Fighters to appear during the live coverage will include Artem Harutyunyan, the Armenian-born boxer who won a bronze medal for Germany at the 2016 Olympics in the light welterweight category.

ZDF’s return to the ring comes nine years after it decided against renewing its previous contract with Universum, a deal that was worth around €20m ($22.5m) per year.

The loss of that rights income was a major contributing factor to Universum’s insolvency at the start of 2013. However, the Universum name was revived earlier this year as the promoter relaunched with new investors.

Thomas Fuhrmann, ZDF’s head of sport, said today: “Universum convinced us with their concept and commitment. We want to include authentic boxing again in our diverse sports programming.”

Ismail Özen-Otto, Universum’s managing director, today described himself as “delighted and proud” to have brought on board a broadcaster that share’s the promoter’s “philosophy of fair boxing.”

Universum first began promoting professional boxing fights 35 years ago, having been formed by Klaus-Peter Kohl. It previously represented the world heavyweight title holders Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko.

ZDF pulled out of live boxing coverage in 2010 as it felt there were no heavyweight names to drive strong viewing figures.