The recent rise of British boxing has not escaped the attention of fight fans on the other side of the Atlantic, who have looked on akin to a homeowner peering curiously over his garden fence at his neighbour’s raucous garden party.
Eddie Hearn - the promoter at the forefront of the recent boxing boom in ol' blighty - will begin his quest to export his brand of pugilistic hype to the land of free, starting tonight at at the recently renovated Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York.
Whilst yet to host his first show stateside, the Matchroom Boxing supremo has already succeeded in ruffling the feathers of American boxing's status quo, through his thinly veiled criticism of some of the sport's top promotional outfits. Most notably, Hearn's recent clashes with Lou DiBella - who promotes WBC World Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder - have made for entertaining copy over the past few weeks.
Though it would be naïve to assume that every strategy in the Matchroom playbook can be applied successfully in foreign markets, there are a number of facets to Hearn’s promotional blueprint which have the potential to yield positive results in the saturated American market.
Firstly, main event fighters who are largely unknown on a national level often find themselves headlining shows in seemingly obscure locations around the country. In the U.K., however, a conscientious effort has been made to build a fighter in their home-city, utilising hoards of passionate hometown fans to garner a significant fanbase. It is a model that has not gone unnoticed - even before Hearn's ambitious American adventure - with the likes of pound-for-pound superstar Terence 'Bud' Crawford developing something of a home fortress in the formerly dormant boxing city of Omaha, Nebraska.
Boxing is a niche sport and thus, very few fighters in the world today can garner substantial public interest outside of their home town or state. Therefore, it is surely preferable to have an arena packed with passionate local supporters attempting to roar their charge to victory: as opposed to a sparse crowd made up of curious locals and disinterested comps?
Location aside, Hearn’s shows are an entertainment spectacle which appeal to many sectors of society out-with the traditional boxing audience, described best by the man himself as “a giant nightclub, showing boxing”. Whilst such statements may not sit well with some of those who move in “hardcore” boxing circles, it cannot be ignored that this formula has seen UK boxing shows move out of half-empty leisure centres and into sold-out arenas.
Furthermore, the gregarious promoter has an artful knack of establishing a connection on a human level between his fighters and the sporting public, thus cultivating a deeper affection from fans. Whether you’re tuning into SkySports or browsing YouTube, it is not unlikely that you’ll stumble upon a clip of Eddie Hearn selling the backstory of one of his fighters to anyone who’ll listen... and it works.
It is an ostentatious, smash-your-door-down way of salesmanship that is alien to American boxing promoters and audiences. Matchroom Boxing USA’s inaugural signing Danny Jacobs, for example, is an articulate and dapper Middleweight with undoubted crossover potential. His story is one of notoriety: a contender, who in a few short years went from cancer patient to World Champion, yet it is a remarkable journey that is largely unknown to the wider sporting public. One would have to wonder how many fight fans would have been familiar with Jacobs' incredible story had Hearn been at the helm for the duration of his career.
In addition to his talents as a pitchman, Hearn has enjoyed another major advantage over his domestic rivals over the past six years, in his exclusive partnership with the U.K.'s largest sports broadcaster SkySports. Viewers are regularly serenaded by Matchroom promotional features when tuning in to other major events in the sporting calendar such as football and cricket. This regularly provides Hearn with a captive audience north of a million, upon whom he can attempt to impose his trademark brand of Hearn-hype, in the hope of tempting new fans to tune into his upcoming shows.
The ploy has proved profitable for both Hearn and SkySports so far, with a spike in viewing figures of U.K. boxing events over the past three to four years. Compare this with the PBC model of using multiple networks to broadcast their events: which has resulted in many shows flying under the radar of fully paid up followers of the sport, and in doing so reaching a significantly smaller section of the mainstream sporting market. If Hearn can strike a similar deal with HBO as he has with Sky in the U.K., while difficult, it is not impossible that he can emulate his success across the pond.
While his undoubted business acumen and silver-tongued braggadocio cannot be underestimated, it must not be forgotten that the Essex man has had the good-fortune of presiding over a golden period in British boxing. At one point in 2016, thirteen British fighters held versions of a World title, resulting in world title bouts headlining the majority of Matchroom shows. That being said, the success of Matchroom and their fighters have gone hand in hand, with many British fighters claiming World honours in recent years who may have been unlikely to be afforded such opportunities had UK boxing remained in the state in which it found itself through much of the previous decade.
In-spite of his near monopoly on U.K. elite level boxing, the Hearn has avoided complacency: continually utilising new forms of media as promotional tools, from streaming preliminary undercard bouts on Facebook to hosting live Q&A sessions through his personal social media channels. The prospect of Al Haymon, or one of his representatives interacting with fans in this way remains pure fantasy, and their business has suffered as a result. Every movement needs a frontman who will seize every opportunity to bang the drum for the cause, and for the UK boxing revolution of the past few years, Hearn is that and then some.
From a promotional standpoint, the Hearn revolution must be classed as a success. Success however breeds contempt - illustrated clearly by the less than rousing reception which greeted him upon taking to the mic following Anthony Joshua’s world title unification clash with Wladimir Klitschko. While many of Hearn’s detractors are single-minded in their criticism of the promoter, and would remain steadfast in their views regardless of his actions, there are some who raise valid grievances. To his credit, Hearn has always fronted up to such critique, and while certain answers may be cleverly spun, he remains unique in his receptiveness to inquest.
Popularity aside, even the most fervent critics of the thirty-eight-year-old cannot deny that his intervention into boxing has seen the sport rejuvenated in the U.K. - fighters are receiving higher purses and more world title opportunities than ever before, which has resulted in a steady rise in participation levels at grassroots level. So has Eddie Hearn been good for British boxing? On the evidence just presented, most would have to say yes.
Not content to rest on his laurels, the promoter is once again set to enter uncharted territory. We await to see whether the American boxing public will buy into his unique brand of new age pugilistic promotion, or if his attempts to crack America will go down with the likes of Tesco and Robbie Williams. The proof as they say, will be in the American pie.
Article by: Gareth Gonet
You can follow Gareth on Twitter at: @garethgonet
In just over three weeks’ time, boxing fans will be treated to a historic match-up. On December 9th in Madison Square Garden, New York, Vasyl ‘Hi-Tech’ Lomachenko will defend his WBO Super Featherweight title against Guillermo ‘El Chacal’ Rigondeaux; the first time in boxing history that two double Olympic gold medallists have faced each other in the professional ranks.
The statistics attached to the impending matchup are impressive. Between them in the amateur ranks, the two pugilists went a mind-boggling 871 wins combined to only 13 losses. As professionals, they are multiple world title holders who share a combined record of 26 wins, 18 by way of knockout, with just a single loss.
In view of the historical nature of the match-up and such figures, one would expect it to be one of the most heavily-hyped fights of the year. From Rigondeaux’s perspective: it has been anything but.
Within the last 24 hours, Rigondeaux has taken to social media to express his dissatisfaction with what he perceives to be the under-promotion of the fight. Reading between the lines, it is a clear shot being fired at Bob Arum and Top Rank Promotions, the current promoters of Lomachenko and formerly of Rigondeaux, with whom he parted in 2014 in less than amicable circumstances. For Rigondeaux, the turning point was his decisive 2013 victory over the then-WBO Super Bantamweight Champion and '2012 Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year', Nonito Donaire, who he schooled in a fight which was far more one-sided than the scorecards suggested. Rigondeaux claims that Arum and Top Rank never forgave him for extinguishing the lights of one of the brightest stars in their stable. For Arum and Top Rank’s part, Rigondeaux’s defensive style of fighting made him a far more difficult sell to boxing audience, especially in comparison to the all-action style of the defeated 'The Filipino Flash'.
Carl Frampton returns to the ring at Belfast’s SSE Arena this Saturday, in what will be his debut under the guidance of new promoter Frank Warren and new trainer Jamie Moore. 'The Jackal' will be eager to close the book on a tumultuous period which saw him lose his WBA featherweight world title and have his homecoming bout cancelled at the eleventh hour, before going on to split from trainer Shane McGuigan and depart Barry McGuigan’s Cyclone promotions: all in the space of seven months.
With both camps remaining tight-lipped regarding the fall-out, little is known as to what triggered the Belfast fighters shock August split from the McGuigans. The news came on the heels of weeks of speculation surrounding Frampton’s future with the promotional outfit, triggered by the fighter's resignation from Cyclone’s board of directors on the 21st of July.
The Belfast hero will be seeking to return to winning ways in his home city this weekend, having dropping a twelve round decision to Mexican three-weight World Champion Leo Santa Cruz in their Las Vegas rematch in January of this year. The disappointing reverse remains his last trip to the ring.
In what will be his first non-title contest since April 2014, Frampton will look to unleash ten months of frustration upon featherweight contender Horacio Garcia, who faces the unenviable task of occupying the away corner in-front of a partisan crowd this Saturday. The Mexican enters the contest as a heavy underdog, with his thirty-seven fight record devoid of notable names barring 2012 US Olympian Joseph Diaz, to whom he succumbed to a lop-sided decision victory in December of last year. “Violento”, however, will be looking to seize the opportunity to enter the upper echelons of the 126 pound weight class with a shock-win over one of the division's elite, forcing himself into title contention for 2018.
In Frampton, Garcia will face a fighter who has appeared reinvigorated of late, having rediscovered his love of the sport in working with new trainer Jamie Moore. The former two-weight king joined Moore at his Manchester training base, initially on a trial basis, after his aforementioned split with Shane McGuigan earlier this year. Following a successful inauguration, the Northern Irishman decided he need look no further, and subsequently announced that he would resume his career with the former European 154 pound champ in his corner. In just two short months, fighter and trainer appear to have struck up an almost-instantaneous chemistry, with Frampton making all of the right noises as he bids to make a successful return to the ring.
After piecing together the final parts of his new team in the ensuing weeks - with announcements that he had signed with boxing management outfit MTK as well as Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren - Frampton returns to the sport with a renewed sense of vigour, and will be hoping to recapture the form that made him 'Ring Magazine 2016 Fighter of the Year'.
The move to the Warren stable opens up the possibility of future domestic clashes with both Josh Warrington and IBF World Featherweight Champion Lee Selby, with the latter scheduled to fight on the veteran promoter's December 9th card at the Copper Box Arena in London.
With a plethora of potential big fights on the horizon - both at home and across the Atlantic - the twenty-nine-year-old will look to put a stacked Featherweight division on notice with an emphatic victory over Horatio Garcia in front of his adoring public this weekend.
Garcia will be joined at ringside by fellow Guadalajara native Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who will be hoping to see his Golden Boy stable-mate spring an upset victory. Most however, believe that Garcia would require the Mexican superstar to join him in the ring if he is to have a realistic chance of upsetting the local hero.
After proclaiming 2017 to be "the worst year of my career", Frampton has afforded himself every opportunity to ensure 2018 is, in fact, the exact opposite. While one would imagine sterner - and more lucrative - bouts are on the horizon, Frampton will undoubtedly have his eye fixed firmly on Horacio Garcia this weekend. With an adoring fanbase tuning in on an action-packed evening for Belfast boxing, Frampton will be keen to remind observers of the sport as to who the city's top dog is.
'The Day of The Jackal' is Saturday evening, live on BT Sport and BoxNation...
Article by: Gareth Gonet
You can follow Gareth on Twitter at: @garethgonet
Emerging Super Bantamweight prospect Lucien Reid (7-0-0 4 KO's) has said he will challenge for titles at the beginning of 2018, after a ‘slow start’ since turning over in the professional ranks two years ago.
Reid - nicknamed ‘Lethal’ - established himself as a talented amateur, claiming a Senior ABA Elite 54kg title in 2013 and was a finalist at 56kgs the following year. Thus far as a pro, however, for reasons unknown to him, the East Londoner has struggled to gain momentum.
Following nearly one year of inactivity, Reid resumed his career when he returned to the ring to victorious against Michael Mooney in May, before beating Jose Aguilar in September on the undercard of former-stablemate Billy Joe Saunders' WBO World Middleweight title defence against Willie Monroe Jr.
The 23 year-old looks to continue the reinvigoration process of his career on December 16th at the Brentwood Centre, where he will attempt to improve his record to 8-0 and put on another exciting show for the fans.
"I’ve got no opponent just yet, but I’ll be looking for a more game opponent and I’ll be boxing for titles early next year.” said Reid, in an exclusive interview with Behind The Gloves .
"I know I’m boxing for titles early next year. I’ve spoken to Adam [Booth] and he said when I had come off that long eleven month lay-off it wasn’t the right time to be going into hard fights. He wanted me to get more rounds underneath my belt and learn the trade more as we hadn’t been together that long."
Reid, who parted ways with his former trainer Peter Sims last November, is now - as mentioned previously - under the tutelage of esteemed and highly-respected coach Adam Booth, who he says says is having a massive influence in his corner.
”We’re starting to really bond and I’m really starting to take to the style." he stated.
"He [Booth] wanted me to get more rounds, and December 16th we want a game opponent who is actually going to give me them: then when I fight for titles, I’ll know where my fitness is at over ten to 12 rounds."
Throughout the years, boxing has seen many of its best known participants refuse to acknowledge their decline, instead stubbornly opting to remain in the sport well beyond their sell by date: more often ending in disaster than in glory.
Those in the boxing who reside outside of the ropes however, can enjoy a more substantial lifespan than the sports combatants. One such example is British Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren, who after almost forty years in the fight game is enjoying something of a career renaissance; in no small part due to the signing of his exclusive rights deal with broadcasting giant BT sport in November of last year.
Throughout a stellar promotional career, the Londoner has been a leading player in the UK boxing market, having been responsible for promoting some of the sport’s most illustrious names including Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe and Prince Naseem Hamed.
Warren would see his high standing in the UK market go largely unchallenged throughout the noughties, with main promotional rival Barry Hearn opting to scale down his involvement in boxing in order to focus on other sporting ventures.
In 2011, the veteran promoters decision to leave Sky Sports for his own fledgling network BoxNation - coupled with the emergence of promotional upstart Eddie Hearn (son of the aforementioned Barry Hearn) - would bring an abrupt end to the dominance which Warren had enjoyed over the previous decade. The younger Hearn’s meteoric rise within the sport would see an exodus of top names from the Warren stable, including future world champions George Groves, Tony Bellew and James DeGale, all seemingly enticed by the effervescent Hearn’s bold plans for U.K. boxing.
Without the financial backing of a major broadcaster, the next five years would see Warren struggle to deliver major fights for his top fighters, who were failing to garner wider exposure: owing largely to the fact they were plying their trade exclusively on a subscription boxing channel, well beyond the view of the wider sporting public.
Throughout this period, Warren would lose out to Matchroom in the signing of several much sought after prospects, including 2012 Olympic gold medallists Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell. Warren would also watch from afar as his bitter-rival Hearn accomplished a landmark promotional feat, in selling out Wembley Stadium for the Froch vs Groves rematch in 2014.
Evidently dismayed at losing his position atop the British boxing industry, the Queensberry boss would continually levy public criticism upon his younger rival at every opportunity. The subsequent discourse between the pair would result in a promotional cold war, akin to that seen across the Atlantic between Oscar De La Hoya and Top Rank supremo Bob Arum. The prospect of major inter-stable fights would resultantly enter the realms of fantasy, where it remains to this day.
In recent days, former lineal heavyweight champion of the world, Tyson Fury, released a video on social media of his pad workout at the Hatton Gym, as he continues to talk up a boxing comeback in the near future. Fury, of course, has not been seen in the ring since November 2015 when he sensationally dethroned Wladimir Klitschko on a famous night in Düsseldorf, Germany: rendered inactive by a combination of anti-doping and mental health issues.
In that time, we have been subjected to a painfully predictable and, quite frankly, tiresome trend of Fury vacillating between announcing his permanent retirement from the sport and, alternatively, vowing a comeback to rival Muhammad Ali.
Let me make things clear from the outset: mental illness is a terrible affliction which I would not wish upon anyone.
In this respect, Fury deserves our full sympathy and well wishes. The racism which he has been subjected to by members of the public on account of his Irish Traveller heritage is despicable and must be condemned unequivocally. Moreover, as a boxing purist, I regard him as a talented and heavily underrated exponent of the sweet science. In fact, I would favour a mentally focussed and in-shape Fury to outpoint current WBA 'Super' and IBF world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, should the two ever meet in what would be a blockbuster domestic clash. It would, however, seem that we are still a long way away from both presumptions.
Unbeaten Irish star John Joe Nevin can’t wait to return to the ring on Friday 24th November and kick-start his career as aims to make 2018 his year.
The 2012 Olympic Silver medallist has his first fight in Britain as a professional at the Tolworth Recreation Centre on the undercard of female World Champion Pink Tyson, alongside Lenny Daws, hot prospect Yusuf Safa and many more.
Nevin is heralded as one of the most decorated amateur boxers ever with an illustrious record that reads: Double Olympian, 2012 Olympic Silver, 2 World Bronze, European and European Union Champion, 15 times All Ireland Champion; a staggering 255 amateur contests - of which 210 were Internationals - with just 15 losses.
The Mullingar ace has had various problems from physical, personal and promotional issues since turning professional, but the 29-year-old has put together a solid eight-fight unbeaten record that has seen him campaign in American and Ireland.
His last fight was on 26th August 2016 at the Sugar House Casino in Philadelphia when he defeated Jesus Lule, winning every round in the six-round contest. He was scheduled to fight in September this year, but medical licensing and opponent issues meant that that it had to be postponed.
However, Nevin is now thrilled to return to London where he celebrated the pinnacle of his amateur career by winning Olympic Silver alongside a standout Irish team that included Michael Conlan, Katie Taylor and Paddy Barnes.
“It’s fantastic to return to London where I’ve had so many amateur fights and great memories, but of course the highlight was lifting silver for myself and the Irish team, that is something I will never ever forget,” Said Nevin.
“The Irish team was packed with so many talented fighters like Michael, Katie and Paddy and they’re all doing amazing in the pros. I’ve had my troubles, but through all of that I’m proud to hold an undefeated record and there is so much ahead of me now,”
“I feel that in a way, the rest has made me stronger and maybe that is for the best. Remember, I had 255 amateur fights with almost all of those at a high level over 20 years and I’ve had no real breaks, so now I feel strong again and I just can’t wait,”
Nevin will step up to super-lightweight and take on Killamarsh’s Lee Connelly over six-rounds at the Tolworth Recreations Centre and then look for some big fights next year."
He added, “I wanted a heavier opponent and to get some more rounds in and I didn’t want someone who was going to tumble over so boxing at super-lightweight is where I see myself being most effective from now on,”
“I’m in the gym every day with my trainer Jim McDonnell, he’s a tremendous coach and along with his sons they form a top team and now it is up to me to become a champion,”
“For now I’m focusing on the 24th November and then looking at a big 2018 when I know some exciting opportunities are going to come my way. Long term the aim is to become a world champion and I believe I can do that.”
Female World Champion Pink Tyson, real name Kallia Kourouni, from Sparta, Greece, headlines the show, promoted by Hennessy Sports in association with Joey Pyle and John Edwards.
Morden’s favourite fighting son, “Lightning” Lenny Daws makes his long awaited return to the ring. Daws looks to return to winning ways as he targets a third shot at the European Super-Lightweight crown and win it for a third time following his close attempt in February this year against Anthony Yigit.
Undefeated Bexleyheath Super-Featherweight prospect Yusuf Safa returns to action following his win on the Hughie Fury-Joseph Parker undercard and aims to target his first professional title shortly.
Two-time Olympian John Joe Nevin from Mullingar, Ireland, has his first in Britain as the supremely talented 28-year-old continues to build on his unbeaten record.
Heading up an exciting undercard will be: Iver Heavyweight Naylor Ball; Mitcham Super-lightweight Cheznie Hawkins; Farnborough’s George Lamport, Camberley Lightweight Jonny Phillips; Chertsey Lightweight Tony Vincent makes his highly-anticipated professional debut and Mitcham Super-lightweightZahayr Al Quahtani.
Doors open at 5:30pm with boxing commencing at 6pm.
Source: Hennessy Sports [Press Release]
Top Rank on ESPN will kick off its 2018 season with a sensational Super Bowl weekend world championship event. GILBERTO "Zurdo" RAMÍREZ , Mexico's super middleweight champion with the matinee idol looks, defending his world title. Ramírez (36-0, 24 KOs), from Mazatlan, Mexico, will make his third defense of his World Boxing Organization (WBO) super middleweight title against Top-Five world-rated contender HABIB "Wild Hurricane" AHMED (22-0, 17 KOs) from Accra, Ghana. The fight will take place on Saturday, February 3,at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, TX, and will be televised live and exclusively at 10:30 p.m. EST on ESPN and ESPN Deportes and stream live on the ESPN App.
Ramírez and Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum will announce the fight at a press conference on Thursday, November 16,at 11 a.m. CST, in the Henry Garrett Ballroom C, located inside the American Bank Center(1901 North Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christie, TX 78401).
Promoted by Top Rank ®, in association with Zapari Boxing Promotions, ticketsto the Ramírez-Ahmed world championship event will go on sale This Thursday, November 16,at 10 a.m. CST-- the perfect fistivus holiday gift for your favorite boxing fan! Priced at $152, $102, $62, $42, and $27, including facility fees, tickets may be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com , at the American Bank Center Box Office, Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT, or charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000.
"Gilberto Ramirez has proven that he is the best of the super middleweights All you have to do is look at his world championship victories against Arthur Abraham and Jesse Hart," said Arum. "Gilberto has quickly become the face of boxing on both sides of the border.
“Habib Ahmed is an undefeated fighter with a good knockout record. He is fighting outside of his home country for the first time and that makes him a very dangerous fighter,’ said Ramírez. “He knows that he has a great opportunity in front of him. I’m going to train even harder than for my last title defense. I think this will be a very good fight. My world title and our undefeated records will be on the line. I’m very motivated and focused on defending and retaining my title for the third time against a good opponent. I want to show the world why I’m the champion in the super middleweight division.”
“I have an important message for Gilberto Ramirez,” said Ahmed. “I am coming to America to take your title. I am going for the knockout. All of Ghana and all of my fans are going to be so proud, so happy. This is the opportunity I always wanted. I am taking Ramirez’s title with me to my homeland.”
Ramírez, a two-fisted super middleweight wrecking machine, made history in the co-main event to the Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley welterweight pay-per-view on April 9, 2016, when he became México's first fighter to win a super middleweight world title. Entering the fight as the top world-rated contender, Ramirez gave a virtuoso performance over the defending WBO champion Arthur Abraham, a-three-time world champion in his own right.. All three judges scored it as a 120-108 blitzkrieg. "I took him to Méxican boxing school," a jubilant Ramírez boasted as he put on the world championship belt . A sensational young champion, Ramírez had been scheduled to make his first title defense in July 2016, but a training camp injury to his right hand followed by surgery and rest sidelined him for the remainder of the year. He returned to the ring on April 22, winning a unanimous decision over Top-10 contender and one-time world title challenger Max "Tiger" Bursak and followed that up with another impressive unanimous decision victory, this time over undefeated No. 1 contender and mandatory challenger Jesse "Hard Work" Hart on September 22.
A former Ghanaian super middleweight champion, Ahmed has won eight of his last nine fights by knockout, including the six-bout victory-by-knockout streak he is currently enjoying. In his most recent fight, on March 17, Ahmed stopped Philip Kotey in the 11th round to capture the vacant WBO Africa super middleweight title. This will not only be Ahmed's U.S. debut, it will be his first professional fight outside his native Ghana.
For more information visit: www.toprank.com , www.espn.com/boxing ; Facebook: facebook.com/trboxing , facebook.com/trboxeo , facebook.com/espndeportes ; Twitter: twitter.com/trboxing , twitter.com/trboxeo , @ESPN @ESPNBoxeo
Source: Top Rank [Press Release]