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
Tickets for the blockbuster Heavyweight World title unification clash between Anthony Joshua MBE and Joseph Parker go on pre-sale to Matchroom Fight Pass members at midday on Monday January 22 and general sale on Tuesday January 23 ahead of the March 31 event live on Sky Sports Box Office.
Tickets for the event are priced at £40, £60, £80, £100, £150, £200, £300 and £600 – with VIP tickets priced at £2000.
Tickets go on sale for the fight by the official ticketing partner, www.StubHub.co.uk
Coach packages also go on sale at midday on Tuesday via www.seetickets.com with various pick up/drop off locations available throughout the UK.
For accessibility, ambulant and wheelchair tickets – please contact the Principality stadium via 02920 822432 – also on sale from midday Tuesday.
Don’t miss out on tickets. Sign up now and add your delivery address and payment details on StubHub here
Official Hospitality packages are available to purchase directly from Principality Stadium Experience. Both private suite and premium lounge packages are available to purchase, with prices starting from £450 per person + VAT. For further information please call the team on 02920 822 413.
Official Hospitality packages are also available via Sportsworld via www.sportsworld.co.uk or by calling 0208 9712966
You are strongly advised to plan your travel to Cardiff before purchasing your tickets and will need to allow plenty of time for additional security checks at Principality Stadium.
Source: Matchroom Boxing [Press Release]
Boxing is in great health.
2017 was a huge year for the sport and potentially 2018 could be even better. There are issues within the sport that are simply unfixable, but here is a personal wish list of pipe dreams that I would love to see come to fruition.
Some things will never change and they don’t help boxing: despite it being in rude health. PPV marginalises the sport, StubHub and touts are preventing real fans from attending fights and the sanctioning bodies will continue to create new titles and dilute the landscape even further.
To top it off, there are some simply shocking officials around. Some of whom operate on these very shores, which at least has made people realise that the "robbed in Germany" argument is something that can be applied just as much over here in Britain.
We’ve had "hacks" and backdated drug bans (which has certainly made things interesting between current and former heavyweight champions in the U.K.) whilst some fighters have gone too far on social media, potentially damaging their career irreparably in the process due to ignorance.
Whatever your thoughts - mine included - it keeps boxing in the forefront. People are talking about and more interested in the sport than they have been for a long time.
Dillian Whyte (22-1-0, 16 KO's) and Lucas Browne (25-0-0, 22 KO's) have finally agreed terms to fight, following a protracted - and entertaining - back and forth on social media for the past year. The two outspoken heavyweights will square off at London's O2 Arena on the 24th March, in a bout that had promoter Eddie Hearn tweeting "quite frankly, this is going to be violent!".
The acrimony between the two fighters has been building for some time, with both men trading verbal blows on Twitter in a bid to goad the other into a response. Whyte, who will defend his WBC Silver heavyweight title, is known for his trash-talk, and has been clamouring for a high-profile bout in recent times - most notably against WBC World champion Deontay Wilder.
Australian slugger Browne - another who is no stranger to verbal warfare - had been in negotiations for an all-Oceanian showdown with New Zealand's WBO World champion Joseph Parker, but had long declared his interest in a fight with Brixton-based Whyte. After seeing negotiations apparently stall several times previously, the bout has now been made: much to the delight of fans eager to see the grudge match.
Since suffering his sole career defeat to arch-nemesis Anthony Joshua in December 2015, Whyte has gone on to show significant improvement. He has fought six times since - winning all six - including a 'Fight of the Year' candidate with former World title challenger Dereck Chisora, and a dominant unanimous decision victory against Finnish fringe contender Robert Helenius in his most recent outing.
Whyte, known as 'The Bodysnatcher' due to his penchant for going to his opponent's mid-section, survived an early scare against Helenius, before outworking him throughout the contest. In something of an underwhelming bout, Helenius suffered an apparent bicep injury, leaving him in survival mode for large periods and refusing to engage. With the win, Whyte claimed the WBC Silver title, manoeuvring him into position for a shot at Deontay Wilder's WBC title. However, the proposed match-up was unable to be made, leaving Whyte without a dance partner: enter Lucas Browne...
After reaching the ultimate high of knocking out Ruslan Chagaev for the WBA World championship, things have not, however, been so smooth for 'Big Daddy' Browne. In the immediate aftermath of the contest, Browne was subsequently banned for testing positive for a banned substance, thus surrendering his newly-claimed World title and leaving his career in tatters.
Despite later being cleared of any wrongdoing, Browne would fail his second test in twelve months in November of 2016, and would serve a six-month ban. He would make his return to the ring with a second round stoppage of Matthew Greer in June 2017, and wasted little time in clamouring for a crack at Dillian Whyte.
With both men promising an explosive event - both inside and outside of the ring - the match-up has been well received by boxing fans. Will Whyte's recent activity and solid victories be the determining factor? Or will the hammer-fisted 38-year-old Browne overcome his bristly opponent and gain one more shot at World title glory?
The winner will almost certainly go on to challenge one of the divisional elite in 2018. However, the loser will find themselves in the wilderness, with both men facing a significant rebuilding job should they suffer defeat on March 24th.
The Ali Trophy semi-final clash in the super middleweight edition of the World Boxing Super Series between Callum Smith (23-0, 17 KOs) and Juergen Braehmer (49-3, 35 KOs) takes place at the Arena Nürnberger Versicherung, Germany on February 24.
“We are very much looking forward to bring the Ali Trophy experience to Nuremberg on February 24,” said Kalle Sauerland, Comosa’s Chief Boxing Officer
“Smith vs. Braehmer - England vs. Germany - it’s a classic anyway, but this one pits youth vs. experience. Smith is eager to show the world he is the best while Braehmer is entering the last chance saloon. The outcome is unpredictable, it’s going to be a thrilling night in Germany and a fitting event for the last of our semi-final fixtures.“
Both 27-year-old Smith and 39-year-old Braehmer appeared as serious contenders to win the Muhammad Trophy with their quarter-final performances last year.
Britain’s Smith claimed a 116-112, 117-110, 117-111 victory on the judges' cards and advanced to the semi-final after a thrilling match against Sweden’s Erik Skoglund at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
Germany’s Braehmer proved age is just a number when he beat American hope Rob Brant in dominant fashion at the Kongresshalle in Schwerin with the judges scoring it 119-109, 118-110 and 116-112 in favour of the former light heavyweight world titleholder.
“I believe I will beat Jurgen Braehmer anywhere in the world and it is a nice away trip for my fans,” said 27-year-old Callum Smith before adding: “I am the better man, the younger, fresher man, and I believe I will do what needs to be done to get to the final.”
“I am looking forward to the fight,” said 39-year-old Juergen Braehmer.
“Callum is a good fighter, but I feel confident that I will win this fight. I am in this tournament because I strongly believe I have the ability to win it. Next step towards my goal is a victory in Nuremberg.”
Tickets for the Ali Trophy semi-final bout Smith vs. Braehmer will go on sale next week. Fans are asked to sign-up for ticket alerts at worldboxingsuperseries.com to receive the Ticket Link directly to their inbox, and avoid disappointment.
Twitter blows recently rang out after WBO Inter-Continental flyweight champion Paddy Barnes (5-0-0, 1 KO) called out WBO World flyweight champion Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9 KO's) for a potential clash.
However, fellow unbeaten prospect, the WBO European super flyweight Champion Sunny Edwards (6-0-0, 2 KO's), took exception to the news, taking to Twitter himself and engaging in a prolonged back-and-forth with Barnes, with both men seeking the mental edge over the other.
“I saw him [Barnes] calling out Sho Kimura, and I’m scratching my head thinking "there is no chance you are gonna beat him and there is very little chance you are even gonna get the fight." said Edwards, in an exclusive interview with Behind The Gloves .
A match-up with Barnes is one that Edwards is supremely confident in emerging victorious from - and can’t understand why the Irishman is avoiding a bout that British boxing fans are calling for.
“Sometimes I come across as quite outspoken, maybe borderline controversial: but it’s a fight I’m a thousand percent confident with."
"It's also a fight that I know he is not confident with. He’s running a bit scared at the moment, whether that will change or not? I don’t know.” Edwards finished.