This week I was joined by Craig smith and Brendan Gilloly as we spoke about all this weeks big boxing news and previews.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.”We have all heard this epic speech from the sixth instalment of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Movies. This speech features in countless motivational videos on youtube, every few months it appears then reappears on social media and time and time again we will sit back and listen to every word and adapt it to our own lives. I doubt when Stallone wrote this famous scene he knew he was telling the story of the struggles so many fighters endure to chase their dream.
Since I started this website around three years ago I have had the privilege of meeting and interviewing some great characters within boxing . I have been a guest in Boxing Gym’s around the country which has gave me the opportunity to see what the life of a boxer is away from the plaudits and bright lights. Yes, i have always known that these guys are finely tuned fighting machines, but i had never seen the sacrifices and dedication to the sport boxers have up close. I had never sat in a gym and watch these guys do two hours of drills before they go to work and then again after work. I had never looked into a fighters eyes and seen their chilling determination to reach their goal. I had also never seen the pressure applied on a boxer to sell tickets, pay for training camps and the work that goes in behind the scenes to try and secure sponsorship.
On Saturday night I came across a post on social media by IBF European Champion Ronnie “The Shark” Clark saying he had put his IBF belt up for sale on eBay. On closer inspection Ronny says that due to his fight being cancelled for a third time he was in financial trouble and with Christmas just around the corner he had decided to sell his belt to raise cash for his kids Christmas presents. The night Ronny beat Zelfa Barrett to win that title he also won me over as a fan. He was brought in to test an up and coming prospect in Barrett but ultimately he was meant to lose, but Ronny tore that script up and wrote a whole new one. That night in the ring Ronny won over a country. After serving time in prison it looked like this guy had got a second chance at life and took it, but boxing again proves it is no Hollywood movie.
We hear from media outlets like Sky Sports and BT that British Boxing is booming but sadly this just isn’t the case. Just like in society the vast majority of wealth stays at the very top of the sport. The sad facts are that small hall boxing is living hand to mouth and it’s to the detriment to its boxers all over the country. I know for a fact there are small hall promoters who pull fights on the day of the event because a fighter hasn’t sold his quoter of tickets. I also know there are some promoters who pay fighters a low flat rate when they have sold well over there quoter by thousands of pounds. I have spoken to fighters who have fell into depression due to the sheer pressure that is put on them before they have even laced up a pair of gloves. I know boxers who have decided to work a 9 to 5 and settle down with their family rather than deal with extra burden that comes with the professional game.
Now here is a scary thought for you to ponder on. How many boxers with the god given talent and potential right to the very top of the sport lose heart and give up the sport due to the stress and constants battles just get in the ring.
So what a slow couple of weeks it has been for boxing fans . Going through the boxing news looking for inspiration to get an opinion piece out has been painful and disheartening and with interviews not booked in until next week things have been slow . So what could i write about ??? I have never really spoken of my devastation of watching Boxnation “The Home of Boxing” die a slow painful death .
BoxNation was launched back in 2011 the brain child of promoter Frank Warren who had the vison of giving the basket case which is boxing a home . Boxing is a sport like no other when it comes to tv deals due to the amount of platforms world wide that like to dabble in the sport . For so many years international fights could only be seen on dodgy streams online or if YouTube would let people upload the fights without infringing there copyright rules , and if you remember the days before the internet international fight were brought to you through Ring Magazine where you could read reports and even build up relationships with fellow readers across the world by answering adverts and exchanging video tapes via post ….. i am stressed just think about that . Warren had the simple but great idea of giving boxing a home , a place where his stable could be on show to a TV audience who would buy into the idea to have a place to watch these fights and some top class fights from around the world which would otherwise go unnoticed . This idea was met with scepticism across the board as this was a pre Anthony Joshua world we lived in and no matter how you dress it up the sport just wasn’t that big in the UK , boxing was a stop off , a gap filler and nobody is going to subscribe to channel dedicated to it was the cry from many across the board , but for a while they were wrong .
I do not like using the phrase ” Casual ” or ” Hardcore ” for two reasons , one is i think to label yourself makes you a wanker and the second reason is a fan through definition is someone that supports the the sport in some way or another and boxing isn’t a big enough sport for fan snobbery . The ” Hardcore ” element bought into the concept right away, enjoying some great small hall shows and even the prestigious amateur team boxing tournament The World Series of Boxing . As Warren started bringing massive international fights , even securing the rights to bring GGG vs Canelo to the UK screens the ” Casuals ” started to buy into the concept as well and BoxNation was must have for boxing fans .
We all knew from the start that this was never going to to be a massive success and take over boxing but BoxNation did hold it’s own and for a while , it even outperformed the super power that is Sky Sports , forcing Sky to try and compete on the International fight stage , something they had never done before unless there was a PPV attached , as time passed even the most avid boxing fan started to wonder how long this could go on as we had it all and in real terms it wasn’t costing to much to have it either .
For months there had been story’s emerging that the BoxNation was struggling but Frank Warren was in talks with BT Sport , another Super Power in UK sports leading to the assumption that BT Sports would take control of BoxNation and the channel would be safe guarded as long as Warren could keep BT Sports happy , but soon after the deal between Warren/BT Sports was agreed things didn’t seem right . In the beginning BT Sport subscribers were told ” Cancel your BoxNation subscription as it is part of your BT subscription now ” which was fine until the same fans were then told that those who get Boxnation through BT will need to fork out for Canelo/GGG what , what was going on ? Was BoxNation a separate entity ? .With the backing of BT Frank could now attract the like of Carl Frampton and Tyson Fury but in the build up to these domestic superstars shows fans didn’t know if the fight would be shown on BoxNation , which you would think can only be right since people are forking out £12 per month for BoxNation ….well no that wasn’t the case . As it turns out guys like Frampton and Fury were not signed on the same deal that included BoxNation having the rights , which in effect cut this small pioneering tv channel loose . So subscribers were left asking ” What am I paying for ?”
It is obvious that Frank Warren has signed BoxNation’s DNR , the channel which kept his credibility through the hard times of playing second fiddle to Eddie Hearn has been cut adrift and i for one am devastated .The effects are already being felt in the UK with massive international fights like Garcia vs Easter Jnr and Kovalev vs Alvarez going untelevised here in the UK in just the past couple of weeks , a couple of years ago we had it all now it’s back to the same old …from where i am sitting BoxNation is all but dead .
As i sit here writing this article i am watching Matchroom’s Midweek NextGen show at York Hall which will be headlined by Luke Watkins vs Laurence Okolie , a fantastic fight with two young guys who have a great opportunity to to make a big impression on prime time sky sports . Not only is the main event a good fight but Eddie Hearn has made some fantastic match ups on the undercard in a sold out venue on a Wednesday night it really is fantastic promoting , a breath of fresh air after the week Hearn’s rival Frank Warren has had .
Last week I wrote an article called “Why are boxing fans treated with discontent ” which seemed to go down really well with most that read it but little did i know that the best example of this discontent was going to come a few days AFTER i had published . On Sunday the news broke that Billy Joe Saunders vs Martin Murray was cancelled after Saunders pulled out with injury for a second time ……but hey all you people that bought a ticket’s and booked hotels , travel etc to see Saunders vs Murray don’t expect a refund as the show will still be on , just not the main event you paid for .
Rumour has it that this show had only sold around 3000 tickets but it has to asked what was Frank thinking when this fight was made ? It was a fight that nobody was asking for . Since the turn of the year Warren has had nearly as many show’s or fights postponed or cancelled as he has go ahead , it’s actually at the point now were i would advise people not to buy tickets to his shows , and as a boxing fan that really pains me and i would ask what the BBBofC think about this as again fans are being hit in the pocket , not to mention fighters who have paid for full training camps .
I can’t help think that BT Sport have got to be questioning there own decision to partner with Frank Warren to launch boxing on there top class sports platform . Whilst Hearn seem’s to moving on from strength to strength , putting on NextGen shows that could match some of Warren’s card’s , Warren seems to be staggering along like an old dog waiting to be put put his misery .
There is an old saying that an old boss of mine used to use ” If you fail to prepare , then prepare to fail ” and at the time it used to rile me but after seeing how Frank Warren has handled this whole Carl Frampton fighting at Windsor Park in August , i am now finally starting to see wisdom in his words . After Frampton beat Nonito Donaire in his last fight it was announced that Carl would be fighting next in Windsor Park on the 18th August . At the time it had a lot of us thinking who is it going to be as most other real contenders already had fights scheduled and would not leave a lot of time to turnaround .
It had been expected that Warren was hoping that the winner of Warrington/Selby would come through unscathed , even Carl Frampton was ringside to call out the winner which suggests to me that even Frampton thought this was the case . After Warrington beat Selby he looked to be up for a quick return to the ring in Belfast but Frank Warren soon put that to bed in the post fight media conference ……So what now ?
World Champion Leo Santa Cruz will also be busy when he takes on Abner Mares , who is another top ten fighter in the division . Garry Russell Jnr just fought another top 10 contender in Jo Jo Diaz last weekend which would all but put them out of the running , There was talk that Kid Galahad might be drafted in but word is that Galahad will be served up to Josh Warrington as mandatory . Oscar Valdez is recovering from a broken jaw he received against Scott Quigg …..Well there is Scott Quigg who would love to have a rematch with Frampton but there is the small matter of him being an Eddie Hearn fighter and with no title on the line I’m sure Hearn would rather see this show fall apart than let his man save it . One go my friends made a decent prediction that it could be Rigo at a catchweight but i doubt that Carl wants that .
My big fear is that Frank Warren is looking to cash in on Frampton’s fanbase and take advantage of his thousands of die hard fans . The fact is that an opponent has to be named soon to give sufficient time to have a proper camp and the closer it gets the more it is looking like it is going to be an inferior opponent . Frampton said he signed with Warren with the guarantee that he could fight at Windsor Park so i think that puts any talk of this show being cancelled to bed , especially when you factor in that if and when Frampton/Warrington happens it will be in Leeds and not Belfast as Warrington is World Champion and a massive draw himself , whilst Frampton fans have proved in the past they will travel in there thousands . I fear the backlash Warren and Frampton could receive if they don’t pull a rabbit out of the hat here .