The phrase ‘boxing is a business’ is a statement you hear numerous promoters and fighters spout pretty much every time they make a fool of themselves – it’s their get out of jail free card. It was Tony Bellew’s excuse for acting like Barry Grant a few weeks ago, post-destruction of BJ Flores, and it’s also Eddie Hearn’s go-to rationale for being a walking contradiction.
The problem is, boxing is NOT a business. Boxing is a sport, probably the toughest sport on the planet, it just happens to be run by businessmen. By all accounts, it’s one of the lesser sports in terms of monetary business when you compare it to other more lucrative sports but it’s still run by businessmen nonetheless, or to paraphrase Mike Tyson it’s run by ‘slimey, reptilian mother f***ers’.
Ever since Eddie Hearn penned his exclusive deal with Sky Sports we have seen the face of Matchroom boxing actively segregate himself from working relationships with other UK based promoters. Regardless of Hearn continually stating that he is willing to make the biggest fights with rival promoters, and although it does happen on the odd occasion, his personal comments on; rival promoters, rival promoted fighters, the way they do business and even their dress sense is not only unprofessional but it makes working relationships extremely difficult. See the Frampton v Quigg negotiations for evidence of this and will Khan v Brook ever happen?
As the televised boxing monopoly was being created over the course of the past few years by Matchroom and Sky, many things with British boxing did improve, such as; audience sizes, PPV buys, gate size, Eddie’s bank balance – but why?
According to Hearn, the product has improved, but has it really? In my opinion, no. It hasn’t. How can we agree that the product is better when we are being charged a subscription fee and then PPV on top of that to watch total mismatches and having suspect scorecards rammed down our throats on almost a weekly basis? We are seeing governing bodies make audacious decisions – this week on a Matchroom show and we are listening to some of the most biased commentary from apparent experts on Sky Sports.
Everybody seems to be singing from the Matchroom hymn sheet, even one of my favourite pundits, Paulie Malignaggi was guilty of this during the build up to and throughout the GGG v Brook fight and he usually tells it as it is. Whatever happened to Ian Darke and Glenn McCrory?
You should fear the Matchroom Mafia and by the sounds of the nervousness in Tony Bellew and Paul Smith’s voices when they were questioned around scores for Jamie McDonnell’s bout this past Saturday in Monte Carlo, they do too. Although McDonnell appeared to be clearly losing, I lost count of the amount of times Bellew and Smith sat on the fence and talked about ‘it’s what you like’ or ‘you could score it either way’.
The whole ‘improved product’ is a fugazi and no amount of flashing lights, pyrotechnics or symphony’s of ‘Sweet Caroline’ is going to disguise that. The fact that it is even referred to as a product shows how corporate they are trying to push the working man’s sport.
In my opinion we are just in a fantastic era of British boxing with the current flock of world champions and credit shouldn’t go to the businessmen behind the scenes, it must go to those who have pushed and developed the amateur scene at international level. Ever since Amir Khan captured a silver medal in the Athens Olympics back in 2004 the funding has been available to allow the best amateurs to train full-time. Since which time we have seen the likes of; Amir himself, Tyson Fury, Billy-Joe Saunders, James DeGale and Anthony Joshua all become professional world champions, all of whom were products of said funding and development. Therefore, as long as Britain continues to produce great fighters from the development scene and beyond, the popularity of the sport will continue to grow as these fighters will inevitably find themselves in huge fights, with or without Matchroom and Sky.
As Frank Warren recently announced a deal between BT Sports and Boxnation to televise 20 live shows per year, I only hope that this deal breaks the Matchroom monopoly and in-turn Hearn improves his attitude towards the sport – before he damages its reputation beyond repair.