TURLEY ON TUESDAY: Different ends of boxing business show two faces of the sport

Fight for Sale, two careful owners, sensible offers only please.

They’re already calling it the ‘fight of the century’. Slightly presumptuous, as after this year there are 85 more to go before the century is done, but once Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather and the Pacman, Manny Pacquiao finally put pen to paper last month, there was no way it was going to be anything else. The combatants may be 38 and 36, respectively and spent years studiously avoiding each other in their primes, but there is a literal fortune to be made and the real gods of boxing, HBO, Showtime, Top Rank and Golden Boy knew it was their last chance to cash out.

Jeff Powell has reported in the Daily Mail (not necessarily the most trustworthy of news sources, but still) that Sky have won the UK broadcasting bid and will be showing the bout on their pay-per-view, Box Office platform. As things stand, wide-boy Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport is contracted to provide the broadcaster with two PPV events a year, but the Essex smoothie has royally screwed up of late, firstly with the car crash that was Bellew v Cleverly and then by failing to sign an April fight between George Groves and James Degale at the O2 in London.

Faced with the prospect of no PPV show at all in the first half of this year, it seems Sky pulled out all the stops, bid insane amounts of money and have probably over-reached themselves. While it is probable that records will be broken across the Atlantic where the bout is expected to become the first half-billion dollar grossing fight in history, two things must be remembered within the American context. Firstly Mayweather is an American and although irritating to some, his Hip-Hop manner and ostentatious wealth chime with the predilections of many of his countrymen. Secondly, the fight will be due to start before midnight in the States meaning fans won’t need to resort to illegal stimulants in order to watch it. Off the back of that, mortal enemies HBO and Showtime have locked themselves in a one-off embrace of avarice to split the pot. The US public will be assuaged by slick marketing and the old 24/7 stuff, convincing them to part with $100 to watch at home.

That’s worth pausing to emphasise. It may be normal over there, but one large, a ton, a big one – one hundred dollars to view a sporting contest on TV in your own house? There will surely come a time when social historians will review the early 21st century and use this as evidence of the total decay of western culture.

Sky have yet to announce their tariff, but wild rumours are circulating that in order to recoup their outlay they will need to match the 1.2 million buys achieved for Ricky Hatton v Mayweather in 2008. This seems monumentally unlikely. They will also be charging an all-time-high fee of £25 or more, with some insiders suggesting as much as £50. If there is any truth to this, a spectacular own-goal surely awaits.

The Hatton fight sold well because Hatton was in it. In case they’ve forgotten, he was English and very, very popular. Selling this one to casuals is not such an easy task – how many of them will be willing to pay through the nose for a fight between a yank and a Filipino being televised at 4am? The hype will have to be the most overwrought ever.

Not to be outdone, the WBC have contributed to the general atmosphere of excess and superficiality by creating a new ‘Emerald’ belt for the occasion. What that is actually supposed to mean is anybody’s guess. Despite all of that, there’s no denying that the fight itself remains an interesting one, although the performances of both men have slipped in the last few years. It’s unlikely to produce fireworks, though. I suspect Money May will be a touch too big for the Pacman, will avoid his combinations and outbox him off the back foot, taking a points decision in a technical bout that isn’t particularly exciting. As always though, the boxing business is far more concerned with the business than the actual boxing.

While sums comparable to the UK budget for foreign military aid were bandied about in Vegas, at the other end of the fistic universe, in the East End of London, sanity raised its head.

Luqmaan ‘Prince’ Patel, a flyweight novice, took a leaf out of the Mayweather / Broner ‘how to promote yourself’ manual by giving a truly astonishing interview with IFL TV after his debut at the York Hall in Bethnal Green. The video clocked 20,000 views within a week and makes for curious and uncomfortable viewing. During 11 toe-curling minutes the egotistically challenged youngster manages to repeatedly cover his personal greatness, his views on several other fighters, most notably Charlie Edwards and the size of his penis. In case you haven’t had the pleasure, I’ll post the video here.

The backlash was pretty fierce and while some defended the 22 year old southpaw, acknowledging that he was only trying to generate interest, many more absolutely hammered him. He made instant enemies all over the fight game. Several managers and promoters went as far as saying they would not allow their boxers to compete on shows at which he was participating.

For the record, the kid was a decent amateur, although well known for throwing tantrums, such as after being DQ’d in the ABA finals in 2013 against Sheffield’s Waleed Din.

Regardless of his history, and he does appear to have some talent, the level of hyperbole with which he was describing himself was completely disproportionate to having just stopped a Slovakian with a 0-3 record in his first fight. (Din incidentally stopped the same opponent in the first round last November). Initial post-video reactions from manager Steve Goodwin were lukewarm. The manner that Patel thrust himself into the limelight guaranteed big ticket sales in future, but he would potentially drag the Goodwin name down with him into a vortex of obscene ranting.

Eventually, one week after the interview was aired, Goodwin promotions released a statement saying that Patel had been released from his contract.

“We are a family run organisation and look after many boxers and managers. We have an ethos within our company which we require everyone to work with. We did not feel Mr Patel fitted in with that ethos and decided to part company.”

A potentially lucrative, ticket-selling fighter dropped by his promoter for acting like a moron? Bravo Steve Goodwin. Although I also feel a little sorry for Patel, a silly lad who may find it hard to restart his career after this.

Quaint though it may be, that basic British attitude toward respect and manners will be another reason Money v Pacman might be a harder sell over here than Sky realise.



Mark Turley’s book ‘Journeymen, The Other Side of the Boxing Business” is available in kindle or hardback from bookshops and Amazon, now.

His next book, ‘Wiped Out?’ The Jerome Wilson Story will be available for pre-order shortly.




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