MATCH ROOM BOXING
Major contests promoted or co-promoted – Saul Alvarez-Gennadiy Golovkin III, Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua II, Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano, Dmitry Bivol-Alvarez, Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez III, Leigh Wood-Michael Conlan.
Positive – They were again the most prolific promotional group in the world, staging events – largely of a high standard – all over the globe… Their leader, Eddie Hearn, remains the most charismatic of all promoters and continues to draw loyalty from superstars like Saul Alvarez , Anthony Joshua and Katie Taylor… Furthermore, Hearn is clearly a boxing fan at heart who is eager to stage the sport’s biggest events… The Matchroom Boxing team continues to expand, and are predominantly knowledgeable, passionate and friendly… The current state of women’s boxing can largely be attributed to the building blocks Hearn put in place several years ago with 2022’s Taylor-Serrano blockbuster taking that development to new heights… Matchroom’s focus on divisions like super-flyweight, where some stellar matchups were made, deserves far more credit than it gets.
negatives – Regardless of Hearn’s feelings behind the scenes, his efforts to push forward with Chris Eubank Jnr-Conor Benn, while knowing the latter had failed two separate drug tests, left an indelible black mark… DAZN’s failure to attract the numbers Hearn was so proud of at Sky Sports is not his fault – nor DAZN’s, necessarily – but has certainly impacted upon his appeal, both to fighters and the public… The spat with Lawrence Okolie did Matchroom no favors and highlighted the difficulty they have in keeping all members of a huge stable happy… Anthony Joshua’s fall from grace means their influence in the heavyweight division, the sport’s glamor division, has waned when compared to Queensberry… Hearn’s ego was as much a curse as a blessing in 2022… Though Hearn will admirably talk to all outlets at a press conference, he’s only accessible to IFLTV when difficult questions need to be posed… Continues to ignore Ringside Charitable Trust, the only registered charity in the UK to help ex-boxers.
Outlook for 2023 – The ongoing development of DAZN is crucial to Matchroom’s progress but, for now, they remain the biggest player – fight-for-fight – in world boxing. What happens, however, if Canelo loses to Dmitry Bivol, Joshua fails to regain his momentum and Katie Taylor retires?
The Verdict – The Eddie Hearn of five-to-10 years ago is showing signs of aging. The young and fearless schtick that served him so well on the way up, when he was quick to poke fun at his promotional rivals, came back to bite him to a degree in 2022. Hearn’s failure to wash his hands of a bout containing a fighter who’d twice failed a drug test highlighted that the sport and its reputation isn’t as close to his heart as we once hoped. From his point of view, however, the need to protect a fighter deemed as a future PPV star was understood to a degree. Hearn and Matchroom were the top promoters of 2022 if you judge them solely on the action in the ring.
Major contests promoted or co-promoted – Claressa Shields-Savannah Marshall, Kell Brook-Amir Khan, Josh Taylor-Jack Catterall, Chris Eubank Jnr-Liam Williams.
Positive – Considering they started the year with barely any fighters in their ‘stable’, Boxxer’s progress in 2022 was both substantial and to be admired… Ben Shalom, at just 29, remains humble and actively steers clear of the kind of public spats with promotional rivals that do nothing whatsoever for the sport’s development. Instead, Shalom has stated his willingness to work with other promoters from day one… Solidified his reputation as a ‘fighter’s promoter’ by nurturing trust behind the scenes with burgeoning prospects like Adam Azim, Ben Whittaker, Caroline Dubois, Frazer Clarke and several others… Similarly, the development of domestic talent like Chris Billam-Smith, Natasha Jonas and Dan Azeez highlighted his worth as a promoter in the conventional sense of the word… They have benefitted from the understated wisdom of John Wischusen and Carl Greaves behind the scenes… Though some early undercards left a lot to be desired, the quality improved as the year progressed with several excellent contests made, particularly at domestic level…Getting Brook-Khan over the line, at last, was a huge achievement… Acted with maturity when the Board ruled that Shields-Marshall should be postponed as a consequence of the Queen’s death and subsequently produced one of the events of the year when it was rescheduled… The only ‘big’ promoter who seems to understand that boxing needs a huge overhaul to become a truly mainstream sport… Always quick to say that a promoter is only as good as their broadcast platform and Sky Sports, again, proved to be the best at what they do
negatives – Lacks an established ‘superstar’ in his promotional stable… An eagerness to add the Frazer Clarke debut to the Brook-Khan card in February resulted in one of the worst fights of the year when the Olympic medalist was allowed to pound woefully overmatched Jake Darnell… The ‘up-and-coming’ nature of his stable meant that several prospect vs no-chancer bouts figured prominently on televised events… Singers blasting out tunes mid-show didn’t seem to go down well with the hardcore… The placement of Eubank Jnr-Liam Smith on PPV is an early moan of 2023… Yet to show any support to Ringside Charitable Trust.
Outlook for 2023 – Largely very positive as Boxxer hits the ground running with further progress the aim. However, the fact that many of his ‘stars’ are some way from realizing their potential, 2024 could be the year of true reckoning.
The Verdict – So far, so good, when one considers where Boxxer began and where they are now. The biggest compliment to pay them is that in Ben Shalom, they have a young man who, thus far, appears to regard integrity as the most important of all values.
Major contests promoted or co-promoted – Tyson Fury-Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce-Joseph Parker, John Ryder-Zach Parker, Fury-Derek Chisora III.
Positive – Queensberry showcased their financial clout when they outbid Matchroom to stage the largest boxing event of the year, Fury-Whyte, at Wembley Stadium in April… Fury is arguably the biggest attraction in world boxing right now and his ongoing relationship with Hall of Fame promoter, Frank Warren, is a ginormous feather in Queensberry’s cap… Warren is by far the most influential promotional figure in the banner division with Fury, Joe Joyce, Daniel Dubois on his books and the December signing of amateur sensation, Moses Itauma, was one of the most astute bits of business in 2022… Frank always had a good eye for emerging talent and his current crop includes potential future stars such as Hamzah Sheeraz, Nick Ball, Dennis McCann and Sam Noakes… The development of Liam Davies in Telford was old school promoting at its best… George Warren is an understated yet crucial cog in the Queensberry machine, one who is (thankfully) keen to push his father’s old grudges with promotional rivals to one s ide… Frank’s experience as a promoter at elite level is without equal in the UK… Having the BT Sport platform ensures their fights receive substantial exposure… Securing the January 2023 visit of Artur Beterbiev for their light-heavyweight, Anthony Yarde, was a huge coup and, even better, it won’t be on PPV… Never afraid to pitch their biggest stars against each other if it makes business sense.
negatives – Staging Fury-Chisora III, the most high profile mismatch of 2022, while knowing that ‘Del Boy’ was shot to bits was not a good look… Due to burgeoning nature of the majority of their stable, some televised shows were of a disappointing standard… Sensitive to any perceived criticism which can create a somewhat toxic ‘us against the world’ mentality… They did not respond to Ringside Charitable Trust’s request for help.
Outlook for 2023 – If Queensberry (alongside Top Rank) can get Fury-Oleksandr Usyk over the line for March they’ll take some stopping, particularly if Tyson is victorious. If Fury loses, however, there’s suddenly a lot of pressure on a predominantly unproven stable.
The Verdict – Frank Warren, soon to be 71 years old, continues to exhibit exactly why he’s long been regarded as one of the best promoters in the world. With George Warren on the way up, and becoming more and more visible, it would appear that Queensberry is in good hands. But, please, no more horrible mismatches in football stadiums.
Major contests promoted or co-promoted – Chris Eubank Jnr-Liam Williams, Josh Kelly-Troy Williamson.
Positive – Even though he only had a solitary bout, Chris Eubank Jnr continued to prove he’s one of the most marketable British fighters out there… They staged numerous shows that were broadcast by Channel 5, ensuring boxing retained a crucial spot on free-to-air British television… Both Kalle and Nisse Sauerland are intelligent and innovative figures in the boxing landscape… Matching one of their ‘stars’ Josh Kelly with Troy Williamson highlighted they’re not afraid to take risks… That particular event drew 1.8m viewers, making it one of the most-watched British fights in 2022… Though Channel 5 is regarded as inferior to broadcast rivals Sky Sports and BT Sport, their boxing events generally attract the largest audiences… The Sauerlands are always willing to work with other promoters and, by and large, have healthy relationships with their rivals… Kalle in particular is accessible to the media and doesn’t shy away from difficult questions.
negatives – Struggled to attract the biggest names on exclusive deals and were forced to ‘share’ their prized asset – Eubank Jnr – with other promoters and networks… Unlike BT, Sky and DAZN, Channel 5 only dip in and out of boxing, giving some of their broadcasts a somewhat chaotic feel… Like Eddie Hearn, Kalle Sauerland pushed ahead with plans to stage Eubank-Benn while knowing that Conor had failed two drug tests… And like Hearn, he continues to bang the drum for rescheduling Eubank-Benn before the latter has even cleared his name… The Sauerlands involvement with Misfits Boxing, essentially staging fights between ‘influencers’, is a far cry from the days of the World Boxing Super Series… Yet to show any support to Ringside Charitable Trust.
Outlook for 2023 – If Eubank Jnr beats Smith (big ‘if’) and Wasserman can secure an aging Gennadiy Golovkin for their charge, a truly big event awaits. One hopes that the output on Channel 5 increases with Wasserman instrumental in attracting talent to the broadcaster, whether on long-term or fight-by-fight deals.
The Verdict Unquestionably, the Sauerlands’ reputation in world boxing his dipped without the WBSS tournaments. Their involvement in Misfits Boxing is seen by many as a bad look but, in truth, they’re merely tapping into a marketplace that is far more lucrative and simpler to manage than WBSS ever was. That’s a sad reflection on the sport, not them. Harder to forgive is the management of Benn’s failed test. However, they remain promoters capable of instigating innovation.