Welcome to my Sunday blog! From now on this will be dedicated to general boxing &/ gaming topics, with the Wednesday blog strictly about The Boxing Promoter.
An apology to my overseas fans but I will predominately focus on the British boxing scene. Today we'll start with the team often viewed as having the monopoly of the UK market, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing. Is that monopoly shortening and are there underlying issues and weakness' within Matchroom.
Firstly before going into specifics I just want to mention that I feel Eddie Hearn has done a lot to bring interest and media attention back into the sport of boxing. Criticise him all you like but one thing no-one can argue is he knows how to sell a fight, the numbers speak for themselves.
Let's start with the headline issue, Hearn has done an amazing job promoting AJ to date, the Klitschko fight was a big risk but one that reaped great reward. With Joshua's worldwide fame and popularity it has become a situation where Joshua himself now holds all the cards, he is by far the most valuable asset in boxing globally. I'm not sure the specifics on his contract with Matchroom but one can assume that at some point it will be coming to an end, will AJ still see a need for Hearn and the Matchroom team? Or will he begin his own team? AJ Promotions has a certain ring to it... In affect Hearn has helped to create this cash making beast but the beast has grown beyond Hearn and his team. Joshua seems like he appreciates what people do for him so may look to stay with Hearn out of an appreciation for his efforts building him to where he now stands.
Could you imagine Matchroom boxing without Anthony Joshua? This is the #1 issue for Hearn right now, they have no #2 fighter. For the last few years Brook has been their #2 and moved to a PPV fighter when he was fed to GGG. This was a move that severely and I mean severely backfired on Hearn, Brook was a good fighter but never had a top name on his list of victories, that fight with GGG broke more than just Brook's eye, it broke his confidence and feeling of invincibility. I rate Spence but think if Brook had gone straight into that fight without the GGG fight he would have won. So Brook is now out of the question as a PPV fight (Unless a Khan fight happens which is unlikely), remember Hearn must deliver Sky 4x PPV cards per year. So who's next? Bellew? Probably but lets be honest he's not a PPV fighter without David Haye and I don't think a rematch will get as many views. He's also had fighters like Crolla, Burns & Quigg lose their world titles and with them their potential to headline big shows. There were also failed adventures such as Ohara Davies, Connor Benn and to a certain extent Katie Taylor (Now I think KT is an amazing boxing and absolutely nailed on to win a world title but the lack of competition in pro women's boxing has made her journey boring to say the least).
Don't get me wrong there is a lot of good fighters in the stable as well and we'll come onto that but realistically Hearn doesn't have anyone even slightly close to AJ's level in terms of status. This would make losing AJ catastrophic for EH and team. If you think back to when Eddie took charge he had Froch as his main man, Froch went on to have some incredible fights and build Matchroom up, AJ was already well positioned to take over after Froch but now there is a bit of a wider gap.
So, what about the shows? Frankly this year has been pretty poor if we're honest, the Joshua vs Klitschko was an absolute epic but the card as a whole was terrible, the same can be said for the Haye Bellew card in which the main event was also bad. Brook Spence was slightly better and had two really good fights but is that value for money? The Saturday fight night shows have been very low standard with mainly non-competitive fights... I'm not saying that's Hearns fought and his alone but sadly he is the one that needs to sort that out. The likes of Burnett and Yafai winning titles is great for Matchroom, he also has a handful of fighters that are on the verge of titles (C. Smith, Eggington, Edwards, Whyte?, Cox?) these could become main eventers with just a couple of good wins. But he also has some fighters who seem to keep getting recycled at the domestic level, moving up and down, fighting a few journeymen then moving up to a title and losing then repeat... Pointless for the fans! All we ask for is some competitive boxing. Which brings me to the Olympians, now when every fight night had AJ KO'ing some random bloke it was ok because you always like to have one fight like that on a card to see a knockout... But now we've got like 3/4 fights on each card which are just top level amateurs against bottom of the chain journeymen, it's incredibly boring.
Having said that it's clear that in 2/3 years some of these fighters will be at world level, others may have reached their limits on the domestic scene but lets hope we've had a couple entertaining fights on the way up! A big mistake Hearn made in my opinion is he stopped recruiting after the London Olympics, he brought in a few new faces and then stopped. 4 years later he brings in a new school of exciting fighters but the issue is they are all at the start of the journey, besides AJ Matchrooms main attractions are either right at the start of only 1/2 fights away from the end (Bellew, Degale, Brook, Crolla).
To summarise, Matchroom does still hold an incredibly strong position in the British boxing. People do say that others are gaining like Eubank and ITV or Warren's boxnation, Cyclone on 5... But I'm just being realistic they aren't close enough and Boxnations shows are hardly more competitive and interesting than Matchroom's. ITV did put on a good show for the Eubank Abraham card, even still their situation is even more fragile than Hearn's, imagine if ITV lost Eubank? We wouldn't see another ITV PPV unless Senior came back to fight Nigel Benn! (I probably shouldn't joke). But listening to Hearns interviews on IFL you tend to feel that he gets fans frustrations but then cards are announced with TBA in every fight and you feel instantly let down again, like your being stood up by the same girl over and over again. I think we're in for a poor year/season of Matchroom boxing but if they can make it through that and some of the young fighters reach their potential we could have some incredible fights in 2018/2019. Personally I really hope that is what happens, along with maybe a couple of big fights like (Groves Degale II / Smith Groves / Whyte Chisora II / Joshua Wilder / Eggington Horn / Brook Khan) some of those are more likely than others but we'll see how it goes.
Hopefully you've enjoyed this rant/review/prediction on Matchroom boxing, I'll be posting random blogs every Sunday night about boxing/gaming topics.