How do you feel the event went on Saturday night?
As an event, I thought it was great. Loads of entertainment, loads of big names, some decent fights. What we needed was the war we expected from Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew. Unfortunately it didn’t unfold. I watched it back; it’s not a bad fight, it’s just not what we hoped. I think everybody expected that to be great fight and it was just a decent fight without really catching fire.
I think as a night, from 6pm until midnight, it was jam packed, but, disappointing that the main event did not catch fire like we expected it to.
All the fights leading up to the main event, despite the big names involved, were predictable. Do you think those fights justified pay-per-view?
When you look down the card, Chacon against Jamie McDonnell was going either way through seven rounds and I thought McDonnell was going to lose so I don’t accept that was a one-sided fight. I think Callum Smith performed very, very well against tough opposition – that was an interesting fight. I thought Otake was abnormally tough but Scott Quigg won that quite handily and there was an electric performance from James DeGale. I think, sometimes, because the performance is so good… A lot of people thought DeGale would struggle against Periban and he stopped him early. You can’t take that away from DeGale.
If you look at Billy Joe Saunders against Chris Eubank Jnr, Eubank might come out and chin Billy Joe in the second round. Is that one-sided or a mismatch? No, it’s just a great performance.
I understand what you’re saying on paper. But the Groves-Douglin fight was a great little fight and I thought every time they exchanged, Groves had a chance of getting knocked out. Joshua was just sensational again.
The response we’ve had is that it wasn’t the undercard [that was a problem] because they all had something a little bit different. It was the main event. By the time the main event came round, I think everyone was reasonably satisfied with the night’s entertainment. What we needed then was the ‘big one’ to be great fight. You were there, the atmosphere was fantastic. Everyone was expecting a great fight. It was just average to decent without being what everyone expected it to be.
Would you agree the main event was a disappointment?
[Pauses] Because of expectations, yes. I think if you watched it just as a fight without the hype and the build-up, I think you’d have said it was a close fight. I think you’d agree it was all square after eight rounds. It was a close fight but it didn’t have the scoring right from Terry O’Connor because from the eighth round Bellew won virtually every round. But in terms of the hype, and the expectation, I would say it was a disappointing fight, yes.
The only reason there was so much hype and expectation was the pay-per-view platform.
I disagree. I disagree. There was so much hype and expectation before it ended up on pay-per-view and, in fact, that’s why it ended up on there because there was so much hype and expectation before the broadcasting situation was announced. I disagree. Everyone has wanted to see that rematch for a long, long time. The first one was very good and everyone expected the second one to be very, very good. No one in is in control of the fight in terms of its quality. If it had been a better fight then people would have turned round and said, ‘what a great night.’ People that watched the show from start to finish, particularly those in the arena, got good value for money. But I think if you turned it on just before the main event and watched that one fight perhaps you’d be thinking ‘That weren’t great.’ I’m not going to give you numbers but they were miles ahead of expectation so it’s disappointing in one respect that the main event did not catch fire but the event itself and the promotion was a big success. Unfortunately we can’t dictate whether a fight is good or bad.
It was a pure 50-50 fight and everyone expected it to be a great fight but it wasn’t.
The consensus seems to be that casual fans thought it was an okay night but the hardcore felt cheated.
That’s been the trend all the way through though hasn’t it? When the night came along we had very few moans about the card. But when we announced it initially, and we only had three or fights announced, it was relatively negative. By the time the line-up was finished and the night was upon us, everyone was very excited and that was translated through the numbers as well. The response that we’ve had from the casual fans – like you said – is that it was a good night’s entertainment but of course, what it’s done [main event] is give the people who were being negative in the first place to jump on the bandwagon. I understand that. And I understand people being disappointed by the main event. I was disappointed. I’m not hiding away from that. But I do believe that if the main event had delivered, it would have been a great night of boxing, in my opinion.
We put a fight together we expected to be a humdinger, but anyone that’s worked in boxing knows that expectations can’t always be met. I’ve seen loads of fights that I expected to be great. The difference is you’re under more pressure because of the pay-per-view. If that was a Saturday night fight night, people would be saying, ‘great show, disappointing main event, but what a night.’ But there are different expectations because of the pay-per-view.
But didn’t you create that expectation by making it pay-per-view? If it had been a normal card do you would not be getting the criticism…
[Interrupts] No, of course. As I said, if it was a normal Saturday night fight, people would think it was a good night. It changes when it’s pay-per-view and that comes with the territory. That’s not unlucky, that’s how it is. What I will say is that when we reached fight day, the complaints and negativity was at an all-time low and that’s disappointing because it shows by then, people were expecting a great night of boxing. And it was a great night of boxing, by the way, but unfortunately it was missing a fantastic main event. But yes, I understand people’s expectations change when they have paid for it.
Do you still feel it was a pay-per-view event?
I feel our decision was warranted because of the numbers. To be honest, the whole thing was a great success. Apart from the main event.
But is that not how it should be judged – on the main event?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But there were a lot of positives. There was six hours of championship boxing and people got – in my opinion – decent value for money. Unfortunaltely they didn’t get the value for money we expected because the main event wasn’t the war we thought it was going to be. Unfortunately that is sport. Sometimes when Arsenal play Man United, we expect a great game and it’s 0-0. Difference is, this is pay-per-view and they’re paying for blood and guts. They didn’t get it. But if they were not expecting it, they wouldn’t have bought it.
Now the dust has almost settled, do you have any regrets?
No not at all. I don’t have any regrets. If by the time it came round, and it didn’t have that big night feel, and there wasn’t excitement and expectation in the air, I think there would have been [regrets]. But it’s a numbers game, and the numbers were good. And I know this will not satisfy people reading this article.
This was a one-off for how PPV looked in the future. People ask me now if every big domestic fight is now going to be PPV. The answer is no. People ask if Crolla-Abril will be PPV. No. They ask if Tommy Coyle-Luke Campbell will be PPV. No, of course not.
But we had an opportunity, mainly with Kell Brook getting injured, to run a PPV show loaded with British talent headlined by a great domestic fight.
It’s definitely not the model that is the future of pay-per-view. The future will be big fights. As I said from the start it was an opportunity that arose. People shouldn’t think they’re going to see more of that. They’re not. They’re going to see superfights in 2015. It was never the strategy that these kind of nights were going to be the future of pay-per-view.
There’s so many fights that could be made next year you’re looking Froch-Chavez, DeGale-Groves, Brook-Khan, Khan-Mayweather, Joshua-Fury.
Moving forward the strategy is huge fights for pay-per-view.
Another criticism was – and I’m playing devil’s advocate here – that the undercard was too long and the main event started too late. How do you respond to that?
Erm… One of our arguments now is you’ve got six hours of championship boxing and if it hadn’t have been so long you would have got less value for money.
The cynics might say that the main event started so late in order to appeal to viewers coming back from the pub who were hammered.
[Laughs] Not really, no. Actually the buyers from 10pm slow right down. People wanted the event not just the fight. You might get the odd person coming in from the pub but, no, it’s certainly not a strategy. The pre-buys and the early buys were really good. People were in for the night to watch the whole thing. My mates were commenting me, who don’t really go to the boxing, ‘that was great, that was great. But the main event was a bit shit.’
Listen, do you remember when David Haye fought Audley Harrison? All that had to support it was George Groves and Kenny Anderson and they were not well known at the time. I know it was a good fight in the end, but that was the extent of the undercard.
So how can people say this [Cleverly-Bellew II] was the worst pay-per-view of all-time? It was far from it. It was just average, and people want more than average, and that’s the bottom line.
NOTE: Matchroom nor Sky would divulge numbers, but some reports suggest a figure of around 200,000 buys for the event.