THE sign that hangs on the wall of Dennis Hobson’s office reads: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” Hobson once made a Roy Jones Jnr fight happen and on Friday night (December 11), he’s going to make the first drive-in boxing show – in the car park of Sheffield Arena, no less – in Britain happen as well.
It was all the idea of “Miss Moneypenny”. “The girl who works in my office who I call Miss Moneypenny told me she was going to a drive-in movie,” said Hobson. “I had been thinking of a way to get crowds back into boxing shows without breaking any of the rules and hearing about that drive-in movie set my cogs turning. I asked her to bring in some photographs and I looked at them and thought: ‘You could replace the screen with a boxing ring.’”
Hobson also found room for 120 cars, pods for VIPs and giant screens. ‘The Straightener in the Car Park’ goes ahead live on Eurosport – and Hobson is expecting a sell-out. “It’s a unique event,” he said, “and it’s captured people’s imaginations. I grew up watching big fights in the car park at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas – and this is Sheffield’s version!”
Except it will be colder. “There might be a bit of frost on the ground,” said Hobson, “but we are British – we get hailstones in July!”
Top of the bill – after several pull-outs – will be Tommy Frank, the Commonwealth super-flyweight champion, taking on Mexico’s resilient Rosendo Hugo Guarneros at 112lbs. Frank, who’s won all 13 fights, said: “I think the walk from the dressing room to the ring will be quicker than normal and I might need to wear my thermals and a big hoodie! But once I’m under the lights and the adrenaline is going, I will be fine. The cold might even keep me fresher as the rounds go by.”
Hobson said: “This is a negative environment and we’ve stayed positive. I like to think I’m a positive person. If there’s a problem, I look for a solution. The odds are stacked against us and we’ve made something happen. We needed a Plan B – and we’ve found one.”
Hobson says that in boxing and in business he has relied on “common sense, being a bad loser and never being afraid to take a punt.”
Hobson was 15 years old when he left school – “I didn’t go much anyway,” he laughed – and “wheeled and dealed” to build up the South Yorkshire Metals company. His boxing breakthrough came with Clinton Woods, who went to his gym looking to keep fit and ended up winning the IBF light-heavyweight title and fighting Jones.
“Roy Jones was massive and when you’re that big, you can pick and choose who you fight,” reasoned Hobson. “Clinton was one of four or five possible opponents. He was ranked No. 1 by the WBC, but we were stuck.”
Hobson thought of a way to make the fight happen. He took Woods to Miami to watch Jones defend his titles against Glen Kelly in February 2002. “We sat in the front row of the press conference after the fight,” he said, “and as it was coming to an end I knew I had to do something.
“I shouted: ‘Roy!’ He looked my way, so I told Clinton to stand up and pushed him towards the stage. I said: ‘Clinton Woods is here and he wants to fight you.’ Clinton stepped forward and said: ‘I’m ranked No. 1 by the WBC, I’ve beaten everyone else and now I want to beat the best.’
“Jones said: ‘You’re right about everything apart from the last bit. I will fight you.’”
Beaten in six rounds, Woods was never off his feet and went on to win world honours at the fourth attempt.
Hobson subsequently worked with Ricky Hatton, but would rather look forward and said: “I think this show sends out a statement. I think it shows we are major players. We were faced with a lot of obstacles, but we’ve been able to tick every box.”
Frank should make the home crowd happy by outpointing Guarneros (17-4-2) over 12 rounds.
The Verdict An innovative idea from the enterprising Hobson.