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The changes and challenges facing the boxing business today

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John Dennen speaks to STN’s Paul Ready about navigating the boxing business in these uncertain times

BOXING is an uncertain world, never more so than in the midst of a pandemic with shows reduced, crowds restricted and a plethora of other problems besetting the professional sport.

The sport is changing and for fighters navigating a path through it will be tricky. “You’ve got to try and manage it. There’s a balance between a team being too cautious and a promoter or matchmaker being overly ambitious,” says Paul Ready, a boxing manager with the newly launched STN Sports. “There’s obvious fights to be made and I get that.

“Everybody’s doing good shows [for television]. Financially from the top to the bottom it’s difficult. There’s no small hall, so fighters are having to take risks.

“This isn’t going to be forever [but] the financial thing is important.”

When it comes to a fighter building their career, there are a host factors to consider. “You’ve got to fight a southpaw, you need to fight a physical fighter that’s going to rough you up, you need to have that kind of real gutcheck against a gatekeeper to actually see how you feel when you’re losing rounds, when someone’s physically getting on top of you, how do you respond to that,” Ready explains.

STN has been set up with experienced sports lawyer Sean O’Toole, who works with Callum Smith. It will also support Anthony Crolla in his career after boxing, former world titlist Kal Yafai and rising prospect Dalton Smith among others.

Ready had been Matchroom’s matchmaker for three years before becoming a licensed manager himself. “I got a matchmaker’s licence and did that for three years, and three years were almost like 10 because of the type of fights and travelling overseas. I loved absolutely every second of it,” Ready said. “I’m holding Klitschko’s gloves [in a rules meeting] and Vitali’s there looking menacing, weighing the gloves. It’s only really when you pause you think I’m right in the centre of the storm.

“Thank you to Eddie and Barry [Hearn for] taking that chance and giving me the opportunity to do it.”

“I’ve always enjoyed that interaction and working closely with the fighters and mapping their career and saying this is the destination, these are the steps, in my opinion, you need to take to get there,” he continued. “Actually managing fighters was something that I was very keen to do. I wanted to do it properly and I have done, I got a manager’s licence in February of this year.”

It’s a particularly challenging time for boxers looking to turn professional. It’s hard to foresee crowds being allowed back into arenas in the near future, certainly not in 2020, with limited shows and fewer slots on those shows. But there is also a particularly talented generation of amateurs coming to the fore and an exciting Olympics in prospect for next year.

“I think as well the climate’s different. If the world was normal then the temptation would really be there for some of them [to turn professional. But] it’s not often you get an opportunity to win a gold medal or even a medal and if you don’t go to the Olympics I think you will regret it for the rest of your life,” Ready said. “How many have gone, exceeded expectations and got a medal and they’ve come back and they’re a star with all that clamour? There could be someone in that [GB] squad that at the moment people were thinking I’m not sure and they go and perform when it matters and change their life.”

STN for instance will work with amateur boxer Delicious Orie, the current ABA super-heavyweight champion, but support him as he takes aim at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

When it comes to those turning professional after an Olympics in 2021, Ready notes, “They are going to have to move at a pace. Not ‘right okay you’re doing a Lomachenko, you’re fighting for a world title in your second fight or your fifth fight.’ But you’re fighting English level opponents, or a European opponent who’s got a positive record, something like that. And I think that’s fine.

“They’ll have to move at a steady pace, a lot of them have ability and that’s not going to be a problem.”

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