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The crisis facing small hall promoters

small hall promoters
Mike Le Gallaz outlines his hopes for small hall promoters but Mickey Helliet, Carl Greaves and Errol Johnson are fearful about the future of their empires, writes Matt Bozeat

MANCHESTER promoter Mike Le Gallez has been thinking of ways to bring back small hall boxing once lockdown measures are eased. As with every other promoter, Le Gallez has been left counting the cost of the coronavirus epidemic, postponing his latest Contender VIP Fight Series show last month. On Facebook last weekend, he asked whether prospects would be willing to fight each other for little or no payment on shows held behind-closed-doors. Le Gallez explained that without any revenue from ticket sales, he would not be able to pay journeymen and his thinking is, the winners of 50-50 fights will be rewarded by moving their careers forward, rather than financially.

He said: “My thinking is that five or six promoters could come together, we could buy a marquee and doctors, paramedics and whips would have to reduce their fees.

“If there are no supporters, and no booze, security requirements should be minimal.

“It’s impossible to offer any kind of purse after paying for everyone – unless we can get television on board or stream it live for a fee.

“I can’t offer a fighter a purse in the hope we get television, but if we did get television we could split the money.

“We could put on six shows over the weekend, Friday to Sunday.

“There could be a matinee show, then everything gets cleaned down and we come back in the evening for another show.

“Most promoters have other businesses and with so many businesses struggling, it makes sense for us to come together and cut their losses.

“We lose money just about every show we put on anyway!    

“We just need to keep the fighters moving. Let’s see prospects fighting prospects to see if they can really fight – or are they just popular and can sell tickets?” 

Le Gallez says he would like to talk to television promoters about a possible link up.

“The Board say there can only be five fights on a show,” he said, “so maybe Eddie Hearn or Frank Warren could send a camera crew to a smaller show, pay the fighters £1,000 each, record the fights and then put it on TV before their shows.

“That way television get better value and the fighters get to earn a few quid and some exposure.

“Perhaps we could have a tournament where the winner gets to fight on an Eddie Hearn or Frank Warren show?

“I know that for everything I suggest there’s a road block, but I put the post out there because I wanted to get a feel for it.”

The reaction to Le Gallez’s reaction was mixed with London promoter Mickey Helliet saying: “Prospects fighting prospects for peanuts just isn’t going to happen. You can’t develop fighters by putting them in against each other early in their careers. That could ruin their careers. It’s not always the fighters who look good at the start of their careers that come through.

“Darryll Williams and Asinia Byfield both did nothing in the amateurs and if I had put them in with another prospect in their second or third fight they probably would have lost and walked away.

“We just have to wait this out until it’s safe to put on shows again.”

The lockdown has hit Midlands promoter Carl Greaves hard. “I was just building some momentum,” said the former British title challenger, “and then this happened.”

Greaves was filling venues in Leicester and Nottingham and on Saturday, May 30, he had a show at the 3,000-capacity Leicester Arena booked. The lockdown put paid to that and Greaves admits he fears for the future of small hall boxing. “The only promoters who can put on shows are the ones with television,” he said. “They won’t make much money, but they shouldn’t lose any because television will cover it.

“Anyone else will need to have lots and lots of money – or be bonkers.

“It’s never going to work. There’s a chance if you can get fighters to fight for nothing to keep them active, which will be impossible.

“How will you pay for the venue and the doctors and everything else ? The list of bills is never ending and without ticket sales, how do you cover them ?

“The Board are also saying fighters have to stay in hotels to stay safe – and who is going to pay for that if we can’t sell tickets?”

Greaves says there are fighters in his stable he would accept 50/50 fights for on television shows for money. He added: “I can’t ask any boxer to fight, to risk their life, for nothing.”

Greaves has other prospects in his stable that he is looking to build.   

“I’ve got Callum Blockley who I’ve got to 7-0, is only 24 years old and sells tickets, so why would we risk fighting another prospect for no money ?” he said. “If I jump him up too early I could be damaging him for the future. It’s just not worth the risk. I’m trying to build him.”

Greaves says that shows without ring girls, Masters of Ceremonies and with cornermen wearing gloves and masks will “look pathetic” and believes talk of shows resuming in July is premature. “Robert Smith rang and asked how soon I would be ready to put on a show [after lockdown is lifted],” he said. “He mentioned six weeks, but I’m not sure that’s long enough if nobody has been sparring or getting pad work.”

Errol Johnson, head of Black Country Boxing, said: “There’s no answer” to the current crisis – even for television promoters. “The Board are saying there won’t be any championship fights if shows do restart in July,” he said, “and Sky and BT Sport aren’t going to be happy with six-rounders.

“People aren’t going to pay to watch that.”

Johnson has around 50 fighters on his books and said: “We’re going to lose some. I don’t know what I can do for some kids in this situation. It’s a nightmare.”

Helliet added: “Without small-hall boxing, boxing won’t survive. Look at Dillian Whyte. He started out fighting on my small hall shows and now he makes millions for himself and everyone else around him.

“We need to find a way to bring small-hall boxing back, but it’s going to be very, very difficult.”

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