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The question that all promoters should be asking themselves now

promoters
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What makes a good fight? That's the question for all promoters and matchmakers today, writes Matt Christie

THE essence of a good fight, first and foremost, is competitivity. Therefore the job of the promoter, and/or their matchmaker, should be to ensure that each bout on a card is as competitive as possible. But we know that is not the case. And it never has been. The job of the matchmaker, particularly on undercards and small hall shows, is to provide the illusion of competitivity while ensuring the right person wins. To say fights are fixed is untrue. To say all fights are evenly-matched, that the playing field is level and both combatants have the same chance of winning, is also a lie.   

Therein lies one of boxing’s age-old problems. One that has been around since day dot, one that has become more pronounced in the modern era and one that might hinder any real development if things don’t change. And it is this: The vast majority of contests are weighted, often heavily, in one fighter’s favour. Whether that be a prospect on the way up, a raw novice needing some education, a ticket-seller who has to remain unbeaten to keep selling tickets, a big name looking for some untaxing rounds, a former belt-holder on the comeback trail or even an existing one picking off a challenger nonsensically deemed ‘world class’, there is too often a clear favourite and a clear underdog. We can all recognise the problem with that, I hope.

This, I must add, is not what happens in every single bout. We have seen countless fights that are hard to call beforehand. Invariably, such bouts make the most appealing of contests and paint the sport at its most handsome. Boxing positively thrives when the matchmaking is on point, or rather, when the matchmaking is as it should be. So let’s champion that unpredictability and the competitiveness that is not only the essence of a good fight but sporting competition, full stop. Without it, boxing would die.

Though the recent battles atop the heavyweight division are perfect examples of boxing at its best, we can also cite domestic bills like the Liverpool show promoted by Eddie Hearn – topped by Liam Smith-Anthony Fowler alongside Troy Williamson-Ted Cheeseman – as examples of excellent matchmaking. We can look ahead to Frank Warren’s December 4 event, headlined by the enticing return between Lyndon Arthur and Anthony Yarde, as another. Mick Hennessy’s recent shows on Channel 5 have also included some fine scraps atop the bill.

Given the nature of the sport it is frankly unrealistic to expect every single contest to deliver. It is understood, also, that you can’t lob every emerging (or even existing) star into a 50/50 fight every single time. We get that.

But too much action is simply not good enough to warrant either the price of a ticket on the gate or the money we pay for television subscriptions because, predominantly, too much attention is being paid to ensuring the ‘home’ fighter wins today, in the hope of building something better tomorrow.

The poor quality can also be explained by unfortunate twists of fate. Like the recent Boxxer card in Newcastle, which was hurt by the sudden withdrawal of new Probellum signing, Lewis Ritson, from a genuine 50/50 contest with Henry Lundy. Like this weekend’s upcoming Matchroom show, that is now without Dillian Whyte-Otto Wallin.

Yes, we can point to names like Savannah Marshall, Chris Eubank Jnr, Chantelle Cameron, Hughie Fury and Alen Babić taking the slack. But can we then point to any of their opponents and make a decent case for the upset? Though Cameron’s fight with Mary McGee – for two sanctioning body belts – is justifiable, Babić’s assignment is perhaps the best example of what a promoter may deem good matchmaking but you and I do not. His opponent, Eric Molina, is well-known and once made a good fist of it against Deontay Wilder. Since then, though, he has struggled to even clench his fist.

Just because the opponent has a ‘name’ doesn’t make him/her a good opponent. Just because there is belt on the line, it doesn’t mean it’s a good fight.

Let me conclude by reaffirming my understanding of a highly difficult job at the best of times, let alone during a grave period of pandemics and financial disaster. With that in mind, with all of us making difficult decisions about where we spend our money, now is the time to ensure that boxing is as attractive as it possibly can be.

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