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The return of small hall boxing – on pay-per-view

Mitchell and Farrell take the plunge on pay-per-view (of sorts), writes Matt Bozeat

MIDLANDS promoter Clifton Mitchell is bringing back small-hall boxing next month with Kieran Farrell set to follow suit in October.

Mitchell and an unnamed business partner have stumped up the money for a five-fight show at Hangar 34 in Liverpool on Sunday, September 13 topped by a Midlands-title fight and will look to recoup their investment through internet pay-per-view sales and sponsorship.

“The fighters will be paid,” said Mitchell. “Guaranteed. The money is there and now we have to try to get it back.

“The Board say they will help pay for the doctors, which is a big help, and the fighters have to sell pay-per-views instead of tickets. That’s all we can do.

“This could be the future and I’m determined to make it work.

“The problem is, thousands of people have to buy it to make it viable, but whether this first one makes money or not, we will stick at it and try to get the numbers we need.”

The MTK show headlined by Jono Carroll-Max Hughes this month averaged around 8,000 viewers and Mitchell said: “That’s because they have the platform – and it’s free.

“We would like to do it for free as well. But for that to happen, we need to get sponsors on board and to get sponsors, we need the viewing figures.

“We would love to get into a position where we can bid for big fights, fights that lots of people really want to watch.

“That would help us get sponsors – or we could just sell the fight to Eddie Hearn!”

For the time being, Mitchell is looking to make his pay-per-view streaming model work.

“I don’t think we will see big audiences coming together for shows until next March,” he said. “I’ve spoken to the Nottingham Arena and they say they won’t do anything until then.

“If crowds are allowed back in, but restricted, small-hall promoters can’t make it pay.

“If you have a fighter who sells 300 tickets on a show, he can pay for others who don’t sell as many. Their profit covers the cost of other fighters on the bill who struggle with tickets, but if every fighter is only given 20 tickets, what chance have you got ?”

Mitchell says he will sell 100 pay-per-views personally for the show, along with sponsorship, and the hope will be that the hundreds of supporters who have bought tickets to watch Jack Bateson at Leeds United FC’s Elland Road ground and the First Direct Arena will pay to watch him fight on their laptops, telephones and television screens.

Fans will get good value for their money – there’s an early bird price of £4.99 currently available – with the top-of-the-bill clash for the vacant Midlands Area super-lightweight championship between Derby southpaw Alex Fearon, whose father Clive is part of Mitchell’s training team, and Ben Fields, a hard-as-nails throwback from Birmingham who is guaranteed to give value for money.

“It will be him coming forward trying to beat the fight out of me and me trying to keep him off,” predicted Fearon.

“But I’m not afraid to fight him. We can have it in a ‘phone box as well.”

For Fearon, it will be his second shot at Midlands honours. In November, 2018, he was stopped in seven by Kaisee Benjamin for the vacant title up at 147lbs.

The 26 year old is embracing his promoter’s idea. “It’s easier than selling tickets,” he said. “I don’t have to run around dropping off tickets when I should be training or resting. People don’t realise how stressful selling tickets is.”

Fields gets his shot after last year snapping four unbeaten fighters – including Sean Daly (8-0) in a ferocious back-and-forth six rounder that was nominated for the Midlands Area Council’s fight-of-the-year award.

“I have been winning fights fighting out of the away corner,” said the 30 year old. “I have earned my stripes.”

The Daly fight was won by a huge effort in the final three minutes.

“(Manager) Jon (Pegg) said after the fight that I’ve got an indomitable spirit,” said Fields, who’s trained by Shaun Cogan. “I’m not the best with words. I didn’t know what it meant. I Googled it and it said something like ‘unable to subdue.’ I would go along with that.

“It’s to do with where I came from. You can build a fighter in the gym, but I’ve been fighting my whole life.

“I got caught up in drugs in my early twenties and ended up serving 18 months in prison. I had been to the gym a few times before I went to prison and while I was inside I thought to myself: ‘When I get out, I’m going to give boxing a go.’ I went to the gym, met Shaun Cogan and I’ve given it my all.”

Fields combined boxing on the busy unlicensed circuit with studying to be a youth and community worker before turning over at 28 a couple of years ago.

“I didn’t really have any ambition,” he said. “I enjoyed training and fighting and thought to myself: ‘Let’s get in there and see what I can do.’”

The turning point was a four-round points win over Kane Gardner (9-0) last May. A fortnight earlier, Gardner had beaten Fields on points over six, but the rematch went the way of the Midlander.

“I got the call on the morning of the fight,” said Fields, “and winning gave me so much confidence.

“People can tell you you’re good, but you have to do it for yourself sometimes.

“Amateurs turn pro with confidence in themselves because they have spent a lot of time in the ring. I didn’t have that. I’ve been learning on the job. I’m doing it the old-school way.”

Fields doesn’t overcomplicate his boxing.

“I’m a pressure fighter,” he said. “I go in there to put it on them. That’s Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.”

The lack of a crowd won’t bother Fields next month, he says.

“It might work in my favour,” he said. “I can get caught up in the crowd and stick my tongue out when I get booed. I get carried away with being the bad guy.

“If I win this, maybe I can start fighting prospects on bigger shows. They aren’t that many fighters flying over at the moment and I’m always ready. Or maybe I can look to build a fanbase around the Midlands.”

Fearon said: “This is a chance for me to get my name out there.

“I know I’m lucky to be fighting. I went sparring the other day and one of the lads I was sparring was saying he doesn’t know when he’s going to be fighting again. Unless you’re with Matchroom or fighting on BT Sport, there’s not much happening for you and when you don’t know when you’re fighting, it’s hard to stay motivated. You don’t know what you can eat and when you have to peak.”

On October 2, Kieran Farrell is delighted to present Amy Timlin’s bid to become Commonwealth super-bantamweight champion when she contests the vacant title against Karly Skelly. The fight will be shown on Fite TV – we’ll have more on that event in coming weeks.

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