FRANK WARREN will be the first British promoter to stage a boxing show in the UK since the pandemic descended in March and the world was forced to make an emergency stop. If we’re to take anything from Bob Arum’s recent offerings in America, Warren has a thankless task ahead.
As Arum told Boxing News last week, someone had to be the first. There had to be a starting point in order to get to where we want to be. Warren and his Queensberry Promotions team worked tirelessly to ensure they’re the promoters in the UK leading the way. As the most experienced promoter in the country, at least at the top level, Warren felt it his duty to do so. He should be commended for that.
Brad Foster defends his British and Commonwealth super-bantamweight titles against James Beech Jnr on July 10 in a card staged at BT Studios in Stratford. On paper, it’s an excellent scrap and one designed to appeal to the hardcore. Wisely, Warren has opted to make a well-matched fight as opposed to showcasing a well-known name. Shakur Stevenson was the star of Top Rank’s first post-lockdown offering and the response to the mismatch was lukewarm at best. Anyone who was watching boxing for the first time, and the viewing figures were poor in America, may not have been persuaded to come back for more. Building the audience and interest is now paramount. What Warren has realised – and what Arum failed to when he put a mismatch atop his comeback bill – is that this is the sport in its purest form.
It’s not what we left behind. There is no hiding behind pantomime storylines or crowds masking the inadequacies of the action by cheering every swing and miss. Any mistakes will be glaring, both from the boxers and those managing the proceedings. The pressure to deliver is immense.
Though it’s easy to sit here and criticise Arum, what he achieved by going first and spending hundreds of thousands to get the sport up and running again was huge. There had to be mistakes made to generate the lessons required to progress. And those lessons must be heeded. No one should presume that staging a boxing event under the current restrictions is anything other than a difficult and gruelling procedure.
Unless you’ve ever been involved in the creation of an event from start to finish, it’s unlikely you’ll realise the effort that goes into it. It’s little surprise that promoters are furious with Boxing News when we award two paltry stars to a show they’ve spent months working on behind the scenes. Ultimately, we judge the boxing, but we’re now in a brave new world where the infrastructure will also be under the microscope. The margin for error is miniscule. The repercussions of any failure to abide by the rules are vast.
The boxers who have opted to take part are perhaps taking the biggest risk of all. They do not yet know how they will cope under the new guidelines. Yes, it’s a fight and that’s what they’re trained and paid to do but as bantamweight contender Joshua Greer discovered last week when he blew a guaranteed alphabet title shot by losing a stay-busy 10-rounder [see here], they have to adapt quickly. The crowd that feeds not only their competitive spirit but also their concentration is absent. We should not underestimate the effect of that nor should fighters be judged so harshly for losing a bout. One hopes that ‘unbeaten culture’, where too much importance is placed on a defeat, becomes a thing of the past.
Our hope that promoters will now work together and communicate more effectively has not yet come to fruition. The rivalry between the leaders only seems to have intensified in lockdown. But by Warren taking the plunge and going first, he is helping all those who follow. These are baby steps compared to the rebuilding that awaits yet they might be among the hardest and most important the promoter – and the sport – has ever taken.