Goodwin Boxing - 2016 
    
The landscape of boxing is constantly evolving.  Champions change, fighters come and go, events build and pass as fans move on to the next headline act.  For Goodwin Boxing it is no different.  A successful 2015 was their fifth in the boxing business and  saw evolution within the Leighton Buzzard based promoters; a host of new fighters join the stable.  Strategic partnerships build and the unveiling of a new setup to revolutionise small hall boxing out of York Hall.  Their ‘We Never Stop’ motto was in plain sight, headed up by boss man Steve Goodwin along with son and daughter Josh and Olivia with Head of Boxing Kevin Campion being an integral part of the setup, this is a group who ‘get’ modern boxing.  Happy to engage with fans (both positive and negative) on social media at all hours, bringing innovation to their shows that other promotional bodies have failed to capitalise on and always looking for the next area to expand the business all while keeping the primary focus on developing their stable of over 90 fighters, this is a group that want to ensure their foothold as one of, if not the best, small hall promoters in the country is not only maintained but enhanced.
 
January 2016 has already seen the reaping of seeds sewn last year.  On 16th of the month David Haye made his comeback to aim for heavyweight glory once again.  Promoting the event independently, he came to Goodwin Boxing to put together an undercard to entertain the fans at the O2 arena.  A small number of fighters were selected to take part; Wadi Camacho, Kay Propere, Josh Kennedy and Jose Lopes, a mixture of the higher profile fighters and the hot prospects.  From a promotional standpoint, how much of a boost does this give Goodwin Boxing?
  
“What it did for the boxers, fighting on the O2 on the undercard of a David Haye fight, it was an amazing experience for them, it really was” head man Steve tells me.  “They were all really happy with the build up and those boxers are now better known then before they did it. It gives them a sense of where they can go and the arenas they can fight at if they reach the levels that they want to reach.  Wadi's been there, he's fought in the arenas. For Prospere, he really aspires to be fighting under those lights and that's where he should be. For him, Kennedy and Lopes particularly they can all look at that and think 'if I train hard and progress in my career, this is where I can fight all of the time'.  That's where you want to fight, in the arenas, and the crowd to be there for you.”
    
“The whole thing that I'm doing for boxers is creating opportunities for them. Too long in boxing the promoters without TV deals are doing the same thing; give fighters tickets and tell them to sell them, trying to spin something that's not real. In reality they're not doing different things or trying to find new angles to come from and that's what we're doing; getting them title fights, lining them up with David Haye and other things we are looking at as well. It's creating a lot more for the boxers and the other lads in the stable will be looking at it thinking 'if you can do that for those lads at this stage, what will you be able to do for me down the line?'”
 
One of the key changes that 2015 brought in was a new look and feel for their fight night home at the historic York Hall.  On October 17th one of the most prestigious cards was seen for a small hall show; two Southern Area title fights, one English title fight, one English title eliminator and a British title eliminator all happened in one night.  It seems apt then that it was the same night that saw the unveiling of the new ambitious staging setup.  Entrance videos were filmed, smoke machines created an old school feel as it settled around the ring while upbeat music kept the crowd entertained between rounds.  A walkway was constructed from the back of the building staging down to the ring and scantily clad ring girls carried flags to the ring as they accompanied the fighters to their music of choice.  It created an atmosphere that fans will be familiar with from the TV shows at big arenas, but with the added bonus of being in the confined setting of York Hall.  Not a drop of atmosphere escaped the low ceilings as fans embraced the new look and feel, absorbing it from ringside to balcony.  With a number of their shows making use of the investment since, what have the fans fed back to the promoters?  “The feedback was fantastic. We had some slight problems with it and we're changing some small details for the March shows, just aesthetic changes. We were worried but we had a lot of people on hand to help.  Now, we're quite comfortable with the whole setup of it and we will just keep improving it.  We had people there to make sure it didn't go wrong and we anticipated a few hiccups but it went great and now we can just keep developing it.”
  
So what have been the noticeable advantages then for the promoters since the debut of the setting?  “Other promoters have criticised it, saying that it's a waste of money and doesn't help to sell tickets. But what this does is twofold; it makes people that are buying tickets directly from us via our database buy more, and the boxers that fight on it, because it's more of an event, their supporters will buy more. By spending money, which other promoters don't like to do, you may not get the money back the next week but you'll get it back over the next years. That will now generate money by more ticket sales, and that's why it was done and that works. We know the statistics and the statistics are showing us that it's working. Those boxers that fought on the first show with it, they're now fighting the second time and they're selling more. That's unusual, because a boxer’s ticket sales usually drop off from fight one to fight two. Our boxers are going up, and that's because you're investing money in the product. Those promoters that have been in it for years don't get it. The point is you have to invest in an event and by creating an event, like David Haye did on Saturday, people come back to it because they go away thinking 'wow that was really good'. We've made it a big arena event in a small hall and it's being rewarded with ticket sales from the boxers. The boxers are happy that their tickets sales are increasing and developing and what we're trying to do is develop the whole brand so that people will come to our shows. We love York Hall and we will always put on shows there, but we hope to get bigger arenas in time as well.”
 
I query with Steve if there is a risk that this become ‘the norm’, would other promoters try to match the setup and take away from the niche market place that Goodwin Boxing have cornered.  “I don't think it becomes the norm because I don't think other people will invest in what this costs. It's very expensive, not just from outlay but from ongoing and running it. I don't think other people will invest like we are. When fans go there now and see someone else, they'll go there and think 'this is no good'. Other promoters are sill running shows there and people will come away from it thinking it's just not the same. This is a long game and this is why we're doing so well so quickly, because all the ideas we have are for the long game not the short game.”
 
Indeed that long game thought process is paying dividends right now.  With a stable approaching 100 boxers at varying stages and levels of their careers that has been amassed over the five years in the sport, the start of the year sees big title opportunities coming the way of numerous boxers under the Goodwin Boxing banner.  It is the fruition of the hard work put in by all of the team.  However part of the issue with progressing so many fighters at the same time is that there is a risk that those fighters will have to meet when it is time for a title shot.  It’s a nice headache to have for Steve Goodwin.  On one hand, it is guaranteed that when the fight ends the title will be in possession of Goodwin Boxing.  On the other, it means that two of the people he either promotes or manages will have to scrap it out.  In March alone we see the following bouts take place between Goodwin Boxing fighters:  Matthew Chanda vs Jamie Speight, Floyd Moore vs Ben Day, Rakeem Noble vs Sohail Ahmed, Johnny Garton vs Tyler Goodjohn.  When I have previously spoken with Steve on the subject he has always been reticent to make in house fights, so is this a one-off month or a paradigm shift in match making? 
 
“I hate it. I hate it! I don't find it morally difficult, because they're the right fights for everybody. I just don't want to watch them!” he says, seemingly dreading the month of March already.  I ask him to break down the situations around each of the fights for me to give an insight as to how and why they have been made and he is as honest as ever in his assessment:
“Rakeem Noble against Sohail Ahmed, Rakeem is coming off a loss against a foreign journeyman he shouldn't have lost to. Sohail wants to step up, Rakeem is at the same level. The winner will probably go on and fight for an English title in the next 6 months, the loser can come again. It's an opportunity for both and for the loser it's not the end of their career and the winner goes on. 
Tyler Goodjohn versus Johnny Garton, that's an English title fight.  I manage Johnny and I promote Tyler. What happened with that fight, Johnny Garton is the mandatory for the title, his trainer Alan Smith asked for Tyler. On that basis, I'm doing what Johnny and his trainer want. I went to Tyler's manager and said 'do you want the fight'. He said yeah, and that's all.
With Matthew Chanda and Jamie Speight, that's another one. Jamie Speight needs to come back for a title on the back of where he's been. Matthew Chanda wants to fight for a title, so it just fits both. Again if Matthew loses to Jamie it isn't the end of the world for him, and if Jamie loses to Matthew he would regroup and go on the road and try to win. 
For Ben Day, he has just won the Southern Area light welterweight title. I advised him not to defend against Kay Prospere as it's not his natural weight and I think that's the right decision. So unless he's going to go for a six rounder or do something else, he may as well go and fight for a title. He's 37, he's not 27. For Floyd, he's the champion and my fighter. For Ben it's the right fight for him - why not have a go and see how far he can go? For Floyd, it's a voluntary defence and Ben fits the bill. It's a great fight for Floyd and it's a great fight for Ben.”
 
It’s an interesting insight into why fights get made.  It’s clear from the tone of his voice that Steve is still torn by these fights.  Yes he will take home a winner, but he will also be there to pick up the pieces for the loser.  So is there any one fight in particular he is going to find hardest to watch?  “Rakeem Noble against Sohail Ahmed.  I like them both, I really like them both. Both of them came out for our Christmas drink....I just don't want to watch it.”  So will he watch it?  “Possibly not. I feel I owe it to them to watch it, but I really don't want to. The problem is, when you're doing this we get a lot of boxers coming to us because we are putting other boxers in the right fights for themselves. They're just the right fights.”
 
It shows how much these boxers mean to Steve.  There are three shows on in March under the Goodwin Boxing banner, the first of which is on the 5th and promoted by Olivia Goodwin.  You suspect that Steve will suffer from sleep depravation for the entire 31 days of the month.  Before that comes about though there are two of the Goodwin fighters that are fighting on away turf; Wadi Camacho and Lawrence Bennett.  Camacho fights for the Southern Area title on a Mickey Helliett promoted show at York Hall while Bennett travels North to fight Matty Askin in a rematch for the English cruiserweight belt.  They are both fights that Steve is comfortable with, allowing his fighters to be in the away corner.  As he tells me, there is a business behind boxing and sometimes as a promoter, you just have to accept the right deal for your fighter and that can come with some additional benefits!
“You have to evaluate each purse bid, you win some you lose some. The thing with the Wadi Camacho fight, we bid for that and Mickey Helliett bid £300 more. Whether Wadi fights Woodgate at York Hall on my show or York Hall on Mickey's show, there's no advantage. Wadi's the London boy! Whichever show the fight is on, the result will be the same and he's on quite a good financial deal to fight without worrying about tickets. Wadi knew what was happening and he was delighted when Mickey won the purse bids, as were we! It's a business afterall!”  So is it an event that Steve will go to in order of supporting his man?  “Yeah of course! They can slag me off all they like, I don't really care! I represent Wadi, he's delighted and I'm really happy with the deal we got, we're both happy and it's great! I can relax and watch Wadi win! I've told his girlfriend to arrange the after party, I couldn't have one if I'm promoting it.  If I'm promoting I can't have an after party as I'm too busy, but watching him win the title on someone else's show is great because I can have one and have a good time!” he laughs.  So will he also be travelling to Liverpool to watch Lawrence Bennett on the undercard of Terry Flanagan versus Derry Matthews?  “Of course, I go and watch all my boxers fight wherever they are unless I have two on the same night. Thing with their first fight, I won the purse bid and invested a lot in that first fight. The reality as a small hall promoter you can't keep investing that sum of money every time, you just don't have the resources. I did it once for Lawrence but I just couldn't do it again. Frank Warren won the purse bids, that’s great as Lawrence gets to fight on a big card.”
  
  
For the Camacho fight, his opponent for the night Dan Woodgate has been critical of Steve personally for not helping to hype the event, citing that his own fighter will suffer financially because of it.  I asked Steve what he thought of the online criticism sent his way:

“I don't do social media arguments. The bottom line is, Mickey Helliett won the purse bid and it's his job to promote the show like we do.  It's up to us as promoters to promote the show. Wadi Camacho is the away fighter and is being paid a purse. He is only getting a small percentage on ticket sales, it's irrelevant to him. Wadi said he's not spending his emotional time having a war with Dan Woodgate when it doesn't serve any purpose and he can concentrate instead on his boxing.  I like Dan as a person but he doesn't understand it's not up to me to promote it. Give Wadi a bigger commission and he will promote it!  It would cost him more in petrol than he would be earning from it. There's two sides to every story."
 
It is a typically frank response from a man who is known to do straight forward business with others.  His fighters have long gone on record as trusting Goodwin Boxing for their ability to deliver on promises.  Another of his charges, Joe Mullender, is lined up for a fight against a former Goodwin Boxing fighter Lee Markham in an English middleweight title fight.  “Mullender and Markham, that's a great fight wherever that's staged. They're so much better when they're taking on somebody else's fighters!” he says with a tangible relief that a title fight won’t involve two of his own.  The date and venue for that fight are still to be decided, with purse bids due in February.  The fight will be part of the continued growth of Essex man Mullender, who has been with Goodwin Boxing for a long period and now the all action fighter gets his chance at a national title.  His development has been steady, working his way through ever increasing challenges and fights to get to the position he is now in.  It is an ethos that Steve is determined to employ for his fighters as he explains:
 
“What too many promoters do, they keep their boxers fighting 4 or 6 rounders and those fighters struggle to sell tickets and they're not earning any money. What's the point? At the end of it, they get thrown in the deep end after eight or nine fights, get slaughtered and never fight again. You might as well develop the fighter, then when it's the right time for them it's the right time for them. The winner goes on and it's not the end of the world for the loser. Look at (Anthony) Crolla, he lost on the way up and he's a world champion.”
  
I ask Steve if the influx of title opportunities, no doubt seen by some as an ‘overnight success’, is a reflection of the years of seeds being sewn with upcoming fighters.  “It absolutely is. If you look now at the fighters I have underneath, the guys between two and five wins, we have lots of them in different weight categories all coming through. They will be feeding behind the other ones that are fighting for titles now. We're signing more and more quality as well.”
 
There has been an influx of quality fighters as Steve says, both those established already and also those up and coming.  Tyler Goodjohn, a man who has fought at the O2 and won English titles already, has now signed under the Goodwin Boxing banner.  So, is this therefore an indication that signings will be a focus on quality over quantity from now on?
 
“I want to give everyone a chance. I will never forget that if somebody has an aspiration to fight for a Southern Area title and that is all their abilities will allow them, we'll still sign them if they have the right attitude. But what's happening is fighters are seeing that we deliver at all levels. The better quality fighters are now coming. Jack Morris has just signed with us as well, he's ranked nine in the country at light heavyweight and he's signed recently. The better fighters are seeing now who is delivering. Joe Mullender, he's got an English title fight now against Lee Markham. We're delivering the fights and getting fighters in the position to box for the titles that they want. People see that we deliver and we work really hard, they're coming. It stays as it always has been, fighters come to us and we don't go to them.”
  
So are there any fighters in the stable which Steve is particularly excited to see more of this year, those that may have gone under the fans radar?  “They're all at different levels, it's so difficult. You have to say Brad Pauls, he looks sensational doesn't he? Tyrone McCullagh, as well, they're two at the very start of their career. Almost Linus Udofia who nobody has seen yet, he's out on 19th of March. He is, I am reliably told, special. He fought Jordan Reynolds twice and to say he lost a dodgy decision would be an understatement - that's the level he's at. He's potentially a superstar. He a nice lad, level headed and a superstar in the making. He's going in at middleweight and is trained along with Kay Prospere and Brad Pauls by Terry Steward.”
 
These are no doubt exciting talents.  Pauls made his debut in November, scoring a one round knockout victory.  Prospere is in line for a Southern Area title shot in March and has high expectations on himself, especially after a great showing at the O2 in stopping veteran Lee Connelly in one round.  Another prospect on that card who scored a first round stoppage was Jose Lopes, the undefeated London cruiserweight.  It is a weight division that Goodwin Boxing are blessed in, holding a range of talents both established and on the up.  So is there likely to be another situation of in house fighters being matched? 
  
“I think we've got enough others to knock off.  Mickey Helliett has signed Robin Dupre (8-0-0), so whether it's Lawrence Bennett or Jose Lopes, whoever it is Robin Dupre will be the victim.  I'm happy that Mickey has him because he will be the victim. I don't need to use my own fighters when there's someone else at title level we can beat. End of the day, Bennett fights Matty Askin and hopefully Bennett wins. Hopefully Camacho beats Dan Woodgate, then Bennett has the English title and Camacho has the Southern Area. Bennett moves up then to British, Camacho can have a pop at the English and Jose Lopes or whoever else it is can have a pop at the Southern Area.  I do look at other people’s cruiserweights to see who we can beat. Dupre is a cruiserweight who looks like he's on the up and he is one we can deal with. If Dan Woodgate does happen to beat Camacho then good luck to him, he would have earned that, but he won't have the title for very long. Jose Lopes would have hold of that title by the end of the year, we will move Jose up and by September or October Lopes will be mandatory if that happens. I don't think it will happen, I think Wadi beats Woodgate, but I will not be matching Wadi Camacho and Jose Lopes.”
 
There is always a strategy behind the thinking.  Not just a thought process for one fight, but a long term plan with different scenarios in mind.  It is, afterall, what has brought about the current success of the business.  We turn our attention to what 2016 will bring, what innovations and new products will Goodwin Boxing be bringing to expand the brand?  The first point for discussion is a geographical expansion as the Goodwin name is going to be seen more around the country.  “We have franchised the Goodwin brand. Michael Ballingall has taken out a promoters licence and he will be Goodwin Boxing in Portsmouth. Jack Green has taken one and he's Goodwin Boxing in Devon. A lad Ryan Smith has got his licence and he will be Goodwin Boxing Buckingham. We're now starting to franchise the name out, and this is the whole thing of having loads of promoters working under the Goodwin name all around the country. It's only the ones we trust, and we will lend them all of our expertise to help them build up the promotional business in those areas.”
 
That’s an exciting development.  For a long time boxing has been neglected in some of the more remote areas of the country, and for Goodwin Boxing they have fighters that would naturally sell tickets in these areas.  “It gives out fighters more opportunities providing we negotiate the right deals for them. Darren Townley and Brad Pauls are great examples, fighters who come from the Devon way and they could get the opportunity to fight in their local towns.”  Steve tells me there are seven franchises signed up and still room for “two or three more” around the country.  They will also be heading further East in the country, staging shows in Peterborough and Cambrdige where the like of Tyler Goodjohn, Bradley Smith and Karl Myers are to be found.  “It’s never worked there before” says Steve.  “But we haven’t been there yet, so that’s why it hasn’t worked!” he laughs.  If they can bring their own unique brand of boxing he may well be right.
 
Another area where they are looking to expand is the relationship with the trainers of fighters, and with good reason.  “We're setting up and developing working relationships with trainers. What we do now, because I've decided most trainers can't be trusted, is we are working with a set group of trainers for our boxers. So we have the likes of Terry Steward, Rod Julian - these people are working with our fighters. That way we can build up teamwork, trust and everything like that. There are other trainers as well and that is what we're working towards.”
 
There are other exciting plans we discuss.  In the build up to the March shows a number of head-to-head interviews are going to be filmed with the headline acts.  This happened in the buildup to the October 17th show and resulted in explosive footage of Leon McKenzie and John McCallum, something no doubt that they will be hoping to replicate in the new recordings. 

Another online medium that they are looking to exploit is the boxing TV programme.  Sky have left a gap in the marketplace by pulling their weekly ‘Ringside’ show from the screens, and Goodwin Boxing are going to launch their own round table discussion programme in 2016 on a weekly basis that promises to look at not just their own boxing shows but boxing on a wider scale with studio guests and expert fight analysis. 
  
Will we be seeing more engagements with other promoters, in line with the now defunct Matchroom Fightpass and the recent David Haye arrangement in 2016?  “Fight Pass is dead now. But it shows how we can work with other promoters while it was there. Whether it succeeded or failed, we were the only promoter South of Birmingham that was asked to do it. There were Dave Coldwell and Steve Wood but we were the only ones down South. They could have asked other promoters but they chose not to. The fact Matchroom want to work with us, the fact David Haye wants to work with us, what's that telling us? We don't have egos. We aren't ego people and consequently people know they can work with us. Anyone that has worked with Haye in the past has tried to make out they have a bigger role than they have. We have never ever said we are the promoters. All we said is 'we will do the undercard and thank you very much'. We never over play what we're doing.”
 
Another stated intention is to utilise on the increasing number of repeat customers.  “We want to expand the amount of people that buy tickets from us directly. The customer base of people that buy tickets is growing, and we want that to grow even further because we are developing and getting repeat customers. That's what we want to keep increasing, the amount of people that come back to our shows. “  Again, it all related back to that development of the product and the brand awareness.  One final thing that links it all together is their online presence.  As Steve tells me, there are more changes ready to be launched here.  “We've got a new website being launched in two weeks.  It's the best boxing website by a mile, far better than any other promoters.. It's a really good website and we're developing a lot more of our social stuff as well.”
 
We end the conversation with a subject that is increasingly be asked about as the product grows; a TV deal.  It is something that all promoters strive for and helps with the final push of more widespread public consciousness.  As the recent David Haye fight showed with 3 million viewers, there is an appetite still from the British public for televised boxing.  So what is the situation at present? 
 
“We will go for a TV deal when it's the right deal. We're not just going to take any one. It's got to be the right channel. If you believe you deserve a Rolls Royce then you won't be happy with a ten year old Mini, it's the same with a TV deal. David Haye on Dave I thought was fantastic. You need a TV channel that wants to work with boxing. If it's something like an ITV for example you would need less money because you get more sponsors. If it was going to be Dave you would need more money and develop it. I am sure we will get a TV deal at some point but it has to be the right one, I'm not taking a crap one. Things like the London Live deal (with Mickey Helliett) they don't seem to be going through with what they promised so that's why we need to be careful. There's no point getting into bed with something that isn't going to work. In that situation the fighters struggle to sell tickets because it's being shown, but it's only local. Advertising is hard to come by when it's only on London Live.”
 
So there we have it.  What is clear is that the ever changing landscape of boxing is one that Goodwin Boxing have firmly established themselves within.  They are renowned in the business for honesty and integrity, the same reasons that fighters are happy to come to them.  Those core values will be the same by the end of 2016; everything else?  That’s up for debate.  I leave the final words for Steve who sums it up perfectly.  “It's evolving. God knows where it ends up but we'll just keep going until it ends up somewhere! We'll just keep doing the right things for our fighters and we're learning.