My issue with Promoters
Martin Theobald

What is a boxing Promoter? Salesman? Money maker? Advertiser? Organiser? Well I suppose the role naturally encompasses all of the aforementioned. One thing that isn't in the list is 'humanitarian'. Someone who is there to care and empathise with the failures and successes. Arguably it's not their role, a boxer has friends and family outside the ring to care for them and help them in good times and bad. But there was a stark contrast I witnessed this past weekend that shone a light for me on the differences between a money driven Promoter and a Promoter with the best interests at heart.

Saturday night was a huge night of boxing. In America you had Khan 'daring to be great' against Canelo, in Germany Chisora was carrying his career on in losing to Pulev and in Manchester Crolla upset the odds in retaining his world title against Barrosso. We'll come back to the North West later on. In London at York Hall, 'The Pexican' Johnny Garton became English welterweight champion against Ryan Fields with a stunning KO. The result and the outcome were lost in the wash of world level boxing, but it was a fight worthy of the biggest platforms. I sat ringside as Fields team rushed to his side to check his safety. On the opposite side sat the Manager and Promoter of the victor Garton, Steve Goodwin.

York Hall was a cocophony of noise. The old venue has seen many fighters pass through its ropes but few can have as much vocal support as Peckham bred Garton. There was another voice, aside from those in the rafters, that could be heard as Steve rose to his feet in celebration once Fields had been checked over. It was the first English champion in his stable, five years after entering the sport. The in ring photos were taken as the Goodwin team flanked their man along with his trainers and gym mates. Smiles all around as the belt was paraded.

The ring cleared, Steve stood beaming by the ring post as I made my way over less than five minutes since the MC had declared the victor. I won't pretend I was professional enough to record the conversation,nor that I remember it verbatim, but Steve was buzzing. High as a kite that has been swept by a hurricane then caught in a jet engine. He told me how great the achievement was, how he had started working with Garton when he lost in Prizefighter to Sam Eggington. At the time the two of them plotted a route to a Southern Area title shot, something they subsequently achieved and Garton won. From there Steve got his man into a position to challenge for the vacant English title, they had done it. He had delivered the chance for his man and his man had delivered for himself and those around him.

I'll shed some more light here. On the Friday night Steve rang me discussing various things, none Garton related. He sounded full of energy (not unusual) but also nervous, which is most unusual. The conversation ended with Garton talk as Steve told me he was worried; Fields and his team were going to put on at least a stone they said before the fight and post the weigh in. Was Garton going to be too small, would he be okay? I couldn't do a lot to put his mind at ease, but I knew it was only reassurance he was after. Of course, it all turned out superbly.

The point here is that Goodwin had created the chance for his fighter. Post fight he spoke also about what to do next, the obvious step being to look at the British title. For now though he just wanted to be with his man Garton and celebrate their boxing rags to riches story and support his fighter.

Switch to the North West, where Crolla had laid his man to waste. Post fight interview takes place on the ringside canvas as expected, Crolla talks about how he wants the fights to excite Manchester and build his legacy. He wants what the fans who turned out to see him want, he wants the biggest names and that includes old his home town rival Terry Flanagan. Speaking as he was in the famous MEN arena you couldn't help but think of the halcyon Hatton days when he built such a following through his unique brand of exciting fights and everyday personality. It is what Crolla is becoming. The camera pans to Hearn who without hesitating says "this is Million Dollar Crolla,now it's time to make him millions."

You could almost see the Pay Per View posters being drawn in his eyes, the cash registers going haywire as he basked in the Crolla glory. He went on to say how proud he was of the efforts and say howCrolla had achieved so much. He wouldn't be drawn on potential opponents and almost openly dismissed Flanagan as a potential fight. The reason, as educated fans will know, is that Flanagan boxes on rival Promoter Frank Warren's network BoxNation. It makes barriers, Hearn is to Warren what oil is to water. Will that fight ever happen? Lots of bridges to cross first and frankly not enough workmen to do the building. It would take some seismic shifts to occur first.

So that begs the question, what is the Promoters role? Clearly Crolla is a fighting man who would love to unify belts and his hometown in one fight with Flanagan. That must be a huge money fight, yet Hearn seems reluctant to pull the trigger, work with the enemy. It would surely be in the interest of his man both financially and personally to make that fight, give him his legacy. But pride, TV deals and whatever else lays in the way. Ego? Probably.

Therein lies the issue. In York Hall Saturday night there was no ego, no making it about Steve Goodwin. It was about his fighter. No doubt having an English title in the stable means the possibility to make the biggest money fight they have ever done. Perhaps Garton will get the Sky or BoxNation platform to do so, and Steve will no doubt support his man there. But none of that got mentioned, finances were off the agenda as pride of place was the achievement. 

'Absolute power corrupts absolutely' is the old adage. Of course Hearn doesn't have all the power, but he has the majority. The biggest platform, the most money, the most world champions. Boxing is about levels in and out of the ring. Neither am I saying he is corrupt, although the sport itself is a different animal. The Sky platform and the money that comes with it is huge, the Matchroom business where Hearn resides is a financial monster. Money doesn't buy you empathy though, and the more you have the more you want. I have no doubt Hearn has a personal relationship with his fighters, he's a likeable enough person and his interest is always in getting the, enough money that once their short career is over, the mortgage is paid off and the fighter can live comfortably. It's admirable, of course. But he is blessed with the means to do that and would be mad not to publicly declare his intent.

It's easy to fire bullets at those who sit at the top of the hill. I know that. I could easily be equally or more critical of Frank Warren, but he's in second place. I am sure other small hall promoters do similar to Steve Goodwin and I haven't been there to witness it. I was a huge advocate of Hearn on the rise and now he is in a place where criticism comes hourly, not daily. However if he took a step back and thought not about the money and the finances, but the fighter and the legacy, perhaps us as boxing fans would go easier on him? I for one am a huge fan of his IFL interviews, he has an openness about business proceedings that is admirable. Boxing is a business, money exchanges hands. What I for one would like to see thou is the money become the afterthought, not the leader. Perhaps Hearn could do with going back to his boxing  roots? He is the most successful Promoter in the country, so of course it is mad for me to suggest where he could improve.

But as long as money overrides legacy and the personal touch, there will always be something missing. Money can be a driving force, it shouldn't be THE driving force. Of course the argument and facts are there; Hearn is number one, the most successful. That ignores where everyone has started from, the race has never been equal.  Money will always be the yardstick that success is measured by; but it only comes with success, which often shifts between powers. Who knows, maybe one day others will catch up and the game will change?

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