Matchroom - Forecasting the Future

A lot has been made of late about the signings of Olympians at Matchroom HQ.  The cream of the 2016 graduates are finding a home at the Essex based promotional outfit, Eddie happy to roll the red carpet out for the elite and most recently the bronze medallist Johua Buatsi.  It is undoubted that the future of UK boxing looks bright.  However, what about the present?  As the 2016/2017 season is heading to a damp ending (a Paul Smith 'world title' fight in Germany, a Fight Night headlined by a British title fight and a so far weak undercard plus a NXT Gen show in Newcastle with two 30+ year olds in the home corner) we take a look at what to expect from the 2017/2018 year from Matchroom.

Broken down below is the entire Matchroom roster split into four categories:
  • Start:  Those fighters who have a career ahead of them, but are still in their infancy as professionals
  • Undercard:  Boxers who at present would not, as standard, be headlining their own shows but can slot into an undercard position on someone else's
  • Headline:  Capable of anchoring their own show, typically in their home town
  • PPV:  The big boys who Eddie backs to build a PPV show around

While the names could be relatively fluid, able to cross up or down one 'division' in places, I have highlighted in green those that could easily transition 'up'.  For most, it may require the right fight.  For instance, Selby vs Quigg could feasibly be labelled a PPV, but without each other they are unlikely to warrant it.  Bellew, not a PPV fighter at cruiserweight, but with the right dance partner at heavyweight can become one.  Also recorded are the ages of each fighter, as well as how many fighters fall into each age bracket.  There is too much to disseminate into a readable passage, but please do examine the values.  Some key stats to draw the attention to:
  • There are 47 boxers listed
    • ​22 of these are 'undercard' fighters
    • 12 are at the start of their career
    • Only 11 are reasonably 'headline' fighters​​

What does it all tell us?  We also need to know the number of TV slots.  Excluding international content, in the 2016 calendar year we had:  5 PPVs, 1 NXT Gen show, 15 Fight Nights.  21 in total.  By the end of the 2017 season at the end of July we will have had 3 PPV, 2 NXT Gen and 7 Fight Nights.  12 in total.  The average number of shows per month are roughly the same, so there is steady TV scheduling.  The type of shows though are interesting.  

We have the NXT Gen show in Newcastle headlined by Josh Kelly, which only features Fowler and Fitzgerald from the Matchroom stable on the undercard.  We get two lads of 30 years plus, in Stuart Hall and Bradley Saunders.  Hardly the next generation.  

Eddie told us when the Sky contract was renewed that each Fight Night would have a world title fight on it.  On July 1st, we see Frank Buglioni vs Ricky Summers as the main event for hte British light heavyweight title.  Of Hearn's stable, Joshua aside, there are only four world title holders(Kal Yafai, DeGale, Jamie McDonnell, Selby).  This of course ignores the WBA Regular belts.  Of these title holders, DeGale and Selby constantly seem at odds with Hearn and seemingly floating towards a pact with Al Haymon in the States.  

Of course, Hearn COULD get more world title holders.  Ryan Burnett faces Lee Haskins before the end of the season, that could be a new one.  But the fact is that paying for world title holders to come to these shores is expensive, especially for a standard Saturday Fight Night.  Just ask Callum Smith, as he and Joe Gallagher head to California to take on Anthony Dirrell for the WBC super middleweight belt.  Eddie didn't dip his hand in his pocket for that one.

Prediction time.   These numbers just don't add up for a solid Fight Night future.  Hearn is investing wisely in the future, with 25% of his stable at the 'Start' phase.  But there are 47% of his stable who sit in purgatory, in that 'Undercard' position.  Unlikely to have their own show unless circumstances fall nicely, there is a huge pool of talent that can only prop up bigger names.  But the bigger names themselves don't hold the titles to back up the claims of Hearn around a 'world title per show'.  It was fine when the titles resided with the Matchroom fighters, but now a large number have gone, the cheques will have to get bigger (and I'm not talking in the sense of the Scott Quigg novelty cheque to lure in Frampton).  

So what are the outcomes?  My guess is that there are two repercussions here.  Firstly, those world title fights for Hearn's fighters may still happen and end up on Sky.  But they may not happen on UK soil.  The expense seems to be more than Hearn would be willing to swallow.  Of course he will get some over here, but as many as when he held the belts?  Unlikely.  He doesn't have that many fighters who can challenge for real world titles any time soon.  Luke Campbell will be as he prepares for Jorge Linares.  The aforementioned Callum Smith could come home with a belt.  The cupboard is pretty bare after that.  Secondly, we will see far more NXT Gen shows.  Why?  Well, if you can't deliver on a promise of world title fights headlining regular Fight Night slots, then simply change the product.  Produce less Fight Night shows and more NXT Gen, then you can't be called a liar.  A manipulator of the truth perhaps, but then that is promoting.

What is clear is that these young lads at the 'Start' are going to be getting regular run outs.  Probably five or six outings per year.  Perhaps their own NXT Gen shows, perhaps slotted into undercards elsewhere.  But there is a lot of deadwood at Matchroom.  Such a large influx of top grade amateurs (5 new Team GB lads) means the pressure will be on the 'Undercard' fighters.  The likes of Ryder, Johnson, Cardle, Coyle, Burton.  All solid pro's and have reached a good level, but their heels are being nipped on, the younger talents eager to take those slots.  

The next 12 months could be fascinating at Matchroom HQ.  My guess is we see a dip in perceived quality of shows as the younger talents start to be bred through.  The questions to ask as fans would then be twofold.  Where does my Sky money go?  You said British boxing was booming?  Perhaps we are in a trough right now.  The future certainly looks rosy, but the present could be littered with thorns.