Summertime Madness
Anyone else wonder what they saw on Saturday night from the O2?  I’m left a little perplexed.  A development show or up and coming talent – but where was the development?  I’ll be straight with you here; I don’t have any answers.  Buatsi shined on his debut – all fighters get a pass on day one.  Apart from that, what got developed?  Nobody was stepping up in opposition.  Not one.  Aside from the exciting looking Ted Cheeseman, every fighter there was on a downwards trajectory in terms of who they were facing in the opposite corner.
Let’s start with the perplexing case of Isaac Chamberlain.  Here is a lad who in September 2016 gave boxing fans an absolute treat when he beat Wadi Camacho on a NxtGen show from York Hall.  His shoulder went from the socket, but the gumshield was bit down upon and he battled to a points win.  Brilliant.  Then what?
The Southern Area title gets dropped and he fights the horribly overmatched Imantas Davidaitis in March, then equally out of his depth Ryan Crawford on Saturday.  Crawford, for the record, was stopped by Karl Wheeler.  Wheeler, in turn, was stopped by Camacho.  So what was Chamberlain, a likeable and good talking young man, doing in there with Crawford?  We are being sold a narrative with Chamberlain that down the line, he will fight fellow Londoner and cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie.  Therefore it is equally perplexing, on a night where most of the card was disposable, that Chamberlain never even made it onto Sky TV! 
Hearn has proven over the years he is great at setting seeds for fights down the line.  Whyte vs Joshua, Whyte vs Chisora.  They’ve all had hints dropped long before they were put to the cameras, then Hearn has shown a flair for being able to build the fight.  But with Chamberlain, he has a lad that came through a war early in his career, a natural future opponent waiting in the wings, and yet the only people that got to see him were those foolhardy enough to watch the Facebook stream.  He deserves better.  In fact he deserves better all round.  Let's be clear here; no fault is likely to lie at the boxer's door.  They will, 9 times out of 10, jump at the chance to step up opposition and fight for meaningful belts.
Next Sunday, beaten foe Camacho will be fighting the undefeated Arfan Iqbal for the English title on a Goodwin Boxing show.  Chamberlain must be looking and thinking ‘why not me?’  With such a wealth of resources available to Matchroom it really is perplexing why it was not Chamberlain who was stepping up to that English level.  A fight like that would have brought far more prestige to the TV show than we got in the wealth of mismatches on display.
Another lad in a similar position to Chamberlain is Craig ‘Spider’ Richards.  March 2017 he has a good battle with fellow undefeated fighter Alan Higgins, again capturing a Southern Area title.  The belt gets dropped immediately and then Saturday night, we see him in with Rui Pavantino. 
I get entirely that the Area belts don’t mean everything to everyone.  These lads may go on to get British, European or world titles.  But why are Matchroom getting talented fighters to win these belts in tough matches, then taking them back down a level immediately after?  It doesn’t even stop there from Saturday night. 
Reece Bellotti, super talented featherweight with 9 KO wins from his 10 fights, the other on points.  Again in March 2017, he gets his hands on a title, this time the English as he bear Dai Davies in an impressive stoppage.  Then Saturday he goes in with Jamie Speight.  Speight is game as they come, a multiple Area title winner, but he himself has fallen short when challenging for the English title.  So why oh why are we seeing Bellotti step down to face someone who couldn’t win the belt he just dropped?!  OK, there was some bollocks WBC title on the line, but how is it developing the career of Bellotti to take out Jamie Speight?  I’m lost.
Seems I wasn’t the only one that was confused by it all though, as Adam Smith and Tony Bellew took up the commentary booth positions and seemed equally perplexed by it all.  When Lawrence Okolie was let out of his cage, he was facing Russ Henshaw, a man who once had a bit of promise but is now happy taking his money on the road.  The commentators told us that.  They also told us that Henshaw was stopped in the first round by Jack Massey not too long back.  Fast forward the best part of three minutes and Okolie has scalped another name, going on to 4-0 and solidifying his record of stopping people in round one.  “That’s impressive, Henshaw isn’t a man who comes to lose and doesn’t get stopped in the first” we are then told by our commentary team (not verbatim I may add, but the gist is there). 
But you fucking told us!  You literally told us that he did get stopped in round one by Jack Massey!  The lengths that they will go to in order to legitimise the fights is incredible.  Twisting and turning themselves to look like buffoons, all in order of making a young lad seem from a different planet.  No wonder boxing fans get annoyed with it.  But it wasn’t their only attempt at displaying incompetence.  They had another go during the Connor Benn annihilation of young Mike Cole.  Cole came to the ring looking like he had got lost on Love Island and somehow washed up at the O2.  Undefeated record though, albeit against poor opposition.  What they also mentioned as he made his way to the ring – Cole had taken the fight on 24 hours notice.  Yes, the young man who works on a ship yard for a living was coming to the O2 to take on the ‘Destroyer’ and prime Sky hype candidate Conor Benn at a single days notice.
OK cool, we can handle that.  Things happen in boxing, paperwork goes wrong and fighters are needed at short notice.  But when Benn brutally takes Cole out, the commentators fill our ears with the shite that makes the hyperbole so tough to swallow.  “That was a step up for Benn” was my favourite.  A step up?!  Granted Cole is the first opponent to carry a winning record to the ring, but let’s keep in mind Cole also drew with career journeyman Chris Adaway, and his only wins are against people who have a win deficit so poor they would have finished below Sunderland in the Premier League.  Throw in that he was here at the 24 hours notice, and you have to assume they are almost taking the piss out of either us or Cole?
Final point of this rant – Bellew and Hall mentioned a few times of an injury keeping Benn out of the ring for so long.  We haven’t seen him since December of 2016, so that’s a good 7 months without action for one of the lads Matchroom like to push heavily.  Yet, there has been no mention of what it is?  Not even a hint.  When Bellew beat Haye we had chapter and verse about his broken hand in the fight – so why nothing on young Conor, when everything else has been so well documented during his rise?  We have heard that he has ‘developed’ so much during the break.  Hell, even his dad Nigel said in the post-fight interview that Conor hasn’t been out of the gym during the break – so it can’t have been too serious surely?  But then, why would you need 7 months out?
The lack of clarity on the subject leaves social media users to fill in their own gaps.  I’ve seen things written on Twitter that cover pretty much all bases, but the one that gets thrown up most often is a broken jaw from a sparring session with Ohara Davies.  Unless Matchroom or Benn ever do clarify, then they can expect us to take wild swings at our own answers.