Many sporting leagues and organisations have began to re-emerge following lockdown, however, few comebacks will be as innovative as Matchroom Boxing’s unique venture this weekend.
From the outset, Promoter Eddie Hearn was adamant that simply staging mediocre shows in a TV Studio wouldn’t be adequate to maximise engagement and entice new fans into the scene.
— Frank Smith (@Frank_1_Smith) July 29, 2020
Coinciding with the culmination of wall-to-wall Premier League football, following months of previews and buildup, Matchroom’s offering will be showcased this weekend when the opening bell sounds on the first of four intriguing domestic cards at a venue being coined Matchroom Fight Camp.
Hearn has taken his back garden at the Matchroom HQ in Brentwood, Essex and transformed it into something of a theatre for fights and whilst there are undeniable risks involved, the sheer audacity of the plans to maximise the allure of boxing in the wake of such challenging conditions is commendable.
The opening three weeks will be shown live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US, however, it is perhaps the final week that the plans become most daring as the schedule moves to pay-per-view.
Headlined by Dillian Whyte’s heavyweight collision with Alexander Povetkin and Katie Taylor’s much-anticipated rematch with Delfine Persoon, August 22’s card from ‘Matchroom Square Garden’ will mark the British boxing’s return to box office following the pandemic.
Whilst the production value and unique setting for the hectic schedule will be key to its novelty and immediate intrigue, what will be the most telling factor of its success is the content, something that has been enhanced by the pandemic.
The hiatus has meant that tune-up fights and routine outings against journeymen were no longer feasible, subsequently, the Fight Camp mantra, which promoter Hearn has repeatedly underlined in recent weeks is ‘no easy fights’.
It has led to some mouthwatering domestic contests being made, which previously would have been unlikely pitting together prospects in high stakes bouts, broadcast on prime time over consecutive weekends on Sky Sports, no doubt boxing can benefit from the schedule and expand its audience.
The Brentwood back garden will also host British sporting history on August 7, when for the first time two British females clash for a world title as Natasha Jonas challenges Terri Harper, for the WBC and IBO super-featherweight titles.
The bout is one of a plethora of exciting female contest, something that’s significant given how other female sports have struggled to come back from the pandemic, in comparison to their male counterparts. It very much underlines just how exceptional the growth of women’s boxing has been in recent years and affirms that its progress won’t be limited by the pandemic.
Adam Smith, Sky Sports Head of Boxing Development, expressed his excitement over the plans: “Eddie Hearn has supplied a sizzling summer schedule in August, starting with three Sky Sports shows packed with British talent. Sam Eggington against Ted Cheeseman should be a classic clash, while the exciting trio of Jordan Gill, Fabio Wardley and Dalton Smith will be eager to impress.
“Terri Harper has already endeared herself to fight fans with her remarkable success story, but Natasha Jonas is a genuine threat as we return to Matchroom HQ with a high-class World Title fight. Anthony Fowler and Chris Billam-Smith have big ambitions and cannot afford slip-ups on the same bill.
“Felix Cash defends his Commonwealth belt against the dangerous Jason Welborn on our third action-packed show. We’ll get another chance to see Shannon Courtenay in action – she is a rising talent with an entertaining style – and it’s a perfect platform for Kieron Conway and Zelfa Barrett to showcase their skills.
“Fight Camp ends with fireworks as Dillian Whyte risks his World Title ambitions against the big-hitting Alexander Povetkin, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Katie Taylor can cement her status as one of the sport’s finest fighters when she returns to action on another fantastic bill. We’re back with a red-hot line-up of live boxing.”