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It could well be a case of first mover’s disadvantage this year, with reports coming in that Frank Warren’s first boxing card last Friday did do less than impressive numbers on BT Sport. Mike Coppinger, a writer for The Athletic, tweeted “Sources: Frank Warren’s return to boxing Friday on BT Sport generated an average of 5,000 viewers. The peak viewership was 20K. Main event was Brad Foster-James Beech.”
While the official viewer data from the event on BT Sport have yet to be publicly released, if Coppinger’s sources are right it is a hugely disappointing performance for Frank Warren. With nothing from British boxing for the past few months, Warren had a huge advantage over Hearn by launching first. It seems he was unable to capitalize on his 30-day head start and the event will likely have cost him pretty penny rather than made him bank.
What went wrong?
Warren has been criticized in the past for putting on unbalanced cards and feeding his better fighters sub-par opposition to boost their records and build hype. It’s not something unique to Warren and has become one of our biggest gripes with the sport in general over the past decade.
The lower ranks of boxing can be genuinely exciting as fighter’s basically fight whoever is ready and able to face them. Local events can be far more balanced, but once a boxer starts generating their own reputation and the bigger promoters come knocking, their opponents can start to be overly vetted. Frank Warren’s Friday event was a good example of a card overly filled with uneven matchups.
The troubling thing is that we have started to expect these uneven matchups from Warren, which is only hurting the Queensbury brand in the long run. One of the big reasons boxing gave the last decade away to the newcomer in combat sports, MMA, is that the UFC has placed unprecedented focus on arranging fights that fans want to see, even if the big stars end up losing.
Another reason could be something that Eddie Hearn alluded to over a month ago. Speaking about his upcoming ‘Fight Camp’, Hearn explained that he wanted to figure out how to replace the great atmosphere brought by live fans, with something else. Hearn is acutely aware that a fight without fans is a fight missing one of its biggest ingredients, which is why he is looking into things such as fireworks, music, pyrotechnics and other effects.
In a comment that we all took as an open dig at Warren and Queensbury Promotions, Hearn said “I’m not going to let boxing just dribble back. While other guys go with arenas and empty studios, ours will look very different. Just imagine it. It is summer, the house is all lit up, you can see Canary Wharf in the distance and fireworks are going off.”
Hearn knows that fans tune in to watch an event, not just a fight. Sure, the fight has to be right, it has to be competitive and balanced, but he wasn’t willing to give us a big fight like Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin in an empty studio with no one around.
This is something that both Warren and Arum’s events sorely missed, any atmosphere and competition. Frank’s event at the BT Studio was decked out in screens and posters, the ring looked great and the cameras we’re everywhere, but it fell flat and we all noticed.
Mark Chamberlain started off with his one-sided win against Stu Greener. Dorin Krasmaru had a tougher time with a point win over Phil Williams, but then David Adeleye brutalized Matt Gordon in two rounds. Hamzah Sheeraz retired Paul Keen on his stool in the sixth round.
The headliner was a much more interesting fight between James Beech and Brad Foster, with the fight changes hands a couple of times in the middle rounds. However, by the end, the decision was only going Foster’s way as it was Beech’s first time in a 12-round championship fight and Foster steamrolled him in the later rounds. The final scores were 117-111 for Foster, so not that close in the end.
What happens next?
It’s hard to see Warren’s other cards pulling in better numbers, as he’s built them all the same way. Most likely people will tune in for the headliner, and watch the highlights of the other fights if they hear one of them was especially close.
Other than that, most people I’ve spoken to are anticipating Hearn’s event far more. While not all of the fights are going to be 50-50 bouts, he’s at least tried to jazz them up a bit and there are some genuinely good fights in there too. Arum and Warren will have to figure out how to improve going forward if they want to make their money back.