More Matchmaking Frustration for British Boxing

BY David Payne ON August 18, 2004
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‘If you wish to be a success in the world,
promise everything, deliver nothing.’  Napoleon


The old general would have made a decent boxing promoter by the sounds of it. His words certainly strike a chord with this beleaguered British fight fan fresh from the news Ricky Hatton will face Mike Stewart on October 1st and not Paul Spadafora or Vivian Harris as promised by Frank Warren back in June.

Admittedly, Stewart is a known quantity to British fans but sadly his renown is based on a points defeat to Sharmba Mitchell so enormous as to make it as damning as any knockout loss.

Stewart tackled Mitchell as a substitute for the injured Eamonn Magee in the lead support bout for Hatton v Pederson and, whilst brave, was knocked down three times and summarily battered for the duration of the fight. So what does he offer Hatton, a fighter seemingly in most fans’ consensus top five in the talent rich 140lb division and desperate for a ‘break-out’ fight?

Despite the Hatton camp’s revisionist history of the Mitchell v Stewart shut out, only the bout’s ludicrous standing as an IBF eliminator has any meaning. Stewart is far from world-class.

The IBF eliminator tag IS the fight’s credibility, but Hatton has failed to follow through on similar opportunities with the WBO and WBA, why would the IBF be different? And are we really to believe the winner of Tsyzu v Mitchell, for whom Hatton will be mandatory challenger when he wins, will turn away from mega-money fights with Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather or Arturo Gatti to entertain Hatton?

Hatton may find he’s cried wolf once too often.

It tops a disappointing year for the UK’s leading contenders with neither Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, Johnny Nelson, Scott Harrison, Howard Eastman or Audley Harrison securing a contest to excite the boxing public. 2004 was meant to be the year of deliverance for these attractions but its been the lesser known blue-collar fighters Michael Brodie and Clinton Woods who’ve mixed in genuine world-class.

Nobody feels the frustration more than Frank Warren, the promoter of many of these top-level performers, and he appeared to have some mitigation in his negotiations with Vivian Harris. He offered the purse Harris requested. That’s the bottom line.

But ultimately, whatever the circumstances, the fans are yet again short-changed, the fans don’t make the promises—promoters do—and I cannot remember another year when so many top-level bouts failed to materialise. Thankfully, Bolton prodigy Amir Khan’s Olympic adventure and the frenzy created by Danny Williams’ victory re-injected some interest in boxing, an interest currently being driven away by uncompetitive fights, protected ‘champions’ and the loss of terrestrial television coverage.

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