Grand Night – This coming Monday, May 30, is a Bank Holiday in England, one of three such holidays during the calendar year. That explains why Matchroom Sport kingpin Eddie Hearn would elect to stage a big boxing show on a Sunday. He chose Liverpool and elected to hold it outdoors at Goodison Park. The Grand Old Lady of English soccer stadiums, Goodison Park is in many ways the U.K. equivalent of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field or Lambeau Field in Green Bay, musty but venerated American sports stadiums.
Sunday’s Goodison Park card, Liverpool’s first stadium fight in 67 years, is incredibly deep. Fourteen bouts are scheduled. If they all go the distance (highly improbable) they would consume 98 rounds. Gates open at 4 PM and it’s lights out at midnight. As of Thursday morning, May 26, more than 16,000 tickets had been sold. With favorable weather in the offing, walk-up sales are expected to be brisk. And with nine local fighters on the card, the atmosphere is certain to be festive.
In the main event, Liverpool’s Tony Bellew (26-2-1, 16 KOs) meets African invader Ilunga Makabu (19-1, 18 KOs) for the vacant WBC World cruiserweight title. Bellew, who enters the fight as the underdog at the betting shops, has won six straight since being stopped by Adonis Stevenson in a match for the WBC World light heavyweight title. And that doesn’t include the split decision that he won right here at Goodison during halftime of a Premier League soccer game on Jan. 19 of last year. That was a make-believe fight with actor Michael B. Jordan, a pivotal scene in the critically acclaimed movie “Creed.” Bellew’s character was called “Pretty” Ricky Conlan.
Eddie Hearn had no problem finding local fighters to spice up his card. They came out of the woodwork. “As soon as this event was announced it was one that I was desperate to be part of – everyone in Liverpool is buzzing about May 29,” said undefeated (19-0) super middleweight Callum Smith, the hottest young prospect in England. His older brother Paul Smith was so anxious to be on the card that he will be fighting for the second time in the last three weeks. His go is a 6-round affair that won’t be televised.
Callum Smith, who appears in an 8-round bout, is matched soft. In the face-off, he appeared to be about a foot taller than his Argentine adversary, Cesar Reynoso (14-7-3). A third Smith brother, super featherweight Stephen Smith, didn’t get the luxury of a quasi-walkover. Stephen Smith engages Argentina’s Daniel Brizuela in an intriguing 10-round contest.
If all goes according to plan, no less than six of the bouts will make the TV portion of the card which airs beginning at 6 pm local time on Sky Sports 1. No matter the outcome of Tony Bellew’s fight, it will be a festive night of boxing in Liverpool.