FOR 18 months small-hall promoters in Great Britain had no choice but to bolt the doors and watch as the impact of COVID-19 wrecked any and all future plans. Some, in the end, were grateful for the rest. Others feared for the future of the game. One man with a foot in both camps was Newark’s Carl Greaves, who kept himself busy doing his other duties – chiefly, trainer and manager – but went some 18 months without promoting a show of his own. His final show prior to the global pandemic was held in Leicester on March 14, 2020. His first post-pandemic show, meanwhile, didn’t take place until September 11, 2021 (again in Leicester).

“From the beginning it was very tough,” Greaves told Boxing News. “A couple of weeks in, I lost my biggest ticket seller, Callum Blockley, to a hand injury he suffered at work. He does 300-odd tickets and has a big Leicester following.

“A few weeks later I lost Kenan Wingfield, another big ticket seller locally, who had a little query with his eyes. I replaced him with Ellis Hopkins, a local girl, and then she had to pull out because she’d had Covid a few weeks before and hadn’t recovered.

“Then I lost Ryan Amos, who was fighting Kyle Haywood for the title, top of the bill. He had done 100 tickets as the away fighter, which was a big plus for this show, but he had to withdraw because of a problem with his elbow.

“Fortunately, I managed to replace him with a tougher opponent, Alex Fearon, who took it on three weeks’ notice and did a few tickets actually.

“I was down to eight fights from 10 and two days before the show I only had five of those matched. Ollie Marple’s opponent pulled out with Covid, and Joe Ducker’s opponent, Chris Pilkington, pulled out because he couldn’t get his medicals done in time. It was a worry. It was the most stressful show I’ve ever put together.”

Can’t live with it, can’t live without it; the relationship between small-hall promoters and small-hall promoting is that most toxic of relationships, one predicated on uncertainty and the feeling that disaster lurks around every corner.

“With it being such a big show for me, and with me wanting to come back with a bang at the Morningside Arena, it was important to make a statement and do it for the lads who haven’t boxed for so long,” Greaves said. “I wanted them to box on a big stage and we had Fightzone TV filming it. It was all set up for a great night.

“The arena holds 3,000 but we were set up for 2,200 people. We never opened the main stand, so in the end we sold out what we set up for, which was, 1,100. It looked fantastic in there.

“From the weigh-in to the actual night itself it just ran so smoothly. I had all the bad luck possible leading up to the night and then once the night arrived everything was fine.”

The overwhelming feeling at the end of the night, with Kyle Haywood defeating Alex Fearon to become Midlands Area super-welterweight champion, was one of sheer relief. “I had eight out of eight – all my fighters won – and I had a Midlands Area champion at the end of the night as well,” Greaves said. “It was a great show. I was very pleased with it. The lads had all been out of the ring so long and some were a bit rusty and some boxed better than others. But, all in all, I was relieved.

“Maybe because I hadn’t promoted for so long, I was bit more worked up than usual. I’m not just a promoter, remember. I’m a manager, trainer and matchmaker as well. I put the show together, I made all the matches, I trained four of the eight fighters, and obviously I did four of the eight corners on the night. Luckily, I have Phil Jones, the whip, who runs the floor for me on the night, but everything before the show was very stressful.”

Despite the stress of it all, Greaves plans to promote two more shows before the end of the year. He is back in the habit and, despite the perks of inactivity, wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’ve been stress-free for 18 months,” Greaves said. “I’ve felt sorry for the lads who haven’t been able to get out but I’ll be truthful with you: I’ve not missed promoting at all.

“It’s just such a hard and stressful job. You don’t know until the day before or the day itself whether you’re going to make money or lose money. Financially, you have to rely on a bit of sponsorship – and I was fortunate enough to get a bit for this one – and also ticket sales. You just take that gamble really and that’s how it’s always been. Kids can tell you they’ve done a hundred tickets but until you get the money you don’t know how true that is. It starts at a hundred until the money’s being collected and then it goes down to 50.

“Because there are so many shows in September – 40-odd, I think – matchmaking is virtually impossible. We’re all struggling right now. I know my phone hasn’t stopped ringing and it’s always promoters desperate for away fighters.

“The trouble you’ve got is there are 80 per cent home fighters and 20 per cent away fighters, so you can imagine how difficult it is getting opponents for prospects. Then you’re relying on the same opponents week in, week out, and hoping they don’t get stopped or cut. It’s very tough at the moment and a lot of promoters are struggling, big time. I’m just pleased I’ve got my show out of the way.”