IT IS still both peculiar and pleasing to see Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn together some five months after they were first photographed alongside each other, mere moments after they’d first met. We know why they’re now together, of course, but one is left wondering where we might all have been if they hadn’t left it so long.

On Monday this week, a five-minute trailer loaded with expense, style and daftness was released to promote the undercard – yes, the undercard – of a bill topped by Artur Beterbiev versus Dmitry Bivol in Saudi Arabia on June 1. Clearly influenced by Guy Ritchie, the director who came along in the 1990s with at least one character who was clearly influenced by Frank Warren, the teaser for 5 v 5 is pure cinema, and will prove hard to resist.

The 5 v 5 concept was Turki Alalshikh’s idea and, like all the best ideas, it’s a simple one. Five fighters from the Queensberry stable will take on five fighters from the Matchroom stable. It’s an idea that makes so much sense that not so long ago, such was the sheer implausibility of these rival promoters being acquaintances, it would have been laughed out of the room. Back then, and we’re only talking less than 12 months ago, the closest Frank and Eddie got to sharing screen time was when one of them was being invited to take a pop at the other in a You Tube video.

The trailer, which starts with Frank and Eddie in a darkened room laying their cards on the table, concludes with Warren – who could now consider a side hustle in acting, ala Vinnie Jones – growling, “June 1st, make sure your mob are there.”

Let’s not forget that Warren had called for this long before Alalshikh made it happen. In the summer of 2020, as coronavirus ran amok, our front page headline was ‘Unite’ following Queensberry extending their arm to Matchroom in order to make the kind of fights required to get the sport out the hole it found itself in following the pandemic. Hearn – suspicious of his rival’s motives – seemed less keen and even just a proposed coffee date didn’t come to fruition.

Here we are, not four years later, and it feels like someone has dropped an acid tab in my morning brew. That’s how surreal this all feels, how truly wild it all is, and why we’re all left wondering when the trip will reach its end and to what extent the comedown will affect us.

For now, though, it’s almost impossible not to join the party. After all, these fights and Alalshikh’s philosophies are exactly what fans have been yearning for: Well-matched fights from top to bottom, best v best all but guaranteed, the sanctioning bodies a mere afterthought.

The main event alone is reason enough to watch. Beterbiev versus Bivol is a genuine 50/50 clash between two of the best fighters in the entire sport. For several years it has been near the top of our wish list. For even longer, it seemed destined never to happen.

What the undercard brings is an awful lot of meaningful contests. At heavyweight, we have Deontay Wilder – making his Matchroom debut at the age of 38 – taking on Zhilhei Zhang. The irony that Matchroom, when the only money they had to play with was their money, tried and failed to get Wilder to agree to a fight with Anthony Joshua for what felt like an eternity is not lost. In the same division, Queensberry stalwart Daniel Dubois will take on the unbeaten Filip Hrgovic.

Before we go any further, lets add some context to those three matchups. In the TBRB and BN world rankings, Beterbiev is the champion at light-heavyweight and Bivol is ranked number one. At heavyweight, Zhang is fifth while Wilder is 10th and Hrgovic is fourth compared to Dubois’ ninth.

At middleweight, number 10 Hamzah Sheeraz (Queensberry) is due to fight ninth-ranked Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams and, in arguably the best matchup of the undercard, the promoters put two of their most precious possessions up against each other at featherweight when Warren’s Nick Ball (ranked three) fights Hearn’s Ray Ford (ranked seven) in a contest dripping with intrigue. The other bout features two Britons on the fringes of the 175lbs rankings when Matchroom’s Craig Richards takes on Willy Hutchinson.

As main events go, it’s right up there with the best of them. Likewise the undercard. But let’s not go overboard and say the sport is better than it’s ever been – we’re not quite there yet. It’s still crying out for some overall structure and for long-term planning to take precedent over the making of today’s headlines. Yet so valuable are today’s lessons, one hopes that when the inevitable occurs, and one day it will, we already know exactly what we must do.

Awards season

Elliot Worsell and BN scoop plenty of gongs from the BWAA

IT brought me significant pleasure this week to realise that Boxing News had won four ‘Bernie’ Awards from the esteemed Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and BN was, after nabbing eight top three placings in six categories, the leading outlet for 2023.

Elliot Worsell, a great friend and even better writer, scooped three of awards and got a second place all on his own. To anyone that reads and appreciates the work of Elliot, it should come as no surprise. I had long been an admirer of Elliot before persuading him to join BN several years ago. He writes with such effortless brilliance it always puzzles me how he does it. Though his talent is one to envy, it is the product of a lifetime’s work.

The great Thomas Hauser retained his best investigative reporting award and there were also placements for Oliver Fennell and Jack Hirsch with ‘honourable mentions’ for Hauser, Fennell, Tris Dixon and Lewis Watson.

Congratulations to all the award winners and thank you to the BWAA for recognising the quality of our content.