MATCHROOM’S next move towards what Eddie Hearn has described as ‘world domination’ could be a series of fight nights in Kuala Lumpar following positive talks with the Malaysian government.

So far, the Essex-based promotional company have broken ground well beyond the UK and Ireland, still considered alongside the USA and Mexico as their ‘key markets’, in countries across the globe to varying levels of financial success.

Alongside those, Matchroom have staged shows in Spain, Italy, Australia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Monaco and Uzbekistan as they bid to establish themselves as a truly global force. It was one of the key drivers behind Hearn’s decision to leave Sky for DAZN who are well equipped to facilitate that ambition.

And they could add Malaysia to that list before the year is out after Frank Smith met with government leaders there last month.

“We are always open to working in new markets,” Smith told Boxing News. “We always want to provide global opportunities for our boxers and to stage big events everywhere across the world. We believe we can do what we do anywhere in the world and have been given the chance to prove it.

“I was out in Malaysia for the talks and, yeah, they went well and everyone is feeling positive about it.”

So after those initial talks, how long does he expect before Matchroom’s first show is staged there?

“I would say six to nine months from now,” he says. “These things take time and there is a lot of work that goes in with the governments. It has to align with what they want to deliver. We could suggest 5,000 different fights at 5,000 different price points but you have to be led by them when it comes to what they want.

“They will say they want x amount of money spent and this is what they want delivered for that. They all have different goals – whether it’s relating to tourism, business, trade. It is mainly discussions with governments but there is some private sector stuff too.”

In the past, Matchroom have used the opportunities abroad to grow their stable within that market, like in Australia with the signings of people like Liam Paro and Justis Huni among others. However, in places like Monaco, they have used the funds to secure meaningful fights for some of their homegrown stars who might not be getting the correct opportunities back in Blighty.

They have not staged a show in Monaco post-pandemic but in their last event there, in November 2019, Joe Cordina boxed Mario Tinoco over 10 rounds. He has since gone on to win the IBF super-featherweight title. As well as Malaysia, Smith also confirmed that Matchroom will set up shop once again in Monaco with a July date in the works.

That is likely to follow a similar format to their other cards but in Kuala Lumpar, Smith has another idea.

“What I thought could work is doing a Prizefighter thing in Malaysia,” he says “Bringing back that series which we haven’t done for a while.

“We could bring fighters from the local territories in for that and do it tournament-style. Maybe we would just use those local boxers or we could fill in any gaps with our own guys. I think that could really work.

“But there are a lot of discussions going on. I’d love if we could get it signed and agreed this month but it’s not always that quick and easy. Hopefully our first fight could be towards the end of this year or early next year.”

Which fights land in Kuala Lumpar will all depend on the sort of budget the Malaysian government decide upon. For instance, in Matchroom’s Abu Dhabi debut in November, Dmitry Bivol beat Gilberto Ramirez and was paid handsomely for his troubles.

Smith says: “Discussions around budget are ongoing. We’ve said we can tailor it to whatever they want. Really it depends on times of the season; when do they want to push the tourism? What do they want us to deliver? Maybe their focus market is driving up tourism from China. Maybe it’s from Europe. These are all the things that dictate the final deal and therefore what kind of fights would land there.

“We can come up with hundreds of options for them but we need to be led by them on what they want. They know what we do and the events that we put on. A few of them were at the show in Abu Dhabi. We’ve suggested a lot of names but it comes down to what they want us to deliver.

“We want to focus on our core markets which are the UK, the US and Mexico but we will always seek other opportunities for the brand and our fighters. We want to give boxers opportunities to box internationally on big shows. This will be another one.”

Smith is also adamant they have no intention of a smash-and-grab deal in Malaysia and says his focus now is on building long-terms plans in any new territory.

“It’s very much based on relationships as well and we’ve built some very strong relationships in a number of markets,” he adds. “It’s about being patient. These things don’t come overnight.

“So many people want to rush things through and not build something long-term but everything we’re looking to do now is about four, five-year plans and actually building something that delivers. So many people historically in boxing would go into markets, look to take a load of money, do one show and say: ‘oh well, it didn’t work, thanks very much’.

“We want to build something that will deliver over a four or five-year period for these territories. There are lots of things going on with different markets. There are so many more territories where we are looking to build.

“I really believe that Malaysia will be a key part of what we’re trying to do. We’ve never really done much in the Asian market so that will be a big move for us. I think there are some great fights to be put on there.”

One colossal Asian market in which they are yet to stage boxing is China but Smith confirmed their continued success in another sport could pave the way for a move.

“For sure China is somewhere we are looking at,” he says. “We are very big in China with our snooker. The viewing figures for snooker in China are unbelievable. We’ve just reopened China in terms of events for world snooker.

“Historically there have been events in Macau, which went quiet and they’ve stopped doing them but that may come back round. But China is definitely a potential but you’re lead by talent. You’re lead by fighters from markets who people want to get behind.

“If you want to go to somewhere like China, you really need local talent. But there is talent there and with Zhilei Zhang coming off the back of beating Joe Joyce, I’m not sure what his plans are next, you’d like to think there is huge opportunity to do something massive there.”