Wednesday, October 18
ONE SHOW ON, ONE SHOW OFF
It was a busy old Wednesday at The Week towers with newslines flooding in from across the world. In London, it was confirmed there would be a Boxxer show on Sky Sports despite the withdrawal of Dan Azeez from the headline fight with Joshua Buatsi.
Instead the four-fight show would go on at York Hall with Isaac Chamberlain’s challenge for Mikael Lawal’s British and Commonwealth cruiserweight titles topping the bill. Azeez even went on Sky Sports News to deny suggestions that the injury was a fake one and that the show had been pulled due to poor ticket sales. “That has been upsetting,” he said. “For someone of my integrity, I would never ever stage an injury.”
In America, after weeks of rumours, it was officially confirmed that Showtime would be shutting up their boxing shop after 37 years in the sport. “As we evolve our strategy to more efficiently allocate resources and align our content offering across the business,” a statement read. “We’ve made the difficult decision not to move forward with boxing.”
As I understand it, Al Haymon has already secured a new home for his PBC fighters and an announcement is expected within the next few weeks. Even so, no HBO or Showtime in the sport for the first time in many boxing fans’ lives. These are certainly changing times.
Thursday, October 19
Before this week, only a handful of people in boxing had even heard of Evins Tobler much less heard him speak but on Thursday he continued his push to become the official pantomime villain in the fight between Devin Haney and Regis Prograis. Both fighters have been respectful during the build up but things started to heat up at Wednesday’s press conference, largely down to Tobler, who did most of the talking.
And by Thursday, as the official face-off was filmed, Tobler and Haney’s father-train Bill clashed once more. “Get the stretcher ready,” said Tobler, Prograis’ strength and conditioning coach. “Your son can’t beat Regis”. In response, Haney said: “You’re a sucker and a fake.”
Across the Atlantic, at a cinema on the Mile End Road in east London, Joe Laws was doing his best trash talk too. “I’m gonna bring it,” he roared. “I don’t know what I’m bringing, but I’m bringing it.”
Friday, October 20
SQUAT DIDDLY POP
As the UK woke up to news of a savage blow for the current Conservative government, who lost two of their safest seats overnight, the current El Presidente of the heavyweight division Tyson Fury sat down on a sun lounger in Riyadh to conduct a wide-ranging interview with the Boxing King Media Youtube channel, who thanked Turki Al Alshikh for the access.
After insisting he is taking his fight against boxing debutant Francis Ngannou deadly seriously and declaring that the UFC icon will be facing the fittest possible version of the Gypsy King, Fury turned his attention to his critics. Strap in, Steve from Stevenage.
“People’s opinions mean squat-diddly-pop to me,” Fury said. “The opinion of a mortal man to an absolute eternal king means nothing to me.
“I don’t care what Steve from Stevenage says about me, at all. Why does that mean anything to me? It’s a lesson to everybody out there: if you listen to mugs and idiots – dreamcrushers I like to call them – they just hate on other people trying to do something they haven’t got the guts to do it. I’m sure Van Gogh had his haters but I can’t name any of them.”
NB: The Week approached every single person called Steve from Stevenage for comment on Vincent van Gogh but at the time of writing none were available for comment.
Saturday, October 21
Eddie Hearn’s cold war with the British Boxing Board of Control stepped up a gear late on Saturday night when he suggested for the first time that Conor Benn’s fight with Chris Eubank Jnr can go ahead in Britain without the support of the BBBoC.
It is now more than a year since the cancellation of their initial date but Benn and Eubank are finally set to clash in either December or January with or without the Board’s grace.
“If we stage the fight in the UK or Kalle Sauerland does, it’s up to the Board if they sanction that fight,” Hearn told IFL TV. “Hopefully they do but it’s up to them. We want to move forward and do the fight in the UK.
“When a guy has won a case with UKAD, has the right to fight in Britain because he is not suspended, we are going to move forward and do it and we hope we have their support. I called Robert Smith on Thursday and he said he’d call me back and he hasn’t.”
Hearn was speaking in Liverpool following Jack Catterall’s points victory over Venezuelan veteran Jorge Linares, who announced in the aftermath of the defeat that he would be retiring. Elsewhere on a busy night of boxing, Chamberlain did the business at York Hall while the performance of Saturday came from Giovani Santillan who stormed past Alexis Rocha in six rounds in California.
Sunday, October 22
Anthony Joshua this week spent four days alone in a totally dark room. He described it as ‘infinite darkness’. Firstly, where do I sign? Secondly, what was the toilet like?
On Sunday, however, he was back out in the big, bad and widely lit world, chatting to Sky Sports reporters at the grand prix in Dallas. During the interview, he suggested that the double-header Saudi supershow including both Fury-Usyk and Joshua-Wilder was back in play.
However, The Week understands that plan – a highly ambitious one formulated by Skills Challenge Entertainment – is very much old news and that Saudi’s General Entertainment Authority is now in charge of the boxing in the region. Their plan is still Fury-Usyk and that could come as early as December 23.
As reported in this column last week, Joshua-Wilder has now emerged as a potential Las Vegas fight in March with the Londoner set to box in December first. Zhilei Zhang, Agit Kabayel and Manuel Charr are three names that have popped up this week as potential opponents. Whether they do any of those with the lights turned on or off is yet to be confirmed.
Monday, October 23
It was a big week for World Boxing, the new international federation established to challenge IBA, whose mission statement is ‘to keep boxing at the heart of the Olympic Movement’. On Friday a press release stated that Finland, Iceland, Jamaica, Norway, Czech Republic and Nigeria have become the latest six organisations to have their membership applications approved.
The inclusion of the latter, Nigeria, was significant because it is the first African federation to join. However, over the weekend, a report claimed that Nigeria had not in fact joined up with World Boxing and had ‘pledged loyalty to IBA’, the organisation currently at loggerheads with the IOC amid the stark possibility of boxing being dropped from the Olympics.
But on Monday, a second press release of the week was sent out by World Boxing including a quote from the president of the Nigerian Boxing Federation General Kenneth Minimah who said: “Under my leadership, the NBF applied and joined World Boxing on October 20, 2023.”
What does all this mean? Why should we care? Because it seems as if World Boxing is the sport’s only hope of remaining in the Olympics. But this week has showed us once again that it does not like IBA are going to go down without a fight.
Tuesday, October 24.
SAUDI MANAGE THAT?
As The Week packs its bags and boards its flight to Saudi Arabia, there are still a number of questions to be answered on the whole affair in Riyadh, in the Hittin district of the city to be precise (yes, really).
Boxing News has learned that there will be two different rings – and perhaps even two different arenas – for fight night: one for the undercard and one for the main event. Why? Who came up with that? Was it at the behest of the British Boxing Board of Control? Why aren’t any of these fights listed on Boxrec? The mind boggles.
The Week reached out to the General Secretary of the Board, Robert Smith, to find out some of the answers but all he said was: “The show is under the BBBoC jurisdiction”. So is Fury-Ngannou now a fully licensed and Board sanctioned fight? You’ll find more clarity on that in the Editor’s Letter.
What is without question is that the Saudis are going big for this one: it is understood that the ring in which Fury and Ngannou will clash is going to be constructed several feet underground before somehow rising up out of the floor. The rumour is they’ve done a million quid on that bit alone. The new era is upon us.