Last night’s Terry Flanagan-topped card in Manchester – the first to be shown on both BT Sport and BoxNation – was a great opportunity for Frank Warren to flaunt the fruits of his ‘New Era’. With a better production and far superior budget at hand, we, as fans, were right to be expectant. The bill didn’t exactly look like it had the makings of one of boxing’s classic nights, but we were all willing to give it a chance. After all, this could have been Frank’s chance to prove he – and his new broadcaster backing – could eventually challenge Matchroom at the peak of British boxing.
Credit where due – I actually felt like the production wasn’t too disastrous apart from a few glaring glitches. BT nailed many of the foundations laid by Sky’s fight night setup. Hell, we even had the token ex-pro dishing out 10-10 rounds like no tomorrow. In all seriousness though, Richie Woodhall wasn’t the problem last night. Even his brain-fart of suggesting that Liam Smith was taking the Williams fight seriously by not dropping the extra required weight can be brushed under the carpet. The thing that hurt Frank last night, and will continue to do so regardless of his new budget – is his, and his stable’s inability to capture the public’s imagination.
This was supposed to be the big night! The new era! Roll up, roll up – grab the hottest ticket in town before they’re all gone! It just didn’t happen. Poor Terry Flanagan, the poster boy of the start of the new chapter, was so sub-standard that the masses had filtered out of the arena before he’d even seen the sixth round. He’s a terrific talent, but lord, he’s not good fun to watch. We’re always told that we’ll see the best of him when he’s in with top opposition, but last night against a half-competitive Petrov was a snoozer. Perhaps it’s harsh on a debutant, but Nicola Adams didn’t exactly light the place up either, and if the main and co-main were a showcase of what we can expect in the future, Eddie Hearn won’t be losing a wink of sleep.
Even Smith-Williams – the fight that had the most promise – left a bad taste in the mouth. The matchmaking was brilliant, and for that reason, I feel for Frank Warren – because Liam Smith butchered what was supposed to be a fun 50-50 domestic scrap to decide which Brit would eventually end up being granted the WBO 154lb belt when Canelo inevitably binned it. Let’s cut straight through the excuses – how did ‘Beefy’ come in 2lbs over on 10 weeks’ notice in a fight of this significance? Who cares about the mix-up that followed with how long he had to make the weight – he shouldn’t have needed it.
Credit to Smith, though, he wasn’t done there. Having been on the wrong end of a shut-out in the first half of the fight, and having sustained a bad cut himself, ‘El Beefo’ threw what looked like a deliberate head-butt which worsened a fresh Cut above Williams’ eye – leading to Gary Lockett pulling his man out. It was just an accumulation of itching annoyances. The weigh-in, the head-butt, the unnecessary Team Smith post-fight celebrations, and the fact Williams was only one round ahead on all three scorecards all tarnished what was otherwise a very fun fight.
It’s alright having a stable packed with talent like Terry Flanagan and Nicola Adams, but if they’re not entertaining or captivating their audience, they’re not putting bums on seats. That said, Daniel Dubois looks like he’ll offer us plenty of entertainment in the future – even if his opponent looked like someone’s dad had crawled into the ring after a night with his pals in the nearest Wetherspoons. He’s one to keep an eye on.
All-in-all, it wasn’t a disastrous night for Queensbury Promotions and BT Sport – it just showed us that there’s a still a massive gulf between Matchroom and everyone else in Britain. Frank desperately needs to make some exciting signings. Josh Warrington may help him in the ticket-selling department, but he isn’t the long-term solution to Queensbury’s empty seat issues. Hopefully the upcoming Leicester and Leeds bills offer more in the way of excitement, and we start to see Frank Warren fill the arenas he’s forking out for in the near future.