It has been a tough few years for veteran promoter Frank Warren.
The emergence of Eddie Hearn taking over his Dad’s reigns at Matchroom Sports has seen them enjoy a near-dominance over the UK boxing market. After signing an exclusive deal with Sky Sports back in 2012 and subsequently extending it last year, they have built fighters in their home towns and gained huge followings.
As a result, the biggest fights involving British fighters have almost exclusively taken place under Matchroom’s watchful eye. Be it Carl Froch vs George Groves or one of Ricky Burns’ packed nights in Glasgow, Hearn has hosted a number of epic, lucrative nights.
When you factor in the likes of Burns and Groves both crossed over to Matchroom – though Groves is now with Sauerland Promotions – and you can gauge how difficult it has been for Warren and Queensbury Promotions.
Warren has come through a similar patch
But this is nothing the 62-year-old hasn’t seen before. As Barry Hearn turned Chris Eubank into one of the most marketable fighters this country has ever seen, Warren lost his only world championship belt when Colin McMillan lost the WBO featherweight belt in a 1992 defeat against Ruben Dario Palacios.
It surrounded a turgid time during Warren’s personal life too, just three years after an attempted assassination attempt left him without half a lung and part of his ribs.
As Hearn enjoyed the adulation of Britain’s boxing fans, Warren was plotting his way back to the top and reached it again soon enough. His breakthrough came by teaming up with Don King to promote Chris Eubank vs Nigel Benn II. As Hearn struggled to secure a TV date, Warren tied up a deal with ITV for the bout.
The emergence of a new batch of stars, most notably Naseem Hamed, came through via the Sky Sports platform and Warren’s promotional ambitions were re-born.
History repeating itself?
So the performances of those on the Manchester card on Saturday night must give life to the old dog yet; there might even be rivalry to match that of Froch and Groves.
Billy Joe Saunders, topping the bill in Tyson Fury’s absence, secured the European middleweight title with an eighth round knockout of Emmanuele Blandamura, while Chris Eubank Jr scored a devastating first round stoppage in the preceding bout.
Friction between the two huge personalities has been prevalent and words were exchanged after the fight as tempers flared inside the Phones 4U Arena. Many predict a grudge match could take place very soon, which could prove a money-spinning encounter.
There were also impressive wins for British light-middleweight champion Liam Smith and lightweight Terry Flanagan, both extending unbeaten records. Smith, part of the famous Liverpool family including three brothers all signed to Hearn, could challenge on the world scene within a year or two.
Thomas Stalker, Jack Catterall and Liam Walsh also secured victories and have potential to reach the top.
His prospects don’t stop there. North East star Bradley Saunders is continuing a rapid rise to prominence and a host of young fighters in that region could provide many a big night at Newcastle’s biggest venues.
He’s been down before and recovered. History may be about to repeat itself.