By Frank Warren
WE HAVE FINALLY reached the time of year where, for once, as a promoter you can take stock and have a little look back, rather than continually thinking ahead to what’s coming next.
The year of 2017 has been a memorable one with many success stories and a few disappointments, but a year we are already looking to surpass in 2018 by putting on more of the fights the fans want to see.
Here are a selection of my personal hits and misses from 2017.
Best British boxer of the year?
That is a tough one but, for me, it is toss-up between two and that is Billy Joe Saunders or Anthony Joshua. So with Bill’s successful mission to Montreal accomplished only last weekend and fresh in the memory, I am going to go with him because I cannot recall such a complete and dominant display of boxing for a long while.
Best performance by an overseas boxer in a British ring?
Three spring to mind here and that is Gervonta Davis against Liam Walsh, Jerwin Ancajas against Jamie Conlan and our own Zolani Tete against Siboniso Gonya. All three were brilliant in their own way, but Tete is the man for me because I doubt we will witness a more chilling and devastating finish to a fight than we saw in Belfast in just 11 seconds.
British fight of the year?
The two for me are the first meetings of Jahmaine Smyle v Darryll Williams and Liam Smith v Liam Williams. Both fights had everyone on the edge of their seats and were compulsive viewing, but Smith-Williams edges it for me because it was a fight that had a bit of everything, right down to a controversial finish. It was also a fight that left a lot of questions unanswered and those are the ones that get people talking.
Best performance on the road?
Only one winner here by a long way. Step forward Billy Joe Saunders.
Overseas fight of the year?
For the sheer magnitude of the occasion, the fact it was the fight every boxing fan wanted to see and that it was unquestionably the best fighting the best at the time, I will go with Gennady Golovkin v Saul Alvarez. It wasn’t a blood and guts tear-up, but it was a fascinating watch for fans of the sport. The only poor quality work came from the judges.
I would have to say James DeGale losing his world title to Caleb Truax earlier this month.
Most promising young fighter of the year?
That is a difficult one because I don’t want to upset anyone by leaving them out or overlooking them. If you push me though, my nominations would be – in no particular order – Anthony Yarde, Zelfa Barrett, Daniel Dubois and Lyon Woodstock. I know I am going for the obvious ones that have caught the eye of the public – and there are a good few more where they came from – but, sorry, I can’t narrow it down further because they are all so talented.
The hugely successful launch of boxing on the BT Sport platform, which has been a game changer for us and, at the same time, brilliant for British boxing. The superb coverage and creative use of social media has pushed our boxers to the forefront and will continue to do so in a big way.
The downside of always striving to deliver competitive fights for the fans is that you don’t win them all and a low point for me came at the Copper Box in May when Liam Walsh was stopped in the third by Gervonta Davis. The real shame of it was that Liam was unable to show the best of himself and wasn’t at the races on the night.
Promoter of the year?
Floyd Mayweather. He is just a genius and he does it time and time again. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold and who else could generate hundreds of millions for fighting a MMA star with zero boxing experience? He is always involved in huge events and it is always down to him.
How does 2017 rate in the back catalogue?
If I look just at recent years it has been our best one, for obvious reasons. The BT deal has increased our income and enabled us to up our game a bit more.
Young prospect to look out for in 2018?
We have got plenty of those for everyone to keep an eye on next year but, if you push me for one name, I would suggest you all keep tabs on the 19-year-old featherweight Ryan Garner. He is a bit special.
Wish list for the New Year?
To join forces with Tyson Fury and get him back to where he belongs.
If you could make one change to the sport?
Mine would be for the fans to stop being ripped off by the secondary ticket market on such a grand scale. I am not talking about a few punters chancing their arm and sticking on ‘two together’ in the hope making a few quid. I am talking about literally swathes of tickets, replenished daily, that are not made available to fans to buy at face value. It denies genuine fans the opportunity to see the fights they want to see and needs to be stamped out before the long-term health of the sport is damaged irrevocably.
In signing off for 2017, I would like to thank you all for your support over the last year and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.