By Richard Hubbard
A modern day reality confronting nearly all young boxers entering the fight game is they must earn their ticket. For rookie pros, putting bums on seats probably increases their stock more than sticking opponents on their backsides.
Even those lucky enough to launch their careers with the backing of a major promoter are expected to make an effort and the Board of Control make no bones about it when addressing young hopefuls at their monthly pre-licensing meetings.
The officials point out in no uncertain terms that if it is a quick buck you are after, then boxing is probably not the sport for you.
On the small hall circuit, where most novices cut their teeth, different promoters have different models, but the basic requirement is the shifting of more or less 100 tickets to friends and family.
The income generated is to cover the opponent, which comes in at roughly a grand – although the promoter might suggest it is closer to £1,200 – then there will be money to go ‘in the house’, maybe £750 to chip in towards venue hire, medical provision, security and so on.
After that, depending on which deal has been taken up, remaining monies will be split between the promoter and the fighter. So, by the time the boxer has divvied up his training and management fees, he is hardly left with a small fortune.
Some boxers find it nigh on impossible to hit the designated ticket target, in which case some promoters will seek to offer a ‘50-50 deal’, where two boys in the same boat will fight each other to lessen the burden.
In order to get their careers off the ground, many a young fighter buys up the remaining tickets himself to avoid being removed from a card. For others, being a boxer and a salesman is simply too stressful and they are ultimately lost to the sport.
Probably the most prolific ticket seller currently active in Britain is Josh Warrington, one of Frank Warren’s newest recruits, who seemingly single-handedly packs out the Leeds Arena whenever he takes to the ring in his home city.
His salesmanship is enviable, but it didn’t happen by accident and the Leeds Warrior explains that he had to put himself about in a big way to cultivate such a bumper audience, even if he does credit geography for part of his success rate.
“It has been a combination of a few things, I got lucky and fell on my feet in being where I am from in Leeds,” reasoned the featherweight, who forced himself to put sales before soaps to generate such support. “I am a proud Leeds lad, proud of my football and rugby team.
“Most of the people you see in the Arena are my pals from school or I have met them. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time, you’ve got work hard and get out there.
“Sometimes you think you just want to stay in and watch telly, watch a bit of Coronation Street, but you’ve got to get out there and let people know who you are. I often used to say to myself that the next fight will be bigger, but sometimes it would be smaller.
“My time really came when I won my first title, so you have got to keep on grinding and get people to believe in you. Your name has got to be cemented in there.
“The times when I’ve had a spare day and should be relaxing, I am getting out there having an orange juice with people talking about football or boxing. I would get little clips up on my phone or show them pictures.
“They would say they will come to my next one and they come down and have little taste of it, then they tell their mates and it has snowballed. That is how it’s happened for me.
“If someone has got a personal relationship with you they will want you to do it a little bit more and will make the effort to come and watch you.
“The support means a lot and when I walk out into that Arena with the fans behind me you feed off the energy they give you and they want you to win as much as you do yourself.”
So when a boxer says he couldn’t do it without the support of his fans, he really does mean it and the moral of the story is, if you know a young fighter and fancy a good night out, then do tap him up for a few tickets.
He really will be more than happy to oblige.
Has Yarde passed the whiskers test?
Sticking to the prospects theme, one thing all the leading lights have to contend with on a continual basis are the doubters. No matter how punch perfect the performances might be, us observers of the sport are never really content until our ring favourites have proved their ability to soak up a hefty splosh on the chops.
“Wait until he takes one on the whiskers”, we will mutter, as if doing so is some sort of right of passage and not something best avoided.
Anthony Yarde, with his eight KOs in nine wins to date, has heard it all before many times. He does point out, however, that the real school of hard knocks for rookie pros is in the gym and, to borrow a term from Prince Naz, his boots have already been smoked.
Yarde has no great ambition to have his chin tested in the public arena just to prove a point and would much prefer to align himself to the Floyd Mayweather way of doing things and leave the sport with facial features intact.
“Everyone always says that,” sighed the heavy hitting light heavy. “There are so many things you’ve got to look at in boxing – can he take a punch, has he got heart, how will he react when things don’t go his way? Most of these things, I believe, are shown in the gym.
“I preach it a lot, but I respect the sport of boxing and I know how hard it is. Someone I watch a lot of is Floyd Mayweather, he has fought all the world champions and is one of the few boxers to retire with his face unmarked and with all his faculties. His nose is in place and that is rare after being in boxing for 20 years.
“He is the blueprint of how to do things. You want to be retire rich, be able to talk to your children and be happy.”
Yarde reports that his own whiskers moment came within the confines of the Peacock Gym and the man who upset his applecart was the Upsetter himself.
“I have, of course, the second time I sparred Ovill McKenzie he caught me with a right hand and even he said to me that I could take a punch, because he caught me flush on the whiskers. I just bounced back and kept fighting.
“My legs stayed under me, but I knew I got hit and saw a few stars. I said to myself ‘that hurt’ and composed myself quickly.
“It might be different under the lights, but time will tell, that is one thing I do know.”
Who’s round is it?
Anyone fancy a good argument? Then tune in to BoxNation’s Boxing Matters this Monday evening when a debate rages about the most dramatic, fiercest or most controversial rounds ever fought in the ring.
Between them, the Sun columnist Colin Hart, Alan Hubbard, of this parish, and presenter Alex Steedman have assembled a dozen or so epic episodes from bouts dating back to Jack Johnson and Tommy Burns to Chris Eubank and Michael Watson via Cassius Clay v Sonny Liston, Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis via Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, George Foreman and Ron Lyle and, of course Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns – whose round one in 1985 was unanimously voted their number one.
It is a fascinating compilation and one which will have pros and punters alike at verbal loggerheads.
Don’t miss it. Seconds out at 7pm.
Life is too short to keep bitching about the same shit, got to keep moving forward, never look back.
Tyson Fury offers up a forward thinking thought for the week
Lost the buzz a bit for the game, thinking about leaving on top.
Billy Joe Saunders hints at calling it a day
Retire, who me, I’m just f***ing with you, lots to do first.
Billy Joe Saunders an hour of so later. The following day he revealed Adam Booth as his new trainer
They said what…
If I beat him, people will say he is past his time, AJ is great, or if I lose then people will say ‘this guy is a hype job’. It is just a fight. If the winner is the No 1 heavyweight then I will still have to go prove it again, and again, and again, and again. That is why it doesn’t mean anything.
Anthony Joshua thinks we should put his forthcoming scrap with Wladimir Klitschko in perspective
I don’t think my fight with (Tony) Bellew is any kind of test for me. It’s a fun fight for the fans, that’ all it is.
David Haye reckons his date with the Liverpool loudmouth is a fight game for a laugh
I think half of London wants me to beat him too. He’s got a horrible attitude and comes across badly on social media. He’s trying to be a bad boy but he’s hanging out with TV stars from Towie.
Derry Mathews, less than impressed with the conduct of his next opponent Ohara Davies
His little cheekiness is gonna run out in a few years when he is in his twenties, so he has got to get it done quick. Then he will just be ugly!
Joe Pigford predicting the cherubic looks of his stablemate Ryan Garner will not last long