By Frank Warren
David Haye’s brazen promise to bring boxing back to the masses might just have backfired after his latest night on Saturday.
It was a show with more than a few comic turns and none more so than the two headline acts.. Haye makes no secret of the fact that his ‘events’ are not particularly aimed at boxing fans, those who study the form before electing to part with their hard-earned.
The Hayemaker tells us he is targeting a new audience, to broaden the appeal of the fight game, but when the ring entrances are outlasting the fights by a distance, even those dressed up to the nines at ringside must have been hoping for a little more than just seven minutes of horribly one-sided pugilistic entertainment.
It was understandable Haye wanted to ease himself back in his first outing after such a prolonged absence and the hapless Aussie Mark Di Mori, complete with his astonishing top ten ranking with the WBA, duly capitulated before the bell sounded for the end of round one.
For his second coming, you wouldn’t expect him to fight King Kong, but at least someone who can soak up a jab. They talked up the unbeaten record of Arnold Gjergjaj, but his cast list of victims featured names that looked like they’d been plucked off the board on Countdown. Quite possibly the recent infamous ‘Bumhole’ version.
Gjergjaj calls himself the Cobra, but the only wildlife he shares any characteristics with is a swallow!
A couple of weeks ago following our show in Bolton the British Boxing Board of Control withheld the purse of an opponent on an undercard fight. If anyone should be hit in the pocket, it is Gjergjaj and the import fed to old greybeard Shannon Briggs, Emilio Zarate.
The Board should be ashamed of licensing such mismatches to sit at the top of the bill, ones which provided the worst possible advert for boxing on free to air television.
From my perspective, I view the live transmission of this promotion on the ambitious comedy channel Dave as an opportunity wasted to give the sport a real boost. Yes there were a few technical issues, but that can happen with inexperience of outside broadcasts. It has been claimed that Haye not only chose his opponent, but also who was to present the action – what there was of it.
There were more foot in mouth moments, than punches in the mouth. No fault of the channel. Blame the other Dave here.
It has probably done the sport more harm than good. Some people were certainly booing and, ok, the crowd was largely composed of young people on a Saturday night out – and that’s fine – but the general consensus of what boxing is all about, is not that.
To say you are trying to attract new fans to boxing is bullshit.
The Board, in their wisdom, gave a licence to the 44-year-old Briggs, who is well past it, allowing him to fight an opponent who was nothing short of a joke. The Board badly let boxing down and undermined their support for the sport by allowing these matches.
I know the score when it comes to getting approval for some opponents and, I’m not saying I haven’t had fights where there haven’t been a couple of stoomers, but not as a main event. The two feature fights here were a disgrace.
As I say, this sort of thing is turning boxing into a cabaret act. When I started out I got criticism for some of my innovations, such as introducing music and ring card girls – and advertising on the ring canvas.
I understand you’ve got to move with the times and it is a changing market now, but there are also still plenty of fans of our generation who want to see good, value for money boxing at its best. You don’t want to stop those genuine fans going to fights, but the sort of thing that happened on Saturday is turning them off.
Someone needs to be held to account for it. David Haye is being allowed to pick his own opponents in the same way Audley Harrison did. ‘Fraudley’s’ antics came at a price and brought about the demise of boxing on the BBC and a reluctance of other mainstream outlets to get involved.
Yes Haye is a great personality. He can talk, he can punch and has been a world champion, though I suspect all he wants to do now is make a few more bob and retire.
He also holds a trump card in having captured the attention of an innovative television platform and I hope that ‘Dave’ doesn’t bail of boxing on the strength of being taken for a Haye ride.
The sport has so much more to offer than this rubbish.
They tell us this is ‘new-age promoting’ but, if this is an example, then the traditional formula in still in there more than punching its weight as you will see when Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko have their BoxNation-screened re-match in Manchester in July 9, a genuine heavyweight fight.
Why Chris makes me so cross? More from Frank tomorrow.