Boxing throughout the years in the USA and Britain has always depended on the small hall fighters and promoters coming through. Today however, this grassroots segment of the fight game is in a state of decline. Casinos in America are cutting back on boxing shows and the television industry throughout the world is doing the same as both industries are just looking for the mega fights. Certain venues and networks still feature young developing fighters but not as routinely as in the recent past.
The television industry has become more focused on quality control and has been more intent upon selecting only the specific fights that they want to broadcast, a trend HBO started years ago. While this is increasingly the way business is being carried out, I think we should never forget that without the small hall promoters, boxing would eventually cease to exist. The talent, which is eventually shown fighting on, say, HBO or Sky TV, would have no environment in which to develop the necessary formative skills. Just as sure as you will kill a plant or tree by removing it from its own roots, such is the connection between small hall shows and the world stage.
In Britain, there are still a handful of promoters who do the small hall shows without the benefit of television exposure. They risk a great deal on the outcome of each fight card they put on, relying on not only the fighters themselves to sell tickets, but also on word of mouth. A promoter who has a reputation for putting on good shows will produce what we in England call a walk up, that is fans who purchase tickets from the venue box office on the night of the fight.
Part of the job of any promoter is to negotiate reasonable purses with the fighters who will appear on his shows. This is perhaps even more crucial to the success or failure of the small hall promoter. However, journeymen fighters often don't seem to recognize the realities of putting on a show without the financial support of television and ask for the same money they would earn from appearing on a nationally broadcasted event.
I myself went through this stage of promotion in the early 1980's and remember my bank manager phoning me up to say that I was so far adrift, if something didn't happen soon he would have to act in the best interests of the bank. Obviously that would have been a terrible blow and quite possibly spelled financial ruin for me. Thankfully Lennox Lewis walked into my life and television followed. From that point on everything changed for me.
Recently I've been called in to help my brother Eugene, who has been for the last four years probably the busiest small hall promoter in Britain. I'd forgotten how hard it is to operate in the business at that level and just how much work goes into it. The staff who put so much into each promotion do so for modest pay as everyone is chasing the kind of dream that I was lucky enough to realize when I found a fighter of Lennox Lewis' caliber.
Maloney Promotions ran their second show of the new season last Saturday at the Elephant and Castle in London. The audience looked quite good but upon tabulating the finances, the incoming never matched up to the outgoing. The good news is that there was some young talent on display that we can entertain the dream of going all the way to the top with. Should that happen, the promoter will get his return and we can then consider the capital and effort put into these early shows as "investments". If it weren't for Maloney Promotions and other small hall promoters who are willing to risk their bank accounts on these dreams, boxing would definitely die.
I know it's the same in America, as I've talked to a number of small hall promoters there who have struggled. One of the names that has been very successful in the past has been Russell Peltz, who for a long time made the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia his base. Russell went on to bigger things when he secured a TV deal with ESPN and has produced some big name fighters and world champions in his career such as Marvin Johnson, Charles Brewer and recently Kassim Ouma. Promoters are not unlike governments who hope to be the first to put a man on an unexplored planet in our solar system. Boxing is made up of people who have big dreams. The day these dreams die is the day boxing will cease to exist.
The young fighters on these small hall shows put in the same kind of commitment and go through the same type of rigorous training as top class fighters but the difference in their pay is sobering. Still, after their fights you can watch these young men clamoring to their managers and promoters about when their next fights will take place. You can then find them back in the gym the very next day as their dream and their hunger drives them on.
Some names to watch from last week's Maloney Promotion show are cruiserweight Junior McDonald, light middleweight Clinton Smith and my brother's own favorites, lightweight Rob Jefferies who is now 9-0 and a young kid who made his debut on the show, called Paul Buckley. These kids can really fight but you don't have to take my word for it because you can see for yourself by logging onto my website, www.frankmaloney.com
. We've got videos of their fights from last weekend for anyone to see, completely free of charge.
No one gets anywhere without hard work and sacrifice and the Monday morning after that show, the staff at the Maloney Fight Factory were already planning for the next promotions, which take place on April the 15th and April the 29th. As is plain to see they waste no time in their determined pursuit of the pot of gold.
Speaking of determination, Clinton Woods started off in the small hall shows and he never stopped coming on despite setbacks to some of the world's best fighters. After four attempts he has been crowned a legitimate world light heavyweight champion, illustrating his level of commitment and self-belief. Upon examining Clinton's record, it's plain to see he started out on small hall bills without the benefit of TV. His first title fight was on a promotion of mine where he became the Commonwealth Super Middleweight champion by beating Mark Baker at Wembley, on the same card as Vinny Pazienza's loss to Herrol Graham in 1997. Clinton did lose that belt to David Starie four months later but it illustrates the idea that if you keep pursuing your dream in the end it comes good.
On March 16th in London, the boxing fraternity will gather to honor Alan Minter's achievement of becoming world champion twenty-five years ago. The event will be full of both new and old faces from the sport of boxing who remember Minter's great achievement which took place on March 16th, 1980 in Las Vegas. Minter was one of the boxers that turned pro in the bright lights and was always on major shows, but he lived up to his reputation by bringing the world title back to the country that he won an Olympic Bronze Medal for. It is with great national feeling that I will attend the event and look forward to congratulating Alan once again for making us all proud to be British.