One year on from signing a blockbuster deal with Sky Sports, BOXXER chief Ben Shalom spoke exclusively to bet365 to reflect on a whirlwind year for the youngest licensed boxing promoter in the UK.
I have a few that come to mind straight away, obviously the fight that will always stick in our minds was Khan vs Brook. I think that was the night which really catapulted us in to a different sphere in boxing, it was such a huge event in so many countries between two icons of the sport.
The night in Coventry when Dylan Cheema won, where we had Ryan Charlton and Scott Melvin fighting. Going in to a place that doesn’t usually host boxing, having eight guys in 50/50 fights throughout the night and having an outsider winning, that was a special night.
Bournemouth was special for us too, the night we finally had our stars coming through. Frazer (Clarke) and Ben (Whittaker) we think are future superstars and they got their knockouts, (Chris) Billam-Smith and Isaac Chamberlain was a great fight in a packed arena too, an unbelievable night.
Also Savannah Marshall headlining in Newcastle, seeing the respect she commanded from the crowd, the first female we had to be a genuine headliner, that was so good.
There are more that stick out from the fight nights we had in February, (Chris) Eubank Jr vs Liam Williams and Taylor vs Catterall, which was famous for all the wrong reasons.
I actually really like the English title fights, because they can be career-defining. Tyler Denny’s fight with River Wilson-Bent, the back-and-forth, the hatred and the fact it was a rematch, makes it really stick out.
Samuel Antwi vs Conah Walker in Cardiff was another incredible fight, I think those English titles where they go the distance and put everything on the line are the most exciting for me.
I think in terms of a shock upset you have to say Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall.
Going in to that fight I think most people thought it was almost a homecoming procession for Josh Taylor after he had unified the titles, everyone overlooked Jack, but really he won that fight and came out on top and performed incredibly.
Another one was Natasha Jonas vs Chris Namus, when Natasha knocked her out to win the WBO world title at 154, which was a shock to me.
I was concerned about moving her up in the weight categories, but that was the only way we could get the world title fights. We always knew she had power, but to move up to 154 and knock Namus out was something that took me aback at the time.
I think Richard Riakporhe’s body shot on Fabio Turchi really sticks out, as well as the way he dispatched of Deion Jumah. He’s a really exciting fighter to watch for me Richard, to have a guy that can end fights almost inconspicuously with body shots I think is a thing of beauty.
Mikael Lawal has had a few vicious knockouts, he always punches extremely hard. He’s going to be one to keep an eye on next year, the cruiserweight division is really heating up.
I think the most beautiful knockout that we’ve seen is Savannah Marshall’s against Femke Hermans, she had Claressa (Shields) ringside and it was almost poetry in motion. You rarely get that in women’s boxing, a knockout that was vicious and so well-timed, and one that will be in the memory of Claressa ahead of the fight on September 10th!
When you make a promise to a fighter, you want to make sure you can stick to it and give them the best shot for their career, everyone knows that activity is everything in boxing.
For example Richard Riakporhe had been inactive for 18 months, now he’s fought four times and looks as though he’s going to fight for a world title, that’s incredible progress.
I think the amount of shows we’ve been able to do has been great, especially with such a small team that we are now starting to develop, boxing needs to be a regular sport, not a couple of shows a year.
It’s hard to pick one moment, I’m mostly proud of the team really, the way we have handled the pressure of moving in to this level of boxing, it’s never easy.
The way everyone has developed and is now producing consistently, people forget our first show was only 2nd October, we’re not even a year into it yet.
Boxing is a tough sport for young people to get into, our team is all young guys, a lot that we’ve signed from debut, seeing Caroline, Frazer and Ben and knowing how big their futures are going to be makes us proud.
We’ve invested in British boxing, invested in local fighters, making that connection stronger. I think what we’ve done with women’s boxing in such a short space of time is great to see.
We’ve got Claressa, Savannah and Natasha who are the more established names, but we’ve got Caroline (Dubois) and Lauren (Price) coming through too, it’s a crazy amount of talent and something I think we’ve done remarkably well with.