I WOULD LIKE to, slightly belatedly, wish you all a very Happy New Year and, boxing-wise, we have certainly got plenty to look forward to as we crack on into 2024.
Already you will be aware that we are kicking off our shows with a humdinger of a middleweight fight between Hamzah Sheeraz and Liam Williams at the Copper Box Arena on February 10.
I am anticipating an absolute banger and, should he overcome the fearsome Liam, the career of Hamzah will be turbo-charged and we can really start thinking about a world title challenge in the not too distant future.
A week later we are back in Riyadh for the first undisputed heavyweight collision of the century between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.
This fight represents the pinnacle of the sport and it is something we have all been waiting for. From recent previous experience, we know our friends and colleagues in Saudi Arabia will more than do the occasion justice and we will be in a position to reveal the undercard shortly, which will not be short on surprises.
It was also revealed late last week that Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou will be getting it on in March and full details of this intriguing encounter will be made public next week.
Just as important, if not more so, are the vital development shows we promote regularly to maintain the momentum and increase the experience levels of our young fighters.
For us, it is about future-proofing the sport and creating the champions of the future. It is similar to the pyramid in football and if you don’t nourish the basement and create foundations, the peak will ultimately diminish.
It is incumbent on all of us in the business not to allow the grassroots to erode and to provide a platform for the younger element to thrive and establish themselves. We will continue to do our bit and create a pathway for our fighters to graduate onto the grander stages where the earning potential obviously increases for them.
It is proving to be a successful model for us and the fighters are benefitting from the showcase, as opposed to being tagged onto bigger events in the early time slots.
Casting my mind back to last year, I believe we got the mix just about right. The likes of Henry Turner, Mark Chamberlain, Ryan Garner, Eithan James, Willy Hutchinson, Masood Abdulah and many others capitalised on performing on these shows and all of them are now ready to step up into meaningful fights on the big arena shows.
They are not taking the leap as unknowns, largely thanks to our terrific broadcast partners TNT Sports, they are a known quantity who have cultivated a following via their exploits on the smaller productions.
Liam Davies, for example, nurtured his prospects at the fantastic Telford International Centre and is now, rightly, one of the most popular fighters in the land. He became British and European champion on his doorstep at a venue that also hosted one of the best fights of the year between Andrew Cain and Ionut Baluta.
Baluta again was involved in a cracking scrap at York Hall against Dennis McCann, while we also had the memorable collision between Ellis Zorro and Hosea Burton at the same venue.
On a bigger scale, we had the mighty collision between the unified cruiserweight champion Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde, which launched 2023 in style, plus the twin encounters of Joe Joyce and Zhilei Zhang, which went some way towards shaping current heavyweight fortunes, of which you will hear much more of in short order.
We shouldn’t forget our little jaunt over to Poland where Daniel Dubois challenged for the unified heavyweight titles against Oleksandr Usyk and subsequently Daniel put himself right back in the picture with his gutsy display in Riyadh.
The Magnificent 7 in Manchester was a night that will live long in the memory, with Nathan Heaney enjoying the night of his life and Nick Ball positioning himself next in line for a world title shot at featherweight that we can look forward to with great anticipation this year.
Then there was my ‘Game Changer’ prophecy that came with our opening night of Riyadh Season that featured Tyson against Ngannou and a host of other heavyweights including the much called for British title battle between Fabio Wardley and David Adeleye. The future of the heavyweight division, Moses Itauma, also made himself known to the wider world on that night.
The game has been changed, as illustrated by December’s Day of Reckoning and what we already have in the pipeline for this year. What we will never do, however, is neglect what we do best, which is putting in the foundations and always delivering our young fighters with the opportunities to flourish and move forward.