Always enlightening to watch an event like this with those not keenly interested in the sport. Spend too much time on Internet forums and it is entirely possible to succumb to the assumption EVERYONE is interested in boxing. Of course they are not. An evening at my old local, The Windmill in the former coal-mining town of Thorne near Doncaster, reintroduced me to this harsh reality, it left me wondering whether this supposedly fan-friendly concept really could attract new fans?
Explaining the format was harder than I expected, no, more accurately, trying to convey the excitement the event should hold was a truly difficult undertaking. Justifying the attention I afforded the screen to family members eager to provide my sister a send-off before she departed for a Performing Arts course in London [good luck sis] proved harder still.
Comments from fellow spectators included – on the final between Sam Sexton and Chris Burton; “Lennox Lewis could beat these two now without training”, on the winner, Sam Sexton “Blimey, he’s fatter than me.” No matter how frequently I pointed out that the “winner takes all” or “but he’s had two fights already” I couldn’t silence the “yeh but its only 3 rounds each fight, they’d fight 10 or 12 for a title with no rest!” brigade. I suppose boxing evangelism isn’t for me even though as a follower of a niche sport it feels like part of the job description.
It made it hard to appreciate the action fully, and stirred comparisons with a night spent in the same pub, packed to the rafters back then to watch Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan. Every pair of eyes, young and old, male and female were transfixed. I suppose it depends on your yardstick doesn’t it?
I found the card entertaining if not breath-taking, though I didn’t see the quarter-finals which offered the fighters at their freshest and where the main upset occurred. Gutsy journeyman Luke Simpkin out-hustling local favourite David Ferguson on points. A thrilling achievement for the bearded brawler from Swandlincote who I’d suggested would be dangerous if under-rated by his opponents.
For the battling Sexton, who took some big-hits before outlasting Burton to land a single fight turning shot in the last, the triumph will improve his profile disproportionately to the significance of his opponents, and at 24 has time to mature and capitalise on the attention. For reference, Martin Rogan, who won the first event, is still likely to tackle Audley Harrison before Christmas. A fight the Irishman couldn’t have dreamed of before the event.
Welterweights are next in Barry Hearn’s developing new format and I may try and spend that evening surrounded by like-minded souls, which will probably mean buying a ticket rather than standing in a pub.