EDDIE HEARN says that ever since the last Prizefighter three years ago, fans have been asking when it’s coming back. It isn’t. Hearn simply doesn’t have enough dates with Sky Sports.
Fortunately for those who like their boxing served up in three-round, eight-man tournament slices, Ultimate Boxxer is here. The inaugural event takes places tomorrow night (April 27) at Manchester Arena. The quarter-finals will be shown live on the UniLad Facebook page (7.15pm) and 5Spike catch up on the action at 9pm and broadcast the final stages live.
The organisers, led by the youthful founder and Managing Director Ben Shalom, are keen to discourage comparisons with Prizefighter.
Ultimate Boxxer, as was pointed out at a noisy, trendy London press conference when Ricky Hatton, Paulie Malignaggi and Anthony Crolla were unveiled as ambassadors, is a new brand, with music acts part of the night’s entertainment.
“We will lose money on this first show,” said Shalom, “but we are here to stay. We want to build the brand. We are looking to have four shows this year and eight-to-10 shows next year. “We should have 5,000 there at the arena and we’ve got TV. It’s a good start.”
The question is, will it be a good night’s boxing? By the looks of things, yes.
“We could have got championship level fighters who everyone knows,” said Carl Greaves, who selected the fighters and acts as official promoter. “But we’ve gone for eight unbeaten lads who’ve all had fewer than 10 fights. They will get in there and fight their hearts out.”
The winner of three, three-round fights gets £16,000, a huge sum for fighters who have been selling tickets to fight on small-halls shows.
“We are looking to give everyone a chance,” said Shalom.
Given that all eight fighters are unbeaten, and mostly untested, trying to pick a winner is tricky, but he could well come from the bottom half of the draw where Andy Kremner and Isaac Macleod – both 9-0 – meet in the pick of the quarter-finals.
Matthew Hatton-trained Kremner had a career-best win eight weeks ago when stopping Ricky Rose (3-0) in four, while Sunderland’s Macleod has the outstanding amateur pedigree of the eight having won European Junior gold and World Junior silver.
Macleod has had hiccups in the pros – he’s been dropped and cut – but the 23-year-old from Sunderland says a recent switch to train with Darnell Smith at the Sims’ gym in Essex and the possibility of a clash with former amateur clubmate Josh Kelly has remotivated him.
Jimmy Cooper (6-0-1) is the other former quality amateur in the line up.
From Hampshire, Cooper, Haringey Box Cup gold medallist in 2011 and an England rep in the amateurs, kicks off against Drew Brown (7-0).
Tall and slim, Brown, the youngest competitor at 21, is a volume puncher with a leaky defence from Northampton who believes his size gives him the edge. He’s been boxing at around 168lbs, while Cooper started out as a super-featherweight.
Nonsense, reckons Cooper’s manager, Greaves. He says the 26-year-old, whose uncle Gary was British 154lb boss for a spell in the 1980s, never looked better than in his last fight, a four-round points win over journeyman Kevin McCauley. Cooper weighed 150lbs for that one.
Ben Eland or Tom Young, considered outsiders, will meet either Brown or Cooper in the last four. Eland, who’s improved to 4-0-1 under Scott Lawton after drawing his debut, describes himself as a counter puncher, while Leeds’ Young, with only street skirmishes, a handful of white-collar fights and four pro fights behind him, is banking on his “aggression and workrate.”
The Kaisee Benjamin (4-0) versus Sam Evans (8-0-1) clash is a good one. Evans, back in the Black Country with Errol Johnson after splitting with Ricky Hatton following a draw with Owen Jobburn last time out, says his plan is to jump all over his opponents, but he may find Benjamin hard to pin down.
The 22-year-old, from Birmingham’s Eastside Gym, describes himself as “unpredictable” and against the journeymen he’s been fed so far, he has been trying out a few moves borrowed from Vasyl Lomachenko.
“Over three rounds, Kaisee is going to be hard to beat,” said manager Jon Pegg. “The tough draw will bring out the best in him.”
WHO WINS: The smart money appears to be on ISAAC MACLEOD, if he can get past the talented Andy Kremner in the quarter finals…