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Zelfa Barrett not worried about lack of fans for ring return

The Commonwealth titleholder will return on Matchroom’s Aug. 14 show.

First Direct Arena - Leeds Photo by Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

With boxing returning to live action without fans, including Matchroom gearing up for a run of shows outside at their company headquarters in England, there has been a lot of talk from fans and even some fighters that some boxers may not perform well without crowd energy to “feed” from.

Zelfa Barrett, who will fight on Matchroom’s Aug. 14 show, isn’t on board with that.

“I’m very excited because all eyes are on the fighter,” said Barrett. “There’s no crowd, so everyone will be turning in to watch it on TV. The viewing figures are going to be huge. A fighter will fight anywhere. A true fighter will fight anywhere. People say ‘some fighters need crowds’ or whatever but to me it’s all rubbish.

“When you put those little gloves on and you put your shorts on; you’re in a fight. No matter what anyone else says, you’re in a fight. You get that same feeling with one person watching or 50,000 people watching. Those fans can’t help you when you’re in the ring.

“You might hear the crowd when things are going good but you won’t hear the crowd when things are going bad. You’re in a fight, you’re there to do a job and you’ve got an opponent on the other side of the ring. A fight is a fight.”

The 27-year-old Barrett (23-1, 14 KO), who signed with Matchroom just as the COVID shutdown was starting, won the vacant Commonwealth 130-pound title in June 2019, beating Lyon Woodstock by decision, and made a successful defense against Jordan McCorry in October of last year.

On Aug. 14, he’ll be facing Eric Donovan (12-0, 7 KO), a 34-year-old from Ireland nicknamed “Lilywhite Lightning,” which is just outstanding. It’ll be a non-title fight, as Donovan doesn’t hail from a Commonwealth realm.

“I have to put on a performance because all eyes are on me,” Barrett said. “It’s not like another show is taking place on the same day. It’s just our show. Fighters are entertainers as well as fighters. I’ll put on a performance no doubt. I don’t train this hard and live a fighter’s life to not put on a performance. It’s my dream to fight live on TV and put on a performance.

“The opportunities are endless with (promoter) Eddie (Hearn). You’ve just got to be ready. I’m like a Josh Warrington or a Kid Galahad – I live in the gym. I’m a gym rat. There’s so many opportunities out there in my weight division. Confidence is everything. You can have all of the ability in the world but if you don’t believe in it then you’re not going anywhere. I believe I’m one of the best fighters in Britain.”

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