“What a fucking banger,” Eddie Hearn told iFL TV cameras, moments after the dust had settled on the inaugural Fight Camp card. “Unbelievable. I’m so proud of the fighters, our team and everyone for just putting together an unbelievable event.”
It’s hard to disagree with the often polarising promoter. Despite the 41-year-old’s relentless hyperbole, incessant bravado, and unapologetic selling tactics, Saturday night’s product sung for itself. Hearn’s former 18-acre, 11-bedroom family home in Brentwood, Essex – now Matchroom’s HQ – transformed into the beating heart of British boxing with unbridled success.
Almost two months have passed since boxing climbed off the canvas, with Top Rank in the United States and Queensberry Promotions in the United Kingdom blazing the trail for the sport’s Project Restart. Hearn decided to go later – partly due to pressure from Sky to delay their return until the climax of the Premier League football season – with their patience paying off.
“It’s one of the best fights I have ever seen live,” Hearn continued, referring to Fight Camp’s first main event. A statement to be digested with a healthy pinch of salt, but Sam Eggington and Ted Cheeseman categorically proved they had the right ingredients to deliver an absorbing opener to this series.
Two young, hungry fighters with more guts than sense, trading it off on every square inch of canvas for our entertainment. Born out of desperation, both men left everything in the ring, with Cheeseman’s tears in the post-fight interview adding to the blood and sweat donated during the previous 36 minutes.
It was enough to relight the boxing fire inside of us. It’s been a well-documented slow start to proceedings since the shutdown of the sport, but two twenty-something-year-olds grabbed us by the necks and screamed a healthy reminder of boxing’s best side into our ears.
The whole package worked. A week’s worth of content made available on Matchroom Boxing’s YouTube page may have felt like overkill at the time. Still, hardcore and casual eyes alike were drawn to Saturday night’s event, spiking the interest by the time the first bell rang. Whether Hearn’s “Shamone motherfuckers!” live broadcast slip-up increased the event’s exposure can also be factored in, staged or (more likely) not.
Friends were messaging me throughout the week, citing sources that would rarely cover boxing. “Have you seen what’s going on in that boxing bloke’s garden this weekend?” would be thrown my way clumsily, leaving me to build the meat on the bone, explaining what Fight Camp would consist of over August.
Inspired ring walks, fireworks, the sun setting over London in the distance, and most importantly, no failed tests – the formula trumped anything previously attempted by two of boxing’s “old school,” straight-laced promotors. Grunts of the fighters, the cracks and pops of leather on skin, and the shuffling of footwork were all audible. Instructions from corners were harder to hear, with improvements to the ring microphones targetted for next week.
Hearn’s work can be cheesy at times. He makes no apology of having the ability and desire to sell ice to Eskimos, with his following amongst pockets of British boxing fans verging on cult-ish. There is a sport outside Matchroom Boxing shows, but many of the fans who occasionally dip in will view Hearn with a monopolised market.
We are quick to criticise shows, cards and matchmaking when it’s done wrong, but in this instance, there can be nothing but praise for Matchroom Boxing’s ballsy return.
Following poor viewing figures and congested sporting restarts stunting boxing’s growth, signs of life were once again evident on Saturday evening. It just took an empty garden to replant boxing’s seed.