Wembley Stadium was filled and untold millions tuned in to watch the biggest tent pole event in boxing thus far in 2017.
In an age with Netflix and streaming services, social media and the 15 second attention span it’s incredible that throngs of people would stop what they were doing on a Saturday evening to watch a boxing match.
Is it 2017 or 1917?
And yet, it happened. And it was wildly successful. And it further cemented the continued rise of boxing in the 21st century, establishing Great Britain as once again the sports de facto home base and the growing reality that Eddie Hearn is taking over the world.
For better or worse, the days of thugs, criminals and old vaudevillians running the boxing scene appears to be over.
Now it’s run by British prep school grads with perfectly coiffed hair and suits tailored so deliberately they appear to be a second skin. Eddie Hearn is arguably the best promoter in boxing today. He makes fights that the viewing public care about by building up tension and creating emotional investment in the fighters. However, Mr. Eddie Hearn took an unconventional route to the upper echelon of boxing promotion, one of the most cut-throat businesses that exists in arguably the most brutal sport on Earth. So how did he get here?
Eddie was born on June 8th, 1979 in Essex, England, a county that sits in the southeast coast of the island country. Just north east of the capital London, Essex is a world of halves. The northern aspect of the county is home to farming and agriculture and is a rather picturesque place to raise a family. The southern half of the county is home to industries as varied as shipping and pharmaceuticals. Essex county also has one of the highest income inequality gaps in Britain.
Eddie was the product of the former.
Eddie Hearn cuts a somewhat imposing figure at 6’5” with perfectly manicured stubbly beard, dresses impeccably, speaks softly and is a student of boxing. He is the son of Barry Hearn, owner of Matchroom Sports Limited (MSL) of which Matchroom Boxing run by Eddie is a part. MSL owns a piece of multiple sports from snooker, bowling, and golf to boxing.
Eddie is not without his detractors. His frequent use of social media namely twitter has drawn unflattering comparisons more recently to one controversial reality TV star turned politician. Eddie’s sharp tongue and quick wit have seen him eviscerate members of the press and other critics in 140 characters or less!
It’s clear after tonight’s success that Eddie Hearn at just 37 sits atop the promotional throne and is arguably the most powerful man in boxing without a pair of gloves on.
Cordina dispatches Vib
Opening the event in just his second pro bout 25-year-old Welshman Joe Cordina fought last minute replacement Sergej Vib fighting out of Essen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany by way of Sosnovskoye, Russia it would be short night for both men. Credit to Vib for taking the fight at the last minute and giving Cordina a chance to show what he’s capable of doing on a grand stage. Cordina stalked from the beginning ever increasing the pressure, he varied his attack keeping Vib busy and mostly with his hands in his pockets. Vib down twice off well-placed left hooks, ref Lee Cook saved Vib from further damage at the two-minute mark of the first round.
The Katie Taylor hype train keeps on rolling
From the small coastal town of Bray in the Republic of Ireland comes the quiet, humble Katie Taylor. Surely one of the finest pugilists from Ireland ever pound for pound. Her extensive amateur background produced a Gold Medal in the 2012 Olympic Games and when she declared her intentions to go pro in October 2016 I along with most everyone else bought a ticket for first class on the hype train. In her six months as a pro Katie has fought five times including this evening against Nina Meinke, the undefeated southpaw from Berlin, Germany. Characteristically, Katie pressured as soon as the bell rang, Katie has exceptional balance and foot work, she maneuvered Nina into the ropes and corners and unleashed a barrage of punches before seeking a new angle to attack, whilst Katie does not possess concussive one punch power she will get your respect. She dominated Nina from the outset, a head butt may have contributed to the cut on Nina’s face that eventually forced the stoppage at the 7th round but it was academic, the outcome was never in doubt. With the victory, Katie Taylor captured the vacant WBA lightweight title.
Perez proves of tough stepping stone for Coolhand Luke
After a very busy 2016 Coolhand Luke Campbell opened 2017 with a 2nd round stoppage of Jairo Lopez. Whereas Darleys Perez has been inconsistent, in the last two years he’s only gone 1-1-2. Nevertheless, Campbell and Perez found themselves in a title eliminator for Jorge Linares’ WBA lightweight title, a shark infested division if there is one. Perez was wily in the early stages, Perez has also fought at super Lightweight and was walking through Campbell early on. In some respects, this contest was a miniature version of Joshua – Klitschko in that Coolhand Luke is a hot prospect with some hype around, Perez represents a step up in class. After imposing a small lead in the first three rounds Campbell found his range with the jab, cross and the hook, he was landing on Perez in combinations who seemed quite uncomfortable on the back foot.
Late in the 8th Perez motioned to referee Steve Grey that Perez’s left arm was bothering him, action was halted but Perez said he could continue. The 9th round began as the last five, with Campbell stalking and increasing the pressure, after an exchange Perez doubled over in pain grabbing his arm again, and Steve Grey has seen enough Campbell was declared the winner by TKO. It is unclear what exactly happened to Perez, possibly suffering a distal biceps tendon rupture, a rare but painful injury.
More to the point, Perez came in over the light weight limit and was therefore ineligible to challenge for Linares’ title had he won and has now not won more than two fights in a row in nearly three years. Perez could be used as an opponent I suppose for a few more paydays if he decides to go on. Coolhand Luke Campbell continues to entertain, the young man is slick, showed some guts and is a jovial addition to an already stacked 135-pound division. Linares and Campbell came together face to face briefly after the fight at ringside and Linares acknowledged Campbell’s performance and said he would in fact go back on the road to Britain to defend against Campbell.
Quigg and Simion go blood for blood
The last fight before the main event set a high bar for entertainment as boxing goes, Carl Frosch commenting at ring side stated he felt Quigg took to many punches in his unanimous decision win last night against the tough Romanian Viorel Simion-to which I would respond: you have seen Scott Quigg fight before yeah?
The popular Englishman from Bury in Lancashire battled back from a tough 2016 to position himself for a crack at Lee Selby’s IBF title, a grip on which has been maintained for just shy of two years. As it happens, Quigg and Selby both now share Simion as an opponent. Selby wrestled Simion’s WBC International Featherweight title away from him in July 2013.
Simion does not have the resume that Quigg has but he was game. From the opening bell the styles of the two men gelled, they traded shots back and forth neither man giving ground, it was a true ‘phone booth fight’ bell to bell. Quigg got a little rough and even fouled Simion with a couple of low blows but had no points deducted. Ultimately, Quigg’s class did show through he put a pace on Simion that was just too much. Simion was dog tired at the final bell while Quigg looked as though able to handle an old 15 rounder with ease.
The crowded Featherweight division is now more so.
And if you’re keeping score the UK is up 4-nil on the night!
The king is dead. Long live the king!
Irrespective of the belts at stake it was obvious that the winner of Joshua – Klitschko would be the de facto best heavyweight in Boxing. Tyson Fury remains the lineal champion of course but is obese and unmotivated to return despite his twitter rants.
Klitschko stalked to the ring in his usual way, after all he’s made that walk 70 times now and in the last dozen or so years as undisputed champion.
Joshua’s entrance was uproarious! With the aid of some pyrotechnics the enormity of the spectacle became immediate.
Just before making the walk, the lights in the house were down and spectators had their cell phone’s out to record the moment-a modern contrivance, Joshua paused and turned around to see the Wembley Stadium lit up like stars in the night sky.
Joshua made his walk.
The two men now in the ring, present as we all were for history.
Klitschko was announced at 240 ½ pounds the lightest he’d ever been for a title fight in his whole career and indicated his strategy, he would use movement and foot work to evade and possibly tire Joshua who for his part at 251 pounds was the heaviest he’d been for a pro fight in his short career!
Not much occurred in the first 2 rounds as one would expect, each man attempted to feint the other with an occasional rush by Joshua to the deafening roar of the capacity crowd whilst Klitschko employed his strategy of his feet being his first line of defense. It should be noted that Klitschko has very underrated foot work, he learned a tremendous amount from the late great Emmanuel Stuart who improved Klitschko’s balance and ability to move.
Joshua takes three of four rounds so far by pressing the action, Joshua is feeling emboldened and is opening more, however he’s there to be hit and all though Klitschko can get in one descent right hand he can’t seem to make Joshua pay for his aggressiveness, the tension is building however – everything Joshua does creates a roar in the crowd!
KLITSCHKO IS DOWN! Early in the fifth Joshua unleashed furious punches to press his advantage, he raises his hands as he believes he’s possibly just won! Wembley erupts! The former champion rises at the eight count – Klitschko’s been cut and wobbled, Joshua pounces but punches himself out, with 30 seconds to go Klitschko battles back and the round ends with Joshua’s back against the ropes.
The bell sounds for round six…Klitschko lands his vaunted right hand, Joshua loses his gum shield – HE’S DOWN, JOSHUA IS DOWN! The action is compelling, Joshua looks spent and will have to dig deep, he likely has the lead on the cards but it could be slipping away!
Past the 7th round for the first time in his career Joshua seems to be taking off the round to recover, meanwhile Klitschko’s Steel Hammer jab is finding it’s home, the 8th round is more of the same. Joshua seems to be getting his second wind but arguably his advantage is gone, the cards are now likely even. I wished Klitschko had worked the body jab more to take more energy out of Joshua.
Instead it’s Joshua who commits to the late body attack and it appears a good investment, Klitschko is in phenomenal shape and still light on his feet, however the inside work will sap the older man quicker. Joshua has shown Klitschko a new look here and the mark of any champion past or present is to adjust on the fly if necessary, credit to Joshua’s corner as well, trainers Tony Sims and Robert McCraken have done a fine job!
Going in to the 11th round it’s arguably up for grabs, both men are playing a calculated but dangerous game…
Joshua launches an all-out assault at the start of the 11th round – A HELLACIOUS UPPER CUT BY JOSHUA nearly decapitates Klitschko! Joshua presses and sends the ex-champion crashing down! Klitschko beats the count but he’s in for it as Joshua pounces and sends Klitschko down violently again.
Bravely the Ukrainian rises again, but it’s the beginning of the end…
One final assault and…
JOSHUA KNOCKS OUT KLITSCHKO!
HE’S DONE IT! JOSHUA KNOCKS OUT KLITSCHKO!
THE KING IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE KING.
In the post-fight interview the two men embraced and congratulated each other. Joshua spoke to the crowd and acknowledged his short comings “I’m not perfect, but I’m trying” he said. Yet, that makes this performance all the better. All the questions surrounding Anthony Joshua were less about ability and more about character, if the fight gets rough, if it goes the distance, if faced with adversity how will he respond?
We got our answer, Anthony Joshua responded like a true champion.
Wladimir Klitschko for his part only had his stock increased in this brilliant gutsy performance, whilst dominant in his reign as champion he had plenty of detractors. They said he rarely fought outside of his adopted home of Germany. He was called boring and mockingly referred to as Jabomir Klinchko for his repetitive attack and excessive holding. Klitschko was the Shepard of the division for a decade when few people seemed to care about boxing generally nor the heavyweight division.
Clearly Joshua is a breath of fresh air, but he could not have done it without an opponent like Klitschko, the best name ironically on either of their resumes in recent memory.
I became convinced by what many said after the fight; that Joshua winning is best for boxing.
The sport is enjoying a renaissance over the last 2-3 years and the richest prize in the sport is again the World Heavyweight Title and that’s down to having a representative like Anthony Joshua to carry the sport forward for the next dozen or so years. What remains to be seen is how he responds to the aftermath of this fight. Britain is the spiritual home of boxing, and Britain is leading the way in sports resurgence the type of fame this will generate for the young man cannot be prepared for!
The wild success of this event proves that Eddie Hearn and the Matchroom team have the right formula for success and have a decent reputation as boxing promoters go as well.
So, we come full circle to Eddie Hearn. He’s clocked the game. That’s it.