Prizefighter: The Legacy

By Cain Bradley on October 2, 2017
Prizefighter: The Legacy
Martin Rogan came from nowhere and parlayed the win into a Commonwealth Title.

Prizefighter may well be dead and many will think that is a good thing. However, I would not be against seeing it once a year…

Eddie Hearn is one of the most popular tweeters in British boxing, with over 450,000 followers. During an informal Q&A with followers he suggested Prizefighter would not be returning, reaffirming something he said last year. He pointed to the negative tweets he used to get whilst running the tournament which used to call the tournament shit and a busy Sky Sports schedule which keeps him from running the tournament. It is worth remembering the fun nights the Prizefighter tournament brought fans.

Eddie Hearn was not always the biggest promoter in British boxing. He took over a depleted stable of boxers from his father Barry Hearn having mainly concentrated on golf and online poker. However the best thing Barry had given him was the Prizefighter tournament. Matchroom MC John McDonald recalls “the office had lots of sports doing well, apart from the boxing.” Head of Boxing John Wischhusen recalls the need to do something and recommended they follow through on Barry Hearn’s idea of running Prizefighter. It was about filling venues and increasing viewing figures without a stable of stars. It gave eight men the shot at a big amount of prize money (usually £32,000) with a chance for recognition they may have never had. Adam Smith described Prizefighter as “great for young prospects looking to break through and learn about the business and older fighters looking for a way back.”

The concept was mainly criticized by boxing purists, the same people who hated twenty20 cricket. Of course it was never for the top boxers. The idea was that boxers got a chance they had not got or seemed unlikely to receive. It worked better at the bigger weights if only because we were more likely to see knockouts. The ebb and flow of a lighter weight bout seems to suit the longer bouts much better. Would I begrudge the series returning? Not at all. Once or twice a year it would make for a unique selling point. Prizefighter hits a note that boxing sometimes does not. It gave us stories, with all eight men coming from different backgrounds and having different aims. Every boxer who competed in Prizefighter added his personal story to the collection of stories and journeys that boxing is all about. It even built some world champions.

The number currently stands at three. Lee Haskins won the 21st edition before going on to the Bantamweight world title. Terry Flanagan and Anthony Crolla were both part of the 26th tournament, which today looks to have been the strongest ever tournament. Flanagan defied 10-1 odds overcoming Patrick Walsh, Derry Matthews and Gary Sykes who had beaten Crolla in the semi final. Even Tommy Coyle was also in the tournament. Even the first tournament saw Martin Rogan come from nowhere and parlay the win into a Commonwealth Title. Martin Murray winning was a particularly highlight of mine as he looked like a potential superstar and proved it by going on to challenge for the world title. The victory over Cello Renda in the final was one of the best fights this format has delivered and showed the heart and determination of both men. Audley Harrison won the title twice to bounce back when it looked like his career could be over. Carl Baker was a journeyman when he upset British champion Danny Williams. We got to see the third clash between Michael Sprott and Matt Skelton. Rocky Fielding entered with a 3-0 record and stopped every one of his opponents in the tournament. Others winners include Willie Casey, Mike Perez, Yassine El Maachi, Choi Tseveenpurev and Adil Anwar.

Prizefighter may well be dead and many will think that is a good thing. However, I would not be against seeing it once a year. It gives a chance for unheralded boxers to make a name for themselves. What if the winner was given a chance to fight on an Eddie Hearn show later that year? A prizefighter with two or three other fights on it would still make a good show. Matchroom Boxing has grown so much since the first Prizefighter show and that idea has to be a big part of the reason. The stories and boxers involved from Prizefighter are still being told. That makes the shows a success even if it ends with the 35th tournament which came in 2015.

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  1. Cain Bradley 07:15am, 10/03/2017

    Agreed. It probably suffered from over saturation but every so often it is nice to see something a bit different.

  2. Kid Blast 05:09am, 10/03/2017

    It gave a lot of underdogs a fair chance. I loved it.

    Good story Cain

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