‘Three world titles in one night a disaster for boxing’

Leigh Wood, Michael Conlan and Lawrence Okolie
Nottingham’s Leigh Wood, Belfast’s Michael Conlan and London’s Lawrence Okolie are all battling for the world title on Saturday
Date: Saturday 27 May
Coverage: Radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live by Lara v Wood 2 from 10pm BST, live text commentary and reaction on the BBC Sport website and app by Lara v Wood and Okolie v Billam-Smith from 9pm BST.

Having three good world title fights in three different venues in one night is a dud for boxing.

It’s the worst thing that can happen in this sport, and I mean it.

In Manchester, Nottingham’s Leigh Wood challenges Mauricio Lara for the WBA featherweight title. In Bournemouth, Lawrence Okolie defends his WBO cruiserweight title against Chris Billam-Smith. And in Belfast, local hero Michael Conlan takes over reigning IBF featherweight champion Alberto Lopez.

You’d be happy to have three meetings like this throughout the year.

You would be delighted if you had these three meetings in a couple of months.

Having them on a Saturday is pretty ridiculous.

What’s really surprising, if you take a look at the UK boxing diary, the following weekends: June 3, blank; June 17, empty; June 24, blank.

All six men in the three world meetings have all been on 5 Live in the last 12 months. These are all great fights.

We use words like unique in boxing, abused. We speak of rare, abused. We talk about incredible evenings, abused. But this night definitely ticks all these boxes. This has never happened before and I hope it never happens again.

We’ve had fights in the past in the UK.

We had a terrible situation in 2018 when Carl Frampton fought Josh Warrington in Manchester and Derek Chisora ​​faced Dillian Whyte in London. Both fights on pay-per-view, both on the Saturday before Christmas, December 22nd. It was a disaster.

Both were sold out and both were guaranteed to be great fights, and they were great fights.

It’s also not the first time this year that we’ve had fights and they seem to be happening more regularly as of late. But this is the first time in my life that we have won three world titles in three different locations in the UK and Northern Ireland in one night.

Who doesn’t want to be in Bournemouth in the sunshine watching Billam-Smith faces world champion Okolie at Vitality Stadium?

Who doesn’t want to be in Manchester to see if Wood can make it against Lara after arriving like this close the first time? And who in their right mind wouldn’t want to be in Belfast for Conlan winning a world title?

These are fights to sell your grandmother, they really are. I can argue that each of these events is a monstrous event and they were thrown together over a two hour period in one night. It’s madness.

How does it happen? It’s a mix of facts. All the promoters say they bagged the date first, like a kid on a playground. I really don’t care who officially announced it first because behind the scenes we all knew they were seething. I feared having two in the same night, but three?

Leigh Wood gets punched on the chin by Mauricio Lara
Wood was stopped by Mauricio Lara in a fight he was winning

I work closely with each promoter and everyone will make a strong case as to why it’s not their fault. They could all be innocent, because that’s the way it is in boxing. It’s always someone else’s fault. I just wish there had been a dialogue.

We don’t need promoters to be friends, but we do need at least some communication.

The British Boxing Board of Control obviously can do nothing. There is no official or unofficial way to talk to the different promoters.

But that’s not good, you need something to stop it and hopefully something can be done to prevent it from happening again.

For the fans, it’s terrible. There are avid fans who would have gone to each of those fights had they been on separate nights. I’m sure all of these events may be sold out, but no doubt you’re losing fans at the door.

Then you have the fans watching at home. We’ve all seen things on Twitter when there’s a fight.

Fans will watch one fight on their laptop and another on their TV. You’ll have to get your phone out on Saturday night too. It’s not realistic, is it?

The last thing I want is for this to be lauded as a great night for fans to watch on laptops, phones and TVs.

These are big fights, but this is a night of chaos and lawlessness and even if every show sells out, that’s no excuse for this mess.

I hear there is a plan for the Lopez-Conlan runway to start at 9:00pm before the Lara-Wood at 10:30pm. Which would be great news if there were only two fights. It’s so frustrating for the fans, the media and the fighters.

This is an injustice even for the fighters. All three cards have good undercards, no less than Terri Harper’s hasty world title defense against Ivana Habazin in Manchester.

Usually, in fights like these, a star emerges. A true star. None of the fighters involved on Saturday can claim to have the profile of an Anthony Joshua or a Katie Taylor.

But imagine if Billam-Smith survives an incredible war and stops Okolie late, but gets lost because Conlan was too smart for Lopez or once again Wood fell short?

On a normal weekend, a big world title win elevates the fighter, dominates the headlines.

But now, no matter who wins, they won’t get the full credit they deserve due to the crazy cluster schedule.

#world #titles #night #disaster #boxing

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