Updated: Oct 15, 2020
“There’s only one Dave Allen,” chant the clamouring crowd as Allen sits ringside for his victorious post-fight interview with Sky Sports. He has just stopped Samir Nebo (10-2-1) with a thudding left hook to the body sixty-five seconds into the first round.
“It’s crazy,” Allen answered, when asked what he thought of the support, “When I first fought here, I sold three tickets and now I have the whole place signing for me.”
This was October 2018 at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. What followed next was a tough seven round victory over Argentinian, Ariel Bracamonte - on the undercard of Usyk Bellew’s undisputed cruiserweight showdown - and on Saturday night, he goes again: co-headlining at the 02 Arena against 28-1-0 former WBA regular champion, Australian Lucas Browne.
This is a non-title bout – Allen’s twenty-third overall – and neither he nor Browne are ranked in the top fifteen heavyweights of any of the major organisations. Yet, as of Tuesday of fight-week, circa seventy-five percent of tickets had already sold, and the fight will be shown concurrently live in the UK on Sky Sports Main Event and in the US on DAZN…
Allen is popular. He is popular with Eddie Hearn and he is popular with the wider boxing public. In an industry where money often talks with more pervading power than the fighter’s fists, a boxer who can guarantee revenue is indispensable to a promoter, often receiving more frequent opportunities, exposure and favourable treatment, and the subsequent envy of his fellow cohorts.
This is financial boxing truth, and re-contextualised alongside the recent deal between Matchroom, DAZN and Sky – where a minimum of twenty UK shows and sixteen US shows will be hosted each year – it manifests within a climate that requires continual, sensitive balancing, between the fulfilling of contractual obligations, the maximising of personal revenue with weighty pay-per-view cards and the rewarding of fans/raising of fighter profiles and awareness/building prospects with value for money ‘non-PPV’ cards.
A fighter like Allen, who promises viewership and occupied seats in arena stands currently maximises the return within that ‘value for money’ bracket, satisfying Sky and Matchroom’s non-PPV quota (without fighter complaint) and ensuring them revenue, whilst also raising his boxing profile to a possibly-bewildered-US market (…I mean, just how frequently are they exposed to the overtones of a considerable Yorkshire accent).
It would be superficial to just offhandedly categorise him as popular without offering explanations as to why this might be. The reasons are, of course, multifarious and likely different and disparate between fans; no one can accurately speak on what resonates with
others, but in general terms, I consider Allen’s popularity to be a representative victory for the everyman. And that is in no means disparaging or demeaning. But to state that his appeal is in being, relatable, accessible and identifiable to a broad demographic of fight fans, especially the vocal ‘laddish’ element that often fill the stadiums and arenas.
There is the sense that he is one of us, only that he is actually out there doing it. Often there is a disconnect between fans and the appearance/physical rigours of the fighters. Few of us look like Anthony Joshua, but against the chiselled-and-drug-enhanced physique of Tony Yoka, Allen looked like any one of us, with an unconditioned, over-sized paunch and the wearing of undersized cotton boxer shorts. Amusingly, against David Howe, he conducted the face off with a pair of socks fronting an enlargement of said boxer shorts. Following his victory over Bracamonte, bloodied, ear drums perforated and with face and eyes already swelling, he cracked two bottles of Irn Bru in the centre of the ring, in homage to the theatrics of renown Wrestler, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.
It is this kind of unexpected, comical behaviour which differentiates him from the majority of other fighters. Boxing remains an industry where the currencies of seriousness, focus and menace are celebrated and still considered necessary to achieve a psychological edge, yet Allen has achieved popularity, success and memorable victories on his own terms, as his own person and with his own style.
He has crossover appeal and a likeable personality. He’s been publicly supported by 5 Guys, Irn Bru and Babestation; and in the build-up to this Browne fight, Matchroom have promoted him with a twenty-five minute fight documentary, a fifty-minute interview as part of their ‘Born Fighter’ series and allowed him to further showcase his inimitable personality by conducting his own interviews and taking us around his room, ‘MTV Cribs style’.
He looks in better shape than for any of his previous fights, having teamed up former-IBF-middleweight-champion, Darren Barker and has already declared that he is looking to stop Browne. Any method of victory at all would signify a positive step in the right direction; and remains essential if he wishes to challenge for the British title before retiring, as promised, following his thirtieth fight. This writer sincerely hopes his victory is incoming and wishes, again, to hear the O2 buoyant with the appropriate chorus of ‘Onnnneee Dave Allen’.