By Eliot Stott
Ultimately viewed as a thankless task by many, the art of matchmaking is an essential part of the business side of the sport that we all love. Known well by perhaps ‘hardcore’ fans as well as those who work in the sport, you couldn’t blame matchmakers for perhaps feeling underappreciated for getting a limited amount of praise whilst other key players outside of the squared circle (such as promoters and managers) are given consistent praise & exposure.
Hours spent on the phone or writing emails, the idea of a good matchmaker to some is picking the correct opponents at the correct time for the fighters in question. Without any control over what actually happens once the first bell of a fight rings, the reputation of a matchmaker can take a long time to create but can diminish within a few minutes in the eyes of some.
So welcome to the life of world class matchmaker Roberto Diaz. Matchmaker for Oscar DeLa Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.
Speaking from Los Angeles, Roberto remained upbeat despite the COVID-19 situation. ‘So far so good. The world is in a difficult place at the moment but I’m doing good. I just hope that neither of us have to experience anything like this ever again.’
In regards to boxing, Roberto remained upbeat when giving his take on how the pandemic.
‘One of the problems is that we really don’t know how long this is going to last. We’ve been able to get out some fighters in the past few months and will continue to do so but the message to everyone has been to stay in shape as opportunities will become available.'
Apart from some exceptions, behind closed doors events are still a reality for fighters in the US as well as the UK. Given his vast experience in the sport & having been involved in so many big nights, I was interested to see Roberto’s opinion on how a fighters mindset may change without any fans in attendance.
‘I’m actually interested to see how much of an effect it has on fighters. There are those who before the pandemic will have fought at either shows with a small attendance or early in the night at a big show where the vast majority of the crowd haven’t arrived yet.
'There are also the high end guys who although will have fought in front of sold out crowds over the past few years, will most likely have had the experience of fighting in front of little to no crowds in empty arenas in during the early stages of their careers or as an amateur.'
Despite being interested to hear of Roberto’s views on how COVID-19 is affecting boxing, I was keen to get off the topic that we’ve heard so much about in and out of the sport since March.
Moving on, I was desperate to hear more about Roberto’s line of work, the biggest difficulties that he faces in the industry as well as anything that a typical boxing fan may not expect him to have to deal with.
‘You could say that the easiest part of my job is thinking of fights that could be made whereas the hardest part of my job is making those fights due to the number of obstacles that come about.
Whether it’s a manager who doesn’t agree with the amount of money on the table or a trainer who doesn’t like how tall the opponent is, there may be more stumbling blocks than fans may be aware of. Believe it or not, family members who don’t work in the sport can be the biggest barrier when it comes to getting fights made.
Then of course the obvious issues of which fighter gets to walk first, what gloves are going to be worn etc which can take some time. If we’re able to agree on everything, we’ll announce the fight and both fighters will go into camp.
I must say, one of the most frustrating things about boxing sometimes from my position is that it’s not a team sport. If you’re playing football or basketball and someone gets injured they get replaced – in boxing, if a fighter gets injured (which considering how hard training camp is can happen quite easily) all of a sudden the fight doesn’t go through and a lot of hard work can go wasted.’
‘To be truthful, until the bell rings, you never truly know that a fight’s going to happen.’