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Steve Goodwin on the sad reality small hall boxing is facing

Coronavirus has had a massive impact on all of our lives, some more tragic than others, but one thing we can all agree on is that our way of life has certainly changed.

Many of us have looked at the prospect of sport returning to give us some relief from the uncertainty in the world right now. While the likes of Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren work to get shows going again behind closed doors and behind the backing of TV broadcasters, there is an uncomfortable, stark reality staring small hall boxing in the face amid the Coronavirus outbreak, as Steve Goodwin discussed with me.

“It’s impossible to even contemplate shows until you’re allowed crowds at events. Even when you’re allowed crowds at events, if you have to spread people apart, the small hall cannot operate like that. The margins are so tight. Number one, boxers aren’t going to sell tickets. Two, you can’t physically make it pay. It doesn’t make any sense. Small hall boxing, as it stands in my opinion – the earliest we can resume to anything like we consider to be normality is March next year.”

This prediction of March 2021 as a resume date threw me somewhat as I had been caught up in the return of Premier League football and Eddie Hearn’s plans for Matchroom shows to take place in his back garden. However, the assertion started to make more sense as we continued to dissect the situation.

“So, let’s put on a small hall show – me and you. We’re going to use York Hall and we’re talking 20 grand before we start to pay a boxer. So, then we’re going to put on my guy doing a six-rounder against a journeyman. We’re going to pay the journeyman £1700. My guy can’t really sell the tickets so what are we going to do – are we going to fund that as well? By the time we finish, we’re 30/40 grand down. Do you want to lose 20 grand? So, the question is ‘how is it going to run?’ It’s not. It’s just impossible.

“The difference for Matchroom and Queensbury is that they’ve got 50 – 200 grand a show being given to them in broadcast rights so they can make it work. We don’t have that so without anything like that it’s totally impossible to do it because you’re so reliant on bodies and ticket sales. Who is going to want to go into close proximity with a virus out there? Especially with the possibility of a second wave in September/October.”

Even once considering there might be a vaccine available around October, Goodwin feels small hall boxing would still need time to gather itself.

“We need that three-month lead-in period. To run a small hall show you need at least a three-month lead-in period. So, March, maybe February at a push, next year is the earliest time you can realistically expect. Unless you have a small hall promoter who is happy to burn money. Anyone who is trying to run a show to cover their costs and has no other money coming in from sponsors or anything like that, it’s impossible to do.”

While he has been unable to stage shows, Goodwin has still maintained a presence on social media with his Instagram show where he gives his fighters a platform to update and connect with their fans, something he feels is vital to do during this period of inactivity.

“It gives our boxers a bit of a voice and to let people know they still exist. People make them feel worthwhile so it keeps them ticking over and I think it’s a good thing. Some of these managers are not speaking to any of their boxers because they’re not fighting. That is not right. People are human beings and it makes boxers feel like ‘I’m not of use now because I’m not boxing or earning them money or anything like that. So, I think it’s important to stay in contact with them and I speak to a lot of the boxers.”

Goodwin has built his managerial reputation on honesty and having realistic aims with boxers which is something you won’t find everywhere in boxing. After just seven years in the game, he has managed 36 champions, an achievement he is particularly proud of for the style in which it has been done.

“Starting from scratch seven years ago. That’s not taking over boxers as champions, that’s building champions from absolute scratch or resurrecting careers of boxers that were told to retire. Boxers who were seen as damaged goods or who we’ve built from scratch.

“Sometimes you have to take opportunities when you know you’re the underdog but at times finding an opportunity that you think is ideal for your fighter. That’s what we’ve done at all levels and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved. I don’t think anybody has done that before, in that short a time without buying success, certainly in the south of England. You have Steve Wood and Steffy Bull doing fantastic jobs in the north too.

“Boxing is not what it’s painted out to be and what we do with our fighters is we tell them exactly how it is and guide them through it getting the best money they can while being realistic and not making a false promise. So that’s why we believe we’re the best at what we do. We want to educate the boxers and not use them as little pawns in the game.”

Speaking of his boxers, I couldn’t help but ask about some of his current stable which includes unbeaten cruiserweight Deion Jumah. Jumah had been involved in a public spat with Lawrence Okolie about a potential fight but it now appears Okolie will be making the move to fight for world title honours, but there is another plan for Jumah.

“He’s a mandatory contender for British champion Richard Riakporhe so he gets Riakporhe next. We’ve made Deion relevant again and he’s there now. Once we fight Riakporhe – if Deion keeps winning, he’ll get to where he wants to be. We’re ready to go straight into that Riakporhe fight and we’ll be asking the board to mandate that fight straight away.”

I also wanted to ask about Daniel Mendes’ situation as I had interviewed him before and his kind and humble nature had left an impression on him.

“He won the Southern Area Cruiserweight title against Danny Couzens and then he defended it, performed really poorly and lost. It was a horrific performance but he would admit it. His set-up was so bad and he has since changed trainer. I believe if he fought Nick Parpa again, he would win. I think he’s a far better fighter but he just didn’t show it in that fight. He will bounce back for sure. We’re ready to go with Daniel now, just waiting to get the right fight. I think we’d like to move on from the southern area but Deion has the English title so maybe when Deion relinquishes the English, Daniel could have a go at the English title.”

While there are still exciting plans for some of his boxers to resume after the Coronavirus pandemic, our conversation couldn’t get too far ahead of itself and returned to the big issue at hand.

“There were some good fights to take place but we’re just going to have to restart and regroup again once we come back. Some fighters might not want to continue after this break. We don’t know in what way will boxing come back. Without a vaccine or a treatment, these boxers are knackered. Let’s be real."

“You have got to have people confident of coming to a boxing event in a packed small hall and you have to look at the affordability too. If there is a 10% unemployment rate and the economy is struggling, that is an issue too. A lot of small hall promoters will probably never ever promote again. I’m just horrified by the number of boxers who have told me about their mates who are also boxers who haven’t had a call from their managers in three months.”

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