Home Boxing News George Warren discusses BoxAcademy debut

George Warren discusses BoxAcademy debut

Frank Warren Promotions



With the debut of BoxAcademy this Friday night at the Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Manchester, George Warren, from Queensberry Promotions talks to boxing writer Glynn Evans about the exciting new concept show to be televised live on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546).

Hot unbeaten prospects Joe Selkirk, Rocky Fielding, Paul Butler and Calum Johnson all feature along with VIP Promotions boxers Terry Flannigan, Tommy Coyle, Shayne Singleton, Marvyn Greaves, Sam Omidi and Alex Rutter.

The debut of BoxAcademy will be broadcast live on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546) this Friday starting at 7.30pm.

Where did the BoxAcademy concept originate?

From conversations between myself, Andy and Francis. We’re working with a dedicated boxing channel and have a roster some of the most talented young fighter’s in the country and some are being overshadowed by main events. BoxAcademy is a way of getting these guys noticed and building their profiles. Dad had previously run with the Fight Skool on Sky Sports and ShoBox on Showtime which helped the likes Ricky Hatton, Kevin Mitchell and Matthew Macklin to break through to the big time. Obviously it’s a punt, running on TV without a title fight but it’s a risk we’re prepared to take if it gets people talking about the quality prospects we have in our team. The beauty is that many of the Boxers we will feature have large personal fan bases so the absence of the traditional main event’ won’t stop them coming.

We’ve countless talents – ex Olympians and ABA champions – who are craving to get out regularly in decent match-ups. BoxAcademy is going to allow these prospects to be the focal points of the show, featuring live on BoxNation as opposed to being lost and perhaps not even exposed at all down the undercard of major championship shows. At this stage of his career, many of the guys on these shows wouldn’t be able to feature as headline attractions in their hometowns but with this series, they’ll get great TV exposure on a regular basis.

A lot of great fights happen on undercards and don’t get shown so this will develop the next stars. It looks like Sky are turning their back on the small hall circuit in favour of big events which I feel is short-sighted. Without an acorn you can’t get an Oak Tree. Did the likes of Benn, Eubank, Hatton or Naz start off in main events with huge crowds? Of course not.

You’ve encountered several hiccups prior to bringing the vision to fruition. You must be relieved that you’re finally set to launch.

That’s right. Initially we wanted to go with Tony Conquest against Steve Simmons at the York Hall in April, with Michael Walsh also featuring. Conquest-Simmons would have been a fantastic fight, one we still intend to make, but unfortunately Tony got injured and will be out until September. Michael Walsh wasn’t able to box and we didn’t want to launch it half-cocked so we pulled it. Hopefully, Steve will get a chance against former ABA champion Chris Keane in the summer and we should have news on this in a week or so.

Next, we had Steve O’Meara pitched with Bradley Pryce at The Troxy on May 3rd but Steve rightly pulled out with just 24 hours to go because of breathing problems that made him unfit to fight. Originally, Friday’s bill was set to lead with a super fight between Liam Smith with Ronnie Heffron, a match that surprised the industry but showed our intent. Ronnie’s picked up a hand injury after knocking out over 300 tickets. I feel very bad for the boxers when we’ve pulled shows but it’s important to get the 1st few of these shows right. You can deal with late pull-outs but I’ve never known a run like this before. Liam and Ronnie will meet, there’s no doubt about that and I see it happening sooner rather than later.

Clearly you’re not afraid to match some of your own investments against each other.

Absolutely. That’s what this is about isn’t it? If we are going to invest in careers we need to know the investment is sound. We are not interested in easy fights to pad bank accounts and records, the public want action and so do we. No one is better than our team at guiding and building a fighter to the top and making the right fights but we don’t want to get them to them there without a solid foundation. It’s very unfortunate that some of the attraction fights we’ve intended have fallen out of bed but that’s purely through bad luck and, trust me, these fights are going to happen. Touch wood, Paul Butler comes through on Friday and it’s our intention to match him against Ashley Sexton in some form of eliminator. Both parties are keen for that to happen.

When our guys come together, the one who wins can be quickly advanced for a title and the one who loses, provided they gave a good performance, can dust themselves off and we’ll bring them back. Too often, a loss is overindulged. We’re not looking to pad records. We’re looking to test our guys.

In what ways will BoxAcademy differ from Frank’s Fight Skool or Mick Hennessy’s Real Class of 2002? What fresh innovations will you be bringing?

Well, we’ll be trialling certain things as we go through but we’ll have a young cast of presenters, headed in Manchester by (ex England amateur captain and Coronation Street actor) Stevie Bell. Sarah Stone, formerly of Manchester United TV, will be BoxNation’s ringside reporter.

We’ll be looking to deliver an all round slicker event. A few things that we’d planned for the launch at The Troxy have had to be scrapped due to lack of time – we were having DJ Alex P performing – but we’ll be hoping to re-introduce them down the line.

We’ll be encouraging fans to arrive at the arena early and for BoxNation viewers to tune in from the start and watch all the fights. Too often, fans watch their favourite, or just the main event then leave. We intend on featuring consistent, decent level fights, for real trade fans.

Also, by providing a substantial cash prize for what a three man BoxNation panel deems to be The Fight of the Night, we’re providing a significant incentive to fighters to come and. If they know that they can take home an extra bit of cash for putting in a good performance, I’m sure they will come to fight and to entertain the fans.

What do you see your roster of fighters gaining from the concept?

Foremost, they’ll get exposure.  Where, previously, a young prospect may have been restricted to having just their ‘highlights’ broadcast or not even received TV coverage at all, BoxNation is dedicated to showcasing every fight live. No other channel does that. It’s a gilt edged opening to build a fan base.

While there’ll obviously be an attraction fight, over longer rounds, we don’t really see it as being a ‘top of the bill.’ As every fight shall be broadcast live, everyone gets an equal opportunity to showcase their talent and make an impression.

BoxAcademy is dedicated to these prospects. All of a sudden, these hungry young fighters, who’d previously have made up our undercards, become catapulted into the main attractions. Those who really stand out and deliver great performances will be kept more active, can progress to bigger shows and, ultimately, to major championship level.

And the BoxNation viewers?

Mid-week boxing involving the best prospects in the country. Though this week’s event at Bowlers has to be on a Friday night (the show is being co-promoted with Steve Wood), we’ll usually be scheduling for Thursdays which is something different. Not enough televised boxing in this country is broadcast midweek because of all the football, darts, snooker etc but that’s an avenue we’re hoping to explore.

With BoxNation, we want to make the evenings extremely fan friendly and interactive and we covet feedback on opponent’s performances etc. In time, as the channel and the concept mature, I’d like to have a voting system in place whereby the fans determine the Fight of the Night.

BoxAcademy is for all boxing fans but if we’re able to attract a younger audience, new people to the sport, by the way we dress the presentation  and by using younger fighters coming through, then that can only be a good thing.

Do you envisage a similar ‘feel’ to Matchroom’s Prizefighter events?

Absolutely not! This will be very different. Very few of the fighters on those shows have the amateur pedigree of the prospects that we intend on showcasing. Often you have to sit through a load of low grade, dull fights before reaching the final outcome. We intend for all of ours to be testing fights, featuring top quality fighters. We have an idea for the future that will blow Prizefighter away so watch this space!

What are your expectations for Friday?

For it to actually happen, for the promotion not to fall on it’s arse! I’m hoping our prospects not only win, but take full advantage of the live exposure on BoxNation to deliver exciting performances in competitive fights that can fast track their careers.

I’m hoping the house fighters can put on a real show for their fans and all the opponents come to have a proper fight. That way we’ll generate a great atmosphere.

How do you see it developing, longer term?

To make the events as regular as possible. Initially, we intend to run ten a year, pretty much one a month. But, at the end of this year, hopefully we can sit down with Simon Green (CEO at BoxNation) and discuss the potential for even more shows, perhaps expanding to two shows a month. I see BoxAcademy as a great outlet for both our company and BoxNation.

Finally, which fighters on your roster do you expect to come to the fore from the process, this year?

I believe BoxAcademy is going to provide a real opportunity for young cruiserweights to make a point and manoeuvre themselves into a title challenging position very quickly. Presently, it’s not the strongest division and I expect the survivor of Tony Conquest, Chris Keane and Steve Simmons to be challenging sooner rather than later.

I think Joey Selkirk is already very close to breaking through. Clearly he’s very talented, very exciting to watch and, if we can get him a bit of momentum after Friday, I think he’s possibly only one or two appearances away from a title fight. I love to put him in a rematch with Steve O’Meara, with the winner to advance straight to a title shot.


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