WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight titleholder Rocky Fielding 27-1 (15) almost saw his dream fight against WBC and WBA middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez 50-1-2 (34) go up in smoke just a week before he was scheduled to step into centre ring at Madison Square Garden in New York City this Saturday night.
Promoter Eddie Hearn explained the extraordinary set of circumstances that almost destroyed the 31-year-old Brit’s opportunity for a career-high payday on boxing’s biggest stage.
“He applied for a visa, so he got a letter. He went about a month ago, went in, had the interview, got the visa, got approved for the visa. They took the passport off him, said okay we’ll get it stamped and send it back to you,” explained the Matchroom Boxing boss to Boxing News.
“Last Monday [December 3] we get a letter back from the passport agency saying your visa has been denied because there was a tear – you couldn’t even see the tear – but there’s a tear on the page.
“We were told you need to get a new passport send it back and then it can take anywhere from three days to two weeks once you get it back and the fights in 11 days.
“They had his passport and they approved the visa in front of him, then when he went away, they looked at it and said actually no.”
For all intents and purposes, the Fielding’s US debut was suddenly in jeopardy. And circumstances only went from bad to worse.
“Monday afternoon he sends it to the embassy, special delivery to arrive on Tuesday. We’re tracking it. Tuesday at midday comes around and it’s still says out for delivery. Gets to 5pm and it still says out for delivery,” continued Hearn.
“We [wanted to] go down to Battersea to the Royal Mail, just to collect the passport. They said you can’t do that but it should be delivered tomorrow. Wednesday [December 5] it’s George Bush’s funeral, they’ve closed the embassy. They tried to deliver the visa on Wednesday and it’s shut.
“[Now] the Royal Mail are saying we don’t know where it is, it should be delivered to the embassy in the next five days. We’re like this is over. So Thursday it arrives at the embassy.
“We spoke to people out here, I think the senator of New York was called and on Friday afternoon [December 7] at about four o’clock we got a call to say we’ve found it. He was supposed to fly on Friday. He got it Friday night and changed his flight to Saturday [December 8].”
With the fight on the brink of collapse, Hearn had a duty of care to warn event promoter Golden Boy Promotions that they may need to look for a replacement fighter.
“As of Thursday [December 6] as far as I was concerned, this fight wasn’t happening,” said Hearn. “I said to Golden Boy, ‘I don’t want to worry you but you may have to look at another opponent because this is not looking good.’ It was a very hairy last week.”
And that should’ve been that. But in a comedy of errors, there was one last act to play out.
“When he went to the airport on Saturday, he forgot his passport. Left it in his house,” Hearn added. “You couldn’t make it up. Had to go back from Manchester airport to go and get the passport.”