Steve Bunce column: Night of ‘chaos and anarchy’ leaves no winners for boxing

Nottingham’s Leigh Wood, Belfast’s Michael Conlan and London’s Lawrence Okolie are all in world title fights on Saturday
Date: Saturday, May 27th
Roof: Radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live of Lara v Wood 2 from 22:00 BST, live text commentary and reaction on the BBC Sport website and app from Lara v Wood & Okolie v Billam-Smith from 21:00 00 BST.

To have three good world title fights in three different venues in one night is an absolute disaster for boxing.

It’s the worst thing that can happen in this sport, and I really mean that.

In Manchester, Nottingham’s Leigh Wood challenges Mauricio Lara for the WBA featherweight title. In Bournemouth, Lawrence Okolie defends his WBO cruiserweight title against Chris Billam-Smith. And in Belfast, local hero Michael Conlan takes over current IBF featherweight champion Alberto Lopez.

You’d be happy to have three fights like that in a whole year.

You would be delighted if you had those three fights in a few months.

Having them on a Saturday is pretty ridiculous.

Which is really amazing, if you take a look at the UK boxing diary, the following weekends: June 3rd, empty; June 17, empty; June 24, empty.

All six men in the three world fights have been on 5 Live in the past 12 months. These are all big fights.

We use words like unique in boxing, overused. We’re talking rare, overused. We’re talking about amazing, overused nights. But certainly tonight ticks all those boxes. It’s never happened before and I hope it never happens again.

We’ve had clashes in the past in the UK.

We had a terrible situation in 2018 when Carl Frampton fought Josh Warrington in manchester and Derek Chisora ​​faced Dillian Whyte In London. Both fights on pay-per-view, both on the Saturday before Christmas, December 22nd. That was a disaster.

Both were sold out and both were guaranteed big fights, and they were big fights.

This isn’t the first time this year that we’ve had clashes and they seem to happen more regularly lately. But this is the first time in my life that we’ve had three world titles in three different venues in the UK and Northern Ireland in one night.

Who doesn’t want to be in Bournemouth in the sun to watch Billam-Smith takes on world champion Okolie at Vitality Stadium?

Who doesn’t want to be in Manchester to see if Wood can beat Lara after coming so close the first time? And who in their right mind doesn’t want to be in Belfast for Conlan to win a world title?

Those are sell-your-grandma struggles, they really are. I can argue that each of these events are monster events and they were lumped together over a two hour period into one night. It’s crazy.

How does this happen? It’s a mix of facts. All the promoters are claiming they set the date first, like a kid on a playground. I don’t really care who officially announced it first because behind the scenes we all knew they were bubbling. I dreaded having two of them in the same night, but three?

Leigh Wood gets punched in the jaw by Mauricio Lara
Wood was stopped by Mauricio Lara in a fight he was winning

I work closely with all prosecutors and they will all build a strong case for why it’s not their fault. They might all be innocent, because that’s how it is in boxing. It’s always someone else’s fault. I just wish there had been some dialogue.

We don’t need promoters to be friends, but we do need at least some communication.

The British Boxing Board of Control, of course, can do nothing. There is no official or unofficial way to talk to different promoters.

But that’s not good, you need something to stop this and hopefully something can be done to prevent this from happening again.

For fans, it’s terrible. There are hardcore fans who would have gone to each of these matches if they were on separate nights. I’m sure all these events can sell out, but you’re losing fans at the door, no question.

Then you have the fans watching at home. We’ve all seen the things on Twitter when there’s a confrontation.

Fans will watch one fight on their laptop and another on TV. On Saturday night, you’ll also need to pick up the phone. That’s not realistic, is it?

The last thing I want is for this to be lauded as a big night for fans watching on laptops, phones and TV.

These are big fights, but this is a night of chaos and anarchy and even if every show sells out, that’s no justification for this mess.

I hear there is a plan for the Lopez-Conlan ringwalk to start at 9:00 pm before Lara-Wood at 10:30 pm. Which would be great news if there were only two fights. It’s so frustrating for the fans, the media and the fighters.

This is an injustice to fighters as well. All three cards have good undercards, none more so than Terri Harper’s hastily rearranged world title defense against Ivana Habazin in Manchester.

Usually, in fights like these, a star comes out. A proper star. None of the fighters involved on Saturday can claim to have the profile of an Anthony Joshua or a Katie Taylor.

But imagine if Billam-Smith survived an incredible war and stopped Okolie late, but lost because Conlan was too smart for Lopez or once again Wood failed?

On a normal weekend, a big world title win elevates the fighter, dominates the headlines.

But now, no matter who wins, they won’t get all the credit they deserve because of the cluster’s crazy schedule.

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