And so it begins...the PR machine for what will be Britain’s biggest fight this year, cranked into gear today, all wrapped up, almost symbolically, in a £1.5m cheque signed by Eddie Hearn in an attempt to entice Carl Frampton into the ring for a world super-bantamweight title unification fight at the Manchester Arena on July 18 with Scott Quigg.
The ink had barely dried, or at least the flash from the publicity shots had dimmed. when Carl Frampton, figuratively speaking, crumpled it up and threw it in the bin.
It felt like a crass approach by Hearn, as if he thought the cheque would have working class Belfast boy Frampton dreamily floating towards it, like it was a freshly-made pie on the window sill in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
Frampton doesn’t need the money - it’s not and never will be his motivation. What he wants though, is to be the best and be regarded as such.
Beating Scott Quigg, as he would do (I’d have him knocking out the Bury boxer in six or seven rounds), will help him along the way and doing it in front of a prime time terrestrial television audience would see his star rise ever further.
And that’s the difference between the two camps.
Brook versus Khan has fallen by the wayside and we want to make sure this fight happensEddie Hearn
ITV enjoyed decent ratings (reportedly hitting nearly 2million) as they dabbled in world class boxing again for the first time in five years as Frampton defeated Chris Avalos in Belfast in February. It wasn’t anywhere near the scale of the channel’s 90s peak but it at least brought back memories and offered hope that the sport’s biggest names could once again be showcased on as big a stage possible.
This is the road that Frampton and his mentor and promotor Barry McGuigan wants to go down; to mirror McGuigan’s days when the country sat in and paid nothing more than their TV licence to watch big boxing nights. And at a time when money rules all, there’s almost a purity in their ambitions.
By contrast Hearn is in something of a panic, hence today’s publicity stunt.
He needs to provide a pay-per-view show for Sky Sports and having been unable to sort out Britain’s other big bash, a War of the Roses between Sheffield’s Kell Brook and Bolton’s Amir Khan, the Matchroom boss has had to throw his lot in with Quigg v Frampton. He admitted so himself, saying: “We’re frustrated. Brook versus Khan has fallen by the wayside and we want to make sure that this fight happens.”
There’s no doubting that Sky Sports has been great for boxing, but pay-per-view events only serve to appeal to those who are already boxing fans. If the sport is to be opened up to a wider audience then presuming ITV were prepared to stump up similar cash, then this is a win-win situation for all concerned.
McGuigan’s Cyclone Promotions want to co-promote the fight. Talks had been ongoing but there appears to be no movement, ‘hitting a brick wall’ was how it was described, and Hearn’s cheque will have also been designed to put public pressure on the legendary boxer. McGuigan isn’t naive enough to let that bother him at this stage, but something will have to give and there is a lot more talking to come.
Meanwhile, Kell Brook will have to take a back seat for a while while Hearn attempts to sort Quigg out, though another Sheffield boxer Kid Galahad will be watching with interest. If the Ingle fighter continues on the upward trajectory he has shown already, then Quigg and/or Frampton will be in his sights. Hopefully those potential negotiations are a little shorter and easier.