One prominent by-product of mixing in boxing’s circles and writing alongside fighters is a loose familiarity with certain names, sent hurtling past you in the flash of an often-ignored friend request. In the spirit of honesty, I’m frequently the guilty party when launching those hit-and-hope assaults on the sport’s social media faction.
Team Sauerland matchmaker and all-round boxing utility man, Tom Dallas, reassured me that nowadays, even careers are forged using such pacifistic weapons of choice. On speaking to the twenty-four-year-old, it was brought to my attention that he’d been long recognised as the British Boxing Board of Control’s youngest licensed matchmaker. Something that he believed had its drawbacks.
“I think that’s the thing about boxing. I look about ten years older, because boxing makes you age twice as fast as everyone else! I think most people are quite surprised when they find out my age, but I blame it on working in boxing!”
Dallas was a curious case, now travelling Europe and shouldering responsibility for managing events thrown in various arenas, hosting thousands of unrelenting fans. His introduction to boxing was similar to many others, however his keen sense of intrigue regarding roles within the sport had led him down a different path.
“As ridiculous as it sounds, it started off by just being an absolute boxing nut and a huge fan. My earliest memories are watching Lennox Lewis against Evander Holyfield when I was probably three or four-years-old. That’s my first boxing memory and my entire life, I’ve just been a boxing nut!
“I studied at Newcastle University and I did economics there. There was a brand new promotional company that had started in the North East called ‘Fighting Chance’ promotions. Their biggest name was Jon-Lewis Dickinson, so a reasonably big name in British boxing at the time. I saw this company had launched and it was whilst I was still studying at Uni. I got in touch with their director and basically said that I was a student and a huge boxing fan, if they needed anybody to do any work, I would do absolutely anything for no money. I just wanted to be involved.”
Owner-operator, Lewis Pendleton, gave Tom the chance he’d been craving. “They brought me on, doing all kinds of stuff. I did a bit of social media, press, running the events and I was doing a bit of matchmaking on the Small Hall shows up there. That was all just purely for the love of it and even at that time, I didn’t know how it would progress. I was doing that for well over a year and at that point, I did kinda think, ‘How far can this go?’ I was starting to build up a really good contact list with managers and promoters around the country, but that’s how it started.”
I’d actually covered ‘Fighting Chance’, myself, writing a feature about their refreshingly ambitious operation in the North East. After speaking to Tom, it was clear that he’d valued the opportunity Pendleton presented him with, tackling that responsibility with maturity beyond his years. As a student, however, it was tough to make-ends-meet. After graduating he’d decided to solely progress his career with the company, remaining in Newcastle for a further six months without stable, paid employment of any description.
Dallas had continued to expand his little black book with details of journeymen, managers, agents and promoters. Using the tools available to him, namely Facebook and Twitter, he was able to locate key parties, removing obstacles that would have existed in the fight game long before the creation of the internet. His introduction to Team Sauerland was a prime example of boxing in the modern age.
“This is another random one, really. I just stumbled across Nisse Sauerland on Facebook and sent him a friend request, which he accepted. I thought, ‘I might as well just send him a message on here and see if there are any vacancies going!’ So, I literally just sent him a message on Facebook. I told him a little about who I was, told him I had a matchmaking license with the British Boxing Board and how I was the youngest in the country, considerably, and I got a message back from him in a few minutes!
“I was up in Newcastle at the time and I got a message saying, ‘Can you come down to London tomorrow?’ I said, ‘Yes – absolutely!’ I got on the first train to London the next morning, met Nisse in his office and he invited me to his next show in Denmark and it just went from there… It was supposed to be a four-week internship, a trial. I wasn’t really getting paid, just a couple of hundred quid per week to cover expenses and travel. After that four-week trial, nothing was said, I just kept turning up to the office!”
His relationship with Nisse, whom he describes affectionately as a ‘loon!’, had given him the space to grow within the company. Although mainly basing their shows in Scandinavia and Central Europe, the boss had decided to put his faith in a hard-working British economics graduate. Tom told me that Nisse was blessed with an exceptional eye for talent, working tirelessly to expand the company and please their fanbase. His admiration for Sauerland was genuine. That trip from Newcastle to London had altered the trajectory of Tom’s involvement in the sport – a journey he remembered fondly, if only now on reflection.
“Oh god, to be honest I was very nervous. It was getting hard for me up in Newcastle. I spent a good six months up there with no other job, no student loan because I’d finished… I was struggling for money and I’d had to rely on parents helping me out. I was just kinda desperate for a job, so I was very nervous. I was thinking, if something doesn’t come of this then maybe that’s my boxing career over before it’s really began.
“I was very nervous but I saw it as a great opportunity. I was thinking, ‘If it’s gonna happen – it’s gonna happen now’, so I was very keen to impress. I had to try and ‘wow’ them. At the time, when I got my license, I was the youngest licensed matchmaker by twelve years. I think that gap has shortened quite a bit now, but I’m still the youngest in the country by a few years.”
Dallas had been sold to me primarily as a matchmaker, which in totality is an unfair reflection on his contribution to the sport. He was keen to avoid tagging himself as such, revealing his demanding role which included conducting media duties, liaising with fighters, social media management and ensuring the smooth running of the Sauerland events which entailed the understanding of multiple foreign languages.
Despite spinning various plates admirably, it was Tom’s matching of fighters which peaked my interest. As someone so young in comparison to his peers, I wondered specifically what he looked for when selecting opponents. Was it deceptively impressive records, earned in the less temperate Baltic regions? Did he hunt for exciting away fighters, destined to fall victim to the highlight-reel, stoppage loss? In truth, his almost-scientific approach to stacking a card was eye-opening.
“I look at it like this; if it’s not one of our guys who is fighting, then I want to get him in the most exciting fights that him or his manager(s) will allow. You’re always gonna have local guys who are fighting on your shows who can sell tickets. You will never have an entire show with your own fighters. The difference with our guys, you will notice that a lot of them have already had a lot of rounds. I think that’s important, it gets them ready for the bigger fights. I don’t like to give them too many knock-over jobs. Also, I’ve got to think about what looks good for the show and for TV. I don’t want them to be fighting older, fat or bald guys…
“It’s a difficult one to say specifically. All I know is that when I make a fight, if I’m there at the arena, ringside, watching it… If it goes just how I planned and how I thought, there’s really no better feeling in the world. You spend so much time into trying to get things together and when you’re there with all those people in the arena, it’s such a good feeling knowing that YOU put that together. It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced before. It’s quite a humbling, emotional feeling and I can’t quite describe it. I’m dealing with our boxers everyday and boxing is their lives. It’s all they’ve got. It makes you wanna work harder for them.”
Working hard didn’t seem to be an issue for the younger man, originally from Norwich. Now basing himself in London, closer to Team Sauerland’s British base, he’d been working on their show this weekend featuring the return of former world title challenger Anthony Yigit and showcasing Sauerland’s young talent Abass Baraou, a man that both Nisse and Tom believe could be destined for big things.
Tom Dallas will remain in boxing as long as he elects to, or as long as he can bear it. Issues behind the scenes are often brushed under the carpet, with politics and finances splitting both camps and companies. He has found a home with Sauerland, comfortable within the team, but challenging himself almost daily. Often the sport’s detractors will say the ‘next generation’ of fighters don’t match those who’d come before them, but what of the men pulling the strings?
It struck me that Dallas had a love for boxing. From restlessly watching Lennox Lewis as a toddler to struggling for money as a voluntary matchmaker, I hoped the sport would reward him for his loyalty. With the transparency afforded to its staff, boxing was a cold, hard business. It needed people like him to take it forward, making fair money for honest men.
“I want to improve the product and make it as good as it can be. Part of growing the business is growing our stable and making that as good as it can be, too. I’m sure if we can grow the company, I’ll get a bigger and better salary (laughs)! It will all come with that and I’m just very focused on Team Sauerland and making that as big as possible.
“Boxing is like a drug. It can be the best and the shittest sport in the world, but everyone I know that works in boxing seems to get the bug. It’s a special sport – you can’t put your finger on it. It’s unique.”
Article by: Craig Scott
Follow Craig on Twitter at: @craigscott209