It was billed as a festival of fights, and it marked a new beginning for Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing as their broadcast deal with DAZN got underway on Saturday night.
Fight Camp 2.0, Fight Camp 2021… however you want to title it kicked into gear with new faces and a new vibe. It was the opening night with two more to come as Matchroom aim to take the loyal audience they had at Sky Sports with them to their new home at DAZN.
So, with all that being said, Boxing Social asked our web editor Mark Butcher and writers Luke G. Williams and Shaun Brown what they thought of the new-look Fight Camp.
“I preferred this Fight Camp to last season’s incarnation. One of my gripes with Sky Sports, who broadcast the original Fight Camp last year, is that network’s constant cramming of advert breaks in between rounds. Had Sky broadcast the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ you wouldn’t have seen Eddie Futch pulling out Joe Frazier after the 14th round, you would have been watching a back-flipping geezer in a Voltarol advert. DAZN let the fights flow without ads – it felt liberating.
“Chris Lloyd was an assured voice on comms, ably assisted by Darren Barker. Their effortless chemistry adds to one’s appreciation of fights. They hit exactly the right tone, with knowledge and without patronising. I always find Andy Lee’s analysis riveting. He’s one of the most articulate voices in boxing today. Andy is not a yes man or a cheerleader and that’s a refreshing change from the typical Matchroom broadcast on Sky in recent years, where we’ve all felt like we’re being sold something.
“The depth of fights was good. I was looking forward to Wood vs Xu all week and it didn’t disappoint. This is what boxing is all about. A talented underperformer getting a title shot out of the blue and making it count. Wood was sensational and that last round stoppage put the perfect exclamation point on a breakout performance. Billam-Smith vs McCarthy was an absorbing fight and delivered like most 50-50s do. The pure randomness of Cullen vs Yildirim added further intrigue to proceedings. My only complaint was Campbell Hatton’s four-round scuffle against Jakub Laskowski being the third last fight on the bill. It broke the tempo and felt like an unwelcome drop in quality. I feel Matchroom are putting far too much pressure on Hatton, still a young novice with plenty of time on his hands, by pushing him into the spotlight during prime time because of his famous father. The 20-year-old needs time to learn his craft at the start of a show. Hatton is trying to force his work because of a desire and pressure to impress. Give him space.”
Luke G. Williams
“Fight Camp 2021 was looking like something of a damp squib but Leigh Wood’s sensational win against Xu Can in the first show has enabled it to start with a real bang. Indeed, Saturday’s show was excellent, despite the late loss of Benn-Granados. That being said, the next two shows look weaker – Galahad vs Dickens is intriguing but otherwise there is little to get the pulse racing and too many names against ‘TBA’ to convince me that we are going to see many quality 50-50 showdowns.
“The ticket prices and packages for the shows are also – in my opinion – a disgrace in that they utterly price out the working man demographic that has formed the bedrock of boxing’s fan base for generations. Despite these caveats, however, you can’t deny that getting all three shows for £1.99 on DAZN is a bargain and the presence of Fight Camp as a whole in summer months when the boxing schedule is usually slight to non-existent is very welcome.”
“Overall, I enjoyed it and give it a thumbs up. I think there are more positives than negatives. New presenter Maya Jama appeared to be like a fish out of water but it’s early days and she may grow into the role. I would argue though that Laura Woods would have been more than capable of fronting the presentation.
“Chris Lloyd was as smooth as silk in the lead commentator role and proved that he is a more than suitable replacement for the incoming Mike Costello. Right hand-men Barker and Lee provided an enjoyable and knowledgeable turn as analysts. Overall, these three hit a home run on the opening night.
“The main fights provided thrills, spills and a couple of surprises. The bookmakers may have had Jack Cullen as odds-on favourite to beat Avni Yildirim, but it still turned a few heads to see him get the victory. McCarthy and Billam-Smith came out the gates quick and seemed to suffer for it in the second half but if anything, it made the fight even more dramatic. Leigh Wood’s performance was the highlight of the night and gave a world class performance that few predicted against the record-breaking punch output of Xu Can.
“Sparkly production values in boxing can mean little to boxing fans. The matchmaking is what it comes down to in the end. Weeks two and three have some stand-out fights (Galahad v Dickens, Buatsi v Bolotniks) but the depth of week one doesn’t appear to be matched over the next two weeks.”
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing