Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing return to the promotional fray on Saturday night with the first in their much-hyped ‘Fight Camp’ series of events.
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny Hearn’s PT Barnum-esque showmanship and there is a real sense of occasion surrounding this four-event series in his ‘back garden’ at Matchroom HQ, Brentwood.
It all begins with Saturday’s five-fight card headlined by a domestic super-welterweight scrap between Sam Eggington (28-6, 17 KOs) and Ted Cheeseman (15-2-1, 9 KOs), and builds to a climax on August 22 when Dillian Whyte meets Alexander Povetkin in a heavyweight bout that – controversially – has been granted pay-per-view status.
“For the next four weeks, this is the home of boxing,” Hearn told Boxing Social proudly earlier this week while also admitting – somewhat grandiosely – that lockdown has provided him and his team with an opportunity to focus, regroup and move towards their aim of being “the sole [promotional] player in boxing”.
“People say it’s not possible… but that’s the move for us, it has to be the move,” Hearn claimed. “We want everything we do to feel like it’s major.”
First things first, can all four of these ‘Coronavirus era’ shows live up to Hearn’s hype?
A headliner between Eggington and Cheeseman certainly seems an unlikely springboard for plans of world domination, but what Saturday’s card might lack in star power it more than compensates for in a series of well-matched contests that look set to provide excellent entertainment.
To quote the inscription across one of the walls at the impressive construction that has appeared in Brentwood: ‘First Rule Of Fight Camp: No Easy Fights.’
The main event certainly seems set to deliver, with the consensus being that the styles of ‘Egg’ and ‘Cheese’ are sufficiently well-matched to – in the words of Hearn – deliver “an absolute war.”
Eggington is still only 26 and has been written off several times in his career already, notably after stoppage defeats against Hassan Mwakinyo in September 2018 and Liam Smith in March 2019. Against the unheralded Mwakinyo he looked tired and lacklustre, while against Smith he was found to be out of his league.
However, the Stourbridge man has since bounced back by winning four on the trot, including a second-round stoppage of Orlando Fiordigiglio on away soil, which earned him a top five IBF world ranking.
The 24-year-old Cheeseman meanwhile, after smoothly advancing to British title honours and a 15-0 ledger, has seen his progress stall after a nightmare 2019 during which he suffered two losses and a draw.
Outclassed against Sergio Garcia for the European title in February, Cheeseman was held to a draw by an inspired Kieron Conway in August and was then left raging about “corrupt” judges and being “scammed” after a close points loss against Scott Fitzgerald in October.
How much of a knock Cheeseman’s confidence has taken from those fights could well be a key factor on Saturday. A more versatile performer than Eggington, the Bermondsey man can box effectively on the retreat or brawl, and this could be the key to the fight.
Eggington, of course, will want to turn this into a tear-up, and plenty within the trade are picking him to have too much firepower, energy and determination for Cheeseman.
“I think he’ll try and box on the back foot for the first four or five,” is Eggington’s prediction, “And then I will get to him.”
As for Cheeseman, he has confidently predicted: “I feel I’m just going to be able to dominate Sam and be too strong and too big. Once I start putting on the pressure I don’t think Sam is going to be able to handle it.”
Persuasive cases can be made for both men, but I believe Eggington may have been flattered by recent results against relatively weak opposition and that Cheeseman’s versatility will see him through some rocky moments en route to a points or late stoppage victory.
Chief support sees exciting Belfast banger James Tennyson (26-3, 22 KOs) look to continue his excellent run of form since moving up to lightweight when he tussles with Gavin Gwynne (12-1, 2 KOs) for the vacant British title. Tennyson has dynamite in his fists and, although he can be hurt, especially to the body, I doubt Gwynne has the firepower to stay with him and expect the ‘Assassin’ to win inside the distance.
Elsewhere on the card, Jordan Gill and Reece Bellotti meet in a featherweight contest between ‘boxer and brawler’ that the once highly touted Gill really can’t afford to lose.
The Cambridgeshire stylist’s reputation took a knock when he suffered an alarming loss to Enrique Tinoco in May last year. Gill (24-1, 7 KOs) initially blamed that eight-round retirement reverse on food poisoning and a routine comeback victory against Yesner Talavera in September taught us little about him we didn’t know already. It later transpired that Gill had been suffering from a debilitating thyroid problem.
Bellotti (14-3, 12 KOs) has vowed to be less gung-ho than at times in the past and he has a real puncher’s chance of pulling off the win if Gill has not fully recovered. Nevertheless, one would expect Gill’s superior skills to prevail on points.
Another decent contest sees unbeaten heavyweight prospect Fabio Wardley (8-0, 7 KOs) tussle with Simon Vallily (17-2-1, 7 KOs) for the vacant English title. Wardley is expected to win and win well, in what could be the most one-sided contest of the night. His speed and power should be too much for Vallily and it will be interesting to see how the Ipswich man progresses as his level of opposition improves in the coming months.
The final bout on the card sees Sheffield’s gifted 140-pounder Dalton Smith (5-0, 4 KOs) face Liverpool’s Nathan Bennett (9-1, 2 KOs). Bennett has talked a good fight, but is likely to be outclassed against the 23-year-old Smith, who has impressive amateur pedigree.
Fight Camp will be broadcast live on Sky Sports from 7pm in the UK and airs on DAZN in the US.
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.