Into the Fightzone with Dennis Hobson

The last time Boxing Social spoke to Dennis Hobson was a few weeks prior to his groundbreaking ‘Straightener in the Car Park’ show in December. Hobson is by nature a gambler; putting on a show in the middle of a pandemic, outside during the British winter, some might have said it was plain stupid, but sometimes fortune favours the brave.

The shows we were getting at the time were largely sterile TV studio based promotions and, while any boxing was welcomed, the car park show was refreshingly, and maybe surprisingly, different. We have seen where fans have been allowed back in, the difference they make to the atmosphere with 70,000 fans at the recent Canelo Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders fight and packed arenas for two recent UFC PPV cards highlighting what we have been missing. Hobson’s gamble paid off, the show in the Sheffield Arena car park was shown live on Eurosport and the fights delivered. Hobson was certainly pleased with the product he served up:

“I think it had the desired effect, it took a lot of putting together but along with these new shows we are doing we have set a blueprint,” Hobson told Boxing Social. “We put a show on in the middle of a pandemic with a lot of restrictions so we have done that already and making history in this country. There was an atmosphere, the music and production were great and the fights were good.”

Hobson returns to that same car park this Friday for a little more traditional offering, another show but this time on a brand new TV platform Fightzone; a boxing dedicated station that the promoter has a vested interest in. Clearly frustrated by a lifetime of decisions he had little say over, Hobson has decided to take a little more control.

“I love a challenge and we are on our way again. The good thing about this is we are working for ourselves,” he said. “I have dealt with all sorts of different TV companies and sometimes there is no logic to some of the decisions that they make, some of which I have been flabbergasted by. What I have wanted for quite some time is to be in charge of our destiny. As this channel gets stronger, anyone who comes to the table wanting to work with us we will look at it. We are very optimistic about it.

“I have got shares in Fightzone along with Steve Crump but we are obviously involved in Fight Academy and are treated as a separate entity. Fightzone are involved with one or two other promoters to give them TV dates and that is what we are doing.”

Hobson has experienced the highs and lows of a sport he has been involved in for much of his life and, despite the long involvement, there seems a renewed vigour about the veteran promoter with his new venture. Having a greater control over his promotions and how many shows he can put on will allow Hobson to dictate his own future, free of the shackles of restricted, mandated dates. Hobson also thinks there is that small gap in the market that will fit in nicely between the likes of Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren. Starting afresh seems to hold few fears for Hobson.

“It’s not easy but if you have followed what I have done over the years I have taken a punt with a few fighters and I have promoted a lot of fighters others wouldn’t have stuck with like Clinton Woods, Stuart Hall and Carl Thompson when he came back and got them towards world titles,” said Hobson. “Yes, I have promoted fighters like Ricky Hatton and David Haye but they were already stars but I think I still helped their careers and I had a lot of great memories with them. We are still capable of doing that again and, with this new TV platform, we are another option to Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren. Someone once told me boxing runs in a seven-year cycle, and there is a bit of a cycle taking place right now with Eddie going to DAZN and nobody knows what Sky is going to do. Then you have BT and Channel 5 who are playing at [boxing] a little bit. But if you think [of] what we are doing, we are probably doing something that has never been done in this country, we are offering like a fixture list of upcoming shows.”

With a more than competitive monthly subscription price, and regular shows planned for the first few months, Fightzone looks a viable alternative to the competition already in the market place. Subscribers will be able to see well in advance what they are paying for, Hobson told Boxing Social that he believes this is their unique selling point.

“With the different promoters we have onboard, we have probably the first 14 weeks already covered. We have one [show] from Las Palmas, one from Malta and that doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “So when people are paying the £4.99-a-month subscription they will see in advance what they are going to get and that’s never been done. That’s a good sales pitch for us and it gives a lot of fighters an opportunity without having to go 15-0 to get anywhere near a TV date.”

Fightzone will be particularly welcomed by the majority of boxers who have had little or no work in the past year or so. The rising costs of putting on shows in the pandemic-hit world has hit small hall boxing hard. Without a major TV deal, promoters simply can’t afford to put on shows without a live crowd. Even with crowds slowly on the way back, some promoters are still looking at September onwards before they dip their toes back in to the water. Fightzone offers more than a glimmer of hope for the fighters who have seen their careers stall of late. Plans for weekly shows highlight the lofty ambitions Hobson has for his new project.

“We are not just an App, we are TV on the internet. If you look at the quality of our production and the people we have got involved, it will be a quality event,” said Hobson. “We have had to jump through hoops because it is outside and we have had to create an arena outside, but it is just to get the kids out there. We have got around 130 fighting in those first eight weeks, that is why we are doing the first six or seven shows outside just to offset some of the costs. We are counting on people subscribing and seeing all the young up and comers and a few established fighters on a regular basis. We are looking at putting on a show every week, it will be a tall order, but we are looking at putting on 30 shows from the UK and buying a few others in.”

Hobson has recently re-signed fan favourite heavyweight Dave Allen who has announced his intentions to return to the ring. Allen is a fighter who seems to have untapped potential, but taking the wrong fights at the wrong time didn’t do him many favours in the long run. He has made his money and done well out of the sport, but there still seems a little bit of ‘what if’ about Allen. A British title is a realistic aim and Hobson believes that, after his short-lived retirement, Allen is in a good place as he launches his comeback later this year.

“Outside of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, I think he is the most popular heavyweight in the country and Dave Allen has got a couple of big nights still in him,” said Hobson. “He’s had a bit of a break and he’s looking fresh again. But the proof will be when he starts fighting again and we’ll take it from there.”

Fightzone looks to have potential, with this Friday’s show in Sheffield the start of a busy year ahead for the new kid on the block. Tomorrow, Katie Healy from the Rachel Ball camp makes her professional debut on a bill topped by an English lightweight title fight between Myron Mills and Lucas Ballingall. Flyweight Tommy Frank will return soon, seeking revenge next month against Rosendo Hugo Guarneros and the original headliner for Friday, Anthony Tomlinson vs James Moorcroft, will be rescheduled for later in the year. The early signs are that Fightzone will have the quality to match the quantity.