ATLANTIC CITY — Being at The Revel makes me feel like I'm hardly in Atlantic City; it's a classy, modernly decorated joint, with none of the general feel of sleaze or chintz that is part of A.C.'s charm and simultaneously to its detriment. At the weigh-in at The Revel for Saturday's HBO middleweight main event showdown in the casino-hotel between Daniel Geale and Darren Barker, all the top names did their job and nobody looked drained or otherwise troubled by making weight.
The highlight, then, was the two informative interviews I co-conducted BoxingScene scribe/Fighting Words book author David P. Greisman: Geale promoter Gary Shaw and Barker promoter Eddie Hearn. Besides Barker and Geale, they separately work with big names like the men in the headline, along with Kell Brook, Ricky Burns, Kimbo Slice and others. We chatted with the pair about Saturday's main event and fights in the works (or not in the works) for their stables.
I take it back. Another highlight was the outstanding nickname of one of the undercard fighters, John Williams: "Spidey the Boxing Poet." He is, it turns out, part poet. I do not know if he is part spider.
Shaw And Hearn On Geale-Barker
We'll go with Shaw, boss of Gary Shaw Productions, first. Here's a transcript, with only minor deletions thanks to a small but vocal crowd of Barker fans shouting and carrying on to the point that it was sometimes hard to hear. He talked about future fights for Geale should he win — against Felix Sturm, middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and hard-hitting Gennady Golovkin. He also said he had no more guaranteed dates with HBO after Saturday, but that he expected the card to do well at the box office.
Q: What will a Geale win prove?
A. It'll prove that he's underrated by everybody he has faced. Daniel Geale wanted Barker because he believed that Barker is the best in all of England. I give him credit for that because It's a voluntary. He didn't have to fight Barker. I think the people in the United States will get to see who Daniel Geale is. Right now his name comes out now and then for Sergio Martinez or Gennady Golovkin. Now they'll get to see. I believe in see feel and taste. if you get to see feel and taste, you get to know.
Q: What about fighting GGG or Sergio?
A: We have a mandatory in the IBF, which I think is Sturm, I'm not even sure myself after the mandatory, then we'll be in a voluntary position. To Daniel Geale's credit he wants to fight both Martinez and Golovkin. so it's not as if he's ducking anybody.
Q: So when would a fight like that happen?
A: It'll be 2014, the beginning.
Q: Do you think HBO was interested in this to set up an opponent for GGG/Sergio?
A: Look, that's a question you have to ask them. They may say yes. To me they know that Geale is top three in the world and if they don't show him it's to their detriment when they want to make a fight with Martinez or Golovkin. They know he's real.
Q: Is it true that they owed you a date?
A: They did. I had presented a series to them that they had bought. [An HBO2 series focused on younger fighters that never came to fruition with the change in leadership at HBO at the beginning of 2012.]
Q: Do they owe you any others?
A: No. I wish they did. This is the last one but hopefully between [Jhonatan] Romero [a junior featherweight contender fighting on the undercard Saturday] and Geale I'll have two big wins.
Q: Do you think this fight makes sense in AC to help set up those future fights?
A: It's why it's here. You're here, the press is here, HBO is here, the American public is here. The perception of HBO, you go to any foreign country, the first question is when is Geale going to fight in the U.S.? We don't realize cuz we're here, but the U.S. has a rich history and we're known around the world for the best fights and the best fighters.
Q: How is the promotion going? It can be hard to sell tickets here sometimes for a card headlined by foreign fighters.
A: I'm really proud to put this one, when you think about it I'm working with an English promoter, I'm working with my partners from Australia, you have a Colombian on, you have an Argentinian on, you have a Cuban on, so I think you'll see it sold out, 4,500-5,000, tomorrow night.
You can stand there and count. You'll see. I know the numbers. We may be sold out or just short of sold out. Remember Atlantic City is hungry for a big time fight, HBO adds to it, and you have two world title fights and an interim world title fight. Truthfully, I would rather wish this was someone else's card so I could go as a fan and watch. I know these two fights are tough fights.
Next up is Eddie Hearn, sports promoter and managing director of Matchroom Sport. We asked fewer questions about this fight than we did Shaw.
Q: It seems like people in the U.K. are picking Barker and people in the U.S. are picking Geale.
A: I’ve looked at the odds on both sides of the Atlantic, and they’re quite similar. Darren’s 7/4. It means that he’s the outsider, but very slightly. Geale is the champion, obviously. He’s got the home promoter. In my opinion, it’s a 50-50 fight. I just feel this time around, we feel like the champion for some reason. He’s been here before. He fought Martinez in Atlantic City. This is all just very easy for him this time around. Geale is a great fighter, a pressure fighter, but I just think Darren’s bigger, stronger, punches harder. But I do think it’s going to be a great fight. I just think it’s Darren’s time.
Q: What would be next for Barker if he won?
A: The IBF champ will have to fight Felix Sturm, who’s the mandatory. I think that’s a big fight in the U.K., and there will be a 75-25 split. HBO asked in the fighter meetings about Barker-Froch. Would he move up to fight Froch? Would he fight Golovkin? We’d fight anyone if that’s where the money was, really. He’s got absolutely no desire to move up to super middleweight at all… He could never fight at super middleweight. He wouldn’t be strong enough.
Q: There are a lot of good middleweights in the U.K.
A: …Martin Murray… [Matthew] Macklin obviously is coming off a loss. You’ve got Golovkin as well. You’ve got [Peter] Quillin. It’s a great division. But he’s not looking past this fight at all. This is the best chance he’s ever going to have to win a world title tomorrow night.
Shaw On Other Fighters
Shaw was a bit touchy about some of the guys below, some of whom have separated from him or tried to separate from him or might separate from him. Each initial question was about what's next for each fighter, unless otherwise noted. The biggest news below would be about the future plans for Chad Dawson, outside of his disputes with a few of the men we brought up. It's a la carte if you only care about certain fighters — just skip to the italicized names.
A: We have a rematch clause with [light heavyweight champion] Adonis Stevenson. So Adonis is fighting at the end of September with [Tavoris] Cloud, then I'll sit down with Yvon Michel and negotiate the fight.
Q: Any plans to make an interim fight?
A: I could, but when Chad makes the kind of money he makes, it's kind of hard to make an interim fight and tell him we have an interim for $10,000.
Q: Do you think a rematch would be different?
Yeah, of course. I was shocked, because I know what a good boxer Chad is. The fact that he got caught, that's what makes boxing the game that it is. I think Chad probably will fight the first round a lot differently than he did… Every fighter learns from past mistakes. If they don't they can't stay in the game.
Q: Is your contract with him ending, per another reporter we were talking to (h/t RingTV's Mark Ortega)?
A: We've got one fight remaining on it.
Q: One fight period, or one fight within a certain period of time?
A: It's probably October, November, but I have one fight remaining with him, that's correct.
Q: Do you want to re-sign him?
A: Do I? Sure. As long as TV's going to buy him.
Junior welterweight Kendall Holt:
Q: He said something on Twitter about you leaving him out to dry?
A: Leaving him out to dry, but we got him the world title shot. I won't even comment on that.
Q: Will you stop working together?
A: He's still under contract, but I don't comment on that kind of talk, because it's too short of a memory. I got him a world title shot not too long ago. And he didn't perform. I can't help that.
Thomas Dulorme, fighting in an accompanying HBO Latino bout Saturday, should he beat Frankie Figueroa:
I want to keep moving him up. I think he's really a good fighter, underrated, and I would like to get him back on ESPN or an HBO Boxing After Dark.
Q: Will he stay at 140?
A: Yeah, he's going to fight at 140 now.
Cruiserweight Lateef Kayode:
Working with Lateef. He wanted a release. I gave him a release, he called me this week, said he wants to come back. So I've got to start thinking about Lateef.
Q: Do you want him back?
A: I don't know. I don't know that I want any of these guys after a while. It drives you nuts.
Lightweight Antonio DeMarco:
Q: DeMarco has set out on his own…
A: Well, he thinks he's no longer with me, I think he's with me. So that story's still untold
Q: Do you intend to fight to uphold your contractual obligations?
A: One thousand percent.
Q: He seems to think the contract is up.
A: Yeah, but I have injury time, other time, I got him the world title. When I got him the world title, it extended the contract.
Q: Why do you want to keep working with him?
Cuz I think he's a really good fighter, I think he's an exciting fighter. You know, it bothers me, because every time he lost, I brought him back for world titles. But you know, it's the name of the game, there's no loyalty. Maybe they don't remember because they get hit in the head. I don't know.
Lightweight Rustam Nugaev, coming off a stoppage of Jose Hernandez on ESPN2:
I like him a lot. Great win. HBO Boxing After Dark, ESPN wants him back definitely. He's like Provodnikov. He's a tough fighter, comes forward, reminds me of Oddjob from 007, just keeps coming doesn't matter what you hit him with.
Heavyweight Kimbo Slice:
I had him in Australia, did a fight in Australia with him. I don't know, I was going to bring him on the card, I would imagine you'd see him in the next three-four months back in the ring.
A: What's the long-term plan?
Just keep him in front of the fans. Keep him in front of the fans.
Hearn On Other Fighters
Hearn talked about the Froch-George Groves rivalry and why that fight is happening now, Ricky Burns' next fight and the potential opponents after that, Tony Bellew's place in line at light heavyweight and ex-Olympian Anthony Joshua, as well as a thought on a boxer who isn't in his stable, David Price.
Lightweight Ricky Burns, fighting Raymundo Beltran next:
I think it’s a really, really tough fight to be honest with you. I think Beltran is hugely underrated, in terms of if you look at his record. I mean he’s lost a couple of times, been thrown in early on, coming off a couple of good wins. I think that outside of the champions, he’s probably the toughest opponent we could’ve picked. [Jorge] Linares was another option, but I thought Beltran was more deserving. Obviously he’s a Top Rank fighter, I like the link there. [Top Rank's] Bob [Arum] was trying to pop on about the winner fighting Terence Crawford. Well, we’re the champions. So if we’re the winner, we’ll decide who we fight next.
Q: Would you want Burns to face Crawford?
A: I’ve been talking to HBO, and they like the idea of Burns-Crawford, and obviously a Madison Square Garden fight on HBO is attractive to a lot of people. But the way that sometimes it comes out is that if Bob wants it to happen, it happens. I feel as though we’re building a fan base in Scotland, and we’ve got the backing of broadcasters over there where we can bring the big fight to Scotland. Obviously we’re here with Darren Barker and we’re happy to travel, but obviously when you’re champion terms are a little different. But at the same time Burns is at a level here where he wants the big fights, he wants the big paydays, and if he does have to travel he’s not averse to doing so. But Crawford’s a little bit of a strange one. He’s not a mandatory yet. He probably will end up becoming a mandatory. Ricky’s really looking at the unification fights. But the lightweight division landscape has changed quite a bit lately where the unification fights aren’t quite as lucrative as potentially a voluntary defense or a mandatory defense.
Q: Who might be next for Burns then, besides Crawford?
Q: [Crawford is] one possible opponent. [Richard] Abril, who is avoided and awkward. Then you’ve got the WBC, who I guess will make [Daniel] Estrada vs. [Omar] Figueroa. The winner of that would certainly be of interest. And then you’ve got [Miguel] Vazquez. We reached out to Vazquez. They outpriced themselves and they’re now fighting Ameth Diaz. What was the purse bid for that fight like? 50k or something? The Vazquez fight still appeals.
There’s a couple of domestic fights. Anthony Crolla just beat Gavin Rees in a really big fight in the UK. A lot of people are saying he deserves a shot now. Obviously domestic fights are big draws themselves. I do feel that you get to the stage with Ricky where you have to put him in a unification fight or a really really big fight. I do feel that Beltran, outside of those fights, is probably the toughest fight you could’ve picked.
Carl Froch vs. George Groves:
Q: Date settled?
A: It’s looking like Nov. 23. And that potentially could be in Manchester, a really big domestic fight. It’s like the old guard vs. the new young superstar, if you’d like.
Q: Is that why the fight is happening?
A: [Groves is] the mandatory for the IBF. Actually, it was my plan to make that fight in the summer of next year. If I had a choice, I would’ve made Froch-[Mikkel] Kessler III, probably. But we got into a situation with the IBF where I went downt he list and there was George Groves. They don’t like each other. So I phoned up Carl Froch and said do you want to fight George Groves? He’s like whatever. But I said well if you don’t, you’ve got to relinquish the title so that George Groves can fight for it. He said no chance. Then I phoned George Groves and said do you want to relinquish your position as mandatory challenger? And he said no chance. So financially it’s probably the biggest fight for Froch outside of Golovkin. I don’t think the Ward fight appeals. It would sell in the U.K., but stylistically we all know what’s going to happen. Andre Ward is going to do what he does and do what he’s very good at, which is spoil and win rounds. Defensively he’s a technician, but people don’t really want to watch him fight. I can’t speak for Americans, but in the U.K., people like watching Froch-Kessler. The purists might like Froch against Ward, and I think honestly in the U.K. it’d be a totally different fight. I do think that fight might happen in time, but he’s got his own issues at the moment. I reached out to [Ward promoter Dan] Goossen two or three months ago for this fight, but they weren’t interested in this fight for the comeback fight. I don’t blame them. It would’ve been mad. But the problem Ward’s got now is the kind of fight he wants for the comeback fight is the kind of fight that nobody, including the broadcaster, is interested in.
Q: Why don't Froch and Groves like each other?
A: Carl has come up the hard way and he’s had to fight the very, very best to get to where he is, and Groves hasn’t. If you look at Groves’ record, he’s beaten [James] DeGale, he’s beaten Glen Johnson, but he hasn’t got the tough nights that Carl Froch had to get into that position. And I think in Carl’s head he thinks that George doesn’t deserve the shot, and George thinks that Carl is overrated.
Q: Is HBO interest in Froch-Groves?
I think they will be because long-term they need to keep Froch on the channel if they want to look at these big fights. At the end of the day, if they want Golovkin-Froch, if they want Froch against Ward, then it makes sense to keep him on the channel.
[HBO Sports VP] Ken Hershman is a big Carl Froch fan. He had him in the Super Six on Showtime. Obviously a fight between two Brits isn’t as appealing as fight between a Brit and an American, but again it’s all [related to] the rights fee, isn’t it?… Long term, the winner of that fight is going to be in big fights on HBO.
Welterweight Kell Brook:
Q: Why Vyacheslav Senchenko next for Brook?
A: Senchenko is commercially perfect. Former world champion. [The Ricky] Hatton [win], obviously. We have to understand the world we live in here. This is a business. It’s absolutely flying at the box office. So people like the fight. I got attacked a little bit by the hardcore.
Q: Because you had talked about Shane Mosley for Brook?
A: The thing is Mosley was my first choice. I mentioned Mosley and I got abused by fans… Brook-Mosley in the U.K. is a massive fight. But the hardcore, as the hardcore do, hated the fight without thinking about the commercial aspect. You’ve got to remember about Kell Brook, Kell Brook is a wonderful talent. Look at his wins: Matthew Hatton, Carson Jones, Hector Saldivia. Senchenko is levels beyond anything he’s ever been in with before. Perhaps looking back, the mistake I made was saying we got a big name lined up for Kell Brook. That’s what I said. But in my view, Senchenko is a big name, but to the hardcore boxing fans he’s not.
Light heavyweight Tony Bellew:
We had two final eliminators, and both were against Isaac Chilemba. One was a draw, stunk the place out. Then we did the rematch on Froch-Kessler, and it was actually a good fight. So I put pressure on the WBC and said listen we’ve had two final eliminators. We didn’t have to have the second final eliminator. We could’ve stayed at the no. 1 position and taken a mandatory. But we fought Chilemba again and won. We put pressure on the WBC for Bellew to get the shot next. Obviously Adonis Stevenson won. … they said he could fight Cloud as long as both sign to fight Bellew before the end of the year.
Q: Gary Shaw was telling us about Chad Dawson's intention to exercise a rematch clause with Stevenson. That won't affect Bellew's shot?
A: Then he’ll get stripped by the WBC. I’m confident in the paperwork, the communication, that if the winner of that fight doesn’t fight Bellew next, he’ll be stripped. It’s only fair. The whole thing about it is we’ve accepted these terms. Bellew last fought on May the 25th… This fight is moved to take place on Nov. 30. I asked him if he wanted a 10-rounder in the meantime. He said no, I’ve had a long run of fights. I’m going to have a month off and have a real long camp. Now if this fight doesn’t happen, I’ll go absolutely mad. You can’t disrespect fighters like this who’s going to go through a camp and you're going to mess him around. There’s no way Bellew won’t get a shot before the end of the year.
Q: They do have a tendency to mess fighters around…
A: Not with me. They've never done it to me yet. And I'm new in the game, but you don't want to be doing it.
Heavyweight Anthony Joshua:
Well everyone's so excited in the U.K. We love our heavyweight hopes. Some have been some fantastic, some have been not so, but Joshua looks the real deal. He debuts on Oct. 5 in the O2 in London which is a 20,000 seat arena.
Q: Why do you think he's the real deal?
A: I just think he's a guy who has has 43 amateur fights, he's won two ABA championships, silver medal in the world and Olympic gold in 43 amateur fights? Luke Campbell, who won the other gold medal, he's here this week and he had 160 odd fights, which is the best amateur the country has ever produced. Joshua's 6'6", he's an athlete, he runs the 100 meter in 11 seconds dead. Technically very good, punches very, very hard, sparred all the top heavyweights in the country on the circuit he's perceived to be the real deal. Time will tell.
Q: How quickly can you move him?
A: I think we can move him quite quickly. I've had the list of opponents for his debut and they're quite adventurous in that respect. They make my bum twinge a little bit thinking about our investment going in with these kind of guys obviously. At the end of the day, he's that good that he's got to be moved along at a decent pace. And you're under pressure from the fans to not just bring over people who are just going to fall over after one shot. But those same fans have got to realize it's his debut. But some of the names they're throwing at me…
Q: The key seems to be how some of these guys take shots, like David Price and Seth Mitchell (I personally offered that I thought Price could be rebuilt)…
A: So do I. it's levels, isn't it? You look at David Price, and it's all right looking back at something, but you look back at the Tony Thompson fight and look at David Price's opponents before Tony Thompson. Audley Harrison, Tom Dallas and Matt Skelton, all levels below Thompson. I know Tony Thompson's not a world beater but he's still kind of fringe world level. He beat Price twice. Was that the right fight? They're saying no. I think the rebuild job on Price is to take him away from the focal point and let him build on the undercard of some shows. he's still British and Commonwealth champion.