The Unfair Combat: Why are such a lot of happening in British rings?

Journeymen are the most important to each a emerging boxer’s ring schooling and to a promoter’s steadiness sheet, however have boxing enthusiasts change into unwell and bored with mismatches? Oliver Fennell investigates.

NAEEM ALI. Dale Arrowsmith. Taka Bembere. Elvis Dube.

Jordan Ellison. MJ Corridor. Lee Hallett. Callum Ide.

Ricky Leach. Michael Mooney. Jake Pollard. Jamie Quinn.

Darryl Sharp. Carl Turney. Lewis van Poetsch. Phil Williams.

Names – only some names – that any common reader of Boxing Information will recognise, for they seem on those pages dozens of instances a yr, occasionally each and every week.

However this isn’t a fond familiarity. In the event you see those names, there’s little reason why to concentrate, for you’ll be able to be virtually confident of what came about of their fights.

In all chance, they’ll have misplaced. Extra ceaselessly than now not, they’ll have lasted the gap, however infrequently successful a spherical. BN’s small corridor newshounds combat to search out anything else new to mention when house combatants beat journeymen via margins of 40-36 or 60-54 in virtually each and every contest on a card.

Pulling a up to date factor (July 7) of Boxing Information from my archives at random tells the tale. In a single week, 8 British presentations mix for 55 contests. Of those, 47 characteristic a boxer with a shedding list, and one of the most stats are in reality dreadful: Ten wins from 86 contests, six from 99, 3 in 85, two in 96… a solitary luck from 25 bouts, from 33 or 49… exactly 0 victories in careers stretching to fourteen fights, or 18, or 36.

Maximum, if now not all, of those loss columns could have been prolonged since. In that week, handiest two of the 47 boxers with shedding information scored a win. Of the rest 45, 39 went the gap. However that isn’t a sign of aggressive matchmaking. The “away” boxer did not win a unmarried spherical in 33 of the ones distance fights (one eight-rounder, 15 sixes and 23 fours).

Nor does this mathematical dominance essentially exhibit the distinction of the “house” fighter. No, those large margins extra normally counsel the loser didn’t even try to win. As a substitute, their objective would were to ultimate the gap, receives a commission, move house, and do the similar in every week or a fortnight’s time. The venue and the opponent will exchange, however the technique won’t.


Seamus Devlin boxed 36 instances in his first yr as a professional – a British list. This used to be regardless of successful handiest considered one of them – or in all probability as a result of of that. He insists this isn’t for loss of attempting – no less than occasionally.

“What I’ve observed, the pondering amongst maximum journeymen is that it’s only a process,” he says. “Me, I don’t have a look at it like that. It’s a recreation to me. Occasionally after shedding a difficult combat, I believe like s**t, my pleasure is harm – I wouldn’t really feel like that if I didn’t see it as a recreation.

“I had a spell after I had 3 fights of the evening again to again [all in July]. They had been crackers. One used to be a draw and I will have to have gained some other of them. But it surely stuck up with me, having the ones exhausting fights and being within the fitness center as properly.

“Combating so often, it’s exhausting. So, no, I don’t at all times attempt to win. If he’s on it, firing on all cylinders, and I’m flat, perhaps I’ve struggled with the load, I would possibly need to be a large adverse simply to get thru [to the final bell]. However I don’t take the straightforward manner out. If I sought after to do this, I’d simply take a knee.”

So, if it is a recreation to Devlin, and he does attempt to win if he believes there’s a possibility he can, is it now not demoralising to have achieved so handiest as soon as in just about 40 contests?

“No, this recreation is mental,” says the Padiham super-middleweight. “The most productive analogy I will be able to recall to mind is from Band Of Brothers, when one soldier tells some other: ‘The one hope you’ve gotten is to simply accept the truth that you’re already lifeless.’ In boxing, if you haven’t any concern of shedding, you gained’t really feel that anxious power.

“I meet other folks and so they in finding out I’m a boxer and so they ask what my list is. They don’t snort or scoff – they respect the truth I step within the ring – however they don’t perceive the trade facet precedes the wearing facet of it, in order that they should suppose ‘he can’t be that suave!’. But it surely doesn’t hassle me.”

And it’s, in the end, that trade facet which dictates what selections are made, even for a person who insists he’s in it for the game.

“I do know my lane and I keep in it,” says Devlin. “I used to be 33 after I became professional, so I needed to be life like. I used to be by no means going to be a British champion, I used to be at all times going to be at the street, so that is the most suitable option to make a residing for my circle of relatives.

“I’m out this week and two weeks after that, and I’ve were given an concept what I’m doing thru to October. While you combat so often, self-preservation has to come back best of the listing. In the event you get minimize, you’ll be able to’t field, and in the event you get stopped, it’s a 28-day obligatory suspension. So, the concern is to get out unscathed.”


With a stoppage loss mandating a four-week pay freeze, it’s the worst factor that may occur to a pro journeyman.

In reality, no – the worst that may occur is he wins. Wreck a tender fighter’s unbeaten list, or harm the recognition of a ticket-seller, and promoters would possibly consider carefully earlier than using him once more.

It is probably not as specific as gangsters passing envelopes beneath tables, however nonetheless there’s a monetary incentive to lose. Is that now not necessarily the similar as fight-fixing?

“No, no, it’s now not fight-fixing in any respect,” says Robert Smith, basic secretary on the British Boxing Board of Keep an eye on, “and I don’t just like the time period ‘journeymen’. They’ve been round since boxing started. Their position is to show younger boxers.

“After all, we wish everybody to have a move, however we realise some might simply wish to move the gap so they are able to field once more subsequent week. That’s now not ideally suited, however they are able to take care of themselves. While you see some who’re much less defensive-minded, they could have a move and get harm. So, we need to get the steadiness proper.

“However, sure, we’re involved in regards to the one-sided nature of one of the most bouts. If we really feel anyone’s now not attempting sufficient, we will be able to carry them in with their supervisor or instructor to believe their performances and have a look at the character of the defeats.

“And we’re doing extra trying out, extra overview, neuropsychological assessments yearly. We’re finding out alzheimer’s, dementia, CTE. We’re forward of the sport in comparison to different sports activities.

“We don’t seem to be enthusiastic about effects. We’re now not matchmakers, we simply wish to make it as secure as we perhaps can.”


Opinion is split amongst BN readers, despite the fact that if our letters web page is any indication, extra seem to be bored via the small corridor scene than enthused via it.

Ted Scott kicked off the controversy on July 28 with a blunt query: “Am I the one one that reveals pages of small corridor studies, the place just about each and every considered one of them ends 40-36 in favour of the house fighter, an absolute waste of time?”.

“It’s the similar previous factor each and every week,” wrote Alan Cheatle every week later. “A long way too ceaselessly, each and every combat is an undefeated native prospect as opposed to a serial loser… They’re tedious mismatches.”

Tom Pearson concurred: “I’ve subscribed for 5 years or so now,” he wrote on August 11. “The primary yr or two, I learn each and every line of the small corridor studies… Then through the years I realised that nearly all of it’s native prospect or native price ticket vendor conveniently beating restricted opponent. And all of it were given a little bit boring and repetitive.”

However Stephen Reed on August 4 referred to as our protection of such presentations “very important studying” and “a very powerful options within the mag”.

“The 40-36 scorelines don’t at all times replicate the actual nature of the bout,” he argued, “and it’s vital to learn between the traces of the way exhausting the ‘away’ boxer driven his or her opponent.”


It will be unrealistic to be expecting all contests to be 50-50 affairs, and small corridor presentations are constrained via tight budgets, so journeymen are the most important to each a emerging boxer’s ring schooling and to a promoter’s steadiness sheet. They ceaselessly save contests and even whole presentations via stepping in at brief understand when fights fall thru. All of us admire journeymen and their position, it’s simply we’d like issues to be a little bit much less predictable occasionally, whether or not we’re a fan, a journalist – and even the “house” fighter.

“I’ve been in with 8 journeymen,” says 11-1-1 Welsh middleweight champion Gerome Warburton, recent off a 40-36 win over Jordan Grannum (6-99-4), “and handiest two of them gave me a tight combat. All of the others did used to be live on like wounded animals. I do suppose the usual of a few has been very deficient. They’ve simply been punchbags.

“I attempt to make it entertaining. It’s exhausting to inform your enthusiasts you’re boxing anyone with 100 losses. On the finish of the day, it’s important to entertain the enthusiasts, however a few of my fights were deficient [to watch].

“Occasionally, my combatants are paid greater than me. Fifteen or 16 hundred [pounds], whilst I’m handiest getting a grand, and I’m anticipated to carry again as a result of they’re preventing subsequent week? I don’t cling again for anyone. I’m right here to do a task – you do yours. Don’t do it half-hearted!”

Warburton, from Colwyn Bay, believes it’s this mentality of treating shedding fights as services and products rendered, ceaselessly with advance bookings, that leads some boxers to prioritise survival over victory.

“You glance a few of these guys up on BoxRec and so they’ve were given 3 or 4 fights booked after yours,” he says. “I don’t accept as true with this, preventing each and every week. They’re simply having a look previous you to the following payday.

“I do admire journeymen, although. With out them, there could be no boxing, as a result of maximum excellent boxers don’t wish to combat each and every different. And you continue to must take those fights significantly, as a result of in boxing, one punch can exchange the whole thing.”


Certainly it may well. Whilst we, and a few readers, are complaining about repetitiveness and predictability, you in reality by no means can take anything else without any consideration on this recreation.

A list that reads, as an example, 2-23, tells you two issues – one, {that a} win is extremely not going, however two, that it can occur.

I used to be at a display in Manchester in August 2021 when such lightning struck. It used to be a nine-bout providing compiled totally of house fighter vs journeyman fare. I used to be reporting for a newspaper, another way to be completely fair I wouldn’t were there, and it used to be tricky to care for my focus ranges and passion even if being paid to take action. Some of the fits seemed as predictable because the others: a ticket-selling native in a four-rounder towards a serial loser.

However on that evening, Irlam light-heavyweight Ryan Hibbert (1-12) went after the house fighter – well-supported Mancunian debutant Anthony Phythian – with visual intent, rocked him dramatically halfway during the first spherical, after which went for the end, knocking down Phythian on the 2-11 mark.

Why used to be this so other?

“I simply knew right away I had his quantity,” says Hibbert.

“I knew him from the white collar days [both Hibbert and Phythian were unlicensed boxers prior to turning pro]. We had been meant to combat a couple of instances, however by no means did, so when it came about, I simply felt supremely assured, so I give it him.”

Does Hibbert normally attempt to win?

“I select and select which fights to head for it,” he says. “Occasionally I am getting matched beautiful exhausting and it’s just about a mindful resolution to only move the gap. I do know within the first minute if I will be able to’t win, so I exploit my enjoy, my ring savvy, ducking and diving, tie them up, dance round.”

The Phythian win got here at a predictable price, although. “I had my subsequent combat cancelled as a result of that,” says Hibbert. “Phrase were given spherical, particularly the best way I’d achieved him.

“I’ve recognized a couple of lads have 3 of 4 fights cancelled [after winning]. The promoters don’t need exhausting fights for his or her boxers.”


David McAllister, who promotes small corridor presentations within the north of Scotland, says such occasions don’t generally tend to draw discerning boxing enthusiasts; somewhat, many of the crowd is constituted of family and friends of the house fighter.

“It’s most commonly other folks supporting their buddies,” he says. “They would like an evening out, a couple of beers, and to cheer on their mate. They don’t know if an opponent’s were given 100 losses.”

Even so, McAllister understands they nonetheless wish to be entertained, and so chooses his journeymen accurately.

“We attempt to get those who comes and take a look at, now not simply run away and select up their wages,” he says. “I’m searching for ones who don’t ceaselessly get stopped, who’re sturdy, who’re perhaps a weight above my child, who can train my child various things and will take some rounds off them.

“It’s no excellent when he’s simply status there now not throwing punches. That’s no excellent to any person, you’re now not studying anything else. I need my child to grasp if he leaves his guard open, he’s going to get a proper hand in his face.”

Some journeymen supply authentic assessments and studying studies. Others are extra content material to be paid-for record-padders. McAllister has the same opinion the latter have change into extra commonplace, and says the cause of that is two-fold – however each are associated with cash.

“The position of the journeyman isn’t what it was,” he says. “Boxers didn’t use to begin out as journeymen. They’d get a couple of wins but when, after a couple of losses, their price ticket gross sales went down, they noticed they may earn more money because the away fighter – however they’d nonetheless come and feature an actual combat. At the present time, boxers see how journeymen can ceaselessly earn more money than possibilities, via boxing 3 or 4 instances a month, and it’s their objective proper from the beginning.

“Promoters must take numerous the blame, to be honest, via simply specializing in price ticket gross sales. Younger children come to them and say ‘I will be able to promote 300-400 tickets’, however they are able to’t field, in order that they’re getting secure as a result of the tickets they promote.

“I’ve been at [other promoters’] presentations and I’ve observed a journeyman sitting in his nook, giggling, telling his cornerman ‘If I hit this child, he’s going to fold’. I’ve observed a journeyman retaining a child up along with his left arm. I used to be at one combat that used to be simply embarrassing; the child used to be so anxious he wasn’t throwing punches, and the journeyman wasn’t throwing punches both as a result of he didn’t wish to win. After they’re attempting [i]to not[i] win, it simply makes a mockery of the game.

“They [the promoters] don’t wish to take a possibility. However a defeat isn’t the be all and finish all.”

Smartly, that is dependent which nook you’re in. For some, a defeat – or, extra in particular, permitting your self to be defeated – is what’s value preventing for many of all.

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