Hearn rewarded with gripping spectacle
‘Matchroom Square Garden’ proved a striking venue as boxing’s return featured an engrossing Cheeseman win
Ted Cheeseman and Sam Eggington produced a relentless see-sawing fight over 12 pulsating rounds in the main event to launch a spectacular opening night for Matchroom Boxing’s Fight Camp No1, as they fought over the latter’s International Boxing Federation superwelterweight international belt.
It was a fight-of-the-year contender, won by Cheeseman on a unanimous points verdict.
The backdrop to the fight was as compelling as the setting itself. Cheeseman was contemplating retirement after two defeats and a draw going into this fight, and the nature of the 24-year-old’s own dramatic year – fighting an addiction to gambling and becoming a father for the first time – made the brutal meeting in the back-yard all the more compelling.
Cheeseman boxed cleverly in the first half of the contest, and gave everything in the late stages, as Eggington surged back. But “Cheese” beat “Egg” on the cards 116-113, 116-113 and 115-114.
An emotional Cheeseman said: “I was confident. There was no pressure with no crowd. I made mistakes but I boxed really well. If I lost tonight, I would have retired. I could cry my eyes out with happiness. I’m a winner, I gave my heart to this sport and I felt that I deserved some luck last year, but I never got it. I lot of people doubted me, thought I would retire. But when it got tough, I gave my all.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn plans now to secure a world-title fight for Cheeseman in the next year.
The four other fights on the card – matched as 50/50 contests – produced victories for Jordan Gill over Reece Bellotti in the first Matchroom bout since Mar 7, heavyweight Fabio Wardley, superlightweight Dalton Smith, and James Tennyson, who won the vacant British lightweight title.
It worked. No applause, no crowd noise and enhanced microphones above the ring made the crack of the punches more audible, the work of the fighters, their grunts and breathing more tangible, and the noise of their footwork an overtly more visceral experience.
The silence of the 80 staff on the event site – there was no applause, under instruction from Hearn – enveloped every move of the 10 fighters involved, until the trainers gave their instructions between rounds.
How it looked
“Matchroom Square Garden”, as it has been called, looked like the set of a Bond movie from the Sky Sports camera high above the canopy, with the mansion lit in the background. Occasionally, the cameras panned to the moon, or the backdrop of the city of London on the horizon, and the solitary walk of the fighters from their changing rooms down a black pathway, through the strobe-light box, gave it all a dramatic edge. Hearn has invested £5million in this four-event venture, and the opening salvo was a riveting success.
What is up next?
On Friday, part two of the four-part Matchroom Boxing Fight Camp will be headlined by an all-British women’s world-title fight. Terri Harper – who quit boxing aged 16 to work in a chip shop, and who still stacks shelves in Tesco in her hometown of Doncaster when not in training – defends the World Boxing Council super-featherweight world title against Liverpool’s Natasha Jonas.
Unification fights in the United States await the winner of Harper (10-0, undefeated) and Jonas (record 9-1). The 10 boxers involved in Fight Camp No 2 go into the coronavirus testing bubble today.
Garden party: Sam Eggington (far left) and Ted Cheeseman trade blows in the IBF international super-welterweight title fight which Cheeseman won by a unanimous points verdict; the arena at “Matchroom Square Garden” (right), set up for the first of four lockdown events in the grounds of the mansion in Brentwood, Essex, which serves as the promoter’s HQ; in an event without spectators and with all participants remaining in a biosecure bubble, staff sanitise the ring between fights