The Independent

Crossover bouts can be a safeguard to boxing’s future


In the old days, Dickie Davies would twinkle his eyes and introduce the tag-team wrestling from Dudley Civic Centre. The camera would wobble, the smoke-filled arena would slowly come into focus and there, in the centre of a dirty three-roped ring, the MC for the day would name the chosen wrestlers. That was tag-team 1978 and it was glorious.

Welcome to tag-team boxing, the 2023 edition and it took place just up the road from the cherished Civic Centre, at the Internatio­nal Centre in Telford. It was promoted by a company called Misfits. This is real, by the way, it happened on Saturday night and was screened on DAZN. At the start of next month, DAZN will show Anthony Joshua’s return to victory live from the O2 in London.

The Misfits outfit has an annual 10-fight deal with DAZN and will be in Ibiza, Berlin, London and New Orleans later this year. The deal is for five years, by the way. They are a collective of souls from the disparate world of social media. Their figurehead is KSi, the kid from Watford, who can reach billions and has made millions. He created Misfits with music impresario, Mams Taylor, and seasoned and respected boxing promoter, Kalle Sauerland.

They put on competitiv­e matches between successful YouTubers and influences and other high-profile survivors from their world; it means the matches are 50-50. They also have very strict medical regulation­s in place – they are not a cowboy outfit. Sweet Dickie would have had Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy and Kendo Nagasaki to play with; boxing fans had BDave, Los Pineda Colados, Vargas and D-Generation Ice in the tag event. It was a cross-over event and ‘crossover’ is the best way to describe what Misfits promote. This is not a takeover of the ancient sport of boxing, it’s not a coup, but it might be one day.

There was also the Only Fans showdown between Astrid Wett and AJ Bunker; there was a belt for the winner. You can pay to see their bruises today on their accounts. Last weekend in Saudi Arabia, the increasing­ly pompous WBC gave Tommy Fury a belt after he beat Jake Paul.

In Telford, Jay Swingler, Deen the Great, King Kenny fought their hearts out. Walid Sharks never fought. These are people with millions and millions of followers and just a little bit of boxing ability. And, yes, it is boxing. I once saw BDave in a boxing gym and he wore a pair of denim dungarees and cowboy boots. He was raw, but he tried. As for Colados, he is a real profession­al boxer and not a YouTuber or influencer. His record is less than thrilling: two wins, seven defeats and six defeats by knockout. Still, he is now a Misfits tag legend.

On the last Misfits show, which was at a sold-out Wembley Arena, a kid called Idris Virgo easily beat Anthony Taylor over eight rounds. It might have been ten, sorry. Taylor is a true crossover fighter, he has a following on social media, can sell a fight and can fight a bit. He went four rounds once with Tommy Fury. He is also a major part of Jake Paul’s training team. Virgo, meanwhile, is a Love Island survivor and a genuine profession­al boxer with a record of 13 fights without loss. Virgo beat Taylor and never broke a sweat. It was, in many ways, the ultimate crossover fight.

This week, Taylor was in the boxing news for challengin­g Carl Froch. What a business. Virgo is still waiting to see what he does next: Real boxing or the Misfits version? As soon as Misfits is an option, it needs to be treated with a bit of respect.

On Saturday night in Telford, the tag-team boys delivered. It was, as predicted, a fighting riot. Funny and serious at the same time. A genuine sporting guilty pleasure. I lost track of what was happening long before one of the men forced the referee to jump in. It looked like the man who was getting pummelled on the ropes was trying to tag out, but his partner had no interest in jumping in. That, my friend, would have made old Dickie chuckle. As I said, there was a full medical team at ringside and that is often not the case inside the so-called ‘white-collar’ boxing circuit.

The boxing purists, meanwhile, are mostly disgusted with the circus in Telford. It is easy to see why, but the real problem this weekend for boxing was the insane lack of coverage and awareness of the Lewis Ritson and Ohara Davies fight in Newcastle. Everybody involved with keeping that great fight a secret is culpable. Ohara won in the ninth, sending Ritson down with one of the best body shots you will ever see. The show was poorly attended and not even slightly promoted. It seems that traditiona­l boxing can learn a thing or two from KSi and his band of merry men and women.

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 ?? (Getty) ?? The Misfits outfit has an annua l 10 - fight dea l with DAZN and wi ll be in I biza, Ber l in, London and New Or l eans l ater this year
(Getty) The Misfits outfit has an annua l 10 - fight dea l with DAZN and wi ll be in I biza, Ber l in, London and New Or l eans l ater this year
 ?? (Getty) ?? Idris Virgo, l eft, and Anthony Tay l or face off during the cruiserwei­ght fight
(Getty) Idris Virgo, l eft, and Anthony Tay l or face off during the cruiserwei­ght fight
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