Buncey’s BOXXER Bulletin: BOXXER – 3 Years On
In this week’s column, presented by RDX Sports, veteran columnist Steve Bunce reflects on the first ever BOXXER tournament back in April 2018 and what it meant for the sport, as this week marks 3 years since the rapidly-growing brand’s inception.
It was late April in 2018 at the Manchester Arena and eight men were waiting in dressing rooms for the first BOXXER event to start.
It would take three hours, seven fights, a lot of blood and guts and thrills before Drew Brown walked away with the money and the coveted Golden Robe.
Brown fought and won three times; twice on points and once by a first-round stoppage. It was a savage event from the very first bell, a mix of endurance and skill and desire.
It has never been easy to win any type of multi-fight tournament; it takes a bit of luck and a lot of determination. A lot of very good fighters, British champions, future world champions and former world champions have failed.
“I knew it would be hard and that every fight would be like a final,” said Brown. He was right, that is the only mentality to have.
Brown is still unbeaten and made a cameo appearance on the night that Mikael Lawal won the cruiserweight edition of BOXXER in July of 2019.
Lawal won on a night of knockouts, knockdowns and shocks. The dressing rooms that night – usually home to the genteel users of the ice-skating rink – resembled a field hospital in a war zone.
At the Manchester Arena in April 2018, eight unbeaten boxers had taken a break in their careers to prepare for the one-night only event. They were a mixed bag of seasoned amateurs and pros, men from the white-collar circuit and others from the unlicensed circus.
They all shared the same thing: they had never lost as professional boxers. And they wanted the prize money.
They had been hand-picked, selected carefully to make sure that not one of the eight was a clear or even decent favourite. That is not as easy as it sounds.
Brown was, just like the other seven, an outsider on a night when nobody knew who would be left standing at midnight. The brutal truth is that if the eight were gathered again for a second edition it is doubtful if Brown would start as the favourite. He might act like the favourite, but boxing is not about acting, it’s about fighting.
That night in Manchester was the launch of the BOXXER brand and the next event will come soon; so far it has been super-middleweights won by Zak Chelli, heavyweights won by Nick Webb, super-welterweights won by Steven Donnelly, cruiserweights won by Lawal, middleweights won by Derrick Osaze and light-heavyweights won by Shakan Pitters.
Osaze and Lawal remain unbeaten and are waiting for a title fight and the end to their COVID exile; Pitters won the British light-heavyweight title four fights later.
“It’s hard and I had to stay focused for the whole night,” says Osaze, winner at middleweight inside the Indigo at the O2 in May 2019. “So many different styles and not a lot of time to adjust; it’s just fight after fight after fight. It was a long night, an unforgettable night.”