What it’s really like to fight in Eddie Hearn’s back garden at Fight Camp

Eddie Hearn reckons Fight Camp has been the major success of the sporting world amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Matchroom HQ has been transformed into a venue for world-class boxing with a spectacular backdrop of London on one side and Hearn’s childhood home on the other.

“Everybody wants to fight here – look at next week,” says Hearn, referencing Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin’s huge heavyweight showdown next weekend

“Everyone has watched this and I think everyone wants to be part of it.”

But just what do fighters make of being part of Fight Camp?

The experience of watching at ringside is akin to sitting in a library, silently watching two men go hell for leather in the biggest fights of their lives.

“I was watching John Docherty out first and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like out there,” said Felix Cash after beating Jason Welborn in the main event on week three to defend his Commonwealth middleweight title.

“Watching at ringside it just seemed so quiet and really strange to watch.

“But then the ring walk was obviously incredible, then once you’re in the ring, the atmosphere was amazing.”

Cash put on a show under the bright lights and fireworks as the headline act.

For stablemate Johh Docherty, it was a much more low-key affair as he stopped the lively Anthony Fox with a strong performance to open the show.

“It’s been a very good experience,” Docherty reflected. “I’ve done it as an amateur, fighting without much of a crowd, but I didn’t think it was actually going to be like this here.

“The ring walk, the stadium, how they’ve set it out is unbelievable and I did not expect it to be as good as it is.

“It was different, definitely. I could hear my corner more and I could hear his corner a lot more than usual as well.

“That took a couple of minutes to get my head around, and you could even hear the punches landing yourself as well.

“It was a good experience though, and I’ll definitely be looking back on it and telling the kids about it!”

Not everyone coped well with the silence.

Zelfa Barrett admits he struggled to get a spring in his step earlier on against the game Eric Donovan.

The Irishman took the fight to the Manchester prospect – forcing him to dig deep and pull a spectacular knockout out of the bag in round eight after realising he was in a fight.

“It was mad,” Barrett says. “It’s hard to get a spring in your step because no-one is there and it’s so quiet.

“It took me some time to get used to it but I had to pull it out the bag and that’s what I did.

“I underestimated him because when I watched him on YouTube he didn’t look as good, but today he was strong and threw some good shots.

“I had to get my act together, pull it out the bag and he made sure I knew I was in a fight.

“It was a good experience, it’s something I can say I’ve done during this pandemic and I’m just happy to get out of here with a win.”

Aside from fighting in eery silence, there is also a small matter of the Fight Camp bubble.

After being tested at the hotel in Brentwood, fighters are locked in their rooms for up to 15 hours before receiving their results.

Once their results come back negative, they are released into the bubble – which includes a small communal area, makeshift boxing gym and press conference area.

There’s also a small patch of grass used as a cricket pitch by those working at Fight Camp without the stress of a weekend fight.

Fighters took different approaches.

Many hauled in PlayStations to keep themselves entertained and largely stuck to their rooms, whilst others used the small patches of grass outdoors to stroll with their teams.

Others were more happy to mingle amongst the group of roughly 100 people staying in the bubble, soaking up the Fight Camp atmosphere and spirit of the sport.

“The bubble was good,” Docherty said. “It was boring but listen, fight week is boring, it’s about making weight and keeping sharp.

“It was a lot better than I expected, I thought it would be worse, and it was just what we had to do at the moment to get to fight.”

Unlike in a usual fight week, it was impossible for boxers to keep much distance from their opponents in the run-up to their bouts.

Bumping into each other in the tight corridors and small spaces was inevitable.

Whilst boxers tried to maintain their distance, all those in action went into the ring having got to know their opponent better than ever before.

Speaking before his clash with likeable opponent Donovan, Barrett joked: “I don’t want to fight you now man, you’re such a good guy!”

Ultimately, that had little bearing when Barrett stepped inside the ropes and finished Donovan in ruthless fashion with a brutal left hook.

Bubble life also provided fighters with a build-up largely free from distractions.

Speaking the day before her surprise loss to Rachel Ball, Shannon Courtenay said: “It’s been quite nice to be honest being in the bubble because there’s been no stress.

“I apologise now to my friends because I’ve chosen to ignore everyone apart from my family.

“I haven’t had to run around sorting out tickets at the last minute or anything, it’s been nice to just switch off and focus on the job at hand. I’ve enjoyed bubble life to be honest!”

Nav Mansouri, who was beaten on points in a gruelling clash with Kieron Conway, was amongst those certainly happy to be at Fight Camp.

He soaked up the experience and generated plenty of goodwill with his friendly, bubbly personality around Fight Camp.

“It was a fun week to be honest until the fight!” He said.

“I really enjoyed it to be fair. Good company, everyone was fun and it was what it was.

“For the fighters, it’s the same once you’re in the ring, you’re just focused on the fight and I wasn’t bothered about what’s outside.

“Obviously it’s good to have crowds around, you have a different buzz to it, but it was something that had to be done and I was proud to be part of it.”

Hearn now plans to make Fight Camp a permanent fixture in years to come and continue the concept.

It is clearly something different for boxers as well as observers – but an experience which has been well received.

Source: Read Full Article