PROFESSIONAL promoter Mark Neilson discusses the latest events in the world of boxing.

Saturday was a sad day for boxing. Victor Belfort, a former UFC champion with no actual boxing experience, was due to face retired Mexican legend Oscar de la Hoya.

Covid-19 once again changed boxing’s best laid plans and Triller, the streaming platform needed a replacement for their PPV main event, so in stepped 1984 Olympic champion Evander Holyfield.

For those of you too young to remember, he was a multi-weight world champion in the 90’s and was involved in some of the most memorable fights of that era. Most notably when a troubled and frustrated Mike Tyson took a chunk out of his ear during their fight and was rightly disqualified.

What made this a sad day, was that Holyfield is 58 years old, let me repeat that, 58 years old! Although he has kept himself in decent shape after retiring, there is no way that anyone of that age should be involved in a competitive boxing match. I’m nearly 53 years old and nearly pull a hamstring getting out of bed in the morning.

A lot of boxers, and other elite athletes, will think they still have it, and could have a go. Boxing is full of stories of former champions having one more go, usually ending up with defeat and glum statements that they just haven’t got it anymore. Those stories are usually about boxers who have been retired a couple of years, Holyfield’s last competitive bout was over ten years ago!

I’m asked a lot about my view of ‘Youtubers’ making a living out of boxing and although I’m not a fan, as long as no one gets hurt and they’re sensibly matched, does it matter, probably not. But ask me about a 58-year-old making a return and that’s a different story. No doubt paid a lot of money, boxers like Holyfield need protecting from themselves.

These fights are mostly taking place in the US which doesn’t have a national governing body looking after boxing. Unlike the UK which has the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), the individual states in the US can make their own rules and sanction fights. A boxer banned or suspended in one state can quite easily box in another. The BBBofC does have its critics, but after the terrible story of Michael Watson, the lessons learned from that have made our governing body one of the safest in the world.

With my first show of the post-Covid era taking place at Swindon’s MECA on Saturday, I have been having the opposite trouble trying to get boxers cleared to fight. With boxers requiring a multitude of tests to gain and renew their licences (MRI, MRA, HIV, Hepatitis plus some) it’s been a struggle getting opponents for my home fighters as there is a backlog getting medicals done. With over 43 shows booked for September alone in the UK (a record) and a lot of boxers having left the sport, matchmaking is proving a real headache. As frustrating as it is, I would still rather have our system than that of the US. Let’s hope someone takes some action on a national level before a boxer gets seriously hurt.

FightTown Swindon is returning to MECA on Saturday, September 18, doors open at 6pm. Tickets are available on the door.