Dubai: Big-time boxing — well sort of — returned to Britain on Saturday night at a private garden in Brentwood, Essex, for Matchroom promotion’s first post-COVID-19 lockdown Fight Camp event.
The four-week festival of boxing will see fighters undergo COVID-19 testing and isolation before being cleared to fight.
The Essex venue might not have had the buzz and razzamatazz of Madison Square Garden or Caesar’s Palace in the US but it delivered some explosive contests led by the action-packed main event between journeymen Ted Cheeseman and Sam Eggington.
With Eggington’s IBF International junior middleweight belt on the line, it was bound to be well-contested, even if the two fighters are not household names in their native England.
But to their credit they gave it their all, throwing punches, combinations and, at times, even the kitchen sink at each other in an attempt to make the front page news at a time when major sport is at a premium due to coronavirus restrictions.
Cheeseman (15-2-1, 9 KOs) started strong and kept the judges busy scoring points, but it was the champion who attempted to rally in the second half of the contest by landing a lot of heavy blows that put him in contention.
Aware that the fight was poised on a knife’s edge entering the 12th and final round, both Cheeseman and Eggington went hell for leather, standing toe-to-toe and slugging it out.
There were no fans to cheer them on, just the coaches, cornermen and officials, but the sound of the punches ripped through the night air and threatened to wake up any early birds in a neighbourhood known for its large suburban mansions and sylvan atmosphere.
After the final bell, both fighters stood anxiously awaiting the result that had the potential to change their careers with victory putting them into the Top 15 and on the road to a potential title shot.
The judges scored the fight 116-113, 116-113, 115-114 in favour of Cheeseman, although some experts felt it was a draw.
“It was amazing,” said Eddie Hearn, the Matchroom Boxing CEO who came up with the idea to host nights in the family home which his father, Barry, had bought for £200,000.
“I’m a hard-core boxing fan. To see it up close and to hear it like that with that kind of intensity was fantastic. So much to learn and so much to get feedback on, but in terms of the fights, it was incredible.
“It delivered well beyond my expectations. The last fight between Eggington and Cheeseman, for me, was one of the battles of the year. I would love to see it again. I think Ted deserved the nod in a very, very close match. “
“Can you imagine if that were in front of 10 to 15,000, it would have been a fight that they would have talked about for years, and I hope they do because, for me, that was one of the best matches I’ve seen live.”
More events are set to be staged in quick succession at one location with maximum health and safety precautions in place.
Next Matchroom Garden Party fights
Fight Camp 2 August 5
Fight Camp 3 August 12
Fight Camp 4 August 20