Interview with Leonard Gunning from Boxing Ireland Promotions – Part 1….

As a boxing fan who attends shows , iv always wondered what it takes to put on and promote a big show and whats involved.

Obviously Matchroom in the UK are putting on arena and stadium shows on a massive scale like the Joshua-Klitshcko fight at Wembley stadium and Tony Bellew at Goodison park. While in Germany, the Sauerland’s have been putting on stadium shows for years now. Across in the states, new-york and las Vegas have been the home of bigtime boxing for decades now. And with the new T-Mobile arena in Vegas holding 20,000, the MGM looks to have some competition as the number one venue in town.

But looking closer to home here in Ireland, I wanted to find out what’s involved and what it takes to run a show. Not on the scale of Wembley stadium or a 20,000 seater arena, but im talking about small-hall or mid-sized arena shows.

So, I caught up with Leonard Gunning, the head of Boxing Ireland Promotions. They have a big show called ‘Celtic Clash 3’ coming up on September 9th in the national stadium Dublin. Leonard talked me through the show and whats involved –

celtic clash 3

KO – You have a big show coming up on sept 9th, how is the card taking shape?

LG – Yeah, it’s getting there. We have 16 opponents waiting to be approved, so it’s looking like 17 fights in total for the show, which is great. So it should be sorted within the next 2 weeks, so were actually ahead of were we thought we’d be at this stage.

KO – Looking at the card, there’s an interesting matchup with Carl McDonald vs Regan Buckley at super-bantam, (Buckley is moving up 2 weights), was that a tough one to make considering they’re both young, undefeated fighters?

LG – It wasnt hard to make at all, they both jumped at the chance! Obviously McDonald is a bit more experienced and has fought at the higher weight. But you have to give it to Buckley for having the balls to move up 2 weight divisions.

Personally, I love making those all Irish clashes between fighters. There’s always a lot of pride and bragging rights at stake, so you end up getting fantastic fights. I mean, this fight could have happened 2 years down the line, but they wanted it now. And they’re both young, talented fighters, so whoever loses will bounce back and has time on their side. But it’s a great fight, one im really looking forward to watching.

KO – Another one that caught my eye was the return of Declan Trainor at Cruiserweight, did it take much to convince Declan to return after 4 years out?

LG – Not really. We’ve been in discussion with Declan for a while now. We talked it out a lot and put a plan in place. I think for Declan, he’s had that time away, so he doesn’t want to mess around and waste time. So he’s hoping to fight for a Celtic title within his next 2 fights, obviously he needs to perform but he’s really hungry and keen to kick on.

KO – Can you give us an idea of what goes on behind the scenes to put on a show like this?

LG – Well first off, you must have a venue. Now that might sound easy to go and book a venue, but with the Regency incident it’s actually made things quite difficult. Some venue’s are a bit reluctant once they hear it’s a boxing show, so they put blocker’s in your way. But after that, you have to look at the finance’s and make sure it’s financially viable, so we run through everything in great detail.

There’s so much preparation behind the scenes to get things right financially. We have to look at the cost of Insurance, fighter’s fees, hotel’s, flight’s, taxis, paramedics, doctor’s, referee. Then you have advertising and printing costs to take into account. So all in all, a small-hall show could run to nearly €100,000

I mean if you look at boxing promoters in Ireland, there isn’t any long-standing promoters or anyone doing it for more than 2-3 years. Currently there’s ourselves and Red Corner, so that tells you how tough it is to be successful. If it made money then everyone would want to get involved!

national stadium 1

KO – What’s the most challenging aspect of being a promoter?

LG – Believe it or not, it’s actually the opponents or ‘away fighters’. First off, there isn’t a huge pool of fighters to pick from in Ireland, so you have to look around europe. Make sure you get the right opponent, then it’s arranging flights, transfers, dealing with delay’s or missed flights. Worrying about if they will make weight or not and obviously getting them in at the right price is very important.

KO – And how important is it to put on a ‘ big show’ for the punters?

LG – Yeah it’s very important. Some people are coming to the shows and looking for a night out, they want to get dressed up and have a few drinks and enjoy the fights. So its important to get all aspects right. Obviously it’s a boxing event, so you need to line up cracking fights that will entertain people. So we need to look at the whole package, from the music, lights, running order, the fights, everything really.

And for us, we’re still learning also. So every show is a learning curve regarding what works and what doesn’t. We’re also learning about the fighter’s involved, like who sells a lot of tickets and who’s easy to work with and who isn’t, so it’s all part of it. But ultimately for us, it’s about improving each time and making each show better than the last one and to make sure we put on a great event.

*** Part 2 will be published next Thursday – we discuss future plans, what will it take to get boxing back on tv in Ireland & fighters Leonard would love to sign ***



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