By Dan Emicus

06/04/13

"We can definitely learn things from MMA though. They package their brand in a very professional manner. You can go into any store and buy UFC DVDs and the like. I think that boxing is having a stellar year though. So far we've had some incredible fights and with Mayweather v Alvarez signed, Matthysse v Garcia and Haye v Fury looking to be made, I think boxing is in a very strong spot right now. Perhaps the rise in popularity of MMA will ensure top fights get made. That's good news for the fans."  Promoter, manager and matchmaker Matt Clark sits down with SylvanaBoxing's own Dan Emicus, check it out:



DE: You're a manager, a matchmaker and a promoter. How and when did you come to be each of these three things?

MC: I first got my start in boxing back around 2003.  I began working for Jamie Myer who was promoting on the Gold Coast, about an hour from where I lived.  I had a great time working for him and he showed me the ropes and how the boxing industry operated.  He promoted some top Australian boxers and put on fights involving the likes of Juarne Dowling, Phil Holiday, Kali Meehan, Ernie Artango, Les Sherrington and even Butterbean.  Jamie taught me plenty.  I'd help out with a bit of his matchmaking and making sure the fighters were looked after from when they arrived to when they left.  

Eventually I started managing a couple of guys with Brendan Bourke, a business partner.  Evans Quinn and Jason LeHoullier were the first two, probably around 2010 or so.  Managing guys was a whole lot different to anything else I'd done previously and I was picking it up on the run.  I learned plenty about what makes different guys tick and we dealt with some big promoters such as Golden Boy with those guys before letting them go.  We promoted a couple of shows up on the Sunshine Coast, just to get our guys some fights.  They're just club shows, but they're a lot of fun.

DE: Let's discuss some of the fighters that you manage. How far do you think Damien Hooper and Cameron Hammond can go? How smooth do you think their transitions will be from the amateurs?

MC: I think those guys have the talent to succeed in the sport.  Both of them are tremendous athletes and obviously have a great amateur pedigree, being Olympians.  I'm really happy for Cameron to fly under the radar to a certain degree.  Cam's currently learning about the differences in the pro game from the amateurs.  He's starting to sit down on his punches a little more.  In his last fight he got 6 rounds under his belt and did it quite easily.  He's a beautiful boxer in the traditional sense of "hit and don't get hit" and he uses his fast hands and feet to dictate the pace the bout is fought at.

Damien has a big profile already in Australia.  For mine, his style is already suited to the pros.  Sure his trainer, Gareth Williams, will make adjustments, but he's already looking to get people out of there if the opportunity arises.  Damien has that natural "mongrel" in him that you see in so many top boxers.  He wants to punish his opponent and entertain at the same time.  

DE: How do you feel 'Irish' Paddy Murphy is progressing? Are you expecting continuity of his momentum now that he's able to be a full-time boxer?

MC: I'm really happy with Paddy.  He's a great kid, an absolute gent and I think in the next year or so he's going to make some noise.  He was away from the gym, down in South Australia with work at the end of last year.  His work has really supported him and allowed him to concentrate on being a full-time boxer and the improvement is noticeable.  His next bout will be back in Ireland and we'd love for him to get his hands on both the Irish and Aussie titles.  I doubt that has been done before.  He's a couple of fights away from basically being unleashed, but I think he's going to be ready for the best in our part of the world pretty soon.

DE: Mark de Mori has been based in Germany since April and he crammed in 4 fights within 5 weeks. He says that being in Europe has led to meeting new contacts and that new opportunities have been opening up, while it has also led to his recent WBC #15 and WBA #14 rankings. How beneficial do you think Mark's European tour will be? Realistically, what do you hope it could lead to?

MC: Yeah and he fought those fights while he was on his honeymoon!  Mark has done well for himself and organised that "European tour" by himself.  He fought his first fight a couple of days after landing in Germany and I think it showed a little in his performance.  But he's training with former world title challenger Luan Krasniqi and he's looking to improve.  He's signed with Don King, so I guess we're hoping that an eliminator will arise in the not too distant future.  

DE: Mark de Mori picked up the WBU world title recently, while Lucas Browne picked up the WBF world title. A lot of fans scoff at these titles, but how useful do you feel they can be for fighters like Mark and Lucas? Do you believe that it could be a positive step for their career progression? What can these titles pave the way for?

MC: I suppose if they attract a sponsor that can help a boxer out, or they bring more interest to a promotion, they have their positives.  I remember when I first started following boxing as a kid in the 1980s the WBO wasn't recognised at all.  Now it is, to a large degree.  Similarly the IBO has had some notable champions in recent years.  Personally, I tend to follow The Ring Magazine rankings.  I think they're about the closest thing we have to being able to point out to a non-boxing fan who is the "world champion".  They're not flawless though.  But yes, as you mentioned those kind of titles are stepping stone titles for bigger and better things.

DE: Lucas Browne vs Richard Towers has been signed and sealed. It's not too often that prospects meet at such an early stage of their careers. What type of fight are you expecting and what do you anticipate that the winner stands to gain?

MC: I'm very excited about that fight.  I think it's going to be a beauty.  Both guys are huge fellas and both are undefeated.  Add to that, both guys can absolutely crack, particularly "Big Daddy".  I think it's a fight that is going to have a very sudden and violent conclusion.  For the winner, I believe a crack at the Commonwealth title will be in order.  That's a title we've had in mind for Lucas for a few years now.  To my knowledge, no Aussie has held the Commonwealth Heavyweight crown since Peter Jackson beat Paddy Slavin for it in 1892.  But to get that title shot, he needs to beat Towers.  I think he'll do it.  Towers has been out of the ring for a while, but he's also been sparring Wladimir Klitschko and also was Francesco Pianeta's main sparring partner.  He's still been working. Lucas is very composed inside the ring, as witnessed in his last fight against James Toney.  He's got TNT in his right hand and when he eventually catches Towers with it, it's lights out.  

DE: How do you feel about Hatton Promotions Asia Pacific? Might it be good for the region?

MC: I think it's a great thing for boxing in this part of the world.  The show in Hong Kong last December was successful, as was the co-promotion for Damien Hooper's debut in Brisbane a couple of months ago.  Browne and Towers are both Hatton Promotions Heavyweights, so there's another toe into the Australian market with that fight.  Of course they also promote Damien Hooper and Cameron Hammond, so they've identified that there's some world class talent to be developed in this region.  Hatton Promotions have a very diverse roster of fighters.  Apart from the British and Irish boxers, there's also Sergey Rabchenko from Belarus, Zhanat Zhakiyanov from Kazakhstan and a couple of other Eastern Europeans as well I believe.

DE: Do you prefer to see Aussie fighters establishing themselves on the domestic scene before they start fighting abroad?

MC: Yes and no.  If the opportunity arises to make more money overseas, I think they should go for it.  At the end of the day a boxer has to put food on the table for his family, so if he can get paid better to do it somewhere else, go for it.  The boxing industry in Australia isn't the best paying, so I wouldn't begrudge someone getting paid more to do the same job, only somewhere else.  We don't have the revenue that other countries have and the sport simply isn't as big here as other places.  

DE: How important would you say it is for a prospect to meet a variety of different styles and traits within their first couple of years as a professional?

MC: I think it's very important.  The more exposure to different styles, the better.  It can only help a developing boxer further down the line.  One of our kids, Liam Hutchinson, is in that boat right now.  We're just trying to step him up slowly and give him a look at different fighting styles.  He's Paul McCloskey's cousin, so he's got some pedigree right there!  He'll be a much more complete fighter in a couple of years time.

DE: Building a record and retaining the '0' for as long as possible is just as significant for marketing a fighter nowadays as it has ever been. Nevertheless, do you feel that there are too many promoters and managers out there who prioritise building over a record over a prospect's development as a fighter? How difficult is to balance the need to maintain and develop public interest in a fighter, with getting them the learning fights and tests that they need in order to improve?

MC: I think as long as you learn from a loss, it isn't the worst thing.  Football teams lose every other week, but for some reason there's a lot of pressure in boxing to keep your record intact.  Don't get me wrong, you'd rather be undefeated, but I don't think a loss is as catastrophic as it's sometimes made out to be.  Henry Armstrong lost three of his first four bouts.  He turned out ok, didn't he?!  That's why I think a lot of credit should go to Browne and Towers.  They're putting it on the line at a fairly early point in their careers.   It can be difficult to balance between maintaining public interest and also ensuring your boxer continues to learn.  Sometimes, when guys pull out or you accept fights without much notice, it's hard to avoid.

DE: When you consider whether or not to get a fighter signed up, what kind of things do you take into consideration before you do?

MC: A whole range of things really.  What they're like as a person.  What their goals and aspirations are.  Their amateur history.  Who their trainer is.  There's plenty to think about.

DE: How do you feel about the new 10 point must system that's being implemented in amateur boxing? With headguard also being removed in major tournaments, do you think it's a good thing that the gap is being bridged between amateur and professional boxing?

MC: I think it's the best thing to happen in a long, long time.  It'll certainly make amateur boxing more interesting for starters.  I also believe the 10 point must system is still the best way to judge a fight.  We haven't come up with anything better for a long time.  I'm looking forward to seeing how it changes things up in the amateurs.  I believe last weekend was the first time it was implemented in Australia.

DE: To what extent would you say the success of MMA is to boxing's detriment? Also, what do you feel are the reasons for boxing losing fans to MMA, as well as a surge in young athletes choosing the cage instead of the ring?

MC: I honestly don't think the success of MMA has hurt boxing in any way.  You've only got to look at Pay-Per-View numbers and compare the purses of the athletes to see that boxing still has the upper hand.  We can definitely learn things from MMA though.  They package their brand in a very professional manner.  You can go into any store and buy UFC DVDs and the like.  I think that boxing is having a stellar year though.  So far we've had some incredible fights and with Mayweather v Alvarez signed, Matthysse v Garcia and Haye v Fury looking to be made, I think boxing is in a very strong spot right now.  Perhaps the rise in popularity of MMA will ensure top fights get made.  That's good news for the fans.

DE: How would you assess Australian boxing in general at the moment?

MC: I think Aussie boxing is coming along nicely.  There's been no share of controversy in the past.  That aside, there's some fantastic talent coming through and I believe that Australia will continue to make an impact of the world stage.  For a small pool of boxers, we've had our share of top level fighters.  

DE: Some of your favourite boxing memories to date?

MC: I was a massive Evander Holyfield fan as a kid.  His first victory over Tyson is still a highlight of mine.  That fight was the perfect example of a fight plan being executed perfectly.  There's been too many great fights over the years to mention.  Like I said, I've been following the sport since the mid 1980s.  On a personal level, meeting Thomas Hearns in Los Angeles a few years back.  Having beers with Ricky Hatton, lovely down to earth bloke...  Any time one of our guys gets a win.  Doesn't matter if it's a four rounder to open a show, or winning a main event on television.  It's a sense of satisfaction.  

DE: Any boxing-related regrets?

MC: Life is too short to have regrets I think.  There's little things you'd change or do differently, but nothing major.

DE: Final words and/or shout-outs?

MC: I hope that boxing fans and I'm one of them, continue to support boxing.  That usually means attending promotions and supporting boxers.  By the same token, hopefully great fights continue to get made so people want to attend.