The saying goes “boxing is a business and not a sport.”
Nothing epitomises that statement more than this Saturday nights bill at Windsor Park Stadium in Belfast.
The home of the Northern Ireland international football team.
Continuing the trend set by Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom Promotions in recent years of staging boxing at big outdoor stadiums, Britain’s other major promoter Frank Warren has decided to follow suit.
Wembley, The Principality Stadium, Goodison Park and Bramall Lane have all hosted shows starring Carl Froch, Anthony Joshua, Kell Brook and Tony Bellew, thus firing boxing back into the UK’s big money sporting mainstream.
Veteran promoter Warren has handed the massively popular hometown fighter Carl Frampton top billing this weekend with support from the controversial yet hugely talented ‘Gypsy King’ Tyson Fury.
Will this be a big money generating event? Likely yes. But a competitive night of world class boxing? That is likely a big no.
If Saturday’s show was the movie industry it would be the equivalent of packing fans into the cinema and charging to watch the trailers for the big upcoming blockbuster films.
Former two-weight world champion Carl ‘the jackal’ Frampton has a good argument that he is Britain’s most talented fighter, having been the victor in some big title unification fights both here in the UK and the US.
On Saturday Frampton challenges for the WBO ‘interim’ featherweight title, taking on inexperienced and little known Australian Luke Jackson.
This man from Oz has a decent amateur pedigree, but has yet to record a major victory in his sixteen professional bouts.
Many big names had been mentioned as the potential dance partner for Frampton for his dream fight at Windsor Park and few would have expected Jackson to have been the man to get the nod.
Oscar Valdez the actual WBO featherweight champion and likely the next target for Frampton would have made for a more fitting spectacle on such a big stage.
Or the third and deciding fight of a trilogy with brilliant Mexican Leo Santa-Cruz whom Frampton owns his biggest victory over, but was also handed his sole defeat by.
Yet we get Jackson, whom hopefully will make his youth and ambition count in there and push the skilful Belfast man hard over 12 competitive rounds.
However you can’t help feeling that Frampton will likely hand out a boxing lesson here and picking up a big pay cheque in doing so, against the cheapest opponent that was available.
Despite everything Tyson Fury has achieved in his career he continues to straddle what shouldn’t be a fine line between truly elite level sportsman and a clown like joke figure.
In the ring he was able to produce one of the greatest wins for a British fighter in boxing history when he travelled to Germany and ended the decade long title reign of Ukrainian legend Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
He produced a seemingly effortless, patient and intelligent performance that blended incredibly light footwork and reflexes for a man his size as well as fast counter punching.
It was a performance many great heavyweights through-out boxing’s history would have been proud of.
What should have been the start of a fascinating title reign quickly descended into a heavily publicised fall from grace, played out through every form of the media.
Fury would not enter the ring again after that triumph for close to three years despite remaining prominent on TV screens, in newspaper columns and on social media for a whole host of other antics.
Tyson blamed serious mental health issues as well as alcohol and substance abuse for his absence. It was thought at one point he may never return to the ring.
Tyson blamed the start of these issues on being unfairly treated by boxing’s politicians having been stripped of one of his newly acquired titles after just one week and the failure to secure a big UK based rematch with Klitschko.
In his absence British fight fans would turn to the less talented, but far more popular Anthony Joshua and get behind his eventual journey to becoming heavyweight champion in Fury’s place.
What was also reported, but nowhere nearly as loudly was that Fury failed a performance enhancing drug test after his fight with Wladimir Klitschko and has been conveniently let off with this charge by the British Boxing Board, who have stated his punishment as time served.
His opponent this Saturday is German based Italian Francesco Pianeta, a step up from the ridiculously physically over matched Sefari Sefari whom Fury returned against in June.
He is however still an opponent handpicked in order to help Fury shed ring rust and shouldn’t cause a major problem to the ex-champ unless his abilities fail him.
Pianeta at his best was a European level fighter capable of a couple of weak world title challenges. Some years later he is now probably down a couple of levels from that.
Like Frampton’s fight this clash is also about taking fight fans money with the narrative being about the bigger future picture. But should that be the case for such a big occasion?
Of course in boxing this kind of plan can go horribly wrong and has in the past. Just ask Frank Warren about matching James Degale with Caleb Traux last year. But upsets are highly unlikely with these contests.
American WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder will be ringside and fresh from failing to agree terms for a unification fight with Anthony Joshua has turned his sights instead to Fury.
Expect to see the usual face-to-face antics in the ring between Wilder and Fury after he has dealt with Pianeta. In fact it’ll likely be more exciting than the fight that has taken place beforehand.
This should set-up a big fight in the US later in the year between the two.
Which is sadly the whole point of Saturday night, not giving us a memorable and historic night of boxing, but taking some easy money before the we get the real stuff next.