Dennis Hobson: ‘Straightener in the Car Park’
Testing times often brings innovation, and veteran promoter Dennis Hobson chose to do exactly that. On December 11th, Hobson will promote another show, but one with a difference. Car parks have seen many a fight, but usually alcohol-induced ones, Hobson has gone down a different route in more ways than one. The Sheffield Arena has been hired out, a drive-in concept, an idea born out of a casual conversation with his secretary:
“I call her Miss Moneypenny, everyone knows her as that. Michelle said I’m going to a drive-in movie this weekend. So I said send me some photographs to see how it all works, so I started to think why can’t I replace the screen with a boxing ring if we adhere to all the Covid criteria, and it has just evolved from there.”
Hobson has been involved on the biggest stages in his long career in the sport. Big nights with the likes of Ricky Hatton, Clinton Woods and others, has seen Hobson experience some very big highs. But the current pandemic hit world has resulted in boxing being restricted to a handful of promoters with big TV deals putting on promotions. Hobson, with the glimmer of an idea, set to work on making it become a reality:
“The one thing that has struck me is how positive everyone has been, the local council, the Boxing Board of Control for us to make it work. We are just having a go and I suppose that is what I have done throughout my boxing life. I have been fortunate to have been involved in generating 5 or 6 world champions along the way. I’m still a fan, I’m still passionate and that’s why I came up with the idea. If I was still involved in boxing just for the glory I would have just waited until things opened back up again, like a lot of people are having to. I have got a good partner in Steve Crump, who’s company sponsors our promotions. We’ve got some great ideas that you will love when they get released. In the next few months, we are going to be releasing something that is quite exciting and will get a lot of fighters back out there.”
Seemingly endless restrictions and the great unpredictable British weather pose significant problems for Hobson to overcome. But, as ever, Hobson is working with what he has got to get the show on and give the best experience possible:
“We have got two big screens going up. We have got caterers so people can have food. In the VIP pods, they can have a meal served to them and we can serve alcohol in there as well. We have got a massive canopy over the ring because of the weather risks in December, so if we do get a bit of rain it shouldn’t touch the ring. There is going to be around 120 cars and 14 pods that allow 6 people in them. Altogether there will be around 500 spectators in the car park. The set-up will be special and hopefully a blueprint for someone else to have a go themselves.”
We have seen with the Matchroom and Frank Warren promoted cards in recent months, that the shows are not how they once were. Bubbles need to be created, hotels need to be hired out, additional medical costs and restriction after restriction result in spiralling costs. I saw elsewhere that even putting on a relatively small show would cost in the region of £10,000 and that doesn’t include any purses for the fighters. Doing something on this scale will see even that figure multiplied several times. Hobson, albeit in different circumstances, has been here before:
“If you think what I did with Jamie McDonnell in 2013 with the world title fight at the Keepmoat. I’d got Jamie and their Gavin saying if the fight is at the football ground we will sell it out, they sold around 1,000 tickets between them. I’d got all the ground covered, I’d got it all geared for 15,000, I did my brains in with that one. But I got him the world title we didn’t want to go to Mexico. So if you measure it at the side of that, it’s costing us, but I have done a lot of fights where I have lost money. But sometimes it is a means to an end, you invest because it will get you further up the ladder, so that’s what you do sometimes as a businessman.”
“The hotel and the Covid tests will cost around 10k. We have got 2 or 3 cars that will fetch and carry the fighters. We have got marquees there that will be like a holding area for the fighters, they will be all sectioned off. We have to do a test a few days before so they will be isolated in their hotel rooms. After each fight you will have to have a 15-minute break so the ring can be wiped down, you just have to adhere to the criteria that has been set down. It is not a cheap way of doing it, we haven’t got the Sky or BT money, we are doing it through sponsorship. But it is not something you can do every week or even every month. But I am looking at working with other promoters to try and do a show a month, maybe find a way between us to get some fights on, you just have to be a bit creative to make it work and get the kids some fights.”
The event was originally scheduled to take place this month, but the latest incarnation of a so-called lockdown put pay to that. Despite the current uncertainty Hobson is confident the re-scheduled date will not change again.
Despite the immense problems he has faced and will undoubtedly still face, Hobson has put together an impressive card, headlined by Sheffield’s Tommy Frank.
Frank is now on his third scheduled opponent. Original opponent Kyle Yousaff withdrew from the planned British flyweight title fight due to a positive COVID-19 test. A proposed fight with Harvey Horn the replacement for Yousaff, also fell by the wayside, leaving Hobson searching once again.
Mexico’s Rosendo Hugo Guarneros has accepted the call and will fight Frank International Boxing Federation (IBF) Inter-Continental Title
Before the first national lockdown Frank was scheduled to challenge for the IBO world title, but now has to shift his focus to a different challenge, with the hope his world title hopes can be resurrected next year.
With a supporting cast that includes Kane Salvin and Sufyaan Ahmed clashing for the Central Area super-featherweight title, and local talent Perry Howe, Keanen Wainwright, Nathan Owed also appearing alongside Belfast’s Cathy McAleer, and Rotherham’s Kash Ali, Hobson certainly has delivered a card that looks certain to deliver plenty.
Hobson, the eternal gambler, deserves credit for daring to be different when in truth he didn’t have to. The passion still burns, clearly evident in the voice at the other end of the phone. The easier, safer way would have been to sit and wait, and Hobson deserves everything to fall in place to make the car park wars a success.