By Terence Dooley
Mike Goodall has been a fixture on the U.K. boxing scene for over three decades. Often the MC and invariably the supplier of boxing rings as well a fixture at shows up and down the country, the boxing stalwart also has a sign business that turns a healthy profit. Goodall has seen them all come and go during his time in boxing, his weekends are still packed with shows, but he has seen the sport slow down in recent times, and offered BoxingScene his perspective on why we have lost a number of small hall shows over the past few years.
“I still enjoy it or it wouldn’t be worth doing,” said Goodall. “I do it for a living, I put up rings, take them down and if you need something done in-between then I’ll do it — end of story. You do whatever you got to do what you got to do to help the show. There aren’t as many shows as there used to be. I’ve never known it like this. The small shows are disappearing a bit. It is so expensive to put a show on. People don’t realize how much it costs to pay boxers and everyone else.
“I started my own sign company through boxing, then it grew until it became my main business, which brings in over a million pounds a year. Boxing earns me the money, but I need the sign company to cope with what I do in boxing, the ring canvases and signs.”
He added: “It has never been easy in boxing, but I suppose it is getting harder, yeah. With what it costs to pay fighter now, one little six rounder can cost you and for the fighters themselves it isn’t enough to keep them going so they have to take up other jobs. If you wanted to make a living from it you’d need about three grand for it (a fight), but some of these guys are getting a thousand once a month so are on £250 a week. You can’t live on that, and they also have to pay for their trainer, medical fees and kit — you just can’t do it.”
Local interest in ticket sellers provides smaller shows with a lifeline; if you pick up a popular fighter it becomes easier to justify handing him a spot on a bill. Economic necessity results in a huge dollop of pragmatism, and Goodall has had to cut his own cloth accordingly in recent tough times.
“There ain’t too many ticket sellers now,” he said. “Everyone is hard up and it is hard to put on shows. It is the same for me, we used to be able to put up the ring for a price, but it is getting harder with the way diesel’s gone up. If I do a ring in Scotland then it is £250 diesel there and back, so that’s £250 before you even start putting the ring and all the wear and tear of putting it up. It becomes expensive and the average cost of a show now is about roughly 20 grand, so you work out how many tickets you’d have to sell to get that back. You’re losing money, and no one wants to lose money.
“People think TV is the answer, but that ain’t the answer because you need a big stable that includes guys you can start from scratch because television wants to follow them as they go through. Then you’ve got what television pays now, they want a title fight at a cost, but look at what a title fight costs now, you’ll use all the TV money on just that fight, so that doesn’t help promoters.
“TV is a blooming headache because you’ve got to put a show on every month or two. You’ve got to have guys that they can follow for 10-20 fights or a 16-month period going from nothing to the top. Unless you’re Ricky Hatton, and there’s very few of them about, then it is tough and you can count on one hand the guys who can earn like that and bring people in. Guys aren’t fighting regularly enough or for big enough purses.”
Still, TV shows work out well for Goodall as he also provides sound equipment and has to put in a full day’s shift. He said: “We got paid more for a TV show because we might be in there from 6am or the day before if we’re doing the sound as well.
“I’ve got £150,000 of sound equipment and do all the sound as well, so I’m there from 6am to 3am the next morning doing a 21-hour day, then I’ve got to drive home. Sometimes we might get home the next afternoon and have to be in work the next day at 8am. I did a show over in Ireland once and we had to sleep in the van the night before and then get the ferry the next morning. It is very hard indeed.”
Goodall has seen the sport’s biggest figures go about their business. While the flow of contention relies on kids coming through smaller shows, the big promoters are needed to ensure that crossover stars continue to break through.
“There’s a nucleus of half a dozen promoters who have been there for a long while,” he said. “Mickey Duff was there for a long time, Frank Warren’s been there for a long time, Barry Hearn, and now his son Eddie, has been there for a long time, and those guys have got the TV deals and money and have worked with the likes of, going back a bit, Nigel Benn, Naz [Hamed], [Chris] Eubank and the [Ricky] Hattons of this world. They could bring them on, as Warren did with Amir Khan, taking him from the Olympics to a world title. You need promoters who are able to do that, and small promoters can’t because they haven’t got the resources or the knowhow because it takes something to make matches for the big fighters, it really does.
“For example, you have people who complain about the fights Nathan Cleverly has had, but opponents for someone like him are hard to get because they’re booked up months in advance, and no one really wants to fight Cleverly because they know he’ll beat them. It makes things restricted. You need contacts in the States and other countries — it takes a long while to get to that level.”
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