Ben Shalom is the youngest licensed boxing promoter in the UK and the founder and CEO of BOXXER, the country’s fastest growing promotional company.
Ahead of Saturday’s grudge match between Amir Khan and Kell Brook live on Sky Sports Box Office, he explains how he finally made the eagerly-anticipated fight between the two rivals, and why Frazer Clarke can move fast in the heavyweight division as he prepares for his professional debut on the undercard.
Amir Khan (left) and Kell Brook (right) will finally go head-to-head on Saturday in a huge clash
The British boxing greats will go head-to-head at the Manchester Arena on Saturday
Until we are sitting there on Saturday night, and both Amir Khan and Kell Brook are in the ring, we’re not taking anything for granted.
As a boxing fan, I almost have to see it to believe it.
Usually, at this point, you’d be having to promote the fight. We’re almost trying to just get through the week.
We’ve been wanting Amir and Kell to get into the ring for so long. Until they do you’re always expecting something could go wrong.
But the fighters have taken their camps so seriously, which makes me believe – perhaps for the first time – that this is really going to happen.
Khan (above) and Brook have taken their training camps very seriously ahead of the bout
I first got in touch with Amir at the start of last year and started working on a deal with Amir’s manager Maz. We then spoke to Terry, Kell’s dad, and it was clear both parties wanted the fight. At that point it looked quite simple.
But we then spent six months negotiating. Over almost everything. Three or four times the fight was off.
Neither fighter actually needs this for their future. This is a fight where everyone has everything to lose. So getting both fighters to risk everything – their legacy, what they’ll be remembered for – it was very difficult to see the upside.
There were a huge amount of stumbling blocks and working through each of them, it was almost like dealing with two children – the moment they think the other one is happy, they want to change their position.
Weight penalties became a huge point of concern, obviously money – they argued over splits, different purses, guarantees. At that point it looked as though the fight was off.
Brook is also putting in the hard yards ahead of the much anticipated fight
There were huge offers from all over the world that really could dwarf what they could earn in the UK. That made it very difficult.
Other broadcasters and promoters became aware of the negotiations and started to try and outbid us.
And then there are the different personalities.
These two know each other really well. They know each other’s tricks and weaknesses. So everything was a point of concern: hotel rooms, flights, who’s coming out first, which changing rooms they’re using, when the weigh-in times are, who sits where in the press conference, what gloves are and aren’t allowed, where their families sit around the ring, ringwalk time, MCs, which pundits are used on the night, making sure Amir and Kell’s hotels were at least two miles apart. The ring size is now a new one.
Khan will be back in the ring for the first time in three years when he takes on Brook
Brook (above) and Khan have plenty to lose with a huge amount of pride on the line
Because this is really about pride and humiliation, both fighters feel extremely paranoid of one another.
There is a huge amount of connecting circles – people who know both fighters – and there’s a lot on the line. In the north of England this rivalry runs deep.
We thought this fight was going to happen last year. It got delayed and delayed.
We had to grab it while we could and there was probably a couple of days’ window where we had both fighters willing to sign. If we had let it go on any longer, it would never have happened.
Clarke’s style will suit the professional ranks
Frazer Clarke is like nothing we currently see in the heavyweight division. He’s the man on the street, the man in the pub, the everyday guy.
He’s the Ricky Hatton of the heavyweights – he already has a huge fan base. Frazer needed 1,200 tickets for his debut… that’s unheard of!
He’s a celebrity in the Midlands and at Burton Albion just from his Olympic success in Tokyo.
For a heavyweight, having a huge support base is absolutely key and we can’t wait for him to be headlining shows.
Heavyweight Frazer Clarke already has a huge fanbase following his Olympics success
Clarke (above) is now targeting big fights potentially against the likes of Dillian Whyte
Frazer is looking at the big fights – he’s eyeing up Dillian Whyte and Andy Ruiz – but first and foremost we’re going to build him into a superstar on Sky Sports.
We see Frazer’s path as a mix between those taken by Anthony Joshua and Joe Joyce. What AJ has done shows the power of Sky and what can be done for heavyweight boxing.
And Frazer is joining the pro ranks at 30 – slightly younger than Joyce. He’s done everything at amateur level, he’s been an exemplary role model and his style actually suits the pro game more than the amateurs.
We expect him to move fast. He’ll be looking for a British title shot as soon as he can and in 12 months’ time he’ll be looking at European and world title eliminators. If anything he’s going to be asking to be sped up!
Watch Khan v Brook live this Saturday night on Sky Sports Box Office – https://www.sky.com/boxoffice/khan-brook