Ben Shalom is aware of what you’re pondering. “Where’s this guy come from? Where the f*** has he come from?”
It is similar query that arises when followers come throughout the 29-year-old’s firm, Boxxer, which has emerged as one of many sport’s main promotions since its inception as Ultimate Boxxer in 2018.
Back then, Shalom was simply 23, the youngest licensed promoter in Britain. So, the place did this man come from?
Where the f*** did he come from?
The Mancunian remembers Amir Khan’s outings on the 2004 Athens Olympics as having generated his first reminiscences of boxing, earlier than the “ITV nights” that adopted for Khan deepened Shalom’s intrigue within the sport. They had been bouts that drew “seven or eight million viewers”, and although Shalom, the 11-year-old boxing fan, may in all probability not recount these figures on the time, it’s telling that Shalom, at 28, does so now. Ricky Hatton vs Floyd Mayweather in 2007 and David Haye vs Nikolai Valuev in 2009 had been additionally impactful for Shalom, the latter struggle leaving him “obsessed” with the game.
The entrepreneurial spirit that might give life to Boxxer first shone at college, the place Shalom studied regulation however was “always trying to find a way not to do law”. He would organise membership nights and concert events and promote quick meals, and that proclivity for enterprise later mixed with boxing partially because of Shalom’s friendships again in Manchester. There, quite a few his associates boxed – some professionally.
Shalom tells The Independent that his want to step into the enterprise facet of the game got here from “really seeing how much the fighters put into it, but how little there was for them in terms of reward. It became obvious to me that the sport was so difficult, so cruel. It’s not like tennis where the best play the best and the rise to the top is meritocratic, it’s not like there’s any sort of infrastructure unless you’re in the top 1 per cent.
“Seeing the way events were put on, how sponsors and broadcasters didn’t really want to get involved… I could never really understand it, because for me it was the most admirable profession or sport that you could ever go into. But it had this sort of ‘dirty’ tag, and events felt intimidating. I wanted to get into the business so it was more reflective of the fighters.”
Shalom borrowed £10,000 to acquire his boxing promoter’s licence, however cash will solely get you to date in a enterprise that additionally offers in respect. With the duty of getting to win over the related authorities and personalities at 23, Shalom credit his “work ethic” and “being genuine, consistent and committed” for his success.
“When you look back at it,” he says, “the naivete was good, because if I knew what I knew now, maybe it would have been more difficult to embark on that journey. But I was incredibly passionate, and I think a lot of the boxing fraternity were glad at that point that young people were coming into the sport; there’s not many that actually want to work in boxing. It’s been the same promoters for 40, 50 years – the same families. If you’re brave enough and are coming in with good intentions and a different way of looking at things… Luckily the board recognised that and licensed me – maybe prematurely, I don’t know.”
It is one factor to wish to impact change, nevertheless, and one other to truly do it.
“I think you do it by putting on events that anyone will enjoy coming to – men, women, anyone,” Shalom suggests. “Making sure that it’s accessible, the pricing’s at a point where people can afford to go, the way it’s presented and the way you run your operation is transparent, so brands and broadcasters want to come into the sport. Also, it’s important to try to break down barriers like these long-winded undercards, the belt system, judging, regulation. If we can achieve that bit by bit, that’s when we’ll create a much better environment.”
Boxxer would host tournaments as a result of it was not ready to signal fighters, its exhibits nearly breaking even because of ticket gross sales and sponsor funding. The promotion’s first TV deal was with Channel 5’s 5Spike, earlier than Boxxer landed an enormous take care of Sky Sports in June 2021, drastically enhancing its funding, potential to signal fighters and placed on occasions.
Now Boxxer’s roster boasts the likes of girls’s stars Claressa Shields, Savannah Marshall and Natasha Jonas, in addition to Liam Smith, Lawrence Okolie and 2020 Olympians Frazer Clarke and Ben Whittaker. The promotion is targeted on “diverse signings”, with Shalom taking part in a key position because of the benefit of being an analogous age to the fighters.
In 2022, a leaked clip surfaced on Twitter, displaying Shalom telling an interviewer – earlier than the interview had formally begun – to not ask questions on Matchroom. The 28-year-old obtained criticism and assist in equal measure after the clip had circulated, however says now: “I don’t think I need to slag off other promoters. In what other sport would you have business owners just going at each other all the time?
“I do think it’s funny, and I actually enjoy it, but we’ve got such a job on our hands. Sometimes it’s just a soap opera. To be a great promoter… Look, a lot of attention comes with it, but I don’t think there’s a prerequisite that I need to be famous or a celebrity; I think we need to do the best job by our fighters.”
It is a trigger to which Shalom is dedicated with singular focus.
“There was massive sacrifice,” he stresses. “I sacrificed all my twenties – not going out, not doing things that a normal person would at my age. If you want to do great things and believe in what you’re doing, you’ll sacrifice everything; I sacrificed absolutely everything, but I don’t see it like that, because I’m doing what I love. This is a dream come true.
“I’m young, the other promoters are a lot older than me, I have more energy than ever. Working in boxing is amazing, because when you’re working with boxers, it doesn’t matter how stressed you are or how tough it is for you; it’s always harder for them, so you get so much energy off that. We have a massive responsibility to the sport. I’m not thinking anywhere near about the end; we’re very much at the start of our journey.”