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Matchroom was not prepared to go the extra mile to make World champion's rematch with Amanda Serrano at GAA HQ a reality
From day one, Matchroom sensed a lack of enthusiasm from Croke Park about their grandiose project to stage a Katie Taylor homecoming fight in the home of the GAA.
The initial contact between Taylor’s manager Brian Peters and stadium director Peter McKenna was made within days of the epic Taylor/Serrano showdown in Madison Square Garden in April 2022.
The original plan was to stage the rematch in GAA HQ in late September, but Serrano’s management team scuppered the idea by making a list of demands they knew the Taylor team would never agree to.
The Croke Park homecoming project then lay dormant until Matchroom chairman and multi-millionaire Eddie Hearn surprised everybody by announcing, moments after Taylor had won a routine fight in London on the October Bank holiday weekend, that her next fight would be in Croke Park.
Hearn is a master of hyperbole. He admitted afterwards he was prompted by his father Barry, who sat beside him during the fight, to promise Katie that her dream of fighting before 80,000 people in Croke Park would be realised this summer.
At the time securing Croke Park looked the least daunting of the obstacles which had to be overcome if the stadium were to host its first professional boxing show since Muhammad Ali fought there in 1972.
Pretty quickly it emerged that the talks between Matchroom and the Croke Park team, led by Peter McKenna, had hit a bump. The first public indication came when Eddie Hearn suggested that Croke Park would have to reduce their costs, or the Irish Government would have to help if the fight were to go ahead.
The then Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers was kept abreast of developments, and was enthusiastic about the prospects for a Croke Park showdown. But the political interest effectively ended in the wake of the cabinet reshuffle, in which he received a new portfolio.
McKenna confirmed yesterday that there has been no meaningful discussion between the parties since Christmas. It was well known in boxing circles that the Croke Park dream was dead long before it was officially confirmed by Eddie Hearn, in New York, on Wednesday night.
So what went wrong? Eddie Hearn once suggested that if you throw enough money at any problem in boxing, it will solve it. But, evidently, Matchroom was not prepared to go the extra mile in this instance.
Did they, as McKenna suggested on Thursday, get the jitters – not just because of what they would have to pay for security, but over fears they would not sell enough tickets to break even?
Croke Park most certainly did not believe the fight would be an 80,000 sell-out – and they questioned whether Matchroom had left themselves sufficient time to market the fight properly.
But, for all their faults, Matchroom have an enviable track record in promoting their shows.
Privately, Matchroom believe Croke Park pitched their costs so high that it make it impossible for them to stage the show there. McKenna conceded that the top-level security they believed was needed “is not inexpensive”.
Perhaps the truth is that Croke Park always had serious reservations about staging a professional boxing show – and if it were to go ahead, they wanted to make absolutely certain there would be no trouble, inside or outside the stadium.
Matchroom’s attitude could be summed up in the story about the difference between the hen and pig when it comes to the traditional Irish breakfast. The hen is involved but the pig is committed. Hearn was definitely involved, but one wonders how committed he was.
The real losers are the punters. This would have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see, arguably, Ireland’s most influential sports star in action. It has been envisaged that a sizeable proportion of the tickets for the Croke Park gig would have been priced at round €50. The cheapest ticket for the 3Arena will be at least treble that.
Long before the involvement of gangland figures tainted professional boxing in Ireland, Dublin was regarded as a graveyard for the sport
A sell-out Croke Park show featuring Katie Taylor might have changed that perception. But the opportunity has been squandered.
The next generation will look back and wonder why.