Postcard from Glasgow: Welcome to the weird world of the WBSS
IT’S been a weird old week here in Glasgow. The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) is well established now, with the bantam and super-lightweight divisions following hot on the heels of the hugely successful cruiser and super-middleweight tournaments, but it remains something of a curiosity.
The best versus the best, promotional politics put to one side and replacements at the ready to avoid long delays due to injury – what’s not to love? Yet the build-up to tonight’s show at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow has been unusual, to say the least.
First of all you had Kalle Sauerland, chief boxing officer of tournament organiser Comosa AG, revealing that they had turned down offers for the bill to be broadcast on UK television channels because it wasn’t right for the WBSS “brand”.
Instead it will be streamed live on the WBSS Facebook page and YouTube channel, as well as on their own website – and all for free. Considering the show is led by two potential crackers as Belfast’s Ryan Burnett faces Filipino legend Nonito Donaire while Scotland’s Josh Taylor headlines against American Ryan Martin, that appears a bold move.
Secondly, there was the public workout. Usually these are held in the middle of a shopping centre at the heart of the city. In Belfast, for example, Castle Court or Victoria Square have generally been the preferred locations.
The WBSS do things differently however, and so journalists and camera crews flocked to the MTK Global gym in Holytown – a tiny village outside Motherwell, 25 minutes from Glasgow city centre along the M8.
If you’ve ever seen a sketch by Scottish comedian Limmy about the day spaced-out character Dee Dee travelled to Yoker, another village about six miles outside Glasgow in the other direction, you’ll catch the drift.
“Yoker’s one of they places ah only know fray the front of a bus,” says Dee Dee, squinting up at the brightly-lit destination sign, “never been there, don’t know what it’s like. Just this pure mad fabled land.”
That’s how I felt as my taxi ate up the road before it on the way to Holytown.
The newly-refitted gym - run by trainer Danny Vaughan - is mighty impressive by the way, and the host couldn’t have been more welcoming, but it was too small to accommodate any more than a handful of actual members of the public into the public workout once the media hordes descended.
Finally there was yesterday’s weigh-in at the Scottish Exhibition Centre, a stone’s throw from the Hydro, the scene of tonight’s battles.
Weigh-ins normally take place around midday, usually 1pm, by which stage starving, dehydrated fighters are drifting about licking their dry lips, just wanting it to be over and done with so they can start refuelling.
Donaire hit the scales at 5.03pm, Burnett a couple of minutes later with Taylor and Martin following suit. Those hours after lunch-time must have been purgatory.
Yet for an organisation that took two English fighters, Callum Smith and George Groves, out to Saudi Arabia for the super-middleweight final last month, perhaps this all makes sense in a strange sort of way.
And one thing you definitely cannot call into question is the quality of fights and fighters the World Boxing Super Series has brought to the table thus far. Here’s hoping that continues tonight.