And so, the staggering speed at which Saudi Arabia is making fights quickens again. Al-Sheikh, who is at the helm of the state’s vociferous venture into boxing, verbalised the suggestion on Monday, at the London press conference for Anthony Joshua’s upcoming bout with Francis Ngannou in Riyadh. By Thursday, Warren and Hearn were photographed signing contracts for a Matchroom vs Queensberry fight card– both smiling but both looking slightly bewildered, it must be said.
Each promoter will pick five fighters to square off with the other’s on a unique card, the date of which will be revealed on 8 March, when Joshua boxes ex-UFC champion Ngannou. It is an understandably unprecedented move; why would a promoter risk their reputation and/or company’s brand by directly pitting such a percentage of its roster against another’s?
Well, ‘to make a significant amount of money’ is the only answer, and never has such an amount of money been on tap until now. So, Warren and Hearn will square off, in a sense, though the move is as much a sign of their increasing cooperation as it is a sign of their historic rivalry. December’s Day of Reckoning card marked the first co-promotion between Hearn’s Matchroom and Warren’s Queensberry, with other companies also involved and Warren chosen as the figurehead – just as he will be for Joshua vs Ngannou, despite “AJ” being a Matchroom fighter and Ngannou being a free agent.
In keeping with Saudi Arabia’s emphasis on entertainment, the five-on-five idea is very much in the vein of WWE’s ‘Survivor Series’ matches – five wrestlers from its Raw show, five from Smackdown, going head to head – so what is next in Saudi? A 30-man boxing ‘Royal Rumble’? Don’t rule it out. Really.
In the meantime, it is a fun exercise to predict and suggest which boxers might be chosen by Hearn and Warren. It has not yet been announced which weight classes will be featured at the event, but Indy Sport will choose five different divisions. So, without further ado...
Of course, the dream would be a headline bout between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. But while that long-awaited, all-British clash is suddenly back on the cards after AJ’s dismantling of Otto Wallin in December, that fight would surely be reserved for its own event. Joshua must also get past Ngannou first, three weeks after Fury boxes Oleksandr Usyk for undisputed status in Riyadh. A more realistic heavyweight contest would be Queensberry’s Daniel Dubois against Demsey McKean of Matchroom.
Briton Dubois stopped Jarrell Miller in the final seconds of their brawl in December, increasing his stock after a setback against Usyk, while Australia’s McKean was on the other end of a 12th-round stoppage in his last fight, versus Filip Hrgovic. That result marked the 33-year-old’s first professional loss, and he has the experience to be a good test for Dubois, as the 26-year-old looks to re-establish himself as a title contender.
In December, Anthony Yarde endured a dispiriting night against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol. A few weeks later, Callum Smith had a similar experience – although in much less ring time – against unified champion Artur Beterbiev. With the victorious Russians are now set to fight each other, maybe the beaten Britons should also square off. Smith has entertained the idea of walking away from boxing after his seventh round loss to Beterbiev, but if the Matchroom man fancies one more payday, this already rumoured meeting with Queensberry’s Yarde would make sense.
One of Queensberry’s most exciting prospects is middleweight Hamzah Sheeraz, while Matchroom’s Felix Cash always seems to be in thrilling fights. Sheeraz is already booked against Liam Williams in February, but if he can navigate his sternest test yet, a bout with Cash would make for fun viewing – although it could be a tough reintroduction to competitive boxing for Cash, who last fought in late 2022.
Okay, this is the most optimistic choice on this list, admittedly. Conor Benn naturally has his sights set on higher-profile opponents than Ekow Essuman, but considering the Matchroom boxer’s inability to fight in Britain right now, he would make a strong addition to a Saudi card, and Essuman would be a tricky foe who could make for an entertaining bout. In February, Benn is due to fight in the US for the second time in five months, while Essuman has no bout scheduled at the time of writing but will be looking to bounce back from his first pro loss. Assuming Benn wins in February, this would be an intriguing next move.
Gary Cully’s first pro defeat, a third-round stoppage in May, seemed to undermine the notion that he could be a superstar for Matchroom, but the Irishman did bounce back with a sensible performance and needed win in November. Queensberry has several promising, unbeaten lightweights to its name, with Sam Noakes a potential opponent here, but Mark Chamberlain is our final pick. The Briton is due to compete on the Joshua vs Ngannou card, the night when the Queensberry vs Matchroom fights and date are due to be announced. If he comes through his bout with Gavin Gwynne in impressive fashion, excitement over his involement in the five-on-five card will shoot up.
Indy Sport’s fantasy Queensberry vs Matchroom card
(Queensberry fighters on left, Matchroom on right)
• Daniel Dubois vs Demsey McKean (heavyweight)
• Anthony Yarde vs Callum Smith (light-heavyweight)
• Hamzah Sheeraz vs Felix Cash (middleweight)
• Ekow Essuman vs Conor Benn (welterweight)
• Mark Chamberlain vs Gary Cully (lightweight)