The dream weaver '“ Stefy Bull lifts the lid on promoting boxing away from TV cameras
Would you gamble Â£50,000 for no immediate financial return?
It is a question which Stefy Bull faced as he sat at the drawing board to plot his latest boxing show.
Next Saturday night, the Dome will host a fight night worthy of any TV channel.
A British title fight, two English championship bouts, a Central Area title contest and the homecoming of a world title contender – there will be shows on TV over the next few weeks which cannot touch this card in terms of quality.
But the TV cameras will not be at the Dome. The landscape of boxing has shifted drastically over the last few years, with certain individual promoters in exclusive partnerships with TV channels.
With a stable of fighters whom he trains and manages as well as promotes, Bull is faced with a tough decision when it comes to creating opportunities for them.
And it leads him to incredible financial gambles that he has no real idea whether they will pay off or not.
Yet, it is clear there is no backward step for the former professional fighter.
“I’ll admit it’s probably something I’ll look back on and regret doing,” he told the Free Press.
“It’s crazy really.
“I would say arguably I’m the only promoter in Britain without TV or big financial backing that would put these massive events on.
“This next show I would estimate is costing me around £50,000. That is potentially what I’m gambling.
“The promoting game is a gamble.
“My attitude at the minute is if I can put this show on and lose a couple of grand, then I’ll be happy.
“That is how hard it is.
“This show would have been on TV a few years ago.
“Frank Maloney did shows at the Dome not as good as this and probably got a couple of hundred grand from Sky Sports.
“I’m risking my house, my family’s house, to put a massive event on.”
With no TV deal to prop up the balance sheet, Bull is forced to explore more innovative means to help offset the gamble.
His main even sees Barnsley’s popular bantamweight Josh Wale contest the vacant British title with Scotland’s Jamie Wilson.
Such a fight attracts attention. It has certainly helped the show close in on a sell-out and has also aided Bull in attracting sponsorship.
He said: “I’ve been lucky enough to get some local companies who have all chucked in £1,000 in advertising on the ring canvas and corner posts. That sponsorship will pay for the sanction fees.
“Then Josh will be working very hard to sell tickets to cover the cost of the opponent and his own purse.
“It’s an accumulation of what I’m doing to make this show work but also what the fighters are doing as well.
“People tell me my fighters are lucky to have me with what I do for them. In a way, they’re right.
“But I’m lucky to have them as well because they understand the game.
“Because I train them I see them every day so they’re getting updates all the time.
“I can sit down and explain the business to them face to face. They take it in that bit more.
“They understand how it all works and where we’re going if they can do the business in the ring.”
Though he will almost certainly lose money on next weekend’s show, there is potential financial gain from it in the future for Bull.
He said: “You’re hoping that Josh does the business next week and gets the opportunity to get back on TV for the next fight.
“If he does that, I can potentially cover any losses on this show with the management fee I’d get for the next fight.
“When you’re earning from the management side of things with lads on TV, I can then put that money into my promotion.
“I have one conveyor belt feeding another.”
Bull lives and breathes boxing and has done since childhood.
Never the most gifted fighter in the world, he could not be faulted for heart and determination.
That was reflected in year after year of him headlining events at the Dome, well before he took up promotional duties himself. It brought him Central Area titles and English title contendership.
So the decisions to take financial risks are driven by a love for the sport and a desire to hand to his fighters the opportunities he would have given his left hand to have had himself.
“Boxing for me is my life,” he said.
“It’s what I do.
“It’s the only thing I know how to do.
“And I’m earning a living from boxing.
“This gamble could lead to Josh Wale becoming British champion. And then I can look back in years to come and say I did that for HJosh Wale.
“He’s done his job alongside his dad [trainer Mick] for many years.
“He’s one of the nicest kids in boxing. He lives the life, never does anything wrong but has always come up short in big fights against the best in Britain and the world.
“I can be the one to deliver him a British title fight in the home corner on home soil.
“He could probably be getting three times the amount he will do if this fight was on TV but we’re trying to create opportunities for him to live his dream.
“If he lifts that Lonsdale belt, it’ll be worth more than any penny I could earn.
“That’s what it means to me.”
Another big opportunity will see Bull take another gamble in September when he will be back at the Dome promoting Barnsley fighter Robbie Barrett’s first defence of his British lightweight title.
Barrett won the title in April in sensational style, beating the undefeated and highly rated Scott Cardle out of the away corner on TV to upset the odds.
But when Barrett was mandated to defend against Lewis Ritson, the prospect of the fight being put on a TV show was nowhere to be seen.
“It breaks my heart that Robbie did what he did and then is left high and dry,” Bull said.
“In the past, if you’d have beaten a Matchroom fighter then you would have become one yourself and been fighting on Sky Sports.
“But because Matchroom have the monopoly on Sky now, they can pick and choose exactly who they want.
“So Robbie does the job and I’m left in limbo.
“His fight, against a tough, unbeaten mandatory challenger goes to purse bids.
“So do I risk him going to Newcastle, fighting in the away corner for little money or do I cut a healthy deal to get the fight here and have my man in the home corner with all his support?
“I’m chuffed to have done that.”
Bull clearly feels a tremendous amount of pride at the calibre of show he has managed to put on.
And he gives the impression that his ambition will not be curbed any time soon.
“I keep surprising myself,” he said. “I think I’ll never beat the previous show but then I do.
“It’s not just Josh Wale’s fight, we’ve got a couple of cracking English title fights for Lee Appleyard and Samir Mouneimne and Danny Slaney in a Central Area title.
“Plus there’s Gavin McDonnell fighting back in Doncaster.
“Gav’s last fight was a main event on TV, fighting for the WBC world title and now he’s back on at the Dome.
“It’s just got to be done.
“I’m probably a bit crazy with what I do.
“I’m just lucky that I’ve got my wife who leaves me to do what I do.
“As I’ve said, boxing is what I do.”