Prizefighter: 33 champions, three world titles and a winners struggle

Phil Jay 27/10/2016
Prizefighter Audley Harrison

Lawrence Lustig

Despite massive success early on, the entertaining Prizefighter series – the innovation of Matchroom Boxing – has faded into the background over the past eighteen months.

Initially, fans and boxing personnel couldn’t wait for the next one to be announced as it gave up and comers – along with veteran stars, the chance to considerably boost their bank balance and career.

The first eight-man tournament in 2008 which the winner took home a cool £25,000, Martin Rogan became a household name in the UK, eventually going on to win Commonwealth gold whilst facing off against Tyson Fury for the Irish title.

Prize money would increase to £32,000 as popularity grew, whilst the likes of domestic stars Martin Murray, Ovill McKenzie, Gavin Rees and Audley Harrison all took advantage of their inclusion in early events. All four would eventually go on to fight for world titles despite the majority of Prizefighter champions struggling to capitalize on their respective triumphs.

It wasn’t until 2011 when the format saw the first future world ruler crowned as Lee Haskins saw off Don Broadhurst in the super-flyweight final.

A year later and it was the turn of Terry Flanagan, who dominated the lightweight version in October 2012 and his since gone from strength to strength without coming close to a loss. Anthony Crolla would become the third world champion of the series despite losing out to Gary Sykes in the same competition.

Aside from those three and the four world title challengers mentioned, Prizefighter has been a largely unsuccessful platform for most.

Former world champions Herbie Hide, Robin Reid, James Toney and Junior Witter all lost out in their bid for the Prizefighter crown after hoping their inclusion would be another stepping stone to rekindling past successes.

Those who did manage to scrap to victory, as in heavyweight winners Sam Sexton, Michael Sprott, Mike Perez and Tor Hamer, all fell into the also-ran category or retired.

At the lower weights, the likes of Ryan Brawley, Prince Arron, Patrick Mendy, Willie Casey, Larry Ekundayo, Glen Foot, Chris Jenkins, Rocky Fielding and Tom Doran have so far struggled to make an impact beyond domestic level.

The Dickinson brothers (Jon-Lewis and Travis) have both suffered devastating knockout losses since they picked up the trophy, as has Adil Anwar, whose standout 2012 win over current Lonsdale Belt holder Tyrone Nurse looks a distant eyebrow-raising memory.

All in all, the series was entertaining television for Sky Sports but maybe ended up a bit of a tired layout that needed refreshing. Bringing it back with a fresh approach would certainly be welcomed in some quarters should Matchroom’s hierarchy decide sufficient time has passed to warrant a comeback.

A former world champions version or country versus country World Cup format would be something to consider as fans of the Prizefighter tournament approach a second year without their three-round fix of frenzied action.

ekundayo lustig

Full Tournament Winners: 

11 April 2008 – Heavyweight – Martin Rogan bt David Dolan
12 September 2008 – Heavyweight – Sam Sexton bt Chris Burton
24 October 2008 – Welterweight – Michael Lomax bt Ted Bami
21 November 2008 – Middleweight – Martin Murray bt Cello Renda
20 February 2009 – Light heavyweight – Tony Oakey bt Darren Stubbs
24 March 2009 –  Lightweight – Ryan Brawley bt Stephen Burke
19 May 2009 – Cruiserweight – Ovill McKenzie bt John Keeton
2 October 2009 – Heavyweight – Audley Harrison bt Coleman Barrett
4 December 2009 – Light welterweight – Gavin Rees bt Colin Lynes
26 February 2010 – Light middleweight – Prince Arron bt Brett Flournoy
30 April 2010 – Cruiserweight – Jon-Lewis Dickinson bt Nick Okoth
29 May 2010 – Super bantamweight – Willie Casey bt Paul McElhinney
30 June 2010 – Super middleweight – Patrick Mendy bt Paul David
9 October 2010 – Heavyweight – Michael Sprott bt Matt Skelton
21 November 2010 – Super featherweight – Gary Buckland bt Derry Mathews
29 January 2011 – Light heavyweight – Travis Dickinson bt Sam Couzens
23 March 2011 – Super middleweight – Rocky Fielding bt Tobias Webb
7 May 2011 – Heavyweight – Mike Perez bt Tye Fields
7 June 2011 – Welterweight – Yassine El Maachi bt Junior Witter
15 September 2011 – Light middleweight – Robert Lloyd-Taylor bt Nick Quigley
12 October 2011 – Super flyweight – Lee Haskins bt Don Broadhurst
29 October 2011 – Featherweight – Choi Tseveenpurev bt Rhys Roberts
11 February 2012 – Light welterweight – Adil Anwar bt Tyrone Nurse
5 May 2012 – Middleweight – Eamonn O’Kane bt JJ McDonagh
20 June 2012 – Heavyweight – Tor Hamer bt Kevin Johnson
6 October 2012 – Lightweight – Terry Flanagan bt Gary Sykes
3 November 2012 – Light middleweight – Larry Ekundayo bt Terry Carruthers
19 January 2013 – Welterweight – Glenn Foot bt Dale Evans
23 February 2013 – Heavyweight – Audley Harrison bt Derric Rossy
18 May 2013 – Cruiserweight – Wadi Camacho bt Hari Miles
6 July 2013 – Welterweight – Chris Jenkins bt Danny Connor
14 November 2013 – UK vs USA Heavyweight – Michael Sprott bt Jason Gavern
5 April 2014 – Welterweight – Johnny Coyle bt Paddy Gallagher
6 December 2014 – Lightweight – Jono Carroll bt Michael Devine
14 February 2015 – Middleweight – Tom Doran bt Cello Renda