Outside of the ropes: David Evans on the whip / ringmaster role
Photo: David Evans (wearing tie) with boxer Luke Fash and trainer Glen Banks
In the latest of our series examining key and often unheralded figures from behind the scenes in boxing, Ezio Prapotnich talks to David Evans about the role of the whip / ringmaster...
The best way to deal with a problem is to prevent it from happening.
Murphy’s law states that if something can possibly go wrong, it will. That is simply not allowed in British Boxing Board of Control supervised professional boxing shows. If something can go wrong, it is one of the whip (or ringmaster)'s duties to know it a week in advance. The other is to react and fix it in the quickest possible way, if push comes to shove.
David Evans is a natural in his field. His work and life background prepared him for his role, which he breaks down for Boxing Monthly in this interview.
BM: What is your background and how you did you get into boxing?
DE: I come from South Wales. I was brought up in Seven Sisters, a coal mining area in Dulais valley. As a kid, I was into a lot of sports but boxing and rugby mainly. I was competitive in all but did not excel in any. The coal mines closed in the late 80s and most things with them, including the boxing club. They were tough times, marked by poverty. I moved to London when I was 16, looking both to work and party. I took up boxing training again and got involved with pros, which resulted in me getting a second's licence.
BM: How did you become a whip?
DE: A friend of mine was a partner of Dave Coldwell in promotions and asked me to help out at a show in Sheffield. The designated whip for the night did not turn up and they asked me if I would fill in. I actually enjoyed it. It gave me a buzz and I decided to apply for a licence and continue.
BM: Can you summarise the purpose of the job?
DE: It’s a logistics focused job: a whip/ringmaster is in charge to facilitate the smooth running of boxing shows as per the set running order by dealing with a number of behind the scenes task.
BM: Is experience in other roles required in order to apply for the licence? What type of test or training do you need to complete before actually starting?
DE: There are no pre-requirements. You can apply for it directly. There is no training or shadowing another whip. You have to pass an interview which tests your boxing knowledge and puts you through a lot of hypothetical scenarios. It’s a serious grilling. If you are able to pass it, then you can go straight into it.
BM: Can you give us a general outline of your assignments on a given night?
DE: It may vary according to the promoter you work with but overall it includes liaising with boxers, managers, trainers and television crew to agree the timing of fights and take every necessary action to ensure they are respected. It also overlaps with the inspectors’ duties in regard to check that fighters have their medical examination before and after the bouts.
BM: Can you break down each step in chronological order?
DE: First of all, I attend the weigh-in and write down the weights to allocate to the fighters the gloves provided by the promoter: 10 ounces for fighters at 10 stones 7 or above, 8 ounces for anyone below. Some fighters might be sponsored by a specific brand and in that case the opponent must wear the same type. If any weight or gloves related issue arises at this stage, I report it to the Board officials who will deal with it. At this point, I review the running order and make sure all boxers are in the house.
BM: What happens if someone has not showed up or is running late?
DE: I will have to get the manager on the case. This is the tricky part and where the situation can become a minefield. If a boxer does not show up, you have to rearrange the schedule. There are a lot of factors to balance in the equation, tickets sold being on top of the list and egos a close second.
BM: Once the schedule is finalised, how does the work proceed?
DE: I sit down with the MC and the TV crew. We discuss from which way to bring the fighters out and who walks to the ring first. We also make a set list of the ring walk music. Then I knock on the changing room doors and get them out as decided.
BM: Can you relax at that point?
DE: Not at all. Once you get the first two fighters out, for the rest of the show you got to make sure during each fight that the next three bouts are ready to happen immediately in case one ends early. You have to keep on the fighters all the way through until the end of the night. In between, you will have to deal with any possible technical issue that might arise. We are not done until the last boxer has signed off with the doctor.
BM: What innate skills or qualities must one possess to fit the pressure of the role?
DE: To keep a cool head in front of unforeseen circumstances and constant forward planning. Being used to a rough and tough work environment helps. When I was young, I used to work in pubs and I learned to read people as to identify potential troublemakers and prevent situations from happening. I actually start studying the fighters and trainers I’ll be working with a week before the show.
BM: Can you give examples of the biggest cards you were involved with?
DE: David Hayes’s comeback fights at the O2 and Cyclone Promotion shows on Channel 5. Also a lot of Steve Goodwin’s events.
BM: Any anecdote that could gives us a sense of the pressure you are under?
DE: On a live TV show, I had a guy from Yeovil fighting against one from Essex. Behind my back, the Yeovil kid told the MC he was from Essex as well to steal the crowd from the opponent. When he was announced I thought I had brought the wrong guy out. My heart literally sunk in that moment!
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