Queensbury Boxing League takes the plunge
If you are not familiar with Queensbury Boxing League (QBL), it was formed in July 2009 and promoted its first event in October 2009. It was originally called the Queensbury Fight League for its first five events, but then it changed to Queensbury Boxing League to reflect that it was boxing rather than fighting. Since its launch, former Southern Area and English welterweight champion (and son of former undisputed world middleweight champion Alan) Ross Minter, alongside his business partner Alan Foley, have successfully promoted over 50 shows.
The format the competition was simple. With nine weight categories and five skill levels, boxers would battle it out over three, four and five minute rounds, against opponents of equal skill and ability. A win or a loss would then give the individual the opportunity to move up and down the rankings dependent on their result. The successful competitors would then earn the right to challenge for one of the five separate titles in each weight division, with the Queensbury British title being the ultimate goal.
With a successful league in place, why did the QBL decide to throw their hat into the pro ring? Alan Foley explained to Boxing Monthly. “Since its launch, the league has grown faster and bigger than Ross and I could have hoped for, but ultimately even with the unrivalled experience and exposure we were offering the boxers, for some the lure of being called a ‘professional boxer’ was always going to mean they would eventually decide to turn pro and leave the competition. We found ourselves in a position that we had spent an incredible amount of time and effort on building up our top tier boxers into real stars with the combination of exposure on British Eurosport and all the associated PR that the shows team put in to raising their profiles, only to lose them to pro promoters.
“So it was always our intention to create a pro platform that would facilitate both league boxers and other boxers to become fully fledged professionals and still be able to experience the ‘Queensbury’ treatment. Since the league was launched we’ve had numerous current and former professional boxers and champions come to the shows and find themselves blown away by how exciting and entertaining the shows were, and so many said to us that if we could take the Queensbury model and adapt it to the pros, then we’d have something very special, so here we are.”
It seems the QBL suffered from a stigma of not being able to call itself professional or amateur boxing. Almost a limbo boxing of excellence, becoming victims of their own success. Foley expanded. “With anything new people who are unfamiliar with what you are doing or trying to do will always make a judgement about what you are. Ross and I knew that the bigger the league became, the more people would cast judgement on it. I think the only way to prove your point in anything is to go out there at set your stall out as to what you are trying to achieve and, as long as you believe in what you are doing and have the passion and conviction to carry it out, then being classed as amateur or pro is irrelevant. In all walks of life you will always hear the ‘traditional’ versus the ‘modern’ argument. There is no denying that both amateur and professional boxing has been established a lot longer than Queensbury boxing has, but does that mean that they are better? We’ve always classed ourselves as Queensbury Boxing, an alternative platform that offers boxers at all different stages of their careers a chance to compete and be treated the way all boxers should be treated. As long as the boxing is run professionally, the health and safety of the boxers is taken care of and the fights are properly matched then I think everyone involved are the winners.”
The transition from the QBL to professional boxing will not be an overnight process. A transitional stage will ensue, which will ultimately see the QBL turn to the QPL (Queensbury Professional Boxing), but there’s no intention in losing any of the identity of the current set-up. Foley explained, “The league will always be the league and will continue to grow and flourish as it has an incredible reputation, but the professional side will be incorporated into the format much like a Pro/AM show where the card will be split into Queensbury Boxing League fights, then headlined by the pro card. I’m confident in time that we will get to the stage that we will be able to stage shows entirely consisting of pro fights, but we are happy to work it with a mix to start with. Belt wise the pros will follow the British Masters route and be eligible to contest all of their belts and, after that, then any of the WBA, WBO, IBF, IBO, WBF titles can be fought for. The drive and goal is to build a stable of professional champions and stars and, with our coverage on Eurosport and a passionate team behind each boxer, there are going to be some big opportunities happening for all of the boxers that come on board.”
If you are a boxer looking to participate in QBL/QPB, here’s the message of encouragement from both Foley and Minter as to why you should jump on board. “I think for any boxers actively looking to turn professional, Queensbury Professional Boxing has so much to offer. The league has been shown on British Eurosport for four seasons now and we’ll be putting our pro contests on the channel as well as a number of other broadcasters very soon, so historically you’d effectively need to be with one of the more established promoters that already have a broadcast deal in place to be able to gain that level of exposure, but with the QPB that is already in place. We’ve always been focused on supporting all the league’s boxers through our PR team and giving them as much promotional support as possible, so on the pro side that will be a huge part of building the future stars of the QPB so turning pro will be just the start for each of them.
“Also our goal has always been to give all the boxers and, of course, the fans an unrivalled experience at every event. It’s great if you’ve got boxers bringing plenty of fans to an event, but if the show is poorly run and offers little entertainment or customer experience then what is the motivation for the fans of any boxer to come back again? If we put on the best possible show we can for the fans every single time, then as with the league the fans will want to come again and be a part of a great night of boxing.
"For Ross and I, it’s all about growing the professional side of things at a sustainable pace. We built the league from nothing and its grown into what it is today from sheer hard work, passion and determination. That’s exactly what we are going to do on the pro side of things. We’ve got five pro shows planned for this year with the aim of doubling that for the 2017 season. There will be plenty of things we will need to learn along the way to make this a success, but we’ve shown with the league what can be achieved and we are going out there with the QPB to build something really special.”
Photo credits: Samantha Wordie.