MTK London - Lee Eaton
Where do you start if you want to take your first step into putting on a professional boxing show?  For many the idea itself is too large to comprehend; the logistics of a venue, a fight card the security.  The list goes on.  But for Lee Eaton, he was able to set out on his dream with the help of the huge backing of MTK Global, the Management and Promotional company who are behind some of the biggest names in UK boxing as well as having gyms and events nationwide.  It’s not to say though that Eaton has been handed a golden spoon to feast with, has skipped the graft that many have to go through.
“I’ve been promoting boxing for many years in different ways.  I’ve been mates with John Wayne Hibbert for years, we grew up together and were mates, so I’ve always had an involvement with pro boxing” Eaton tells me.  “I’ve helped him out at every fight.  I’ve studied the sport, watched shows, been to shows and seen how they’re run.  My aim was always to work within professional boxing and I feel I’ve adapted to it well.”
It was a chance meeting at a boxing show in London that first saw Lee introduced to the MTK team with the help of a good friend and events partner in MTK London, Adam, being close to the MTK Management,
In his role as Events Manager in the London branch, Eaton is responsible for many aspects of making sure that the shows they put on are not only a success commercially, but also a smooth operation for those both involved and watching.  The branch is still in its infancy, having had three shows in 2017 through March, May and July. 
Envious eyes may be cast from London towards the other regions, where the shows that are put on are aligned to fighters that train out of a localized MTK gym.  But that isn’t Eaton’s style.  Instead he is focused on the success of the shows that he is putting on, and is comfortable that in time a gym will likely end up in London to help add another reason for boxers to sign with MTK Global.  He outlines how it works with having the stable of fighters available to him when it comes to fight night.
“Every fighter is signed to MTK Global, which is the main company, however not all fighters on our shows are.  We work with other Managers and Promoters too and that makes a good mix..  You have regional branches off of MTK Global like in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Scotland.  All are managed by Matthew Macklin, MTK Global is the Management company.”
That name, Matthew Macklin.  One of the rare ones to taste huge success in the ring and leave with his faculties intact, able to strategise a plan for when his fighting days have ended.  The name of the world title challenger and likeable character no doubt adds to the allure or MTK Global.  Many fighters through their career would like to be aligned to such boxing stardom and this provides the opportunity.
As much as the name MTK Global tells you that there is a world-wide reach, the business is also able to support Lee locally.  As he puts it, “anything I need is a phone call away”.  One of those phone calls lead to Eaton introducing his own plans for MTK London that hadn’t been tried within the business; streaming a small hall show live on YouTube.  The concept of doing so is risky in itself.  What if it puts punters off of going, knowing they can watch at home?  What if the stream is poor?  These are all things that Eaton was both familiar with, and had taken into consideration.
“It was my idea to stream the first MTK London show on a trial basis.  I've streamed shows I have run before that have gone down really well with the numbers, so I always thought it was something that could be used in pro boxing.  Due to it being our first show and we didn't want it to affect ticket sales we didn't advertise it until fight night.” 
So is it a case of being flexible with the streaming process?  Knowing that you will do it in advance, but choosing how much to tell people nearer the time?  “The second show we had a bit of bad luck leading up to the show with five or six pull outs and losing 350-500 tickets.  We still streamed it but didn't really advertise it do the streaming numbers were only 1,800."
There is one thing that Eaton is clear on, the old adage of ‘if you build it, the will come’.  This past weekend he put together a show that had many familiar household names for boxing fans.  The names were big and the numbers matched.  Tyler Goodjohn versus Adam Barker, the return of old friend John Wayne Hibbert, Dave Allen, Lerrone Richards.  All faces and CVs that boxing fans will give up their Saturday night to tune in for, as proven in the statistics. 
“On the night we hit 8,800 views and since then has gone past 10,000 on YouTube.  With YouTube streaming the numbers are completely different to on Facebook.  On Facebook all you have to do is flick through and scroll past and it counts as a view.  On YouTube it’s done on IP addresses, so you get true numbers and it doesn’t double count.  You can have 30,000 views on Facebook but it doesn’t mean that many people have watched it.”
So with numbers so high, would he consider looking to commoditise the channel in some form, build a pay wall?  “At the minute I don’t think so.  I think the reason that it has gone down so well is because it’s free boxing.”
And it has gone down well.  Very well.  Twitter on Saturday night had glowing reviews of the fights, the production, the atmosphere, the package.  Boxing fans are renowned for using social media to voice their dislike of a product, but almost universally the show from the Brentwood Centre was met with approval.  Do the bosses at MTK Global support Lee’s strategy?  “Yeah massively.  It’s a massive team effort to do it and anything like this has to go through Head Office as it is a big company.”
One particular area that garnered praise was the commentary team of Simon Clayton and John Murray.  The two northern accents provided both insight and light relief through the evening, a different approach to voicing boxing that fans took to.  What did Eaton make of it?
“John Murray is a good friend of mine and I do a lot of charity work with him.  Simon Clayton, everyone in boxing knows him and I thought he was great on commentary.  They bounced off each other; John is the technical one being a boxing coach, whereas Si was doing the interacting on Twitter.  I thought they did brilliantly.”

“The feedback we have got from social media on the show in general has gone through the roof after the weekend.  As long as MTK are happy then I’m happy and they were over the moon.  The stream went down really well which was great too.  The only issue we had was through the end of David Oliver-Joyce and the start of Tyler Goodjohn; the reason that I heard is that the internet in the venue dropped out.  I’m not sure why but it’s something that we need to correct.”
The plans for the new season are clear from Eaton; build on a solid first year.  With two shows booked at the Brentwood Centre already (October 7th and December 1st) the regional branch will look to spread out across London.  “We may look at different areas” says Eaton. 
The conversation turn to the current hot topic in boxing; TV deals.  With many different channels offering a platform for the sport, is it something that Eaton and MTK have eye on in the future?  “The TV deal is every Promoter’s hope.  I couldn’t tell you if MTK will get it, but down the line that is our aim to showcase the fighters and the shows.  For now for MTK London we need to find our feet and see what we can do.”
It’s a grounded and sensible view.  One that is refreshing in a world where the faces of boxing shows often sound like they are sprinting before they have crawled.  Presumably though, with such a success being made of the YouTube streaming, it will allow a case to be built should they ever be in a position to pitch to TV Executives?
“The numbers from YouTube would hopefully give us a good base with a TV deal in time, almost a case study.  Our next show clashes with a Matchroom Manchester show, so we’re expecting a drop in numbers.  But then we may find people watch ours on a laptop and the Matchroom one on the TV but we need to build a card that is worth it.”
What is clear from speaking to Eaton is that he is a man who knows his place.  That isn’t an insult, not a criticism.  It is equally true of how he speaks about MTK as to how he speaks about the shows.  MTK Global is the machine, Lee Eaton and MTK London a cog.  They all work together for the same goals.  His grounded and honest approach to the first six month putting on shows is refreshing, yet there is also an obvious desire and ambition to grow from where they stand.  The cards will get bigger, the streaming figures will likely increase and MTK London will look to expand across the capital.  If MTK Global is the juggernaut, MTK London is the red bus.  At its wheel and in control sits Lee Eaton.