Setting up Wembley for Joshua-Klitschko in less than two days

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LONDON — Britain’s biggest fight since the second World War will need to be set up in just a day and a half and require 2,000 support staff to manage it.

Where: Wembley Stadium, London
When: Saturday, April 29
TV: Showtime, 4:15 p.m. ET (live); HBO 11 p.m. ET (tape delay)

When Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko touch gloves just after 10 p.m. local time Saturday at Wembley Stadium, they will do so in front of the record-equalling crowd of 90,000 for a boxing event in Britain.

That number will be 10,000 more than the number who saw the all-British encounter between Carl Froch and George Groves, also at Wembley Stadium, two years ago.

“Internationally it’s bigger than Froch-Groves II, and nationally as well,” Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn told ESPN.

Negotiations to make Joshua-Klitschko were smooth, and the most challenging aspect of staging the show will be setting up the ring and seats on the pitch in less than two days.

“Logistically, building the event in a day and a half will be the most difficult bit,” Frank Smith, Matchroom Sport’s head of boxing, told ESPN.

Smith, 24, began working at Matchroom as a tea boy eight years ago but as the company’s head of boxing will play a leading role in coordinating the multimillion pound event this weekend.

“We’ve got nearly 800 production staff to get it ready across two days, and that doesn’t include what Wembley bring in for security.

“With stewards, security and catering it will be 2,000 people working on it because you’ve probably got 600 security as well as 140 police officers.

“They only have a day and a half to do it because of the pitch at Wembley … they don’t want to damage it. They won’t let us have any longer than that.

“They start at 7 a.m. on Thursday laying out the pitch, and on 6 a.m. on Friday we go in and do our work, with the lighting, sounds. We then have to be out of there by midday on Sunday,” Smith said.

“There’s only seven of us full-time working on the show at Matchroom, but then there’s the production staff and contractors who will put up the lighting and seating.

As well as being the biggest boxing crowd in the UK since 1939, it could also break the UK pay-per-view television record (1.15 million).

Overseas, the fight is also of interest. American broadcasters HBO and Showtime did a deal to share rights to screen a fight for just the third time. Showtime and HBO worked together on Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao in 2015 and Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson in 2002, which both took place in America.

The clash for Joshua’s IBF world heavyweight title, as well as the vacant WBA belt, will be broadcast in over 140 countries.

“IMG are our broadcast partner, and they say this is a bigger event than anything you have seen, and they have been working on events like Mayweather-Pacquiao,” Smith told ESPN.

“We’ve got a lot more broadcasters than we had for the Carl Froch-George Groves fight [also at Wembley Stadium in May 2015].

“At one point we had 36,000 people in a queue trying to buy tickets. We could have sold it out twice over.”

Matchroom’s experience of staging the world super middleweight title fight rematch between Froch and Groves has helped.

“It’s like a carbon copy of the Froch-Groves fight,” Smith told ESPN. We get on well with Wembley and the local council, and we have done a few more outdoor shows since then as well.”

There have been 650 press applications for the event from television, radio and written media for 250 places available at ringside and in the press box, situated in the stands. The press attending come from 20 different countries, making this the biggest international fight ever to take place in Britain.

One thing the promoter of the event has no control over is the unpredictable British weather: so far, just cloudy on Saturday.


You make the call:

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