Jimmy Burchfield, president of Classic Entertainment and Sports, Inc. (CES), and cruiserweight contender Matt Godfrey’s promoter, has commented on the postponed Steve Cunningham-Matt Godfrey IBF cruiserweight title fight. The purse bid for Cunningham-Godfrey was won by Don King Productions and originally scheduled for March 19 in Florida and then switched to March 26 in Las Vegas. DKP issued a release March 17 postponing the fight. Main Events tried to resurrect the fight for the same date, but was unable to get Team Godfrey onboard. Burchfield explains why.
“First and foremost, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Matt Godfrey and what he’s done in the sport of boxing both in and outside the ring,” Burchfield said. “He is Captain of Team CES.
“Matt is the kind of fighter boxing needs. Morally and ethically, he’s among the most admirable fighters I’ve ever worked with. I’ve traveled with him as he’s visited sick children in hospitals and spent afternoons at local schools reading to children and setting an example as a positive role model. He comes from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Providence and despite growing up watching some of his best friends end up in jail or murdered, he’s never strayed from the path. He’s always made the right decision. That’s what separates him from other fighters in this business. Corporate America needs fighters to relate to and Matt is one of them.”
“As far as the details of this fight are concerned, I immediately contacted Matt’s manager, Bret Hallenbeck, after Don King postponed the March 26 fight and we called the IBF office together on a conference call to ask what the next step would be,” Burchfield explained. “We were informed by an IBF official that the second-bidder’s check (Main Events) had been returned and that the entire process would have to be repeated. Another purse bid would be held for the fight and the winning bidder would have up to 90 days or sooner to place the fight. When Godfrey’s manager informed Matt of the situation, he immediately broke camp (leaving Connecticut to return home to Rhode Island). Later that day, I received a call from that same IBF official explaining that a mistake had been made. Main Event’s check hadn’t been returned and it was still in the IBF’s office. Main Events would be the promoter. I then received a call from Main Event’s attorney, Pat English, saying there was a chance they could salvage the fight in time for March 26. I called Godfrey’s manager to explain the new developments and he decided that, unless the deal was made 100 percent, he wouldn’t tell Matt anything more. I understood. I had been told it was 95-percent done but, to my disappointment, I wasn’t directly involved in any discussions with ESPN or where the fight was to be held.
“Whether it took several hours or a few days, in Matt’s mind, he was no longer prepared to fight March 26. Our job is to protect our fighter to the fullest and it wouldn’t have been in his best interest to go back to camp when the deal was finalized – after missing that much time – especially when it was so close to the fight date. He was ready to fight Cunningham for the IBF title and but for the DKP’s postponement we would have witnessed a great battle inside the ring on March 26. Unfortunately, because of DKP’s last-minute postponement that battle is now outside the ring.”
The IBF has informed Burchfield that it intends to drop Godfrey from its rating and give the next available contender an opportunity to fight Cunningham for the vacant IBF belt. “Matt has worked hard to get a world title fight and the IBF acknowledged that by rating him No. 3,” Burchfield continued. “If Matt is to lose his dream of fighting for the world title, let him lose it in the ring. We will petition the IBF to reconsider dropping Matt in the rankings, allowing him to fight Cunningham for the title.
“I’m very upset about misinformation that’s been spread around on the Internet. Anyone who has done business with Jimmy Burchfield in the past knows how efficiently and ethically I run my operation. I follow the rules and I’ve specifically followed the rules in this current situation. Furthermore, a legitimate reporter gets both sides of the story and contacts the decision-makers to get the facts straight. Other than Matt, only two people in Godfrey’s camp make decisions and that’s me, his promoter, and his manager, Bret Hallenbeck.
“We were all on a roller coaster ride from the very beginning with repeated delays, lack of communication and misinformation. In a perfect world, Matt would have remained in camp to see how things developed. On the same token, had he been isolated in camp the same way Steve Cunningham was at Big Bear, things would’ve been different. As this event unfolded, however, it was clear that we do not live in a perfect world. With everything else leading up to this point, the second of two postponement announcements – along with the misinformation given by the IBF – was the straw that broke the camel’s back from Matt’s perspective.
“We appreciate the tremendous efforts made by the IBF, ESPN, Main Events, and everyone else involved to try and keep the fight alive. ESPN is one of my favorite networks and has kept boxing alive. We’ve worked together for years, providing them with some of the best, most exciting fights their network has ever broadcasted. Likewise, program director Doug Loughrey worked incredibly hard to keep this fight alive. We also recognize that Steve Cunningham is in this unfortunate position, too, by no fault of his own. Both fighters trained very hard for this fight. This is a fight everyone wants to see. Matt Godfrey is one of the best cruiserweights in the world and will have a fair opportunity to prove that in the ring. We stand by our fighter 100 percent and hope everyone now understands what really happened. I hope this can be resolved. If not, I intend to fight it as hard as I can, even if that means taking it to court.”