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Page last updated at 06:13 GMT, Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Warren comes out punching

The Return of the Magnificent Seven/Amir Khan v Marcos Maidana, WBA light-welterweight
Venues: Liverpool Echo Arena/Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas Date: Saturday 11 December Coverage: Live on Sky Box Office from 2000 GMT and BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website from 2100

Frank Warren

By Ben Dirs

"The secret of my success? Drive, ambition, pig-headedness - and not taking 'no' for an answer." Frank Warren

Anyone who doubts the talent of Frank Warren should consider the words of Carl Froch, who regained his WBC super-middleweight crown with a superb victory over Germany's Arthur Abraham last month. A victory hardly anyone saw, because it wasn't on the telly.

"It's about time British broadcasters got their act together and got me on," said Froch. "I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but the fans and general public are missing out on a fantastic talent."

Indeed they are - without a shadow of a doubt Froch has delivered more value than any other British fighter over the past two years - but surely Nottingham's finest must realise things would be very different if only he had been blowing his trumpet in Warren's band.

"There are guys who understand it," Warren, who will celebrate 30 years as a licensed boxing promoter with a blockbuster bill in Liverpool on Saturday, told BBC Sport.

"Naz [Naseem Hamed] got it early on, and Nigel [Benn] got it up to a point. What I mean by 'getting it' is you have to give something back. That's the business, you've got to play the game."

Warren, now 58, has been playing the game since 1 December 1980, when he made a first - and, by his own admission, disastrous - foray into licensed promoting.

The Benn-McClellan fight was one of the most exciting fights, one of the most brutal fights and one of the most tragic events I've been involved with. It did lead me to question a few things

Frank Warren

He explained: "Before that I promoted the National Boxing Council, fights outside the Boxing Board of Control's [BBBofC's] jurisdiction. I was invited by the BBBofC to take a licence out - they probably wanted me inside the tent instead of outside.

"But it was tough, it was a closed shop. There was a cartel operating then [including Jarvis Astaire and Mickey Duff] which was to the detriment of everyone.

"ITV didn't show domestic boxing, it was only the BBC, and there were only two venues to promote, the Albert Hall and Wembley, and the cartel had them all tied up. So I went and found this hotel in Bloomsbury.

"It was Otis Gordon against Jerry Martin, two American cruiserweights, and I lost a lot of money. It was one of the worst fights you'd ever seen and the place was empty - you could have driven a double-decker bus around the place and not run anyone over."

Warren eventually sued for restraint of trade and won, the first victory in a raft of courtroom bouts to come, taking in litigation against media outlets, fallouts with fighters and fellow promoters, the failure of the bedevilled London Arena and a shooting at the hands of a masked gunman, who remains very much at large.

You might expect Warren, a product of 'old' Islington (not to be confused with the 'new' Islington of 'progressive' politics and tapas bars), to be a little bit intimidating, a little bit lary. But take away the Rolls-Royce built like a bus and the George Raft suits and he is courteous and unassuming, even vulnerable at times.

Frank Warren and Ricky Hatton
Ricky Hatton split from Warren in 2005

Asked if boxing can be a heartbreaking game to be in, Warren replied: "Yeh, it can be, because you can get very close to people, and that's sometimes a lack of professionalism.

"You trust what someone says, maybe on the back of a handshake, and you do feel let down. I don't deal with that too well. Maybe it's something lacking in me, I don't know."

Joe Calzaghe split with Warren in 2008, claiming he was owed $4.5m (£3m) from his fight with Bernard Hopkins. Warren counterclaimed for compensation, alleging Calzaghe had broken a verbal agreement to fight for him again, only for a judge to rule in the fighter's favour and order Warren's company, Sports Network Ltd, to pay the Welshman £1.8m.

"It was sad what happened with Joe," said Warren, "I regret it, and I know he regrets it. My best night in boxing was probably his fight against Mikkel Kessler [Calzaghe outpointed the Dane in 2007]. In 1999 I said this fella will be the fighter of the decade, and people were laughing about it, and that was his crowning moment."

Despite the high profile tiffs, Warren denies boxing is any more cynical than other sports. "It's not just in boxing that people fall out with each other," he argued. Or as legendary boxing writer AJ Liebling put it: "In any art the prodigy presents a problem."

Warren added: "I've promoted hundreds of fighters, some of the biggest names in the sport. Nigel Benn left for a while, came back and in his autobiography said he should never have gone, which was nice. I walked away from Naz because I couldn't stand what was going on with his brothers, who knew nothing about the game, but he rings me once a week and is on record as saying he should never have left.

When I'm sat at ringside, I still find myself thinking, 'what a great night this is'

Frank Warren

"Ricky Hatton I wasn't very close to, but I felt I delivered the best night he had in his career when he beat Kostya Tszyu [in 2005]. Everything after that was an anti-climax, he never fulfilled his potential because he had a crazy lifestyle outside the ring. It's very sad, but I've got a great relationship with others - Frank Bruno, Steve Collins, lots of them."

As for the stereotype of boxing as a crooked sport, Warren was unequivocal: "Boxing's a well-regulated sport, it's not a bent sport, that's a perception. Look at cricket, look at football, look at rugby, horse racing, snooker, they've all had these terrible, proven scandals of people fixing things, gambling on matches, but it doesn't happen in boxing, even in the age of tabloid journalism.

"I was at The Oval before the story broke about Pakistan and spot-fixing and some old boy went to me, 'oh, you're that boxing chappie - I used to watch Henry Cooper fight but I don't go any more, it's all gone bent'. But you know what? Everyone who was watching that cricket match, everyone who paid all that money, they were all being screwed. So cynicism, it's everywhere."

Still, Warren admitted there have been times he has taken stock and asked himself "why am I doing this?", not least after Benn's savage encounter with Gerald McClellan in 1995, when the American suffered extensive brain damage.

"That was one of the most exciting fights, one of the most brutal fights and one of the most tragic events I've ever been involved with," said Warren, "and it did lead me to question a few things.

"But it's a love-hate relationship. At the moment I've got a lot of enthusiasm for it - when I'm sat at ringside, I still find myself thinking, 'what a great night this is'."

When Amir Khan became the latest fighter to leave Warren in January, some wondered whether the now veteran promoter had much tread left in his tyres. But as Saturday's show will demonstrate, Warren rarely stays in the pits for long.

Olympic champion James DeGale is challenging for the British title at the Liverpool Echo Arena in only his ninth fight. Fellow Olympians Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders are also on the bill, as are light-heavyweight Nathan Cleverly, middleweight Matt Macklin and welterweight Kell Brook, all on the verge of world title shots.

Thirty years after setting up shop there is still no-one better than Warren at moving fighters and making them money. Other promoters exist, but take it from DeGale and Chisora - and Froch - you would have to be half-mad, put frankly, to go with anyone else.



see also
Chisora mocks champion Klitschko
06 Dec 10 |  Boxing
Hamed praises 'chilling' Johnson
05 Dec 10 |  Boxing
Froch eager for greater exposure
01 Dec 10 |  Boxing
Masterful Froch reclaims WBC belt
27 Nov 10 |  Boxing
Lakatos vows to 'punish' Cleverly
30 Nov 10 |  Boxing
Haye writes off Chisora chances
20 Oct 10 |  Boxing
DeGale to face Smith in December
14 Oct 10 |  Boxing
Jennings beaten by Brook on cuts
18 Sep 10 |  Boxing
Calzaghe ends Warren association
24 Jun 08 |  Boxing
Warren drops Hatton legal action
04 Sep 06 |  Boxing
McClellan's struggle continues
20 Feb 03 |  Boxing


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