By Terence Dooley
Tony Bellew’s protracted separation from former manager Frank Warren drew to a close on Tuesday when the BBBoC’s stewards ruled that their August 8 decision to rubberstamp the Liverpudlian light-heavyweight’s split from his manager was consistent with the contender’s claims that Warren had breached the terms of their Boxer/Manager Agreement.
Warren confirmed that he was going through the appeal process when speaking to this website in August shortly after we exclusively revealed that the Board had ruled in Bellew’s favour after the original hearing, but he will now have to take his case to the High Court if he wants to continue to represent his erstwhile charge, which would result in an expensive legal battle for the veteran fight figure.
Bellew’s last fight under Warren came in October of last year, a majority decision defeat to Nathan Cleverly for the WBO 175lb title at his home city’s ECHO Arena. This fight planted the seeds of their eventual split, as “Bomber” believed that he was entitled to a rematch and has since revealed that he was promised a return in the event of a close fight.
Until this point, the relationship between the two had seemed strong on the surface. However, the Board, when considering the evidence for Bellew’s decision to determine his contract on May 21, heard that Bellew believed Warren had been in dereliction of his managerial duties as early as May 2011, when Bellew agreed to take on Cleverly at short-notice for the Welshman’s newly-acquired WBO belt after his original opponent, the by now former WBO champion Jürgen Brähmer, withdrew from a scheduled May 21 meeting at London’s O2 Arena with less than a week to go before their world title fight.
Bellew travelled to London for a fiery press conference on the Thursday of that week only for the BBBoC to rule that he was too heavy to safely make 175lbs the following morning after a check weigh-in later that day. Bellew, though, had argued before the Board that he had felt compelled to put himself through the wringer to shift the necessary poundage, but the BBBoC ruled that both Warren and Dean Powell, Frank Warren Promotion’s matchmaker, did not put undue pressure on the fighter to lose weight. They concluded that Bellew’s desire to make the stipulated check weight in order to take the fight was the driving force behind a prolonged period in the saunas during Bellew’s time in London.
On the other hand, Warren’s counter claim that Bellew had signed an addendum to his promotional agreement after the weigh-in for the Cleverly fight on October 14 2011, when Bellew was feeling the strains of weight-making, was also thrown out.
The fate of the whole saga, therefore, came down to the issue of Bellew’s Commonwealth title, which was vacated in November 2011 only for Bellew, 18-1 (12), to reveal that the decision to give up the belt had been taken on his behalf by Powell. This argument was upheld by the Board and was a clear breach of the Boxer/Manager Agreement given that Powell works for Frank Warren Promotions and was acting in that capacity when sending Simon Block, the Commonwealth Council’s Secretary, confirmation of the decision to relinquish the belt via a fax that had a Frank Warren Promotions letterhead on it and was sent on November 10. Ovill McKenzie and Jeff Evans contested the vacant title the following night.
It effectively meant that Warren, as Bellew’s manager, could not satisfactorily argue that he was not acting in his fighter’s best interests. Especially when an employee made the decision to give the belt up on Bellew’s behalf based on obtaining verbal consent from the then-champion, who argued it came under duress, on the day of the weigh-in for the Cleverly fight. On this day, Bellew was erroneously told that he had to vacate the title as per Commonwealth Council rules only to discover that this would only apply if he had won the WBO world title.
When the title was vacated in November, according to the Board’s ruling, it was not done with Bellew’s explicit consent and this lack of permission ultimately paved the way for the determination of the managerial contract between Bellew and Warren in May of this year. Indeed, Bellew served notice of his intention to determine his contract on the same day that he was told his title had been relinquished on his behalf.
Still, and before the dust had time to settle on this decision, the Board upheld Warren’s right to claim 25% of the fighter’s purse from his British title defence against Danny McIntosh on April 27 of this year as the contest fell within the period of time in which Warren was still, officially, Bellew’s manager and was, according to clause 10.2 (iii) of the Boxer/Manager Agreement, entitled to his percentage of the purse.
In boxing terms, then, the consideration of the dual appeals resulted in a technical draw. Warren’s appeal against the decision to uphold the determination of Bellew’s contract was dismissed and Bellew’s appeal against Warren’s right to remuneration from the McIntosh fight was thrown out. It means that Bellew walks away with his destiny — call it an entitlement to pursue his career how he sees fit — in his hands.
Tuesday’s decision is also a clarion call for unhappy fighters, who have always baulked at the idea of determining their contracts, fearing a period on the shelves. They may now follow Bellew’s lead and attempt to walk away from their contracts if they feel the people that they employ to look after their interests are not doing a good enough job.
It is not quite a boxing Bosman, then, yet Bellew’s case could embolden other professionals and will leave many managers scouring the terms of the Boxer/Manager Agreement to make sure that they are doing everything they can to honour all the terms. In essence it could make fighters the boss men, if they are prepared to fight for the right to control their own destinies.
Read about how BoxingScene has followed the Bellew-Warren case from the start and from both sides:
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