By Frank Warren
Last Monday it gave me tremendous pleasure to announce the ‘Rule Britannia’ promotion which will feature several of our elite stars in high-grade title fights at Wembley Arena on Saturday 16th March.
Top of the bill pitches Scotland’s WBO lightweight king Ricky Burns in a lip smacking unification showdown with IBF Champion Miguel Vasquez of Mexico. It provides the 29 year old from Coatbridge with a gilt-edged opportunity to surpass lightweights Ken Buchanan and Jim Watt as the most decorated Scottish boxer since the war.
All this nonsense about Burns swerving Cincinnati megaphone Adrien Broner, the WBC champion who now defends against Welshman Gavin Rees in Atlantic City on 16th February, makes me laugh. Ricky simply declined that date – not the fight – because he felt wasn’t given adequate time to prepare correctly, something he rightly never compromises. He intends beating Broner, not just simply turning up for the dough.
That fight will happen, home or abroad, provided both continue to win and I remain confident that my man will be triumphant. Cynics please note that, in his last three gigs, Burns has done a job on world grade opposition in Michael Katsidis, Paulus Moses and Kevin Mitchell. His competition level far exceeds Broner’s. Anyway, adding Senor Vasquez’s IBF strap would certainly strengthen Ricky’s bargaining power when the time comes to negotiate.
Nevertheless, we’re taking nothing for granted. At 26, his pending opponent from Guadalajara will turn up fresh and famished. Vasquez has previously boxed eight times in the US plus once in Nicaragua so is no stranger to foreign rings and, at 5ft 10in tall, is one of the very few lightweights who can match Burns for size.
The three reverses on his 36 fight slate all came on points against two men who are not just reigning world champions in heavier weight classes but also in just about everybody’s top ten pound-for-pound listing.
Tim Bradley, recent conqueror of Manny Pacquiao, beat Vasquez in 2007 while Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez managed a split decision over his compatriot on Vasquez’s 2006 debut. The brilliant WBC light-middle king then repeated the trick – this time unanimously – in 2008.
Vasquez is unbeaten in five years since, first breaking into world class in 2009 when he outpointed Breidis Prescott – the Columbian who wiped out Amir Khan in just 54 seconds!
He captured the vacant IBF belt against a Korean in August 2010 and has successfully retained on five occasions. However, all championship wins have lasted the full trip. Burns, trust me, shall be the puncher in this spat and I'm very confident he can win.
A talent loaded support card is headed by WBO light-heavyweight king Nathan Cleverly’s mandatory defence against Munich based Serb Robin Krasniqi. Many expected the fight to land in Germany but a winning purse bid of a cool half a million dollars secured my man home court for what is sure to be a tough test against a 25 year old who’s won his last 38 on the bounce, including stoppages in the last four.
Expect a proper battle but Nathan knows a comprehensive win shall edge him closer to the unification fight he craves. And as I’ve shown with Burns, I deliver.
To entice the London fight crowd, I’ve presented world rated Hammersmith super-middle George Groves with an opportunity to add the vacant European title to the British and Commonwealth belts that are already in his locker.
He meets Italian based Senegalese Mouhamed Ali Ndiaye, rated eighth by the WBC and whose only loss in 23 was a 12 round split to Lolenga Mock, the Congan who once had David Haye on the canvas. No gimme, then.
Again I won the purse bids to provide Groves with every advantage. He’s already closing fast on the mandatory slot to Berlin-based WBO boss Arthur Abraham. However, George is still only 24, still developing, and another couple of fights over the next six months won’t harm before he takes the big plunge.
Further down, heavyweight Dereck ‘Del Boy’ Chisora, suitably contrite and rehabilitated after attending an anger management course, shall be hoping to resume his career in a non-title 10 rounder, subject to the Boxing Board restoring his licence.
Norfolk’s Liam Walsh, fully recuperated from the car crash which scuppered a world title challenge to Burns in December, returns with a really testing Commonwealth super-feather defence against Canada’s unbeaten Logan McGuinness.
Completing the card, Romford’s Tony Conquest gets a quick chance to atone for his recent first round stoppage defeat to Rotherham’s Neil Dawson when the pair collide in a ‘repeat or revenge’ rematch over 12 rounds for the WBO International title.
I love nothing better than delivering mega events which get the general sporting public enthusing about our sport, similar to the interest generated by the big finals in other sports. This is right up there with the best indoor promotions that I’ve staged in the capital; great fights at an historic venue.
Those who intend to be a part of easily the biggest domestic promotion in the first quarter of 2013 shall need to get in early. A 12,000 sell-out is almost certain.
The bill, which reeks of quality from top to tail, will be broadcast live and exclusive on BoxNation in the UK and Epix in the USA.
Muhammad Ali, who was 71 this week, did many remarkable things inside and outside of the ring in his career, but probably one of the least know about is when he secured the release of US hostages in Iraq.
A new ESPN documentary Ali: The Mission delves into Ali’s journey to Iraq in 1990 after they invaded Kuwait under Saddam Hussein and took hostages to use as “human shields” to deter US military strikes.
After beating the likes of fearsome heavyweights Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Frazier, facing a crazy dictator like Saddam Hussein to negotiate the hostages releases must have been one of his biggest challenges.
He succeeded and on 16 January 1991, six weeks before Operation Desert Storm, Ali brought 15 hostages back home.
Bernard Hopkins turned 48 this week and he’s aiming to break his own record of being the oldest fighter to win a world title when he faces IBF World Light-Heavyweight Champion Tavoris Cloud on March 9th at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn.
The Executioner has promised to put his former promoter Don King, who promotes Cloud, out of business when he beats him.
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