By Frank Warren
While fighters have to deliver the goods between the ropes, the decisions which their management teams make on their behalf can impact heavily upon the course of their careers.
This was patently evident last weekend in the contrasting cases of lightweights Terence Crawford and Ricky Burns who contested the WBO title in March.
Victor Crawford – saddled by that wise old sage Bob Arum, an octogenarian with over half a century’s involvement in the fight game – opened the defence of his title with the pressure of restoring world championship boxing to his home state of Nebraska after a 42 year drought.
To raise the ante higher, his team gambled on a VOLUNTARY defence against highly touted and previously unbeaten Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa, a former two belt world featherweight champion.
Arum’s faith in the talent and temperament of his ward was completely vindicated when Crawford delivered a sizzling performance to floor the 2004 Olympic champion four times prior to stopping him in round nine of a terrific bout, televised live on the HBO network. A partisan assembly of almost 11,000 turned out to witness.
The US fight media were captivated and overnight the 26 year old from Omaha was elevated from promising world champion to the cusp of superstardom. A colourful background story in which he survived a bullet to the head after a card game turned foul back in 2008 is unlikely to hinder him.
Crawford emphatically cemented his status as the leading light in one of the sport’s traditional divisions and he can expect to dominate at 135lbs for the foreseeable future.
Alternatively, he has the frame to move up in weight and contest lucrative super fights with unbeaten Philadelphia sensation and Amir Khan conqueror Danny Garcia – who Crawford scalped in the amateurs – or even Manny Pacquiao.
Compare Crawford’s current standing with that of Burns who he comprehensively schooled to collect the WBO belt in Glasgow four months back.
The concession of Ricky’s title came just six months after the Scot was dumped and had his jaw snapped in his prior defence, a fortuitous draw with Mexico’s Ray Beltran.
The man I’d steered to two world titles has been bang out of form since we parted. Quite mystifying then that, for his comeback, his present handlers should choose to pair him with an unknown but unbeaten southpaw puncher?!
Montenegro’s Dejan Zlaticanin – buoyed by becoming a father earlier in the day – clubbed Burns to the floor inside the opening 20 seconds and bustled his way to a split but merited decision after 12 rounds in a WBC eliminator.
It was the third successive time that Burns has failed to win. We were reliably informed by his team that forsaking home distractions to undertake a 10 week camp in Essex would invigorate him. He didn’t get a fake tan or set of flashing white hampsteads!
His team talk of a rise to light-welter and future fights outside Scotland where we’re told the pressure is suddenly unbearable. Strange. Fanatical home support has always been one of his biggest attributes.
The reality is that, at 31, it looks like his days at world level are over.
This week I had to make the hard call of convincing Paul Butler to vacate his hard earned IBF bantamweight strap less than a month after he’d acquired it in that epic tussle with Stuey Hall.
Similar to the case with Arum and Crawford, ‘The Baby Faced Assassin’ justified my faith that he had the speed, skill set, engine and movement to topple Hall – a decent champion – and bag a world title in fewer fights than any other Englishman.
The exercise saw Paul acquire world championship status – something which can never be taken from him – and significantly broadened his profile.
I was confident Butler would do a similar number in a unifier with Doncaster’s WBA champion Jamie McDonnell but the Yorkie’s team declined my £200,000 offer.
Although I am confident he would beat McDonnell at this stage in Butler’s career, I felt the concessions Butler would be making in natural size against the other bantamweight elite would put him at a disadvantage, something I am not in the habit of doing with my fighters.
Instead, we’ll drop back down to the 115 lb super-fly division – where Paul was previously world rated by all four major sanctioning bodies – and begin our quest to become the first Englishman since Cornwall’s Ruby Bob Fitzsimmons in 1903 to nab a second world title in a lighter category.
When commissioned with overseeing a fighter’s career, one can never lose sight that it’s a marathon not a sprint.
Last week Floyd Mayweather Jnr, still the sport’s premier fighter at 37, announced that his rematch with Marcos Maidana will take place in Las Vegas on September 13th.
Though the ‘Money’ man – recently declared the world’s richest athlete by Forbes magazine for the third successive year – eloped with a majority decision in their unification match in May, the Argentinean slugger probably landed more clean shots on Mayweather than any fighter since Oscar De La Hoya seven years ago.
The man whose self-given TBE (‘The Best Ever’) moniker gains credence with each passing outing became only the second sportsman in history – after golfer Tiger Woods – to exceed $100 million in annual income; all the more remarkable given he trousers zilch from endorsements!
The money comes in handy in securing every pre-fight advantage. Last week it was reported that, for their initial spat, Mayweather doubled Maidana’s $1.5million purse on the condition that the Buenos Aires brute didn’t fight in his favoured ‘puncher’s gloves! I guess Floyd could afford it.
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