By Frank Warren
There will be a fistic marathon tonight, on both sides of the pond, in Las Vegas, probably the most meaningful international fight of the year thus far takes place at the MGM Grand when Tim Bradley and Manny Pacquiao resume hostilities for the former’s WBO World Welterweight title.
Both are in the upper echelons of the sport’s mythical ‘pound-for-pound’ rankings. They met previously at the same venue in June 2012 with Bradley eloping with a split decision which mystified everybody. ‘Pacman’ appeared to have won at a canter.
Whoever triumphs tonight would be a prime candidate to secure an eight figure pay cheque – and public humiliation - against Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, easily the sport’s premier fighter.
Whilst in London nine of the brightest young prospects in the south feature on my bonanza ‘Power of London’ promotion at The Copper Box Arena in Hackney.
WBO European Super Middleweight Champion Frank Buglioni, Commonwealth cruiserweight king Tony Conquest, welterweight Bradley Skeete and super-bantamweight Lewis Pettitt all feature in title action.
The undercard is garnished by Chris Eubank Jnr, former two time ABA champion Simon Barclay – a recent spar hand to Wladimir Klitschko – Georgie Kean, a huge ticket seller from my manor, Islington, plus Tom Baker and Gary Corcoran, two talented travelling lads from families with rich fighting pedigrees.
All will be vying to outdo each other to become the next big thing. Hopefully, in time, one or more will evolve into the big star that the capital craves.
Over the years, I’ve made my mark by developing gifted youngsters from scratch and helping to mould them into world champions. Nigel Benn, Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan plus many others travelled that journey with me.
Naseem Hamed and Joe Calzaghe worked with me from the formative stages of their careers.
Developing a fighter from promising amateur into a championship grade operator is a precarious business which requires the time, finance and more importantly patience.
Prior to adding a young starlet to my roster, I always analyse whether they have the core tools required to cut it in the far harsher professional playground.
The skill and speed needed to medal at major tournaments in the amateur code are just two elements. Does the youngster possess the scope to develop the strength, stamina, resilience and dedication crucial to shine at 12 round championship level?
None of Benn, Eubank, Hamed, Calzaghe or Hatton even made it to the Olympics. Similarly, no British Olympic gold medallist has ever advanced to a professional world title. Amateur and professional boxing are completely different sports.
Ideally, as they serve their apprenticeship, I’ll keep the youngster as busy as possible working with my matchmaker, we match them with a variety of opponents to help develop every aspect of the prospect’s game. They need to be exposed against southpaws, defensive crabs, movers, sluggers and, later on, even a big puncher.
Nigel Benn fought 12 times in his fresher year as a pro (blitzing eight opponents in the opening round) and, despite only nominal amateur success, ‘The Dark Destroyer’ was ready to be unleashed for the Commonwealth title within 15 months of his debut.
However, those who’ve secured lucrative contracts on the back of major amateur achievement – such as Amir Khan and James DeGale fight far less frequently as it’s expensive to put them on as much I would like to. Sometimes this can be counter-productive as it limits the experience they acquire.
It’s become increasingly important for fighters to develop themselves commercially.
Sponsorship can be hard to acquire and endorsements seldom come from day one. Fighters need to put themselves about to sell tickets, from which they take a sizeable commission.
Ricky Hatton, easily the biggest draw in my time in boxing, sold just three tickets for his debut. Subsequently, he put himself about a little too earnestly in the watering holes of Manchester. It proved thirsty work which subsequently led to weight problems and a shortened period at top flight.
Frank Buglioni, one of this evening’s headline acts, is a more grounded kid who already shifts close to a thousand tickets each time he fights. It can be done.
Of course, progression doesn’t only occur before the public eye. Young fighters receive much of their schooling behind closed gymnasium doors where, hopefully, they’ll receive expert tuition from the best coaches and profit from quality sparring against seasoned pros.
Some learn quicker than others and knowing the right moment to step them up, and the right champion to challenge, is a fine art. That’s my job.
All can be watched tonight live on BoxNation.
Enzo Maccarinelli completely vindicated my decision to risk him at world championship level again last weekend.
After six brutal stoppage losses, there was widespread anxiety within the business when I delivered ‘Big Macc’ a WBA World light-heavyweight shot against Germany’s Juergen Braehmer in Rostock.
Coach Gary Lockett wisely withdrew his man after five rounds whilst Enzo was sat on his stool – with his right eye grotesquely swollen and closed.
But not before the Bonymaen bomber had acquitted himself with great distinction and valour; absorbing some heavy punches and he hurt the quality champion on several occasions.
Who knows what might have happened had the freak injury been averted and the fight been allowed to run its natural course? I am currently working on a rematch for Enzo.
Belfast super-bantam Carl Frampton looks increasingly like the real deal with each passing outing.
Last Friday, live on BoxNation, ‘The Jackal’ wiped out Mexico’s former two weight world champion Hugo Cazares with a single fizzing left hook in round two of a WBC final eliminator.
The Ulsterman attracted a 9,000 sell out at the Odyssey Arena in his home city to witness the carnage.
No one generates a bigger din than the fight folk of Belfast but my dollar is on Frampton to defrock reigning champion Leo Santa Cruz – a fine California based Mexican – regardless of location. Frampton has seriously heavy hands.
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