By Frank Warren
THE doors of the Royal Albert Hall will swing open again tonight as professional boxing makes its return to the London landmark for the first time this century.
I promoted the last world title show at the venue 13 years ago when Mexican great Marco Antonio Barrera defended his crown.
But the return is tinged with sadness because one of Britain’s most popular boxers, Terry Spinks — who won the British featherweight title at the Albert Hall — passed away this week after a long illness.
Spinks was only 18 when he won Olympic gold in Melbourne in 1956 and returned home a hero.
He boxed three times at the Albert Hall and won the British title by stopping Bobby Neil. The final fight of his 49-fight career was at the Hall and he bowed out with an eighth round stoppage of Johnny Mantle 1962.
And he would be delighted to see his sport back at the historic venue.
I’m a keen believer in moving with the times and I tend to stage my events at modern multi-purpose arenas like the O2 and Liverpool Echo.
But it’s still special to return to a venue which is steeped in history.
It’s a fantastic arena to watch boxing in because of the oval seating arrangement.
Everyone has a clear uninterrupted view of the ring and like London’s other famous boxing venue, the York Hall, the crowd are close to the action.
The first championship fight took place in the Albert Hall in March 1920 and the venue got the Royal seal of approval a year later when the Prince of Wales was ringside to watch Peter Herman KO Welsh legend Jimmy Wilde in the 17th round.
Among the greats who have fought there are Frank Bruno, Alan Minter, Joe Calzaghe, Sir Henry Cooper and Naseem Hamed.
I’ve promoted many great nights there with exciting fighters like Naz, Barrera, Nigel Benn and Danny Williams and now a new generation of talent can develop in the historic surroundings.
WBO light-heavyweight champ Nathan Cleverly was supposed to headline tonight, but he had to withdraw because of a viral infection.
Instead, unbeaten Olympic talent Billy Joe Saunders will now top the card when he challenges for the vacant Commonwealth middleweight title against Tony Hill.
Saunders, from Hatfield, is unbeaten in 12 fights with eight knockouts and has been looking better and better.
But he’s in a tough fight against Southampton’s Hill, who hasn’t been stopped yet.
ALL the action will be live and exclusive tonight on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546).
No big deal for Ricky
RICKY HATTON tweeted “if you want loyalty buy a dog” when he found out this week that his contract with Sky Sports will not be renewed next season.
When I left ITV for Sky in 1995 many people said I was mad. They reckoned that a star could not be built on Sky.
But I promoted Hatton and his professional career from the beginning on the channel.
That went all the way through to him beating Kostya Tszyu for the world title and it delivered some of Sky’s best ever viewing figures.
Hatton’s fight with Floyd Mayweather, alone, delivered more than a million buy-ups on Sky Box Office.
Joe's gym for sale
JOE FRAZIER’S old gym in Philadelphia is up for sale at nearly $1million.
The world heavyweight legend, who died last year, lived in the residential loft for many years.
Manny Pacqs 'em in
“HE tried his luck, but he wasn’t good enough as far as we were concerned.”
That was the verdict of then Filipino ABA president Manuel Lopez when Manny Pacquiao tried out for his country’s Olympic team.
The eight-time world champion is proof a gold medal doesn’t ensure you become a world champion — Britain has yet to have an Olympic champion to win a world title.
Lopez says boxing in the Philippines is at a strange point.
Athough heightened by the phenomenal success of Pacquiao, boxers are opting for the potential financial rewards of the professionals rather than the pride and glory of amateur boxing.