By Rick Reeno
Back on January 15, British promoter Frank Warren was overwhelmed with a barrage of phone calls from several American promoters. Warren, obviously in the dark, was shocked to hear that one of his star fighters, WBA junior welterweight champion Amir Khan, had signed a promotional agreement with American-based Golden Boy Promotions. After Khan had destroyed Dmitriy Salita in one round last December, he told reporters at the post-press conference that he planned to invade America - with Warren.
Khan won a silver medal in 2004 Olympics and turned pro in 2005 after signing a promotional agreement with Warren. After five years and 25 fights, Warren was blindsided by Khan's decision to leave. Two days after hearing the news from others, Khan's father Shah called Warren - and the conversation was far from pleasant. To date, Warren and Amir have not spoken.
"I was shocked. We had spoken [after the Salita fight] about going to the States together and he said it himself at the [post-fight] press conference. It was a Friday, I got calls from a few promoters telling me that Amir Khan is signing with Golden Boy. On Sunday morning, at 8:30am, I get a call from Amir’s father. He was trying to tell me about it and I told him “I’ve known since Friday,’ Warren told BoxingScene.com.
According to Warren, he never received any prior notice from Amir. At the time of Khan's departure, Warren had secured agreements for two lucrative fights. Both opponents agreed to fight Khan in the UK, and both HBO and Showtime were interested in showcasing the young Brit.
"I reached an agreement with Universum for Marcos Maidana to fight over here. I had an agreement with [Showtime's VP of Sports Programming] Ken Herschman and Gary Shaw for Amir to fight Timothy Bradley for a lot of money," Warren said.
When Khan finally spoke with the British press and disclosed his reasons for leaving Warren, he said Golden Boy could take his career to the next level in the United States. Warren found the comments insulting.
"Amir made 10 million pounds with me [$15.5 USD]. Everyone forgets that I brought Naseem Hamed to Madison Square Garden to fight Kevin Kelley and broke records for a featherweight fight and then took him to Atlantic City and I was the one who walked away [from Hamed]. I brought Joe Calzaghe to Las Vegas for Bernard Hopkins. And the only reason it took so long to bring Joe Calzaghe over is because he refused to get on a plane. You can ask [former Showtime Boxing department head] Jay Larkin, we tried to get him to come over and he refused to get on the plane," Warren said.
After Khan's contract expired with Warren in 2009, they continued working together with nothing more than a handshake agreement and mutual trust holding them together. Warren learned his lesson.
"No more of these handshake deals. All of my fighters have resigned with me. I'm not doing any more handshake deals. I told all of my fighters," Warren said.
Warren hopes everything works out for his former fighter but he doesn't think Amir made the right decision by going to Golden Boy. He doesn't think they are capable of doing what is necessary to take Khan to the next level.
"It’s a shame because he still needs work. I don't think Golden Boy Promotions is in the business of building up fighters. Bob Arum is good at that but I don’t think they [Golden Boy] are capable of that," Warren said.
Khan's American debut is still being negotiated for May 15. The frontrunner opponent is still former champion Paulie Maliganggi. The fight will be televised on HBO in the United States - but in the UK the fight will be carried on pay-per-view at 4-5am in the morning.
Warren can't believe they are actually going to put that fight on pay-per-view in the UK, especially considering that most British fans are familiar with Malignaggi for two particular fights - the rematch with Lovemore N'Dou, which took place on a Ricky Hatton undercard - and the fight with Hatton.
"The fight with Lovemore N'Dou was a stinker and then he had the fight with Hatton and that was a stinker," Warren said with a laugh.
With Khan behind him, Warren looks to the future with a loaded stable of fighters, including Kevin Mitchell, James DeGale, Kell Brook, Nathan Cleverly and several others.
"Kevin Mitchell is a great fighter and close to a title shot. James DeGale and Kell Brook are very good young fighters. I have no doubt Cleverly will be fighting for a title next year," Warren said.