By Terence Dooley
Legend has it that Alexander The Great once visited Diogenes of Sinope, a true cynic, in Corinth. Diogenes was basking in the afternoon sun when Alexander approached him to ask if there was anything he could do for him, Diogenes’s reply? “Could you please stand out of my sunlight?”
It can be read as a metaphor on a number of levels. Alexander was the center of the world at that time: he represented politics, culture and society. The sunlight, on this reading, was the light of truth. By stepping into the philosopher’s sunlight, Alexander was distracting Diogenese from the pursuit of the light of truth by blocking his rays.
There is a boxing analogy lurking in there somewhere. The fights themselves are the rays of sunlight, but the stuff that goes on around them often casts a shadow to the extent that we spend most of our time wading through the gloom or with a conflicted viewpoint that is obscured by all the power play and politicking.
Which reminds me, David Haye’s July 14 Upton Park showdown with Dereck Chisora is nearly upon us. However, it will have to go a long way to beat the pre-fight bout of Frank Warren versus, well pretty much everybody as he sought and fought to ensure that Chisora, who he manages, is free to box again and earn some money after the BBBoC opted to withdraw his licence following that unseemly press conference brawl with Haye back in February.
Warren’s battle to make sure his man takes part in the Luxembourg Boxing Federation-licensed fight has seen him defy the Board, who breached their own regulations by threatening to strip any licence holders involved with the show. Only for the BBBoC to rescind their empty threats when it became increasingly clear that the LBF had a strong case when it came to licensing the bout and that it would be nigh on impossible to strip licensees without facing a legal battle down the line.
Sure, the fight itself will not completely regenerate boxing’s fortunes, nor Frank Warren Promotions’s balance sheet – FWP posted net liabilities of £1,289,073 in March 2011 and the bout is being promoted by BoxNation – but it was a statement of intent, not to mention a genius move, from a promoter who has won his fair share of fights. Whatever your thoughts on Haye versus Chisora, the main hope for those involved is that the showdown attracts a lot of interest among armchair fans and a flood of money for BoxNation.
Furthermore, the timing of Tony Bellew’s public statement of his desire to leave Warren, mixed with James DeGale’s declaration that he wants to move on, painted an image of a promoter who is drowning instead of waving. Warren, though, spoke to BoxingScene at length earlier today to outline why he felt it necessary, and justifiable, to allow Chisora to accept a licence from the Luxembourg Boxing Federation.
“I’ll be honest with you, if he [Chisora] was going to go mad, and I’d have found it hard to keep my temper, it was over in Munich [when “Del Boy” fought Vitali Klitschko for the WBC heavyweight title in February],” said Warren.
“My real beef with the BBBoC, and Charlie Giles [The Board’s Chairman], is that we had no representation in Germany. Charlie was in the building, but he didn’t make himself available, he left by the back door, and didn’t even put in a written report. I don’t think Charlie could have stopped Dereck slapping Vitali [at the weigh in], which was a stupid thing to do and Dereck had a £100,000 taken from his purse for it, but he could have done something about the nonsense on the night.
“Charlie should have been in the dressing room supporting the British fighter through all the things that went on. Dean [Powell] will tell you that, you know Dean well, he’s a trade guy and we had all the stuff going on about Wlad being there when Dereck was getting his hands wrapped. If Charlie had of been present, as the chairman of the BBBoC, then a lot of that wouldn’t have happened.
“I have been doing this for a long time and that was the worst situation I’ve faced when taking a fighter away from home. Taking a fighter away from home is tough in general, but that was worse than Mexico City, Italy, all those places that they tell you it is tough to go to.”
He added: “It isn’t me against the Board, the problem is this small cartel of stewards. You have licence holders who don’t know what is going on and they have these various meetings without any votes taking place. These guys are determining the regulations and what goes on. We, as licence holders, have no input whatsoever – and that’s wrong. These guys are not capable. Charlie is not a capable chairman, and he’s proven that.”
As mentioned above, the Board has lurched from one stance to another in regards to the fight, threatening immediate suspension of licenses then withdrawing this threat, which Warren believes undermined their overall stance and authority.
“John Rees is the QC who put out the press release [threatening to strip any licence holders who take part in the Upton Park bill] that the BBBoC had to retract, and you expect better than that from a QC – it went against their own regulations because they said that no one was even entitled to a hearing,” he said.
“They set themselves up as prosecutor, judge and jury, and they set all this up themselves from the start because Dereck wasn’t banned from boxing for any other organization. The EBU have a banned list of boxers – if he’d been banned he’d have been on that list.
“When [former BBBoC General Secretary] Simon Block was leaving the BBBoC, there were a lot of problems at the Holiday Inn Hotel over his leaving party because of drunken, insulting and intimidating behavior that caused the Holiday Inn to write a letter to the BBBoC saying they weren’t welcome there in future. This behaviour came from a steward who is sitting there passing judgment on Dereck’s behaviour [in Germany], which I think is wrong. I think there should have been an independent tribunal – that is where I’m coming from.
“People say ‘The Board’, but if you ask anyone in boxing to name two or three stewards it would be impossible to do that – they should look at that. People know who I am, whether you love me or hate me. Let’s stop talking about ‘The Board’, under Lord Brooks, when he was President, or when Sir David Hopkin was Chairman [from 1983 until becoming President in 1991], it was a different proposition than it is today.
“There are people, a small group of stewards, who have got themselves in a position of power and in my opinion are absolutely ripping the balls away from boxing because they don’t know what they’re doing. Their fingers are not on pulse and they have no idea what is happening.”
Warren also insists that the onus is on the BBBoC to enforce their own boxer-manager agreements rather than creating a climate of delays and uncertainty that the veteran promoter believes could destabilize the sport.
“You made a good point [in this article from earlier this year http://www.boxingscene.com/warren-vs-degale-degale-vs-warren-ins-outs--49140], there was a precedent set in my case against Ambrose Mendy and the reason that case failed, from my point of view, was one reason only – the British board of control contract,” stated Warren.
“If you want to manage a fighter you have to use a Board boxer-manager agreement. That is what was unenforceable, it was the contract that was a problem and after that case the Board spent a lot of money on the contract being modified so that it covered any potential conflict of interest. Bear in mind, my so-called ‘conflict of interest’ at the time was so bad that Nigel came back to me and said that he should have never left me in the first place. The point is, if I have to use your contract and you’re not upholding or regulating it yourself then how on earth can it lead to anything but anarchy? That is what is happening, and it is why people are pissed off, it is why Frank Maloney is pissed off about approaches to his fighters.
“People are thinking, ‘I can approach this guy if everyone else is doing it’. If that is what is happening then it is the end of everything and it all turns to crap. There is this small group of people who have no concept of what is happening in boxing. I’ve been around a long time – I do this day in and day out and have done for many years. This chairman and a couple of stewards, not all of them, some of them have their hearts in the right place, just don’t get it.
“Even if you agree with the Board over Chisora, the one thing you can’t agree with is the way they’ve actually conducted themselves, putting out press statements then rescinding them. Putting out disinformation, Robert Smith was on Newsnight saying Dereck had been banned, which isn’t the case, his licence was withdrawn – a ban means you can’t go anywhere else.
“When Mike Tyson hit John Coyle over here [during the chaos that ensued in 2000 when Tyson applied the finish to Lou Savarese at Glasgow’s Hampden Park venue], the Board considered the case, and I know this because I was involved with it, and the options were either fine him or ban him. If they had banned him he wouldn’t have been able to box in Las Vegas and a lot of territories.
“They didn’t fine or ban Chisora, they just withdrew his licence and then said, ‘We don’t want you in our club, but you can’t go to any other club’. I haven’t tried to find any loopholes or gone through the backdoor, I made it very clear – if he is not banned then he’s not banned. I asked at the hearing where we went next. The Board said Dereck could reapply at any time or, and I asked the question, apply for a licence through another governing body – I’m just clarifying their position.”
“They’ve handled it badly from a PR point of a view, their mismanagement of this should tell everyone that they’re not capable,” added Warren. “They need to do what Barclays Bank did, they had people who made a mess of things so they resigned. If they had the interest of the sport to heart they’d do that.
“I made it very clear at the AGM, I said to Charlie Giles, ‘You should resign’, and Frank Maloney told him that. The stewards should approach Lord Coe about becoming the chairman, slim it down and find an independent panel who can handle any disputes. Appointing yourself judge and jury is wrong by any standards.
“Lord Coe would be great for boxing. He would instill credibility in the sport. At the moment, there’s hardly any respect towards these people. I told Robert Smith himself, when he said what a great chairman Charlie’s become, that: ‘You and I have had three conversations in the last three-months and each time you’ve agreed that Charlie should resign’. Robert huffed and puffed and made out he hadn’t said it, but I told him I don’t tell lies and know we had that conversation. It is like anything, the buck stops where it stops, and Charlie’s the self-appointed chairman who has become a mini Jose Sulaiman, that is where we are with it.”
Factor in Warren’s battle with the Board and Sky’s decision to hand Matchroom all their TV dates, which has not been officially announced yet is widely expected, and the scales appeared to have tipped in Eddie Hearn’s favour recently as he holds the keys to the Sky TV kingdom. With BoxNation and the odd Channel 5 show the only other games in town. Warren, though, outlined the strides made by BoxNation during its short lifespan and pointed out that the subscription channel is prepared to do business with a number of people in a bid to bring as many live fights as possible to our TV screens.
“We have a Klitschko fight on BoxNation this weekend,” said Warren, who used the network’s purchase of Wlad Klitschko versus Tony Thompson to show that even the Klitschkos are pragmatic businessmen when it comes to boxing. “The Klitschkos were very critical of everyone involved in this promotion, including BoxNation, and they’ve sold their latest show to BoxNation, so that will be a good night.”
As for Frank Maloney and Ricky Hatton, both jettisoned by Sky in recent weeks, Warren revealed that ruling brass at BoxNation would decide if whether or not the two outfits would be offered a TV deal with the network. “That is up to BoxNation,” he said.
“They have some good fighters between them, so if the powers that be at BoxNation are interested then they’ll do something with them. The fact of the matter is that they shouldn’t be in that position. What is going on at Sky right now is wrong.
“Look at Sky’s treatment of Tony Bellew a year ago. Go back to the tapes of his two fights before the fight with Nathan [Cleverly] and, especially the fight before the Cleverly fight [a rematch with Ovill McKenzie], when he was getting absolutely slagged off by [Sky’s] Adam Smith in the commentary. I told them that afterwards that he boxed a clever fight.
“They came up to me about the Cleverly fight and told me Tony shouldn’t be in there, that he was a one hundred percent a Commonwealth level title boxer. I knew the writing was on the wall when it came to the mentality at Sky when I was told, in writing, that Lovemore N’dou against Kell Brook was a much better fight than Kevin Mitchell and John Murray, which I was trying to make.”
As for FWP’s March 2011 accounts, Warren insists that the losses for that financial year only serve to show that he is working hard to guide his stable through some tough economic times.
He said: “If I’m posting losses like that then it shows you how hard it is to make things work. Hardly anybody is making any profit. We’re all in the same boat trying to do the best we can. There’s snipers out there who don’t realize how much we’re breaking our balls trying to make this work. There are young kids in my office working their nuts off. If we’re making losses then it means I am not taking a penny out of boxing for two years.
“Yeah, I’ve made money in the past, but I’ve also made a lot of boxers millionaires and made more money for them than any manager and promoted more champions than anyone in the history of British boxing. I can look them all in the eye – I’ve no problem with that.”
When all is said and done, it is likely that Warren and the Board will eventually find a middle ground over the Upton Park situation and that it will be a case of business as usual in the coming season. With Warren returning to the fold and putting together events such as Ricky Burns versus Kevin Mitchell and Nathan Cleverly’s next WBO world title defence under the Board’s auspices.
What does it all mean for the sport? Well, you have just read a long article that had very little to do with the sporting aspects of the “sport” itself, for starters. In the final analysis all the controversy, the threats and u-turns will come to naught. Haye and Chisora will fight and Warren will once again put on BBBoC licensed shows.
Once the dust has settled on the contest a new fight will take place, FWP and BoxNation versus Matchroom and Sky. This is actually good for boxing as a monopoly is never a good thing. When it comes to the creaking BBBoC, the best we can hope for is that more than one force impacts on the Board to force a strained equilibrium.
As for Hearn Vs Warren, when Warren came into the sport he upset the natural order of things by eyeing the top spot, which was held by Mickey Duff and “The Cartel”. Then Warren became the top man and those at the bottom looked up with envy. Revolutions are just that, the guys at the bottom harbour resentment towards those at the top, they then rise up, get to the top themselves and become absolutely corrupted by the power, with those at the bottom harbouring…– well, you get my drift.
It all amounts to power play, pure and simple, with boxing, the sport, not the business, kicked about like a political football to the extent that we, the fans, end up spending more time discussing the controversies and politicking than the fights themselves.
All that remains to be asked is: “Who will win? Haye or Chisora? Warren or Hearn? The LBF or the Board? I don’t know – all you’re going to hear from me from now on is: “Could you please step out of my sunlight?”
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Please send news and views to firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @Terryboxing.