By Terence Dooley
Britain's two powerhouse promotional outfits kicked off the domestic season with a bang this week when Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn aired their views during a series of exchanges on BoxingScene and Twitter. BoxingScene's Shaun Brown lit the fuse on Wednesday with Hearn's response to Warren's claim that Matchroom rejected a £1,000,000 offer to pit Carl Froch against Nathan Cleverly, who defends his WBO light-heavyweight title against Vyacheslav Uzelkov in Cardiff on October 27. Froch defends his IBF 168lb title against Yusuf Mack in Nottingham on November 17. Neither match up has set the world alight, although Froch is due a relatively straightforward night after a run of fights against the likes of Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson, Andre Ward and Lucian Bute.
The two fighters will not be trading blows in the ring any time soon, clearly, and Hearn contacted this site on Thursday to draw a line under his side of the debate. “Carl Froch is the IBF super middleweight champion the world and has no intention of moving to light-heavyweight in the near future,” insisted Hearn.
Warren, though, reiterated his views during a telephone call on Friday evening. It started out as a conversation about Ricky Burns versus Kevin Mitchell only for Warren to switch his attention to the fallout of the announcement that Cleverly will meet the 33-year-old Ukrainian Uzelkov, which led to an almost overwhelmingly negative response on boxing forums in the U.K., with fans stating that Warren was failing to make high quality fights for his champions.
This was amplified when Bernard Hopkins, who Warren insists was approached about a Cleverly fight, Tweeted that he was not aware of an offer to meet the Welshman. Warren was eager to point out that offers were made to Hopkins, Beibut Shumenov (the WBA title holder) and Cleverly's former title challenger Tony Bellew, who determined his managerial contract with his Warren in May and is set to take on Edison Miranda at London's Alexandria Palace live on Sky Sports tomorrow night.
“Sorry to stop you there, but I really want to make this point,” said Warren during the early part of our interview. “There's a lot of stuff out there saying that I don't make fights for my fighters. I find it insulting that people say that after all my years in the business. When he was with Matchroom, Chris Eubank fought a lot of stiffs, but then you look at the fights I made for Eubank (Eubank versus Joe Calzaghe and an exciting brace of fights with Carl Thompson) and everyone of them was a war.
“Burns against Mitchell is a prime example of the fights we're trying to make. We made Cleverly against Bellew. (Dereck) Chisora and (David) Haye. Plus many, many more fights like that, so there's a lot of bulls**t going around with these Internet guys – I find it disappointing.”
Bellew, though, emphatically stated to me that there was not an offer on the table for a Cleverly rematch when I spoke to him on Thursday evening. “There wasn't an offer made to me for that fight,” said Bellew.
“I am telling you, I don't care what Tony Bellew said, I offered him that fight in front of my solicitor,” countered Warren, who rubbished online claims that his outfit lacks the funds needed to make massive fights.
“I'm reading some of this crap about (having) no money for fights, or whatever,” he said. “What economy are we living in? Are we living in one where there's a lot of money going around or are things tough? It is tough, that is a fact of life, but we keep on going. You hear Matchroom saying they don't rely on boxing and have other things. That's not who we are. We are a one-stop-shop for boxing. That is where our heart and soul is – we don't dip into sports and then leave them.”
“As for talking about bringing money into boxing, I'd love to see them put some money into Leighton Orient (F.C.) with the money they've got. I've got pals who have supported Orient for years and they haven't bought anything for them. Barry Hearn went on record as saying, 'I'm not a philanthropist, this is a business', and that is no different than their view on boxing – I'm telling you.”
He added: “The reason I've won, I would say, 99% of the purse bids I've been involved with against Matchroom is because I don't treat boxing like a business. I've gone out there, put my money up, taken the hits, lost and made money, and I put that money up for my fighters.”
Matchroom's union with Sky is viewed as an unstoppable juggernaut, deep pockets and HD T.V. have a strong lure, but Warren maintains that BoxNation has excelled over the past year and allayed fears that it would be a vehicle for his own stable by virtue of their International coverage and decision to fully televise full amateur cards, including their exhaustive coverage of the ABA finals.
“We're doing great things with BoxNation, it is a good thing and it is good what we've done for boxing,” said Warren. “As a fan, BoxNation is something to be proud of because it puts out fights from all across the world – it is not just the Frank Warren show. We've got everything, not just (WBC heavyweight champion Vitali) Klitschko (who meets Manuel Charr in Russia live on BoxNation tomorrow night) – we're in the States and all over the place. We do full amateur shows, how many of those do you see on television?”
Warren's rivalry with the Hearns has polarised British boxing fans, some are pro-Warren, many of the more vocal ones are with Eddie Hearn, and a lot of people just want to see both stables put as on as many shows as possible and once in a while pitch their stars against each other. Warren insists that he has a history of working with other promoters to put key fights so is ready to make Cleverly and Froch a reality should Froch opt to test the waters up at 175lbs.
“Hold on a minute, I don't know how long these people have been in the business because I've worked with Mickey Duff, Don King, Bob Arum and every promoter in the world because I’m there to do the best for my fighters,” said Warren when asked if the online perception that he is keeping things in-house on purpose grates. “Frank Maloney is someone I've worked with more than once. You can go all the way back. Every person it has taken to do a show with, I've done a show with them.”
With a “major” announcement imminent from Frank Warren Promotions early next week, could Ricky Hatton, who has yet to find a network for his stable of fighters and is rumoured to be close to making a comeback, join that list?
“Who knows what will happen with Ricky Hatton, I don't know what he intends to do, but never say never,” said Warren. “All I know is that I will do whatever it takes to deliver the best shows because that's what I do. Look at the shows we've put on this year.”
Returning to Cleverly, the Maths graduate has admitted that he is chomping at the bit for a big fight, even going as far as consulting Welsh legend Joe Calzaghe for advice on how he maintained his focus during the early part of his WBO super middleweight title reign. Warren, though, feels that his charge will overcome “Steel Power” to set up bigger challenges in 2013.
“First of all, Nathan's only 25-years-old, Tony Bellew is 29, and I was trying to make the Hopkins fight for Nathan,” said Warren. “Hopkins says I wasn't in contact with him, hold on a second, he's promoted by Golden Boy and Richard Schaefer so I corresponded with them.
“Nathan agreed to go and fight Hopkins in America. I offered them Shumenov £300,000 to come over here. Why would I say these things? I sent an email to Hearn offering him the fight, but he says that a million ain't enough money. Carl Froch has never earned a million pounds for a fight in his life, never ever.
“I would much rather be putting on that fight for Nathan, but do you think Yusuf Mack is a good enough opponent for Carl Froch when Mack has not made super middleweight for ten fights and has been beaten by Glen Johnson, who Carl has beaten. I don't get the rationale or where people are coming from with this guff – it is ridiculous.”
“It is the same people all the time, that's what it is,” his take on the Internet forum members who have questioned his recent moves. “All I know is that we had 30,000 people in West Ham, so that shows you what we do.
“I did take those steps for my fighter. Maybe we'll make those fights in the New Year, but Nathan said at the press conference (on Monday) that he'd agreed with me to go to the States (for Hopkins) and had agreed terms. You can quote that.”
So much for fights that are not happening just yet, Warren insists that the September 22 match up between Ricky Burns and Kevin Mitchell for the Scottish fighter's WBO lightweight title shows the heft of his big fight jib. “I am absolutely happy with it,” his take on the Scotland versus England encounter.
“It will be a really good fight and it will certainly be a candidate for, if not, fight of the year. I got this fight for Kevin because I like to show loyalty to my guys, and hopefully Kevin feels the same way himself. He's had a few problems, but hopefully he's put them behind him and he's a quality fighter who has got a big fight. It is a good fight for the trade, but also Ricky Burns himself, who is a very good fighter, and there's a few ways of looking at who is going to win this one.”
Early questions of where the fight would take place – with an Upton Park bonanza rumoured in the summer – were put to bed when it was announced that Burns, who won the WBO belt by beating Michael Katsidis in London on November 5 before defending it against Paulus Moses in March, would defend the belt before his Scottish fans at Glasgow's SEC venue.
“Ricky's been south for fights, hasn't he, and at the end of the day this was his choice and you have to respect that because he's the champion,” said Warren. “Ricky's the most improved fighter in the country, bar none, he shocked me in the (Roman) Martinez fight with the way he come back from a tough first round (in which Burns was floored before wresting away Martinez's WBO super featherweight title) with a great performance. I just don't feel he got the recognition he should have got for that.”
Still, it was the win over Katsidis up at 135lbs that elevated Burns in the eyes of many fans and underlined his recent improvement. “It drew a line under it, yes, but Martinez was one of the best fighters in his division and Ricky didn't just beat him, he did him in every department: heart, fire-power, everything,” stated Warren.
“But I also think Kevin's got the maturity to make it a really good fight. For example, you talk about the Scottish atmosphere. When Alex Arthur fought Michael Gomez (in 2003), apart from Gomez's family, everyone in the place was supporting Arthur, but Gomez won the fight and won them all over.”
As for the winner's next move, Warren is keeping an open mind. He said: “It depends on who wins and how they win, who knows? There might be a rematch, there's also a lot of options out there for them.”
George Groves was in action in America on July 28, hammering Francisco Sierra to defeat in six rounds at the HP Pavilion in California for an impressive end to a stop-stop-start campaign that saw the Londoner miss out on a British title defence against Edinburgh's Kenny Anderson and a WBO super middleweight world title shot to Robert Stieglitz due to injuries. This was a shame for Groves as he portrayed the sport in a positive light during the build up to May 2011's contest with bitter rival James DeGale and looked set to build on that upsurge in popularity when he impressively beat former British champion Paul Smith in two rounds last November.
Ironically, a cut eye to Groves's right eye sustained in the early going against Sierra has sidelined the British champion for a few more months, which has led to frustration on both sides of the Groves versus Anderson equation. Indeed, the slow burning tension between both fighters has turned what Groves maintains will be a routine defence into an eagerly awaited domestic showdown.
Given his ability to box, bang and excite, I asked Warren if “The Saint” was reminiscent of West Ham's Mark Kaylor – a sound technical boxer who could also put some spite into his punches?
“I agree,” he said. “George is an exciting fighter, it is just unfortunate because he got this eye injury in his last fight. It is disappointing for me because we put him out there in the States, he acquitted himself brilliantly, but it killed our (announced Groves versus Anderson) show over here, so that will change when he is healed up.
“It is a shame, but what are you going to do. By the end of this year we'll see more of George, and he'll fight for a world title – I'll make sure of that. I think Adam Booth's done a fabulous job, they're very professional in their approach, which they've shown in quite a few fights I've been involved with. I take my hat off to them for that because, with a bit more schooling, George will become the complete fighter.”
As for the continuing dialogue between Messrs Warren and Hearn, if this season's fights are as keenly contested as their differences of opinion then it could be a good 2012-2013 for the British scene.
Now would you please step out of my sunlight.
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