By Frank Warren
Terry Flanagan has a new spring in his step these days. Winning a world title has not only boosted his confidence even more – and he was never short on self-esteem - but has pepped up his personality. He’s now really a believer - in himself.
But I think The Turbo has a particularly tough fight on his hands and he is going to have to dig really deep when he makes the first defence of his WBO lightweight belt against leading contender Diego Magdaleno in Saturday’s world championship double-header at his home-town Manchester Arena.
Flanagan’s a bit of a slow burner, but he’s gained a lot in experience over his past few fights and has the power and ringcraft to outsmart the classy fighter from Las Vegas.
Similarly I think Liam Smith can become the first of the four Scouse boxing brothers to win a world title. ‘Beefy’ is one of those fighters who needs a real challenge to get the best out of him, and another American with an impressive record, John Thompson, the portrait-artist from New Jersey, will certainly provide it when they clash for the vacant WBO super-welterweight title. But Smith is also a dab hand with the paintbrush left – and a right that can make a bit of a splash of red, too!
Magdaleno fights under the Top Rank banner and we know head honcho Bob Arum does not mess around with mugs. The White House attorney-turned promoter who masterminded Manny Pacquiao’s ring career - among a host of others- only deals in quality goods.
Bob and I go back a long way - to Birmingham 30 years ago in fact, via Las Vegas, New York and assorted other fistic citadels along the way.
Our three decades of friendship and joint promotions began with my first world title fight, Colin Jones against Don Curry at Birmingham’s NEC, and here we are as boxing’s Sunshine Boys in Manchester staging another Anglo-American classic together.
Those 30 years have flown by.
I’d been promoting shows outside of the BBBofC for about six years before that and, in those days, there were only two governing bodies – the WBC and WBA – and the Board did not want to affiliate to the WBA, so we had a bit of a fight to get the fight on.
Since then it’s been something of a roller coaster ride, but a thrilling one, with a few ups and downs but mainly some great moments and great fights.
It’s been a privilege to manage and promote so many fighters who have become world champions but I consider the finest achievement has been the creation of BoxNation, the only channel in the world exclusively dedicated to boxing.
Some people may whisper that I’ve lost ground to Matchroom recently, but it really hasn’t been like that. When I walked away from Sky I made a conscious decision to do my own thing on our own TV channel and that’s where all the energy and drive has gone into.
I really believe that if we had not evolved in this way, creating BoxNation, boxing would be in a bit of a predicament today. One of the reasons, because of BoxNation, is that Sky are still in the boxing business.
This week I was tickled to read a press release issued by the Sky Sports PR department gushing about how they had a packed autumn of boxing with six world title fights in seven weeks. Executive Producer Adam Smith even stated boldly: “I’ve been with Sky for over 20 years and this is our biggest ever autumn of boxing,”.
Has Adam got a short or selective memory or is he trying to reinvent history? If he casts his mind back 20 years to 1995, from the 2nd September to 16 December, I promoted on Sky eight world title fights ranging from Frank Bruno’s win over Oliver McCall to Steve Collins’ win over Chris Eubank, to Naseem Hamed defeating Steve Robinson and Robin Regan defeating Ferid Ben Jeddou. And has he forgotten about the 14 world title fights I promoted from 11 September to 19 December in 1997 involving fighters like Robin Reid, Carl Thompson, Naz, Joe Calzaghe, Chris Eubank and ‘Winky’ Wright? Further on in some autumn periods I was regularly delivering between six and nine world title fights on Sky, in addition to the small hall shows I promoted, and in my final autumn I gave them nine, involving Alex Arthur, Nicky Cook, Amir Khan, Kevin Mitchell, Ricky Burns and Nathan Cleverly.
We’re now given viewers’ on BoxNation the same quantity and quality with seven world titles in the same time period as Sky, with Brits Terry Flanagan and Liam Smith, plus Gennady Golovkin, Roman Gonzalez, Terence Crawford, Tim Bradley and Vasyl Lomachenko all in world title action, all for a one-off 12 quid, whereas you have to pay £15 or £20 for one PPV.
I’m not knocking Sky, I’ve always said the more boxing on TV, whether it’s BoxNation, Sky or Channel 5, the better it is for the sport as a whole.
This is marks our fourth anniversary and we’ve done over 250 live shows now. We have a major international fight virtually every weekend until the end of the year.