Boxing comment: It's a fair bet that promoter Frank Warren has had better weeks. The cancellation of his “Rule Britannia” promotion, originally scheduled to take place on March 16 at Wembley, has sparked rumours of serious financial difficulties within his operation and rumblings of discontent among many of his fighters.
Adding to the speculation is the high-profile defection of George Groves to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable, a move that will have undoubtedly hurt Warren given the fierce rivalry that exists between the promoters.
Hearn, whose old man Barry tussled with Warren when he was in the game, is currently boxing’s man of the moment. He is riding high with his Sky TV deal, Prizefighter series, and a promotional and management stable made up of a who’s who of top British and world boxing talent.
Ricky Burns’s manager Alex Morrison articulated his bitter disappointment at the late cancellation of his fighter’s unification battle against Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez, which was scheduled for the March show. He said: “We are very unhappy with this latest postponement, especially after the fight was called off in December (against Jose Ocampo). Now this. This is unacceptable.
“I spoke to Ricky this morning. As you can imagine he’s upset. He’s sacrificed a lot, training and the cost of sparring partners. That’s about £12,000 of his own money in training costs he’s now down over the last two fights. The treatment of him is pretty disrespectful.”
According to Warren, the card has been moved back to April 20 and will go ahead at Wembley as planned on that date instead.
The reason given for its postponement is a viral infection picked up by Vazquez. On his website, Warren has posted a link to a doctor’s report to support this claim.
However the rumour mill has gone into overdrive, prompting a welter of angry and accusatory tweets by various high-profile figures in the game over the past few days.
Hearn has not only just landed a major coup with the signing of Groves, he has announced that he is about to make another major signing. There were rumours that this might be Burns, but Hearn has denied them, saying, “We haven’t had that conversation, and until I receive confirmation that nobody’s connected to him, I won’t talk to him.”
He went on, “Would we be interested in signing Ricky Burns? Absolutely. Would we be interested in signing Nathan Cleverly? Absolutely. But there’s only so many fighters we can take on now. We’re going to announce another signing this week — and, no, not (Vasyl) Lomachenko, and not a world champion. British champion? Perhaps.
“He’ll be chief support on April 20 to Brian Rose at Blackpool — that’ll be his first one out, and we’ll do something with him in June. Probably there will be (a signing) this week and one next week, I would think. After that, we might close up shop.”
With regard to his rivalry with Warren, the young and undoubtedly charismatic Hearn had this to say: “I don’t have to slag Warren off, or any other promoter. If the fighters want to leave a certain promoter and join us, I’m over the moon.
“It doesn’t matter why a fighter would choose to leave a certain promoter. But I’m going to make certain we get the best ones.”
It is impossible to miss the tone of triumphalism in Hearn’s words in putting one over his rival. This is perhaps understandable given the week’s events.
However he should be careful not to lapse into hubris in the process, as even a cursory examination of the history of this most precarious business reveals that the margin between success and failure is paper thin.
Most promoters, fighters and managers are only one or two bad promotions or fights away from failure, and no-one, not even someone as indisputably able as Hearn, is immune from finding themselves eating their words.
Warren is no mug. He has been at the forefront of professional boxing on the national and international stage for over three decades.
In that time he has survived being shot and multiple court battles, and has dealt with more sharks than Jaws. Only a fool would venture to write him off or underestimate his ability to bounce back.
Meanwhile, the defection of Groves to Matchroom opens up the tantalising prospect of a future world title fight between him and Carl Froch in the not too distant future. Groves will have his first outing as a Matchroom fighter this Saturday at Wembley Arena against Argentina’s Dario German Balmaceda in a bout that will be broadcast live on Sky.
On his decision to sign with Matchroom, the current British and Commonwealth super middleweight champion, said, “I am really excited. It is a great move for me. I am excited about boxing this Saturday.”
On the possibility of a future fight against Carl Froch, he said, “I’m ranked No 1 with the WBO and Abraham v Steiglitz fight for that in a few weeks, so I’ll be keeping a keen eye on that.
“I’ll have just as close an eye on the Froch v Kessler fight, as I really believe I could get a crack at the winner and I think Eddie knows I want that fight, so it ties in nicely.”
Indeed it does.
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