By Martin ‘The Brain’ Potter of the Boxing Clever Podcast
Greed, power, money and ambition; these are all words that can easily be associated with any big business, in any industry, in any country in the world, and the top players in any business will, rightly or wrongly, be labelled with the aforementioned words. Whilst boxing may not quite be on a par with technology and it may be pushing it to compare Frank Warren to Lord Alan Sugar, the fact remains that big time boxing equals big bucks, and there is no bigger player in British boxing promotion than Mr Warren. So why have so many headline fighters decided to leave Frank – in seemingly acrimonious circumstances – over the years?
There can be no question that Frank has any trouble in charming British boxing’s brightest prospects to his stable. His list of past clients reads like a who’s who of fighting greats from these shores; Calzaghe, Hatton, Hamed, Benn, Khan, DeGale and more. And in fairly recent events he saw off the most recent challenger to his throne, the younger and more media friendly Essex boy, Eddie Hearn, to secure the signature of George Groves. The initial charm it seems, still works.
With Frank’s initial capturing of his boxing based prey must come promises of wads of cash and world title shots and it has to be said that he does usually deliver. Over the years Frank Warren has secured world titles and helped preserve unbeaten records for many deserving – and some undeserving – fighters. He took a badly defeated Amir Khan and got him a golden chance to claim the belt against arguably the weakest champion in the division, only to be unceremoniously dumped when Golden Boy came calling. He provided James DeGale with the ideal opportunity to redeem himself following his British title losing effort against George Groves by bagging him an immediate tilt at the European belt, yet DeGale is also unhappy (ironically it seems due to a disagreement over the first defence of said European belt). Hell, Frank Warren even secured a world heavyweight title fight for Dereck Chisora, despite the fact that ‘Del Boy’ has lost two of his last three bouts (admittedly the second defeat shouldn’t have been) – Will Del dump Frank if he strikes gold?!
So if Frank Warren can get fighters to sign initially and can then deliver on his promises by delivering title shots – and presumably the money that goes with them – even when the odds are stacked against him, then the question remains; why have the likes of Calzaghe, Hatton, Khan et al left? Do they get greedy? Does Frank Warren suddenly turn from friendly fight finder to tough taskmaster?
In most of the cases mentioned I would liken the situation to a first serious relationship. Like a young couple, Frank and the fighter enjoy a honeymoon period when nothing can go wrong. However, as time wears on the fighter realises that there are other options out there and wonders if someone else could better satisfy their lust (in this case for fame and fighting, not fornicating!) There is a spat, family often get involved (especially in the cases of Hatton, Khan and Hamed), the warring couple split, and then the accusations start to fly. In some cases, like a bitter divorce, the case ends up in court and money changes hands.
As someone who values loyalty, and given the investment that Frank Warren (or indeed any promoter) makes – not just financially, but in terms of hard work, time and faith – I don’t particularly like it when a boxer who has won belts and made many thousands (or millions) decides to ditch a promoter for no apparent reason other than cold hard cash. A prime example of this would be Joe Calzaghe. Anyone who has listened to my show or read any of my articles will know that I am a massive fan of Calzaghe – a boxer whom I believe is the best Britain has ever produced. Yet despite my admiration for his achievements, I don’t think Joe was in the right to leave Warren. Although Joe was happy with Frank for well over a decade, encompassing 45 fights and numerous titles, and despite the fact that Warren stuck by him through all the injuries and pull outs, in his final bout Joe decided to ditch Frank Warren. This was seemingly for one reason and one reason only – money. Granted, Calzaghe did win a court case against Frank, but if Joe hadn’t have ditched Frank to pursue a fight with Roy Jones Junior – a man so shot that Joe had previously said he’d never fight him – then I don’t think any of the problems would have arisen in the first place.
Reading this you might think that I am totally pro Warren and pro promoters in general; this is not strictly the case. To get to the top (and stay there) in a business as harsh as boxing, you need to be ruthless and I’m under no illusion that Frank Warren is an angel. Indeed the common denominator – money aside – in these splits is Frank himself. Yet I can’t help thinking that as a boxer becomes more successful and gets more people whispering in his ear, the greed, ambition, hunger for power and hunger for money override any sense of loyalty. Maybe it is right that a man putting it all on the line in the ring should be able to do business outside the ring as he sees fit. But then maybe promoters like Frank Warren are also putting it all on the line, just in a different way (or perhaps in the same way, given that Frank nearly paid for his life purportedly for boxing related reasons).
Like Lord Sugar, Frank Warren is a streetwise entrepreneur who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Unfortunately for Frank, unlike in the case of Lord Sugar, it seems to be the employees as opposed to the employer saying “You’re fired!”
To hear more boxing opinion and poor attempts at humour from ‘The Brain’ listen to the 5 star rated Boxing Clever Podcast, available on iTunes or at http://www.boxingclever.libsyn.com/ .You can also follow me on Twitter @theboxingbrain and @boxingcleverpod or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.