Frank Warren: "We'll find out who is the best super middleweight!"
INTERVIEW By Coyote Duran (October 7, 2005)
To ape a line from a Megadeath tune, promoting is Frank Warren's business... and business is good.
Although the competition between promotional outfits in England is relatively warm compared to the corporate brush fire that's seared the American boxing scene for years, the evil eye of public scrutiny can glare deeper into your soul when you're the big fish in the small pond across the pond.
Sure, Warren beams like a proud dad when he talks about his popular charges WBO 168-pound titlist Joe Calzaghe and World Junior Welterweight Champion Ricky Hatton, but there are also moments when Warren is equally crestfallen. Like when he talks about World Junior Welterweight Champion Ricky Hatton.
Confused? I hope not because if you're any bit the knowledgeable fan, you're well aware of the looming court battle awaiting both Warren and Hatton as a result of allegations of contract breaking by Warren.
While Warren may seem confused himself as to why such a rift has seemingly materialized between him and the young champion he's turned into a household name, he's just as proud of his super middle kingpin Calzaghe and is twice as vocal about looking out for the Welsh-Italian's best interests. Especially when promoter Gary Shaw's name is thrown into the discussion.
But rant further, I shall not. Frank Warren actually buzzed us at Doghouse Boxing to give us the lowdown on the British-style throwdown.
Read on, Howlers, as Warren opens up on such topics as a "Maybe it'll happen, maybe it won't" fight between Joe Calzaghe and IBF Super Middleweight beltholder Jeff Lacy, why he feels Ricky Hatton is wrongfully aligning himself with forces outside of Warren's realm and who he thinks will win the big Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo World Lightweight title clash this Saturday.
Why, you might even learn a thing or two.
Frank Warren: How're you doin', Coyote?
Coyote Duran: I'm doin' very well! How are you today?
Frank Warren: I'm fine!
Coyote Duran: How's it all goin' across the pond these days?
Frank Warren: Actually, we're doin' OK! We've got some nice shows lined up and we're on a new broadcaster over here called ITV who are a terrestrial channel. It's equivalent to an ABC or an NBC so we're doing well! We can't complain.
Coyote Duran: So, what else is new with Frank Warren?
Frank Warren: Well, the main reason I was calling was to talk about Joe Calzaghe and Jeff Lacy.
Coyote Duran: Sounds good. Let's get into that.
Frank Warren: Let's get into it! As you know, (Lacy's promoter) Gary Shaw who I'm quite friendly with (chuckles) though we haven't spoken for a while… but you might know the story. I don't know if you've heard his remarks regarding Joe Calzaghe but we put a statement out and basically also sent out a release, an extract of the contract between us that we were about to sign where there was a closer. Should Joe Calzaghe get injured, the fight (between Lacy and Calzaghe) would be postponed and on the same terms, take place February 4th, next year. We did that. We put that out. What I don't understand now, and I've got my views on it, is why Gary Shaw now is ducking out this fight with Calzaghe. I know Lacy's fighting (Scott Pemberton) on the 15th of November. Calzaghe’s broke his metacarpal bone in his hand and he will be ready to box on the 4th of February. My opinion is the reason they're pulling out, that they're not going forward with this now, is because of the comments that (Lacy's last opponent) Robin Reid made. You know, Robin Reid fought Calzaghe. Calzaghe and Robin Reid, the one thing they aren't are friends. There's a lot of animosity between the two. But Robin Reid stated categorically after he fought Jeff Lacy that if Lacy fought Calzaghe, Calzaghe would knock Lacy out. I think that's the reason that Gary Shaw's had second thoughts and I think he's using the situation with Calzaghes' injury.
Coyote Duran: Well, any fighter can say that they'll knock out any other fighter. It's all part of confidence in this game.
Frank Warren: Exactly! But what I don't understand is why the huge change of heart? If you're negotiating as we were, we agreed the financial terms and we even agreed to come up with a situation should Calzaghe get injured, why suddenly are you (Shaw) saying, "He's (Calzaghe) injured. We don't want the fight." When there was that proviso and that provision that was in the contract, the drafted contract, that we agreed?
Coyote Duran: Now is it necessarily Lacy that's saying this as well or is this all Shaw?
Frank Warren: I'll be honest, Coyote. I don't think they fancy the fight now. In the contract, it said categorically that Calzaghe, if he got injured, would not have another fight before February 4th and it said that we had no problems with Lacy having a fight on November the 5th, which is the case. So why are we going down this road? Why don't we just get to it? They're the two super middleweights. Let's get on with the fight! Let's stop making excuses. What we've also agreed, which I think is good, is with Mogens Palle, the Danish promoter, he has (Mikkel) Kessler, the WBA champion. He said he (Kessler) would fight on the same card and the winner of Lacy and Calzaghe can fight him in May. So what we're doing is we're putting together unification bouts and we'll find out who is the best super middleweight!
Coyote Duran: Frank, do you feel that maybe locale might have been a factor in Lacy's camp squelching the plans?
Frank Warren: You may have another reason! But the facts are, what we have agreed would be that the fight would take place in the U.K. What we had to do, for your understanding…..prime-time for my broadcast over here on ITV, the television company, is 10:00 at night. We agreed that it (Lacy-Calzaghe) would go on at 2:00 in the morning so Showtime would get the bout prime-time in the States.
Coyote Duran: Right. As per normal with Showtime.
Frank Warren: But what we needed to do… actually, it's not normal. Up until Ricky Hatton's last fight, before then. All the fights I did with Showtime were done on a delayed broadcast basis.
Coyote Duran: Ah, that's right. Before, they took place at a reasonable time in the evening in the U.K. and then we viewed them later here in the States.
Frank Warren: Yeah. But what Showtime insisted because of the internet, the bouts take place live now. We agreed to that and the reason I have to have the fights in the U.K. is because #1, for my broadcaster to show the fight at 2 A.M. in the morning, I can put another fight on the card that they can take live. I can't do that in the States on a Saturday night at 4:00 in the afternoon or 5:00 in the afternoon to get it in prime-time in the U.K. the place would be empty. So that was what we agreed. We all make sacrifices. My sacrifice? Yeah, we'll give you 2:00 in the morning. There's why they (challengers of British-based) fighters come to the U.K. Plus, you've got to understand, Calzaghe is the #1 super middleweight. He's ranked #1 by everybody. He's the longest reigning champion.
Coyote Duran: He's also ranked #1 by The Ring magazine.
Frank Warren: Correct. So, you know, that's where we are. I just feel that, for certain reasons that Gary's coming up with, smell to me, that they now do not fancy the fight.
Coyote Duran: Well, maybe at this point, it's a wait-and-see thing. Lacy has made it perfectly clear that he was looking forward to taking on Calzaghe and Calzaghe was glad that Lacy defeated Robin Reid but since Calzaghe injured his hand, Lacy felt he needed to keep busy and stay sharp by giving Scott Pemberton a shot at the IBF belt.
Frank Warren: I don't have a problem with that. As I was saying, that proviso and what we had agreed, that was all dealt with. Had Calzaghe… just to back up even further, the only reason Calzaghe fought against… had that fight (against Evans Ashira last month) was because we asked to get the fight on with Lacy before he fought Reid. I wrote to him. I wrote to Showtime and I sent e-mails to Gary but Gary said "No". They wanted to go for the fight with Robin Reid or maybe they had a problem with him (Calzaghe) or the (WBO) title. I said "Then let's fight for no titles!" They wanted to go for that (Reid) fight. In the meantime, my guy's gotta have a fight. He only had one fight in a year. So, I had to give him some rounds. Unfortunately, he got injured, but the proviso was that should Calzaghe get injured, no problem with Lacy having a fight. We don't expect him to sit around on his backside, providing both of them get it on on 4th of February next year. And he's (Shaw) trying to back out of that. I don't think it's Lacy at all. I don't think for one minute it's Lacy. I know it isn't. It's Gary.
Coyote Duran: As commonplace as hand injuries are, speaking of Calzaghe's metacarpal injury which is very common in the sport, how is Joe's healing process coming along?
Frank Warren: Well, he's OK. Obviously he can't start using the hand 'cause it only happened about a month ago. The specialist that he's seeing has said he will be able to fight on the 4th of February.
Coyote Duran: Let's switch gears here and hit a subject you've had to be approached incessantly about. Let's talk about your pending court battle with (World Junior Welterweight Champion) Ricky Hatton. What or who gave Hatton the idea that after he defeated Kostya Tszyu, he was a free agent?
Frank Warren: I have no idea. I have not had one cross word with Ricky Hatton. We had a great relationship. Not even as of today have we had a single cross word. His father, Ray, is under the impression that they're (Ray and Ricky) out-of-contract. His father announced that they're going to fight on the 24th of November and his (Ricky's) father's company was going to be the joint promoters! So, maybe that's the answer to that one.
Coyote Duran: Did (Promoter) Dennis Hobson perhaps offer (Ray) Hatton something substantial to make these claims?
Frank Warren: Hobson went on record and said that Hatton's fighting for less money than I offered him. Do I believe that? I don't know. It doesn't sound right to me, #1 and #2, he may be getting less, but promotional money, where's that going? It's his father's company, Punch Promotions, that's 50% promoter and obviously if it (the upcoming fight between Hatton and WBA titlist Carlos Maussa) makes a profit, then they get 50% of the profit (on top of Hatton's offered purse from Hobson).
Coyote Duran: I can see how that would work in the end but you'd think now that Ricky Hatton would feel like he was wasting his time against a Carlos Maussa since he beat the real champion.
Frank Warren: I would've thought so. I mean, prior to that fight, I had offered him the (WBO titlist Miguel) Cotto fight. I had offered him (WBC titlist) Floyd Mayweather. Even Don King and I spoke about (Undisputed Welterweight Champion) Zab Judah. But when he went out to Atlantic City to see the Maussa fight, he wanted the Maussa fight. To me, it's a belt and I can understand, as a fighter, that he'd want that belt, but let's be honest about it. Kostya Tszyu vacated that title and Ricky Hatton beat Kostya Tszyu. So, on the same list as Joe Calzaghe, he was the #1 by Ring magazine. Who cares about that (WBA belt)?
Coyote Duran: Right. Hatton doesn't need Maussa's belt. He's the man.
Frank Warren: I agree with you! I agree, but I was willing to make the fight. I spoke to Pat English (of Main Events). We had agreed terms for the fight and in the meantime, Pat English was advised not to deal with me and that I couldn't deliver Hatton.
Coyote Duran: You say you've still got a three-fight deal in place with Hatton that still needs to be met on his end. Hatton's arrangement with Dennis Hobson allegedly was a one-shot deal. If you win in court, Frank, the Maussa fight will cease to be. Will a legal victory for you obligate Hatton to fulfill his end of your contract?
Frank Warren: What we're going for, there's two stages to this, Coyote. The first one is, what we're applying for is an injunction to stop the Maussa fight. (The second being) Stop him (Hatton) boxing for another promoter. How it works in this country, the legal situation is, the court may say the damages are a remedy for my loss. In other words, he could go ahead and fight and then we go to the trial for whether there's a three-fight agreement or not. If I were to win that, then the judge would determine the damages are remedy. We're saying that the damages aren't the remedy. In this particular instance, boxing's a unique business and you couldn't remedy the damages because Hatton could be fighting Floyd Mayweather. That fight could go pay-per-view in America and England simultaneously and be a huge fight. So, who knows what the damages would be? But we're going for an injunction to stop the fight. Stop the guys promoting the fight. We're saying that we would put the fight on. I would put the fight on. Very reluctantly put it on, but I would put it on. I don't see the fight, as you quite rightly say, as not really where we wanna be but we'd put it on. Now I offered Hatton just under £2,000,000 (approximately $3,559,196 American today at a dollar rate of $1.78.) for that time when the dollar rate was $1.90. Huge money. Huge money and for his last fight as the challenger to Kostya Tszyu, he got nearly $2,000,000. He got paid well over $2,000,000 dollars for that fight. He's not been short-changed. He's earned just under $13,000,000 depending on what the rate of exchange is at the time over the last three years with me. Remember, I've been criticized a lot. I've made money and I'd be a liar if I said I hadn't. Of course, I've made money. I've done a fantastic textbook job with him, bringing him through and picking the Kostya Tszyu fight at the right time when everybody thought that Hatton would get knocked out.
Coyote Duran: Do you think Hatton's siding with a rival promoter to set up the Maussa fight could've been ego-driven since Hatton was coming off the buzz of beating the best of the best in the 140-pound division and maybe, all of a sudden, felt that he could just about do whatever he wanted?
Frank Warren: No. I don't think so. If you knew Ricky, he's quite a nice kid. He's not like that. I've never had a cross word for him. This is pure money. This is pure, pure money. It's no more than that. His father, when I made my offer to him, all his father kept asking for was more and more money and I said it's not there. It's not there. There comes a time when you can do so much. To be honest, even if we hadn't had a contract, Coyote, I'd have expected him (Hatton) to be loyal anyway. Even if we didn't have a contract.
Coyote Duran: Well, up until this whole Maussa fight deal, I always assumed your relationship with Ricky Hatton was nothing but positive.
Frank Warren: (Regarding Ray Hatton) Well, if that was my son, I'd be delighted. I mean, for his father to make statements like, "He's only got a short career. He's gotta do the best he can.", etc., I mean, what more does he want for the last 3 years? $13,000,000.?! You look and see how much money Cotto's getting for his fights and look what Ricky Hatton's getting paid to fight for the WBU title which, let's be honest, outside of Manchester, means nothing!
Coyote Duran: (Laughs) It doesn't means a damn thing here, either, I've gotta tell ya!
Frank Warren: That's what I'm saying! And I'm saying that against myself! A lot of time, I've got no regard for the titles. The fact of the matter is that we've done a phenomenal job together as a team. Inside the ring, he'd done the business. Outside the ring, I'd done the business. A textbook career. As far as his dad's concerned, to have that security going into that fight with Kostya Tszyu, knowing that he was a multi-millionaire… I don't get it. I just don't get it.
Coyote Duran: Frank, when all is said and done and this court business is no longer an issue, do you think things can get back to normal.
Frank Warren: I don't know. Who knows? The funny thing is, Ricky Hatton got an award last weekend just gone and he got up and gave a speech. He thanked his trainer. He thanked his family. He thanked his fans. He thanked everybody and then right at the end, he said, "The one person I really wanna thank is Frank Warren." So go figure that one.
Coyote Duran: He still gave you that acknowledgement. So that means those good feelings are still there.
Frank Warren: Well, I would hope so. It's just where we're at and it's just horrible where we're at. It's a great shame but at the end of the day, there comes a time when you have to stand up and uh… (Frank sighs, voice softens)… right is right. And that's what I'm doing. You know, I hope that the judge, at the end of the day, sees what my case is and goes with it. I believe and certainly my lawyers believe that he will. If it is (a win for Warren), then hopefully, we'll move forward. If Ricky Hatton then says that he still wants to fight, then I'll promote him. If he doesn't wanna fight, then he retires a multi-millionaire.
Coyote Duran: Either way, I gather Hatton'll have something to gain in the end.
Frank Warren: Yes! And he's been great for boxing! He's been fantastic for boxing. When he first turned pro, he started at a 600-seat venue on an undercard and we worked and worked hard together to start filling up the place with anything between 10, 15, 20,000 people.
Coyote Duran: Let's hop onto a lighter topic, Frank, regarding some of the younger fellas you're cultivating. Let's talk about junior lightweight Kevin Mitchell. What's your assessment on how this kid's coming along now?
Frank Warren: He's a cracky little fighter! A bit like Joe Calzaghe. He had a hand problem so he's not been as busy as he has been. He let go of that hand when he fought (Wladimir Borov) a couple of weeks ago, had a really good win. He's fighting again on November the 5th. Providing he comes through on that, he'll fight again in December and December, he'll fight for the English title, I hope. He got voted by the British Boxing Writers over here as the best young boxer of the year. You'd love him. He's a really good, little fighter. A great little fighter to watch and a ticket-selling fighter. The crowds like him and they buy tickets to watch him.
Coyote Duran: Speaking of November 5th and ticket-selling fighters as you've so coined, Frank, let's talk about junior welterweight Amir Khan. Big star in the making. He's fighting on November 5th as well, correct?
Frank Warren: He's fighting on November the 5th in Scotland. It'll be his third fight.
Coyote Duran: He's recently commented in The Ring that he doesn't plan on fighting past the age of 25. That's only 7 years from now.
Frank Warren: The funny thing is I've heard a few fighters say that in their time but that's never the case. (Laughs) I can understand that. There's nothing wrong with that. I think that with precocious young guys like him and Kevin Mitchell, they've been boxing since they were 9, 10 years of age. So, it's a long career. Boxing's a long career and to keep doing the same thing, this would be the age to finish. They're never normally like that. They normally go only until they're sort of in their early 30's. I hope he can retire certainly by the time he's 30 but he is, again, a tremendous, tremendous prospect. He did well in the Olympic games. He'd only had 11 senior amateur bouts. He fought as a junior but he only had 11 senior bouts and won that silver medal and on the way to winning the silver medal, beat some seasoned, hard, tough amateurs. Stopped some. I think he's the youngest guy to win a medal in the Olympic games since Floyd Patterson.
Coyote Duran: How do you intend on pacing Khan's career? A lot of fans are regarding him as the next Naseem Hamed. I prefer to think of Amir Khan as the first Amir Khan.
Frank Warren: Well, I'm with you on that one. I think that the only thing he's got in common with Naz is he comes from that national area (of the world) of origin. Other than that, he's fast. He's got great hand speed. I mean, Naz was a tremendous boxer when he was young, when he started and when he won titles. Then later near the end of his career, he stopped training properly. He got lazy and just relied on the big punch. This young lad (Khan) has got a good work ethic. He's in the gym all the time. He's got great hand speed. Tremendous balance. He's got a great eye. As he's settling down to be a pro, he's now planting his feet more. He's not bouncing around like most amateur boxers do so he's getting more power. I think that you're quite right. He will be the first Amir Khan and he's again… promoters are always hyping fighters up but he is exciting. The crowds love him. I did his very last amateur bout. We sold it out within two days. On his pro debut, we sold 7,000 tickets for a 4 round fight!
Coyote Duran: With as amiable and as humble as he comes off, I think he can be a fighter that belongs to the world. Are there any plans to bring Khan to the States?
Frank Warren: Absolutely! I've been talking to Jay Larkin and Ken Hertz with Showtime and we'll be bringing him over. He will make his American debut (on Showtime) (enthusiastically) and that is what he will be, Coyote! He will be a world fighter. That's where I see him going. This kid will be able to fight anywhere in the world.
Coyote Duran: Anything you'd like to cover before you split, Frank? I know you're a busy guy.
Frank Warren: Just that the boxing over here and in Europe and in Germany, boxing's in a real healthy state and I just hope that the same thing can happen in America. I just hope that America can find a decent amateur heavyweight who can turn pro because I think that's where a lot of the focus of the American boxing is. Traditionally, America's always had the heavyweight champion and what I mean by that, a name. A good name and I just hope there's one out there.
Coyote Duran: Well, boxing's had a helluva year this year, Frank and this weekend is indicative of that. Do you have a pick on (World Lightweight Champion) Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo?
Frank Warren: Um… I see a reverse decision.
Coyote Duran: Really?
Frank Warren: Yes.
Coyote Duran: Castillo coming out ahead.
Frank Warren: Yep.
Coyote Duran: Well, let's just keep our fingers crossed that no one gets irreparably damaged in this one.
Frank Warren: Well, I hope they don't. Sometimes, you never get the repeat, do you? What I mean by that is with the first fight, it's only on rare occasions you get into another war. I just hope at the end of the day, as long as they both come through safely, that's the main thing.
Coyote Duran: I agree 100%, sir. Frank, thank you very much for the opportunity to have a nice chat about the game.
Frank Warren: Not at all. It's a pleasure and you've got our number so anytime you need us, Coyote, you know where to get a hold of us. It's nice to speak to you.
A Coyote-style thank you to Frank Warren and Sports Network for the candid look into the complications and joys of being Great Britain's premier promoter. Also a Big Thank you to Richard Maynard for helping to making this Interview possible.
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