Frank Warren’s Column – 05.06.2015

posted on: 06/06/2015

The jaw-dropping cops and robbers scenario that has engulfed football convinces me of one thing. That there must never be a Blatter in boxing.

No despotic panjandrum of pugilism who can dispense favours and call them in when it suits him.

Many would like to see boxing ruled by just a single governing body and in an ideal world that would seem a reasonable solution.

But as FIFA gate has shown there are inherent dangers when one authority, run by an apparently unassailable supremo, albeit one who has now belatedly fallen in his sword, is given too much power.

Boxing may have the WBC, the WBA, the WBO and the IBF but at least it doesn’t have the FBI.

Ironically there was more corruption in boxing back in the days when there was virtually just one governing body, based in the United States, than there is now the world championships are spread among several ruling bodies.

Under the old regime the Mafiosa and other underworld figures found it easier to influence boxing until the Kefauver Committee sorted out the mobsters.

Thankfully those days are long gone. There hasn’t been a sniff of corruption or criminal activity in boxing for many years, certainly in this country.

Boxing is as scandal-free today as I have ever known it. The only backhanders in the game are those the referee would deem an illegal blow.

This is not being holier-than-thou. The fight game is far from a paragon of virtue. But compared to the murky machinations in some other sports it is remarkably clean.

Boxing has always been an easy target for cynics.  Yet as I have said before, hand on heart I have never seen a crooked fight. Bad matchmaking, yes, but nothing fixed. How could there be when we have such a forensic media? Exposure would come pretty quickly, and would be damning.

There are few major sports that have not been rocked by serious wrong-doing either in America or here these days, from horse racing to football, via baseball. Snooker, rugby, cycling, athletics and cricket. Even the Olympics has been tainted by corruption.

Monolithic organisations will always have unsavoury members who seem open to a spot of bribery, not least those Third World leeches in Fifa whose knowledge of football tactics seems limited to the free kick-back.

Boxing should be pleased that amid all this opprobrium it is holding its act together, especially when you examine the extent the alleged sleaze in Fifa.  Question: Will the FA be looking to being reimbursed the enormous cost they incurred for England’s World Cup bid?

I don’t know Sepp Blatter but I am mighty pleased he has not been the president of a world boxing body.

For never mind Prince Ali, until slippery Seb committed hari-kari I doubt even Muhammad Ali could have KO’d him!

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British boxing certainly packs a wallop these days. A feel-good factor prevails here in the fight game with six current home-grown world champions and a further half-dozen ranked high in the top ten world ratings in various weight divisions.

Lee Selby’s brilliant acquisition of the IBF featherweight title, ripped from the bloodied head of previously unbeaten Russian Evgeny Gradovich, who was defending it for the fifth time as the IBF’s boxer of the year last weekend was a terrific performance.

I forecast that Selby had a decent chance of winning and he certainly grabbed it with both hands to become British world champion number six.   I suspect there will be more to come this year and hopefully the Manchester lightweight Terry Flanagan will be the Magnificent Seventh when he goes for the vacant WBO title against American knock-out artist Jose Zepeda at the Manchester Velodrome -a great venue for boxing – on 11 July. Televised live by BoxNation, this will be some scrap.

I hope Flanagan takes a leaf out of Selby’s boxing manual. The boyo from Barry did an outstanding job on Gradovich, using his brain as well as his fast fists and dancing feet.

They have tagged him the Welsh Mayweather- mainly because he spent some time studying the Master in Floyd’s Las Vegas gym. But to me his style is more reminiscent of his late compatriot, Howard Winstone, a lovely man and a great boxer with ethereal skills whom was the only other Welshman to hold the featherweight title, back in the sixties.

It was a shame that Kevin Mitchell failed in his third attempt to make his own slice of history by becoming the first Englishman to win a world lightweight title.

But he showed great courage in defeat against Venezuelan Jorge Linares. Frustrating, though, that he did not turn on that sort of bravura performance in his two previous title attempts against Michael Katsidis and Ricky Burns, as it is, is seemed the last roll of the dice for the self-admitted but reformed alcoholic who only a few years back was partying and hitting the bottle harder than he did any opponent.

***

The bookies called everything right at the O2, not least that Frankie Gavin would not be big enough, in any sense to upset Kell Brook in their IBF world welterweight title fight. Equally that Anthony Joshua would easily roll over a well past his sell-by date Kevin Johnson.

Beating the hopeless Jo Jo Dan and an out-of-his-depth Gavin in his last two outings is no real yardstick by which to judge whether Brook’s quality at world level remains untouched after his stabbing last year.  Gavin now says he will campaign at light-welterweight which is something that I advised him to do three years – hello!

And for him and his promoter Eddie Hearn to say that Amir Khan hasn’t got the bottle to fight him because he is scared of losing is arrant nonsense.

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Khan, once Britain’s flagship fighter has never been the sort to duck anyone. If anything he has too much bottle, as we have seen on a few occasions when he takes unnecessary risks in the ring.

Neither should we overlook the fact that at 28 he is a year younger than Brook and actually beat him to winning a world championship. The Sheffield star needs to show a little more respect.

True Khan did not have the most satisfying night of his career when labouring a little to outpoint Chris Algieri in New York but I have always believed he would outclass Brook should they ever meet.

Of course this a domestic blockbuster that should happen, and maybe it will once Khan discovers whether his Lottery numbers have come up as an opponent No 49 for Mayweather.  Failing that a Pacquiao fight could happen.

You can’t blame him for keeping his mobile switched on to see whether Mayweather’s people dial his number.

But Mayweather may keep him hanging on. He is pretty cute at playing the waiting game. No doubt he assessed Khan’s capability last weekend but you can be he will be running his eye over the redoubtable Miguel Cotto this Saturday when his well-qualified former opponent takes the stage at the same Brooklyn arena where Khan fought Algieri, to face Daniel Geale in another BoxNation exclusive.

If classy Cotto does a more effective job on Aussie middleweight Geale than Khan did on Algieri then he might be hoping that it’s the four-weight champion from Puerto Rico who calls him.  But it’s most likely Cotto will lace ’em up against Saul Alvarez if he deals with the Aussie.

Otherwise don’t rule out Mayweather calling up another former dance partner, the Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez, for what is likely to be the Money Man’s last-but-one waltz in September.

I remain convinced he will then go on and attempt to break Marciano’s record of 50 not out next year.

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After splashing put bundles on Premier League football the word is that Sky plan to recoup revenue by having pay-per-view boxing every eight weeks. They have already had two such shows this year.

Some may argue that this is the only way big fights can be made but I don’t necessarily agree with that. It is a short-sighted view, so to speak and a challenge to the viewers’ pockets.

In fact it may well have an adverse effect on rising stars like Joshua as it as it restricts their potential audience. Exciting a prospect as he is, Big Josh says he wants exposure to make him as popular a figure with the public as was, say, Frank Bruno.

He has so much going for him in terms of personality and punching power, and I doubt there is a more athletic-looking young heavyweight in the world today.

But knocking over ageing has-beens like Johnson in a trice takes him no further, as he admitted himself.

We need to know whether the Olympic champion can answer the two big questions hovering over his burgeoning career: has he the stamina for a 12-round war and will his chin stand up to a good whack? I think he has but it’s time to find out.

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