By Alan Hubbard
“IT WAS A masterpiece by Frank Warren” declared David Haye when talking on BT Sport last Saturday night about the promoter’s staging of his memorable mega-clash with Dereck Chisora at Upton Park on 14 July 2012.
It really was a masterpiece of presentation, as the thousands of us who braved the East End deluge to be there when the Hayemaker and Del Boy finally settled their grudge match can testify.
Now, while we eagerly await the return of live boxing to our screens it is good to see that BT are whetting our appetites with a tasty hors d’oeuvres, a new series intriguingly called “What Went Down” featuring celebrated sports figures and those who assisted them to scale the heights.
Hosted by the ever-effervescent Steve Bunce, the programme saw Haye video linked with Frank and manager/coach Adam Booth. Just the sort of stuff needed to keep fight fans talking during the current lull in pugilistic proceedings.
This Saturday it will be another former great British world champion, Joe Calzaghe, who will be in the spotlight.
Joe of course was featured in many of Frank’s promotions, a number of which were also masterpieces, especially the one in Cardiff when 42,000 watched the fighting pride of Wales overcome Mikkel Kessler at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in the early hours of November 3, 2007. Well worth tuning in.
It is s fair to say that Frank has masterminded many masterpieces in a career stretching back to 1980.
At 67 he insists there are many more to come with, such as, Tyson Fury‘s return with Deontay Wilder and the lip-lipping collision of beefcake between his fastest rising star Daniel Dubois and Olympic hero Joe Joyce, both unbeaten, currently on hold.
Naturally Frank is itching to punch his way out of lockdown but he has kept himself busy by signing up a fistful of the nation’s outstanding young fighters, plus the former world flyweight champion Charlie Edwards to ensure the game’s comeback this summer will be one that ensures a fine future.
This year Frank is celebrating his 40th in boxing. Britain’s most prolific impresario, who held his first show on December 1980 at the Bloomsbury Centre Hotel in London has now totalled 592 shows, astonishingly more than half of them involving world title fights (337) of one version or another which he has either promoted or co-promoted, the last being Tyson Fury’s dramatic reclamation of the WBC heavyweight crown in Las Vegas in February of this year.
He has amassed a veritable A-Z of fighters whom he has propelled to world title status, from Amir Khan to Zolani Tete. Far too many to list here but there is barely a British fighter of note he has not helped bring fame and fortune, among them Tyson Fury, Joe Calzaghe, Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton, Lennox Lewis, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Billy Joe Saunders, James DeGale, Frank Bruno, Josh Warrington, Enzo Maccarinelli, Nathan Cleverly Terry Flanagan, Barry Jones, Johnny Nelson, Carl Frampton, Paul Butler, Liam Smith, Liam Williams, plus Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera and Britain’s first female world champion, Nicola Adams.
Such a formidable collection of notables has been accrued not only in virtually every British fighting hotspot from York Hall to Wembley, via Liverpool, Manchester, London’s O2 ,Cardiff Newcastle, Leeds and Glasgow but in Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, New Mexico, Detroit, Germany, Canada, Denmark, and Puerto Rico. An unequalled catalogue of clout which culminated in his election to boxing’s International Hall of Fame.
So I thought it appropriate to ask him the promotion of which he is most proud, the one that tingled his spine most. He searched his memory and suggested perming on any one from three.
Calzaghe v Kessler, Hatton v Kostya Tszyu and Hamed v Kevin Kelly at Madison Square Garden.
All pulsating punch ups in which the Brit triumphed and hopefully will be featured along with Fury’s classic contests against Wilder, on the BT show, along with personal observations from Frank and the fighters.
I would have included another Calzaghe fight, that with Jeff Lacy – also a masterclass but this time from Joe himself in a punch perfect performance on which the much-vaunted American was outthought, outsmarted and totally bemused.
But my own most memorable fight of Frank’s top trio remains that between Hatton and the Russian-Aussie in Manchester exactly 15 years ago this week.
The atmosphere in the Manchester Arena was like nothing boxing in this country had experienced before, such was the popularity of the Manchester-born fighter who according to one newspaper “didn’t have half a chance”.
Tszyu, at 35, nine years older than Hatton, was similarly unbeaten. “I set off like a greyhound out of the traps in the first two rounds,” recalled Hatton. “When he had his good few rounds I knew he’d need a rest so then I raised it for the next two. It’s knowing when to put your foot on the gas and when to let him drain himself.”
In pushing forward so relentlessly Hatton described even taking a glancing blow is from Tszyu as “Horrendous – he was really hurting me but I didn’t buckle.”
It was all-out war, no holds barred. Said Hatton:”I took a chance and thought if I hit him low surely the referee is not going to take a point off me when he’s been literally hitting me low a few times. The referee knew the crowd would eat him alive, but that shot to the knackers might have sent him over the edge.”
Buncey declared it “the most perfect illegal left hook thrown in a British ring”.
With over 17,000 chanting “Ricky, Ricky, Ricky” Hatton recovered from a right-hand in the 10th which stiffened his legs and he stormed back with a frenetic barrage in the 11th which he now it describes typically colourfully as leaving his opponent “a bit like an MFI wardrobe, all over the place”.
At the end of that round Tszyu dazed and disconsolate in his corner, rather like a bruised and busted up Sonny Liston in his first fight with Muhammad Ali. He did not protest when his trainer Johnny Lewis called the fight off with Hatton shedding tears of happiness across the ring. You might say he was over the Blue Moon.
“It was a dream said,” said the new IBF world light-welterweight champion. “I had climbed Mount Everest.”
We all know that Hatton slid down from those dizzy heights into an unhappy retirement following defeats in Las Vegas to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, and finally the Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko in a brave but abortive comeback before a still passionate crowd in his hometown.
It led to drink and depression. He admitted that he was helped out of a second spell in the doldrums more recently by his friend Tyson Fury.