By Frank Warren
Over my decades in the game I have had to duck more than my fair share of slings and arrows that get chucked in the direction of the promoter when a big fight falls out of bed.
I am long enough in the tooth to know that it goes with the territory and the buck always seems to stop with whoever put the show together in the first place.
2016 has been a year of vicissitudes for me. Highs and lows, win some lose some. That’s always been the name of the fight game, inside the ropes and out.
It remains so – a big buzz when you reach agreement on a fight that you know will be welcomed by the fans. After that, unfortunately, it is in the lap of the gods and all you can do is hope the fighters come through preparations unscathed.
Boxing, by its very nature, is a hazardous business and that goes for training too. You have to accept that injuries are part and parcel of the game, although it doesn’t make it any easier when that dreaded call flashes up on your mobile.
I have had to explain away more training injuries and illnesses than I care to remember over the years and, as you can imagine, I have heard them all. Or thought I had.
Even I was taken aback to get the call to report that Ahmet Patterson had been attacked and injured while out on a training run.
I really feel for Ahmet – who is a really pleasant young man – and it is a bitter blow for him having to withdraw from his British title challenge against Liam Williams.
Williams is the big draw in Cardiff, so it was our job to save the show and come up with a meaningful fight that provides the paying fans with entertainment value, while also looking to progress the career of the home fighter.
Thankfully, we have managed to deliver this at short notice with Williams taking on Gabor Gorbics for the vacant WBO European title. Gorbics may be a late replacement, but he is not someone Williams can afford to take lightly and winning a WBO belt will serve to bolster his ranking with the governing body.
While the fans are always paramount in our thinking, we also have a duty to the other fighters on the card who will have trained hard for 10-12 weeks for the big night. Pulling a show is an absolute last resort and is not a road we entertained going down.
Ahmet’s shock withdrawal was the first of a double whammy this week which followed our feeling of elation of the previous week when we announced that BoxNation and BT had become united in their desire to provide the best in boxing for the fans and the fighters. As I say, swings and roundabouts.
In the case of the Billy Joe Saunders fight we elected to err on the side of caution. There have been some traumatic incidents in British rings this year that are well documented and we simply refuse to take any chances.
The medical paperwork supplied by Russian opponent Artur Akavov was incomplete and the safest option was to push the fight back a week so this can be satisfactorily rectified. In the bad old days of the communist Soviet Union you might have said it was case of red tape…
The fight was not the major selling point of the Cardiff card, which was predominantly put together to showcase the title contests involving Williams, Tommy Langford, Tom Stalker v Craig Evans and latterly Terry Flanagan.
It was always about Bill having a tough little test after nearly a year of inactivity and, thankfully, we had the flexibility with a show taking place in Paisley next week.
The card is still right out the top drawer, with a world title fight supported by a scrap for the WBO European belt, a British title bout and the third part of a compelling trilogy – also with a WBO European title at stake.
Terry Flanagan needs to be on his game against Orlando Cruz, who has mixed in some tough company and is an experienced operator.
From a boxing point of view it is a tricky fight, while there is also the fact that Cruz is something of a pioneer as one of the few brave sportsmen who have come out and is bidding to become the first openly gay world champion.
Flanagan will treat this challenge like he does every fight. He is a true professional and he cannot afford to slip up.
He is going to be involved in some seriously big fights and Bob Arum and I have been talking about, maybe in the summer, bringing the magnificent Vasyl Lomachenko over to fight him.
So Turbo will need to be operating at full pelt on Saturday.
On the subject of Bob Arum, I am delighted that BoxNation will be broadcasting his 2,000th promotion, live from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday morning.
I would like to offer my own congratulations to the old boy, who at a sprightly 84 is still in there more than punching his weight.
His journey has been something else, from Muhammad Ali to Vasyl Lomachenko via Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Manny Pacquiao – that really does take some beating.
He is simply a great promoter, certainly the best in my lifetime. If you take into account longevity and what he has delivered, there is no doubting his position as number one.
The headline fight for his landmark promotion is one befitting such an occasion, with Lomachenko making the first defence of his WBO super featherweight title against the unbeaten Nicholas Walters.
On paper, Walters should provide Lomachenko with a stern examination in what is, incredibly, the Ukrainian’s only eighth fight as a pro. Being a world champion at two different weights after just seven fights is simply astounding.
I think, technically, he is the best fighter I have seen since Sugar Ray Leonard. I like the angles he finds, he is a hurtful puncher, he is smart and is only going to get better.
“He is handful for anybody because if they make mistakes he makes them pay. His footwork is fantastic and he is just a class act.
What he has done so far is absolutely phenomenal – he is really something special.
Coverage from Las Vegas begins at 3am on Sunday morning