Working with Floyd Mayweather might prove to be a bit surreal for some, perhaps even overwhelming but last week was just another six days at the office for promoter Frank Warren.
Having worked with the likes of hall of famers Don King, Bob Arum and Rodolfo Sabbatini the glitz and glamour of Mayweather and co. was nothing new for Warren as his fighter Liam Walsh prepared for his first ever world title fight, against unbeaten “Floyd protégé” and IBF super featherweight champion Gervonta Davis.
“It was all quite exciting, quite entertaining,” Warren told Britishboxers.co.uk
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result on the night but I thought it was a cracking show for the fans. We’ve been putting together some good shows over the last few weeks. I thought that was one of them, and what I’m really pleased with is all these youngsters coming through.”
“He was an absolute joy to work with,” Warren said of working with Mayweather.
“Him, Leonard Ellerbe, they were absolute gentleman. There was no problem at all. They done everything to help make the show a success. They were very, very professional and I enjoyed it.”
“I said before the fight to Liam, you’ve got to go out and be the guv’nor. As soon as that bell goes you got to go and be boss. Don’t stand off him, you’ve got to really keep him on his back foot. Don’t let him set himself.”
The main event at the Copperbox Arena in London was over as soon as Davis found the accelerator pedal and a home for his spiteful, whipping left hands which put Walsh over with a minute to go in the third round. The challenger, looking somewhat unsteady, would rise to his feet only for the ruthless champion to finish the job off with referee Michael Alexander waving the contest off seconds later.
“I said before the fight to Liam, you’ve got to go out and be the guv’nor. As soon as that bell goes you got to go and be boss. Don’t stand off him, you’ve got to really keep him on his back foot. Don’t let him set himself,” Warren said.
“I think their [Walsh] gameplan was to come on strong after six rounds but the problem you’ve got with gameplans like that [is] if you lose six rounds you’ve got to win the next six rounds to get a draw, and I don’t agree with any of that. Fight each round like it’s the last round and that is what you should do. That’s how I see it. Look, we can all be wise after the event. Liam is a lovely guy, one of my favourite people to deal with. He’s had a lot of hard luck and unfortunately it wasn’t to be on the night and Gervonta was a much better fighter than we thought he was.”
There were protests from Walsh, his team and those at ringside—including the memorable verbal joust between BT pundits Steve Bunce and Richie Woodhall that referee Alexander had intervened too soon.
“I know where Liam’s coming from and so forth but better safe than sorry,” said Warren. “The referee was close to him and I think the referee is good referee. It is what it is.”
The fans at the Copperbox also witnessed the emerging talents of 19-year-old heavyweight Daniel Dubois, who moved to (3-0, 3 KOs) after breezing past David Howe, and the ever improving light heavyweight talent Anthony Yarde, who captured the Southern Area light heavyweight title after punching through the challenge of champion Chris Hobbs.
Dubois and Yarde have people talking. Their future looks bright, but the same could be applied for many of Warren’s youthful stable.
“I’m very, very excited,” said Warren of the two KO artists and their rising reputations being showcased on BT Sport.
“They are talents. But let’s get it right nobody knew who Anthony Yarde was when we signed him. [It’s] not like he came in with ABA credentials, and with Daniel it’s the same thing. There’s a bit of a reputation about his sparring but we went and put ourselves on the line with it, but I’m very confident with both of those guys.
“It’s funny because the future of world boxing as Floyd was saying is Gervonta but I think they’re the future of British boxing. But add to that a few others I don’t want to miss out. People like Lyon Woodstock Jr, Zelfa Barrett. We’ve got a lot of young talent. I’ve only mentioned those four but we’ve got a lot of good talent coming through who I think are really exciting and I’m expecting really big things from them.”
One fighter who will have gained a few more fans after Saturday night is crowd-pleasing super welterweight Joe Pigford (13-0, 12 KOs) who went toe-to-toe with Aarron Morgan in a five round thriller. It was a fight that Pigford looked like losing for the most part before his reputable power turned the tide and ended the fight in brutal fashion with a KO of the year candidate. Warren, who told BB that a fight between Pigford and Gary Corcoran has been looked at, had some words of advice for Pigford and his team.
“If I was Joe Pigford’s trainer [Wayne Batten], and he’s got a good trainer by the way, I’d take him back to the gym and I’d get a staple gun and staple his left hand to his head! Because if he keeps dropping that hand, we know he’s got a tremendous chin, but if he keeps dropping that hand like he’s been doing eventually there’s going to be a huge problem for him.”
“You’ve got to remember, when we were at Sky six and a half years ago I walked away. I walked away because they were out of pay-per-view and they were only going to give me and a couple of promoters eight dates a year each. That to me was ridiculous.”
Warren is more than content with how things are progressing for himself, his team, the fighters and the link-up with broadcaster BT Sport. Four shows down with many more to come, Warren is pleased and proud at how things have turned around since leaving Sky Sports and then launching boxing channel Boxnation in 2011.
“You’ve got to remember, when we were at Sky six and a half years ago I walked away. I walked away because they were out of pay-per-view and they were only going to give me and a couple of promoters eight dates a year each. That to me was ridiculous,” he recalled.
“They were basically withdrawing from boxing. [Eddie] Hearn benefitted from them getting rid of Hatton and Maloney, but they had a lot of things going for them. We were BoxNation, starting with nothing, we hadn’t got the marketing budgets or even the income, anywhere near the income Sky were getting.
“We just went out there and fought the system and I think we done well in very difficult circumstances, and at times hanging on by our fingertips. We kept true to what we were doing. We brought some fighters through under great difficulty. Having said that we’ve now done our deal with BT. BT have recognised where we are, that Boxnation is a recognised boxing brand and more importantly now we’ve got BT’s resources to help us take it to the next level.”
That next level includes pay-per-view.
“We have the pay-per-view facility, we have a bigger platform in BT and the amount of customers they’ve got, far more customers than Sky have got. And so, for us hopefully it can only be onwards and upwards. What I enjoy doing is getting these young guys through, developing them and bringing them through and the next stage of their careers will be to get them on to pay-per-view which we’ll have ready for them so they’ve not got to jump ship.”
The party line from Warren and BT Sport is all about providing competitive fights. So far fans have witnessed the likes of Pigford v Morgan, Kelly v Godding, Nurse v Hughes, Smyle v Williams, Warrington v Martinez and Sutcliffe v Leather. Fights where some looked 50-50 on paper, and some where the underdog was written off only to rip up the script.
“I think we’ve made some really competitive fights for our fighters. We set out to do that. They can fight or they can’t fight and that’s it. We haven’t thrown anyone in at the deep end, and it’s not the end of the world if someone gets beat by the way,” he said.
“I think from our point of view we’re absolutely delighted with what we’re doing but more importantly, which is what we’re about, is the fans and we try to deliver to the fans what they want. Competitive cards and giving them value for money, and I think we have been true to our word done that.
“Listen, there’s going to be a bum fight down the road, like you’re going to get a bum football or cricket match. That’s going to happen but we hope we make up for that with a good back-up and so forth. I think we’ve done well and we’ll continue to do so. We’ve got a big show coming up on July 8, back to the Copperbox so there’ll be a good atmosphere there. Billy Joe’s got to get rid of this pain in the **** [WBO middleweight title] mandatory [Avtandil Khurtsidze]. He’s got it, and got to get on with it. Having said that if Billy Joe’s not 100% he’ll get beat.”
Khurtsidze, nicknamed Mini Mike Tyson, was on British shores on BT Sport only last month when earning his right to face Saunders after stopping Tommy Langford in the fifth round of their interim WBO world middleweight title fight in Leicester.
Saunders v Khurtsidze is a fight that concerns Warren.
“I don’t like it,” he said.
“I don’t like it. I don’t mean it being disrespectful when I say he’s [Khurtsidze] a freak but he is a bit of a freak in as much his size, he’s strong, he’s awkward. Bill ain’t going to have to go looking for him. He’s going to be right in front of him and he can make things difficult, there’s no doubt about that.
“We’ve seen that with Tommy [Langford]. I thought Tommy was going to get through with his boxing, I think he was just too strong for Tommy. Whether it was too soon for him I don’t know. The match with Bill: he’s been out of the ring for a while and these are the sort of fights you don’t really want. He’s in the who needs him club.”
Warren also informed BB that the eagerly awaited rematch between Liam Smith and Liam Williams will hopefully take place in September with a date and venue still being worked on.
“It’s an eliminator for the WBO super welterweight title and we’ll see what happens with Canelo, what he decides to do but at the moment it’s an eliminator.”