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Boxing promoter pays rival pounds 7.5m to end deal

TWO OF the world's biggest boxing promoters sat feet from each other in the High Court yesterday to hear that the Briton Frank Warren is to pay his US counterpart Don King $12m (pounds 7.5m) in settlement of their partnership, which began in September 1994.

Mr King said: "I have been 100 per cent successful ... my reputation has been upheld." Shaking hands outside the High Court room, they joked about having dinner together. "He'll have to pay," Mr Warren said. Mr Warren, with his business partner, Christopher Roberts, will pay the settlement in instalments. He has agreed to sell his house if necessary to make the first of the payments.

Mr Warren said: "It'll be worth it ... I'm free from slavery. But it looks as if I shall be eating soup in a basket tonight." His wife is party to the agreement. The deal brings to an end a 14-month legal battle, described as hell by Mr Warren, who had had his business assets frozen during the dispute, effectively neutering his ability to stage important fights. Now Mr Warren, one of boxing's great survivors - literally after his recovery from a 1989 shooting - is back in the ring thanks to his pounds 7.5m deal.

It effectively buys the assets of the partnership for Mr Warren, who will continue to represent "Prince" Naseem Hamed. Mr King said yesterday that he would consider representing Hamed if the British world featherweight champion approached him. Part of the agreement is for Mr Warren to withdraw the allegation that Mr King failed to promote Hamed successfully.

Mr Warren has also dropped his accusation that Mr King fraudulently amended their partnership agreement after it had been signed.

Both parties said their counter-claims for defamation will be discontinued. Earlier meetings between the pair had led to exchanges more suited to the pre-match banter of their boxers. Representing Mr King, Michael Briggs QC said that a separate action against Home Box Office (HBO), Time Warner's pay-per-view channel, would continue. It was Mr Warren's deal to screen a series of title fights that first provoked the dispute in August 1997.

HBO had been starved of top-class boxing until then. The deal offered the network a way back in. That annoyed the rival US channel Showtime Television, with which Mr King has a special relationship.

Mr King issued a writ against Mr Warren in November. Both sides now agree their partnership came to an end in that month. Before Christmas 1997 Mr King applied for the partnership's assets to be frozen. The ensuing legal conflict centred on precisely what those assets were.

Even the second draft of their agreement, made in April 1995, was described by the Honourable Mr Justice Lightman at an earlier hearing as an "amateur production ... replete with obscurities and inconsistencies".

Predictably, these inconsistencies were interpreted differently by the two camps. Mr King claimed that management and promotional agreements were partnership assets, which Mr Warren would have to purchase. Mr Warren's belief was that he had agreed to share the profits from only these activities, and only for the duration of the partnership.

In a series of hearings, the penultimate of which was an appeal in December last year, Mr King won.

Mr Warren was left with the option of continuing expensive litigation, with a slight chance of success, or settling. Mr King said yesterday: "I intend to continue and expand opportunities for UK boxers to win heavyweight and other championships in the US."