`I won't roll over. I can see off King', says Frank Warren

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The Independent Online
THE venue was an ornate country mansion once owned by Henry VIII. Cream cakes were offered while tea was poured from an elegant blue china service.

Frank Warren's big fight promotion at Hunsdon House in Hertfordshire yesterday must have been the oddest in his career. For a start, he was one of the combatants.

The other, the candyfloss-haired American promoter Don King with whom Mr Warren is locked in a legal war, was not there. But amid the splendour of his pounds 2m home, Mr Warren came out fighting just the same. "I am more up for this now than I've ever been," he said. "I am not going to roll over and let this happen....I can certainly see off King."

Talking pre-fight talk worthy of one of his fighters, he added: "I've come from nothing. I've made money, I've lost money. But one thing I'm not, I'm not a quitter. I'm not a loser, I'm a winner."

The dispute emanates from the break-up of the two promoters' business partnership last December.

Mr King won the first battle last week when a judge at a preliminary hearing ruled that Mr Warren had breached his obligation to the partnership.

Mr King claimed the decision meant he had a half share of all Mr Warren's boxers and that it would cost the Briton pounds 12m to buy him out.

But Mr Warren argued yesterday that the decision was not a knockout but a knock-down, and one that had been unfairly awarded. He said he was confident of overturning the decision on appeal and of ultimately beating his opponent.

At another hearing later this year, Mr Warren will accuse Mr King of doctoring a crucial document. The American argues that Mr Warren agreed the alteration.

After last week's judgment, Mr King criticised Mr Warren's contribution to British boxing, prompting a libel action from his rival.

Yesterday Mr Warren handed out statements of support from his boxers. Prince Naseem Hamed, the WBO World Featherweight champion, said: "Frank is like a second father to me and I trust him as if he were."

Next week, the promoters' lawyers will do battle over claims by Mr Warren that Mr King is witholding documentation relating to television deals involving British fighters.

Mr Warren pointed out that Mr King was also facing legal actions from former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, and was under investigation by the FBI, also in connection with allegations of forged paperwork. But Mr Warren was himself arrested last June as part of an on-going Customs and Excise investigation into alleged VAT fraud.

Looking out over his estate, Mr Warren briefly allowed himself to consider the multi-million pound consequences of defeat. "Somebody's going to end up paying the costs and if it's me, I'll pay them. I'm not skint," he said.

The British boxing press corps, used to plying its trade from blood-spattered seats at ringside, seemed suitably impressed.

Mr King was not. "The plain fact is that Mr Warren has suffered a crushing defeat," said his spokesman.