Boxing: Hamed's team object to referee

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Naseem Hamed's camp have objected to the choice of the referee for the world featherweight title unification fight with the American Tom Johnson at London Arena on 8 February.

Brendan Ingle, manager of the World Boxing Organisation champion, is calling for the New Jersey official Rudy Battle to be replaced. The protest was disclosed yesterday by the promoter Frank Warren at Johnson's first pre-fight press conference.

Warren said: "Brendan has asked for a neutral referee who is not from England, Europe or the United States. Battle is an excellent referee, but this will have to be resolved one way or another in the next few days."

Johnson, the International Boxing Federation champion, said: "I'm not one to object although my handlers might. The point I would make is that if Hamed is saying he will beat me in two or three rounds why make a big issue about the referee."

Johnson dismissed a message from Hamed, relayed by Warren, that the two fighters should agree to a winner-take-all instead of pocketing their respective purses. He said: "There are some things that are not worth an answer."

Meanwhile, a bout in Dubai may be the next target in the comeback of Chris Eubank, Warren, his former promoter, confirmed yesterday. Eubank, 30, who is the former WBO super-middleweight champion and now promotes himself, returns from a two-week trip to Dubai today.

"Eubank has been out in Dubai for about two weeks, but I don't think anything is finalised just yet," Warren said.

"He is travelling back now, and there will probably be more to say about it tomorrow.

"We are just talking about doing something together at the moment, but we will see what happens," Warren said.

Reports from Dubai suggest that Eubank is planning on a fight against an unnamed opponent at the end of March, and is apparently hopeful of a world title bid if he wins.