Boxing: Rivals watch as Warren's fight goes on

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PICKING through the bones of a broken relationship is more often than not a depressing task. You know the way it is: cries of anguish and outrage from one side, and bitter accusations of an equal intensity from the other.

So it is with the viciously contested split between the former partners in boxing promotion, Frank Warren and Don King, which took its first significant swing in the High Court on Thursday. It is, however, too simplistic to rush to conclusions regarding the ruling of Mr Justice Lightman, which left King telephoning friends in celebration and Warren issuing a statement expressing his disappointment and his determination to appeal.

Initial reaction was that King, who has hired a professional publicist, was on the brink of overwhelming victory. It is not so. If Thursday's ruling is confirmed by the appeals process then Warren has indeed suffered a setback, but it is probable that he was prepared for an early reverse. Only when the full civil case is heard will it be possible to reach a solid conclusion.

King, as happy as he was on Friday, is also aware that this is only "Round One" in the fight. He countered: "Unless you get past Round One, there is no Round Two." The extrovert American is settling down for a long, expensive gamble, and at this stage relishing it.

However, neither can be certain of the depth of their resources. King is embroiled in a long-standing criminal insurance and fraud case which has been brought by the US Government and which is now at the retrial stage after the first case ended in a stalemate. If found guilty, King could be jailed.

He also faces a $100m (pounds 63m) lawsuit from Mike Tyson and other suits from Tyson's previous manager Bill Cayton and from a former partner of his own, Murad Muhammad. Warren, meanwhile, has problems still to be resolved between his Sports Network organisation and HM Customs and Excise.

While it is probable that King's financial base is stronger, either could be weakened by these side-issues. The initial conclusion provided by Mr Justice Lightman is that King's firm, Don King Productions Inc, was entitled to share the profits made by Warren's Sports Network from the World Boxing Organisation featherweight champion, Naseem Hamed. If Warren eventually loses, then he must buy King out or allow him the previously agreed share of the profits of any promotions involving any boxers covered by the partnership. If Warren wins, then he is free to conduct his business without King and without having to buy him out, although costs are estimated at more than pounds 1m and rising.

Warren's Sports Network operates independently for the moment, while King is working at setting up what is in effect a replacement deal with Warren's chief British rival, Panix Promotions, which is fronted by Frank Maloney and owned and run by Panos Eliades.

They worked together for the first time on a joint basis last night at Hull Arena, with King presumably also taking an interest in the Lennox Lewis-Shannon Briggs fight in Atlantic City. Panix promote Lewis.

"What happens between Frank Warren and Don King in court makes no difference to me," said Eliades, yesterday. "We won't be affected by it. It's business as normal."

Other rivals, as they always do when one powerful business group or another is set to take a huge financial bath, watch from the edge waiting to see how the cards fall in a notoriously precarious political game.

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