Some years ago, the promoter Mickey Duff was asked why there was so much disloyalty in boxing. "If you want loyalty," he replied, "buy a dog." It is a suggestion that Frank Warren, Duff's successor as Britain's leading fight impresario, must be contemplating following the decision of Joe Calzaghe to end their long-standing association and do his own thing for the final, and he hopes, most lucrative bout of his career.
It is also a situation with which Warren is not unfamiliar. Ricky Hatton dumped him after Warren had steered him through to the world light-welterweight title, amassing a fortune along the way; Naseem Hamed also went his own way after building his name and his bank balance with Warren. The reason can be summed up in one word: money. And the desire of the fighters not to play the percentage game once the mega-bucks start to pour in.
The boxing world usually does not extend much sympathy towards promoters but Warren's pique is understandable, for under his stewardship Calzaghe, whom Warren called the best fighter he has ever worked with, earned around £20m. And until now Calzaghe has always been effusive in his praise of the way the promoter took care of his business.
He has fought successfully for Warren for 12 years, and it was Warren who lobbied hard among his political contacts to get Calzaghe first an MBE, now upgraded to a CBE.
It used to be that promoters hired the fighters. Now it is starting to operate the other way round, as evidenced by world heavyweight prospect David Haye's formation of his own promotional organisation, Hayemaker Boxing. But as he does not have a promoter's licence, what Haye must do, as both Hatton and Hamed did, is pay a fee to someone who does and put his name up front. That is not the way Warren does business.
In Calzaghe's case the former world super-middleweight champion – he gave up his titles last week – believes he and his preferred opponent, the four-weight champion Roy Jones Jnr, can do a deal between themselves and split the profits for a meeting at light-heavyweight in Las Vegas on 20 September. But the 36-year-old Welshman is likely first to find himself negotiating with Don King, who holds promotional options on Jones. It may prove an encounter more painful than any of the 45 he has had in the ring.
Calzaghe says he hopes he and Warren can part amicably, but the promoter is not commenting as he is taking legal advice, believing he had an ongoing agreement to promote Calzaghe after the Bernard Hopkins fight. It is known that Warren had been negotiating for Calzaghe to fight the hard-hitting world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik but Calzaghe probably sees the 39-year-old Jones as a more saleable, and perhaps less dangerous, opponent to top up his pension fund. "I am a free agent and the only person who can make the negotiations for my next fight," he says.
Calzaghe's decision to split with Warren leaves Amir Khan as Sports Network's principal drawing card, and there seems little likelihood of the Commonwealth lightweight champion taking a similar rout. Their contract renewal will be announc ed this week and an agreement for his next fight, in Manchester on 6 September, is already in place. Khan can have no complaints about the way he has been nurtured, with a title and several million pounds in the bank after their three-year association. What awaits rubber-stamping is a new TV deal which Warren hopes will bring Khan the continued terrestrial exposure his exciting style merits.
What we do know is that his next few fights will not see him challenging for a world title. For Warren has been proved right with his insistence that the former Olympic silver medallist is not yet ready, an argument that the impetuous Khan now accepts, agreeing that he is still making some elementary errors.
These were again in evidence against Michael Gomez last Saturday. Brilliantly as he boxed to get out of trouble after being knocked down, Khan knows he needs more defensive schooling before facing the likes of the fearsome Filipino Manny Pacquiao or US champion David Diaz who contest the WBC lightweight title this weekend. Or even the less destructive veteran Nate Campbell, the WBA, WBO and IBF champion.
Before leaving for a two-week break in Egypt, Khan admitted that he needs to work not so much on his boxing but his balance. "When I was knocked down I wasn't hurt," he insisted. "Like against Willie Limond I was caught off balance. I need to sort out my footwork. I also know that sometimes I box with my heart rather than my head."
Khan has blinding hand speed and his punches have a piston-like quality but he needs to slow down and measure his shots. His chin may be vulnerable but there are few world champions who have never been on the floor. "Boxing is not a one-way street," says Khan. "You hit and you get hit. But I know I can always respond and come back stronger."
His September date means he may have to abandon his plans to go to Beijing to support the Olympic squad. Meantime, if Warren is now thinking of buying that dog, one doubts it will be a boxer.Reuse content