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Inside Lines: Bell tolls for Dean Powell as British boxing mourns a great man


There will be a count of 10 at the Copper Box in London’s Olympic Park next Saturday night. The traditional tolling of the ring bell will honour the memory of Dean Powell, a man at the very heart of British boxing, who took his own life last week, the latest in a grim line of tragedies to hit the sport.

Powell, 47, who fell under a train at a South London station on Tuesday, was the show’s matchmaker, as he had been for all of Frank Warren’s promotions during the past decade. He was also Britain’s top cornerman. There is barely a name boxer in the land, from Ricky Hatton to Ricky Burns via Naseem Hamed, Nigel Benn, Amir Khan, Joe Calzaghe et al, who has not reaped the benefit of sage advice from “Deano” between rounds. He would have been working the corners of Dereck Chisora and Billy Joe Saunders, who jointly top the inaugural Copper Box bill. Both are dedicating their bouts to him. Chisora meets the German Edmund Gerber for the vacant European heavyweight crown and Saunders defends his British middleweight belt against fellow unbeaten challenger John Ryder in bouts televised live by BoxNation (www.boxnation.com). Chisora told Inside Lines last night: “This has been has been a sad, sad week for me – I lost one of my closest friends. The last time I saw him was on Monday when he came over to my house to discuss the gameplan for his fight. He made notes, asked me what time I wanted him at the Copper Box to wrap my hands and I said, ‘See you soon’. We gave each other hug and then the next day I heard he was dead. He was a lovely man.” Warren says his organisation first became worried after receiving a text from Powell asking them to look after his family. “We still can’t comprehend it,” he added. “There seems no explanation. His death leaves a massive void in world boxing.” Powell’s apparent suicide follows that of twin boxing brothers, Billy and Ernie Smith. Billy hanged himself in July, three years after Ernie did the same. Three years ago the Olympic medallist Darren Sutherland was found hanged soon after turning pro, and in 2002 another famous cornerman, George Francis, who trained Frank Bruno and John Conteh, similarly took his own life. The Boxing Board of Control admit “concern” about growing instances of depression among those in the sport.

Sheikhing up the IOC

Football is not the only sport to be powerbrokered by rich Middle Eastern potentates. There is intrigue over the role of Sheikh Ahmad al Sabah, a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, within the International Olympic Committee. He strongly backed the incoming president, Germany’s Thomas Bach, Tokyo as 2020 Games hosts and also wrestling’s restoration to the Olympic programme. Clearly a man of great influence, he presides over the umbrella group of 205 national Olympic committees responsible for distributing nearly $400 million (£253m) of IOC money among themselves. The new boss insists he is his own man, and that no one pulls his strings. Let’s hope Bach shows some bite.

Caborn aims to beat count

Is former sports minister Richard Caborn about the follow his friend Derek Mapp as a victim of amateur boxing’s internal punch-ups? Mapp was forced out as chair of the British Amateur Boxing Association by blazer power and Caborn is now facing a KO as chair of constituent body the ABA of England.

There are moves to oust him at an Extraordinary General Meeting early next month, with 10 out of 12 regions demanding his removal, but Caborn, who has twice threatened to resign, now seems determined to fight on, stating: “The most important thing for the sport is that we continue to progress with the process of modernising the ABAE, and put in place the new constitution and Board which has been endorsed by Sport England and, most importantly, voted for by an overwhelming majority of the membership.”