Inside Lines: Cash row threatens pro debut of boxing's 'next Ricky Hatton'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Frank Warren's latest capture, brilliant young amateur star Ronnie Heffron – tipped as "the new Ricky Hatton" – is locked in a bitter financial battle which threatens the launch of his professional career next month. The British Amateur Boxing Association are demanding he pays them £16,000, which they say is part of the investment made in grooming him for the 2012 Olympics as a member of their elite squad. ABA champion Heffron, just 19, has also been told by the professional game's Board of Control that he cannot be given a licence until this is resolved. Warren says: "It is outrageous. How can they justify demanding this sort of money from a young kid?" Heffron, who is taking legal advice, says he has received only £2,000 in funding and has offered to repay this but BABA chairman Derek Mapp argues: "We now have contracts with our boxers and it is only right that if taxpayers' money is being used to support them, this should be repaid. Promoters have been made aware of this." Oldham's Heffron, a Hatton fight-a-like, who turned pro after being omitted from the European Championships, said he saw little chance of being selected in 2012 because he was in the shadow of number one light-welter Bradley Saunders, the Beijing Olympian who ironically is out of this month's world championships with a broken thumb.

Field day for 'elf 'n' safety

Traditional village sports like the egg and spoon and three-legged races could be seen in the 2012 programme if a bid for their inclusion by author Tom McNab is successful. McNab, once GB's national athletics coach, is one of a group seeking backing from Sport England for these events, plus age-old pastimes like caber tossing and pillow fighting to be part of the accompanying Cultural Olympics. "What a great way to demonstrate how these can help build community spirit," he says. Considering how even the sack race is now deemed far too dangerous for schoolkids we can't help thinking our 'elf 'n' safety' gestapo would have a track 'n' field day.

Full flavour of 2012

Village sports they certainly are not, but the world championships of the two most gruelling events which form part of the supporting bill in London's Olympics are on view here this week and well worth a look-in. Modern pentathlon takes place at Crystal Palace from Wednesday until Monday and the triathlon is at Hyde Park – also its 2012 venue – during next weekend. Both are full dress rehearsals for the Games, giving the public a taste of the Olympic atmosphere and the organisers the chance to demonstrate their capabilities of playing host. And for two pace-setting Brits, triathlete Alistair Brownlee and modern pentathlon's Heather Fell, to establish themselves as early favourites for 2012.

Nipped in the Budd

Writer Budd Schulberg, who died last week at 95, was one of boxing's greatest ringside champions. The best fight film ever made remains his classic The Harder They Fall and he was the author of surely the game's most memorable line ever when Marlon Brando's Terry lamented in On The Waterfront "I coulda been a contender..." Schulberg had a speech impediment as a BBC johnnie discovered when blithely phoning to ask if he would do a radio commentary on the first Ali-Frazier fight. "I thhhink yyy-ou've ggg-ot thhhe wrrr-ong mmm-an," stuttered Budd.