Inside Lines: Ricky Hatton and Lennox Lewis heal rifts for greater good
Sunday 30 June 2013
Small wonder they call boxing's theatre of war the ring. What goes around, comes around. Evidence of this comes with a fascinating double-whammy.
Two of Britain's finest former world champions, Lennox Lewis and Ricky Hatton, have now kissed and made up with the respective promoters with whom they split so acrimoniously at the peak of their careers. Frank Maloney, who steered Lewis through the murky world of what the fighter called "boxing's politricks" to the world heavyweight title, has drafted in Lewis to help his current heavyweight hope, the British champion, David Price, avoid a repeat KO defeat at the hands of the veteran American Tony Thompson in Liverpool next Saturday.
And in an even more remarkable rapprochement, Hatton sat alongside Frank Warren in a fashionable north London restaurant last week to declare his allegiance to him and a veritable posse of promoters now united under the BoxNation banner in a declaration of satellite war on Sky's threatened monopoly of televised boxing after giving exclusive rights to Eddie Hearn's Matchroom stable.
Maloney, like Hatton jettisoned by Sky, is also part of the "Gang of Five" which embraces Warren, Barry McGuigan and Amir Khan's promotional organisation. At one time or another all have been the best of enemies, but as the hatchet-burying Hatton says: "We decided the best thing for boxing was to stop fighting each other and fight together."
BoxNation, in which Warren is a major shareholder, are getting a substantial financial injection from UK steel magnate Bill Ives, and have acquired the biggest fight of the year, Floyd Mayweather Jnr's clash with the undefeated Mexican Saul Alvarez in September. On Saturday they will screen Price's return with nemesis Thompson, the 41-year-old southpaw by whom he was sensationally poleaxed in two rounds in February. After that loss Lewis invited Price to his Canadian camp for some therapy and tuition, and is now here working with him.
He tells us: "There's always a risk taking an immediate return, but David got caught with an unexpected shot, he wasn't beaten up or brutalised. It happened to me twice [against Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman] so we can empathise, but I came back to win the returns and so can he. I still believe he will be world champion. When you fall off a horse it is important to get right back in the saddle." But ominously, Thompson looks even fitter than last time.
Following our story last week that Tory peer Lord Coe could be a runner for London mayor in 2015 if Bojo steps down and Coe himself fails to get the presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), word reaches us of another equally intriguing possible scenario.
That Coe's main opponent could be his fellow Locog board member Dame Tessa Jowell, the former Olympics Minister (and Minister for London). I'm told she would not be averse to accepting the Labour nomination. Now that would be an Olympian battle.
Price is right
Understandably, the Lawn Tennis Association chief executive, Roger Draper, has been keeping a low profile at Wimbledon, as he is about to become one of the dear departed – dear in terms of his £640,00 salary, that is. Sport England's Jennie Price, regarded as the best CEO in the business, is believed be in pole position to replace him (though former British Olympic Association and Ipswich Town chief Simon Clegg is also in the frame).
Draper himself was Sport England's chief executive before landing the LTA job, where under his stewardship annual salary costs have soared to more than £15 million – about half the profits made by Wimbledon. If his successor is Price, as a former expert in waste control she will quickly have her eye on that particular ball.
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