Legal eagles and split decision

Harry Mullan surveys the tangle of disputes that dominate boxing
Click to follow
The Independent Online
IT SOMETIMES seems that without the rich pickings of the litigious minefield that is professional boxing, lawyers in Britain would be seriously underemployed. Boxing relationships tend to be as transient as Hollywood marriages, and the divorce pro ceedings are often just as expensive. But at least the week's best-publicised break-up appears to have been amicable. Frank Bruno ended his 13-year link with Mickey Duff and signed a promotional deal with Frank Warren, whose close links with Don King sho uld secure yet another world title chance for the 33-year-old perennialcontender.

"We've been good for each other,'' Duff said, "but if he can do better with Warren, then fine - he's a free agent." Duff and Warren, once bitter rivals, co-promoted some shows this year but are now locked in a legal row involving Henry Wharton, whom Duffmanages. Ever a phrasemaker, Duff sums up their improbable association as "not so much a marriage as a couple of one-night stands''. The chances are that, when it suits them, they will do a deal again: in this business, memories are often as short as tempers.

Some fallouts, though, are as permanent: as a Sicilian blood feud, Barry McGuigan and Barney Eastwood are unlikely to appear on each other's Christmas card lists again, nor will the Dublin middleweight Steve Collins have much seasonal goodwill toward hisformer co-manager Pat Petronelli. Collins has spent most of his professional career boxing out of Boston under the guidance of Pat and his now-estranged brother, Goody, whose most famous charge was Marvin Hagler, before returning here to win the World Boxing Organisation title from Chris Pyatt in May.

The Irishman was due to defend his title in the final show at the Boston Garden last Wednesday against Lonnie Beasley, but turned up at the weigh-in to announce that he had a throat infection and would not be fit. It was the second time the bout had fallen through: theirs was one of the matches on the aborted Hong Kong show in October. There was no reason to suggest that Collins's illness was anything other than genuine but the strain of battling with Petronelli may have had much to do with that. Petronelli sued him in a Boston court for breach of contract last May when Collins headed home, and the fighter did not defend the action, so a substantial judgement was awarded against him.

A deal was struck to enable the Boston fight to go ahead, with Petronelli receiving half Collins's $50,000 purse as part- settlement, and Collins set up his training HQ in Goody Petronelli's gym. The pair had a closed-doors meeting last Wednesday, at which it seems the deal collapsed. Petronelli applied for writs to be served on everyone involved in the show to prevent Collins from receiving any money. Faced with the prospect of risking his world title for free, Collins must have been relieved when the throat infection forced him out of the fight. Instead, his younger brother Paschal made an unexpectedly well-publicised professional debut as, watched from ringside by the platoon of Irish boxing writers who had come over for his brother's fight, he flattened an obliging gentleman from Hartford, Connecticut, in just 24 seconds.

One last twist in this tale of tangled relationships: Paschal is managed by Pat Petronelli.