As the bars began to empty and the Manchester Arena started to swell, a thunderous chant originated from up high in the nosebleeds, rolling down to ringside like a thick flog over the glen. “Stand up,” they cried, both hands raised triumphantly to the heavens, “if you hate Man U.” It left one small group of American officials utterly bewildered. “What are they singing?” asked one, popping out an earbud as he strained to listen. “Something about hating Matchroom?”
Eddie Hearn’s sharp suited shadow loomed large over Josh Warrington’s thrilling victory over Carl Frampton on Saturday night. The rival promoters have, famously, never been able to find the time to speak to one another, and yet Hearn’s Machiavellian move to stage Dillian Whyte’s entertaining if fundamentally unnecessary rematch with Dereck Chisora on the very same night was a direct message to Frank Warren. A blatant and brutal attempt to harm Warren’s first primetime pay-per-view event on BT Sport.
It may yet prove to be a success for Hearn, who impressively packed out the O2 Arena with his show and will be expecting similarly strong PPV numbers, given the strength of the Sky Sports PR machine in his back pocket. But in the hours after Warrington’s title defence, Warren felt confident that he had won the battle, even if he yet loses the individual television war.
“Let me tell you what you need to know about that event,” Warren said in the early hours of Sunday morning, after quizzing reporters on who had won in London — he insisted he had not yet had the opportunity to look. “There is just no comparison between the two events and I am not being disrespectful, but it is what it is.
“Dereck Chisora is not an A List heavyweight fighter, let’s be honest about that. Those days are long gone. He is not that. And to be quite honest, I don’t know whether Dillian Whyte is either. You wouldn’t fancy him against any of the champions.”
“But Warrington and Frampton are true A List fighters. They were in a quality fight. I believe that everything happens for a reason and what has happened is that all of the fans are going to be talking about us. About our fight and our show. Because that is British boxing at its best. That is world class boxing.”
It is truly remarkable to think that, as recently as last month, Warren was facing questions of bankruptcy after he had a £1.8m claim for damages against former world champion Ricky Burns rejected by a High Court judge in London. Warren had argued that Barry Hearn, father of Eddie, had “tapped up” the former world champion.
Since then his fortunes have turned around dramatically. First in Los Angeles, where Tyson Fury’s draw with Deontay Wilder effectively froze out Hearn and Anthony Joshua and handed Warren all of the chips in the high-stakes heavyweight poker match. And now in Manchester, where Warrington’s win saw him become a bona fide box office star.
The opportunities for Warrington are now manifold. “I really believe he can go on and unify the division,” Warren added. “He can definitely beat somebody like [WBC world champion Óscar] Valdez. And now we will go where is best for Josh. That might be in America, but we can afford to go where it suits us.”
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