FRANK WARREN has been there, seen it, done it, bought it, flogged it. There’s not a lot you can tell him that he doesn’t already know about the sport of boxing and if he doesn’t like the cut of your jib, he’ll make no secret of his disdain. On more than one occasion I’ve been told that I was still in nappies when he started working in the sport of boxing. Not quite true – I was toilet trained by then – but you take his point; Warren has come a long, long way since he was the new kid on the block in the early eighties, not so much ruffling feathers but clipping wings as he slowly but surely changed the face of the long-established hierarchy in British boxing.
Four decades later, Warren remains a formidable force in the industry and is the most prolific British promoter in the post-lockdown era. It was fitting that it was he who brought the sport back in the UK with a series of shows on his latest television platform, BT Sport, in both a TV studio in East London and York Hall. It was Warren and his team who laid the foundations for British boxing to grow again and in turn create the blueprint that others now follow. This weekend he promotes the first male world title fight to be staged in the country since the onset of the pandemic. According to BoxRec, Warren’s latest milestone is the 606th show he’s had a hand in promoting since he began in 1980, though the overall number likely runs higher than that.
Over the years, the Hall of Famer has had something of an up-and-down relationship with Boxing News which dates back to the days when Harry Mullan was at the helm. There have been arguments shared with Mullan, as well as subsequent editors Claude Abrams, Tris Dixon and myself. There have been accusations (some fair, some not) of unjust reports and previews, there has been offence taken when none whatsoever was meant, and that blatant untruth that we favour his promotional rivals (which, by the way, is a feeling shared by his promotional rivals who think we favour him). It of course speaks of the immense pride and relentless passion he has for his work.
However, for the record, speaking from my own experience and as a general rule, I couldn’t care less who is promoting a show nor do I consider any promoter a friend: It’s the fights and the fighters that matter, and it’s the fights and the fighters – and the interest in them – which governs the inches they get in the magazine and the amount of exposure they receive on our online channels.
Furthermore, if one promoter promotes 50 shows a year, for example, and another promotes 25, it doesn’t take a genius to work out whose events will figure more prominently in that 12-month period.
Through it all, Warren has always been generous with his time and keen to make his point. As well as the arguments and the at times obvious annoyance with the opinions of someone with significantly less experience in the sport than him, there have been congratulatory messages and it’s rare that a Christmas Day passes when Frank doesn’t send a message of goodwill. His huge achievements command significant respect and he’s always worth listening to, as a recent episode of The Opening Bell – the BN podcast – featuring Warren proved.
He was typically engaging and occasionally prickly as he readied himself to answer certain questions – he resisted the urge to tell me to where to go when it was put to him that past feuding between Matchroom and Queensberry might make a working relationship between the two difficult – but Frank Warren wouldn’t be Frank Warren without those combative shoulder rolls and that suspicious mind. Warren is all business and one would be hard pressed to find anyone with greater survival instincts than him in any industry, which is the highest of compliments.
Boxing needs that never say die spirit more than ever before. And it’s fair to say the sport would not be where it is today, or achieved the lofty highs of recent years, without the measures he started to put in place when several of his current rivals were, dare I say it, still in nappies.