FRANK WARREN has reacted furiously to news that Sky Sports Box Office will broadcast the Dillian Whyte-Dereck Chisora rematch on the same night that BT Sport, closely aligned with Warren, show Carl Frampton’s clash with IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington on their Box Office platform.
“Sky should be ashamed of themselves,” Warren told Boxing News about the December 22 clash. “They’re going to war with all of us. It affects all four fighters, if they lose [only] 10 pay-per-view buys it affects the fighters’ upside. Why would you do that to the fighters?”
The British Boxing Board of Control, who often commission multiple shows on the same night across the country, insist there is nothing within their rules to stop this occurring.
“There was a rule many years ago that prevented shows from happening within close proximity to each other on the same night,” Board General Secretary Robert Smith told Boxing News. “But Frank [Warren] got that rule overturned before I was at the Board, I believe it was in the 1980s.
“The only way we could have stepped in is if an application came too late,” Smith continued. “But we have enough time to ensure we can cover both shows, and that’s the important thing for us.”
Warren announced the Warrington-Frampton showdown back in August, before it was confirmed for the Manchester Arena the following month. Last week, Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn held a press conference to declare that heavyweight rivals Whyte and Chisora will engage in a non-title sequel, two years after the former won an exciting 12-rounder.
“In a lot of ways I find it frustrating,” Warren – who parted company with Sky Sports in 2012 to launch BoxNation – continued. “I find it insulting for the fans and insulting for the fighters. I think the arrogance is unbelievable. It’s about Matchroom and Sky wanting to drive out BT pay-per-view competition. It’s disrespectful to Josh and Carl. But, ultimately, it’s damaging to the sport.
“There’s no reason for it. BT Sport and us, we’re investing long-term in our boxing strategy and we’re interested in delivering quality, not quantity for the boxing fans.”
Hearn, Frampton’s former promoter, predicted that Whyte-Chisora II may lose “50,000, maybe even more,” as a consequence of Warrington-Frampton taking place on the same night. He reasoned that he had little choice but to stage the heavyweight sequel on December 22 because it was the only date available at the O2 within his desired timescale.
It’s not the first time that Hearn and Sky have gone head-to-head with Warren and BT, or Carl Frampton for that matter. In April, the Matchroom boss put Amir Khan’s comeback bout with Phil Lo Greco up against Frampton’s showdown with Nonito Donaire. Neither event came at an extra cost. Back then, Hearn promised he had been finalising details of Khan’s fight before he knew about Frampton-Donaire. This time, though, he admits it’s a calculated risk.
“It’s two completely different contests and two completely different markets,” Hearn told BN. “Warrington-Frampton is a hardcore fans’ fight, it’s not a fight for the casuals, it’s never going to attract casuals, even if it’s not on the same night as us.”
The promoter, who made Frampton’s domestic clash with Scott Quigg for Sky Sports Box Office in 2016 and will know exactly what television audiences the Northern Irishman attracted back then, added: “I know the numbers, it’s [Warrington-Frampton] not a threat… What we’re going to lose on pay-per-view we’ll make up on the night.”
Warren sees it differently.
“Hearn is saying that hardcore fans will buy Warrington vs Frampton over Whyte and Chisora, so he’s obviously admitting that we have a better and more significant fight,” said the Hall of Fame promoter.
“Our two fighters are at the top of their game fighting in a world title fight who are getting a payday before Christmas. We want to grow the sport by putting on the best fighters at the top level not by conning the public with a rematch where there’s nothing on the line. It’s not for a world title or any title. Why is that a PPV? What is it? It’s two fighters who are going to use a pantomime to sell fights. For me it’s about the greed of Hearn and Sky.”
Hearn agrees that he is staging the show to make money, but denies it is anything more sinister than that. Hardcore fans have slammed the clash. Fans who have seen their spending on Box Office fees rise considerably in recent years. Even those fans for which money is no object are disgruntled – because they will not be able to watch both events live.
In a conversation with Ron Lewis of The Times, Hearn said he would consider working with Warren to ensure the starting times of the two main events are staggered so that punters can see them both live. In reality, that is likely to be a logistical nightmare.
Dillian Whyte will not worry too much. He wanted this fight. After defeating Joseph Parker in July the heavyweight stated he wanted at least one more bout before being in position to challenge Anthony Joshua. Hearn was then negotiating with WBC champion Deontay Wilder’s team in an effort to make a unification bout with Joshua. Those negotiations failed.
Instead, Wilder takes on the Warren-promoted Tyson Fury on December 1. The ease in which that contest was made, perhaps the most fascinating matchup of the year, will not have gone unnoticed by Hearn. He promises he wants to make Joshua-Wilder in April – he’s all but dismissed Fury – yet it seems unlikely given the unresolved problems that emerged from the first round of negotiations. So keeping Whyte busy and marketable, so he can slip in and fill the Wilder or Fury-shaped hole, would now seem the order of the day.
Hearn says that’s not necessarily the case.
“Whyte did not have to take this fight [with Chisora],” said Hearn. “The money he’s going to make for this fight is nowhere near what he’s going to make for the Joshua fight but he believes he’s improved and he believes he’ll win and he wants this fight. Chisora has everything to gain. Chisora and [his promoter, David] Haye think they’re going to fight ‘AJ’ in April but that’s not even on the radar.”
“What happens if Chisora wins?” Warren asked. “Is he going to fight Joshua? They are already saying that’s not going to be the case. If Chisora isn’t an acceptable opponent for Joshua on PPV, why is he fighting Dillian Whyte on PPV? Why have people got to pay for it? It’s a cash grab.”
Whyte is No.1 contender with the WBC and WBO, and No.4 with the WBA. Those lofty positions – which should automatically lead to a title shot – make the decision to fight Chisora a brave one. But Warren reasons it’s also stupid.
“The irony of it all is that Whyte is being used and he don’t even get it,” said Warren. “He should be sitting tight. Why is he taking risks? He’s No.1, somebody should have been out there pushing for that fight with Joshua and they never did that. Had they done that, his negotiation strength would have been stronger, rather than being a voluntary.”
Without question, attaching a price tag to Whyte-Chisora II – an appealing contest no doubt, but not exactly an elite showdown – highlights that the level of competition required to command PPV status has dropped. But the rules for PPV have been evolving for years. The excitement generated in July by Whyte’s victory over Parker and Chisora’s stunning triumph against Carlos Takam on the undercard make Whyte-Chisora II a ready-made money-spinner.
And for as long as fans pay, the PPVs will keep coming. Indeed, if Whyte-Parker was a success in the summer, it follows that Whyte-Chisora will follow suit in December. Even so, it’s easy to understand fans’ concerns that any meaningful bout will come at an extra cost.
Matchroom and Sky Sports have worked exceptionally hard to deliver value for money during the Box Office revolution. Masters at manufacturing grudges and selling them to the masses, the Sky marketing machine has become a force to be reckoned with. The PPV model has been built carefully and slowly.
Which is perhaps what makes this clash so unfortunate. It’s impossible to deny that the audience for Warrington-Frampton, a top line clash, will be affected by Whyte and Chisora renewing hostilities. Almost impossible, too, to believe that Hearn was not acting ruthlessly when he put his heavyweights up against the featherweights.
Expect Whyte and Chisora to be promoted to within an inch of its life.
“It’s pantomime,” said Warren. “If people can’t see through some of this stuff then they’re stupid. Selling this stuff as pay-per-view is a farce. We’re selling a real world title fight, we’re not getting involved in pantomime season.”
Problem is, pantomimes always sell at Christmas time.