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GUEST ARTICLE: Frank Warren – Levelling The Playing Field

By Paul Mason

In a move that came slightly out of leftfield, a show was announced for December 9 featuring both IBF Super Middleweight Champion, James DeGale, and IBF Featherweight Champion, Lee Selby. What nobody saw coming, is this will be a Frank Warren promoted show at the Copperbox Arena in Stratford, London. The opponents for both fighters have yet to be announced, but will have to figure in the IBF rankings top 15 to be considered. Al Haymon, as advisor to both DeGale and Selby, has seemingly advised this is the best route for the duo to take at this time.

 

For Warren, following hot on the heels of his coup in signing Carl Frampton to his stable, this is another strong marker thrown down in the now intensifying competition between him and Eddie Hearn’s platform on Sky Sports. Although Selby and Degale are promotional free agents, it still represents a great piece of business for the promoter. It was first thought that Warren would be slowly building his young fighters on Boxnation and BT Sport into a stable that could compete from scratch with Hearn’s Matchroom outfit. It now seems that BT Sport are providing the much needed financial clout that Warren was looking for, as originally Terry Flanagan, the WBO Lightweight Champion, was seen as the flag bearer for the new era on BT. Since the first show in April this year, Warren can now boast headliners such as Josh Warrington, who is on the cusp of a World Title shot, Frampton and now DeGale and Selby for December’s show.

 

DeGale and Selby have stalled somewhat as of late. DeGale’s is through no fault of his own, as his last fight, a thrilling draw with Badou Jack, escalated a niggling shoulder injury that had been bothering him for some time. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Harlesden man, especially with the World Boxing Super Series taking off in his weight class. The light at the end of the tunnel for the 2008 Olympic Gold Medallist, is that big matches will lie ahead for him at the conclusion of the tournament if he can remain World Champion until then. George Groves is WBA “Super” Champion, and a rematch with him is a natural. Add to this a possible Chris Eubank Junior or Callum Smith fight and the options are mouth-watering. Unifications would be possible in all three cases following the end of the tournament. DeGale’s preference seems to be the newly crowned unbeaten WBC Champion, David Benavidez, who recently beat Ronald Gavril via split decision in September. WBO Champion Gilberto Ramirez remains quietly talked about, but still a possibility.

 

Lee Selby, meanwhile, has been floating between promotional outfits after seeing out a deal with Eddie Hearn with a low key stoppage win (TKO9/10)over Andoni Gago on the David Haye v Tony Bellew bill at the 02 Arena in March this year. He followed this up by beating Jonathan Victor Barros on an ITV Box Office bill that was topped by Chris Eubank Junior against Arthur Abraham. This was a fight held over from January where Selby was cruelly denied a Las Vegas debut by an irregular blood test by Barros. Selby has been slightly disappointing since his impressive capture of the Title with a Technical decision win against Evgeny Gradovich in May 2015. A closer than expected points win over Fernando Montiel in Glendale gave Selby his first defence of the Title, and he then had to survive a knockdown before outpointing Eric Hunter in April 2016. He will be hoping to find a regular home now on BT Sports and break out to become a household name, and presumably this now puts him on a definite collision course with either Josh Warrington, who is Selby’s mandatory challenger following his stoppage win over Dennis Ceylan last month in Leeds, or Carl Frampton, which is the fight Selby really craves. These types of fights further enhance Frank Warren’s options at his deposal following several big name signings. These also make the most sense at the moment, with there being what seems a logjam with the WBA Title while Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz organise a rematch. WBC Champion Gary Russell Junior and WBO boss Oscar Valdez seem better best avoided for now, as travelling to America would probably be a mandatory requirement.

 

The key at the moment to Frank Warren shows is the quality over Matchroom in domestic fights especially. Where Hearn will build fighters against limited cosmopolitan opposition, Warren is matching his prospects in some tough fights, and as a result we have seen some quality 50/50 fights on his cards. Hopefully this will force Matchroom into doing the same on their platform, as some of the shows recently seem repetitive in quality. With BT Sport seemingly in for the long haul, we could yet see more and more fighters making the jump from other promotions to perform on BT.

 

This can only be good news for the fans, who are likely to see more 50/50 fights across all platforms. It will be an interesting 2018, with a host of top quality shows expected off the back of this.

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