By Paul Mason
Last April, BT Sport jumped on board as a broadcasting partner to Frank Warren Promotions. When the first bill was announced for the partnership, at the Manchester Arena, Liam Williams and Liam Smith took part in a cracker, and Terry Flanagan successfully defended his WBO Lightweight Title against Petr Petrov to get the Warren/BT era off to a flyer.
Two weeks later it would be the Leicester Arena as the venue, with Tommy Langford facing Avtandil Khurtsidze in the main event. Fans would be forgiven for believing the Manchester show may be a false start.
However, they needn’t have worried. The shows have started as they mean to go on and have gone from strength to strength. The Leicester show was a huge success, with a barn burner of a contest between Jahmayne Smyle and Darryl Williams stealing the show. They were ably supported by Heavyweight hope Daniel Dubois, and local lad Lyon Woodstock scoring impressive victories, as well as the South African starlet, Zolani Tete winning the WBO Bantamweight Title with a wide points win over Arthur Villanueva.
The main part of the success story now lies in Frank Warren’s ever-growing stable of top-class prospects and established World class fighters. Since the birth of the BT deal, Warren has managed to negotiate promotional rights with Josh Warrington, James DeGale, Lee Selby, Carl Frampton and most recently the biggest name of them all, the coveted signature of Tyson Fury. Add to this the fighters he has managed to attract to the UK such as Gervonta Davis, systematically dismantling Liam Walsh at the Copper Box in May 2017, and Nonito Donaire battling Carl Frampton in Belfast just last month. It’s good that he is generating more and more attention for the sport. He also handles the likes of up and comers such as Anthony Yarde as well as Dubois and Woodstock to name a few.
One can only be impressed in the manor Warren has built his empire back up from the ruins of missing out on a Sky TV deal back in 2010 when all shows were exclusively given to Eddie Hearn and Matchroom. He has recovered first with Boxnation, and now BT have teamed up with the rejuvenated promoter.
The BT shows are very good quality, and, almost as importantly, the undercards are full of 50/50 dust-ups that keeps the viewer from straying away. This differs slightly from the Matchroom model, where there can be more than a fair share of mismatches, especially with the hot prospects.
The BT top quality offerings keep on coming. May 19 sees the eagerly anticipated IBF Featherweight Title clash between Lee Selby and Josh Warrington at Leeds United’s Elland Road Stadium, with another new signing, the brash and outspoken O’Hara Davies in action on the bill. Three weeks later, the Manchester Arena hosts Tyson Fury’s comeback against an opponent to be announced. Terry Flanagan meets Maurice Hooker for the WBO Super Lightweight Title on the same card, as he attempts to become a two-weight World Champion in his hometown. Billy Joe Saunders and Martin Murray box at the O2 Arena, London on June 23, and just announced is Carl Frampton’s big Windsor Park bill, slated for August. Warren also promotes Michael Conlan’s big homecoming in Belfast at the end of June.
So it’s pretty safe to say that business is booming for Frank Warren currently, and long may it continue. Good competition is healthy competition, and should, and is bringing the best out in UK promoters.