A rift has developed between Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren and the British Boxing Board of Control that threatens to create a chasm through the sport in the UK. Speaking with boxing writer, Glynn Evans, Warren goes deep into the roots of his dissatisfaction and suggests remedies that could help restore equilibrium.
Though you began life as a boxing promoter in conflict with the British Boxing Board of Control, setting up the rival National Boxing Council, you’ve enjoyed a pretty harmonious relationship with them over the past 30 years.
That’s correct. I’ve always been very pro them publicly in my newspaper column.
A good few years back, I paid for them to host the WBC Convention when they couldn’t afford it. The night of Benn-McClelland, at my own expense, I provided double the required medical staff and extra ambulances. I was instrumental in helping to fund and broker the Michael Watson settlement and I also helped to fund the Board’s mandatory MRI scans for a period, after they were first introduced.
So I’m not anti Board. I’m not looking to bring the Board down, far from it. I simply covet a strong BBBC with direction, transparency and an understanding of the sport. I’m just anti a handful of senior stewards who hold disproportionate influence.
As a licence holder, what are your expectations from the Board when one of your boxers is fighting overseas?
In addition to their annual licence fee to the Board of Control, a British boxer has to pay a sanction, a percentage of his purse, to the Board every time he boxes abroad. In return, it’s only right that we expect a service. The Board appoints a steward to represent the fighter’s interests and that Board representative should then attach themselves to the licensed British boxer’s camp so that, whenever a problem arises, they’re on hand to act on that boxer’s behalf.
People need to understand that when Dereck fought Robert Helenius over in Finland, he was the victim of a horrendous decision yet he didn’t ‘kick off.’ That’s because the Board representative over there (Ron Pavett) performed his duties perfectly.
For Chisora-Klitschko, the Board sent over Charlie Giles who, as their Chairman and President, should know his obligations better than anyone. The Board have since mooted that, for the Chisora-Klitschko fight, Mr Giles was actually representing the WBC, for which he is also a Vice President. If so, why did the Board not send someone else to represent our interests?
And regardless of whether Mr Giles was acting on behalf of the Board of Control or the WBC, he wasn’t doing his role of ensuring the regulations were upheld and there was fair play. His visible presence throughout was non-existent. He did not make contact with any of our people. I wasn’t at the weigh-in so I can’t comment on whether Charlie Giles was there but he certainly wasn’t at the post-fight presser when it all kicked off with David Haye.
Nobody condones Chisora slapping Vitali Klitschko at the weigh-in in Munich. However, do you think more could’ve been done to prevent the incident from occurring?
Absolutely. I’ve made it crystal clear that in no way do I justify what Dereck did but there was a complete lack of security. Had there been a visible security presence then Dereck might not have found himself in such a compromising situation.
Vitali, who’s about half a foot taller than Dereck, placed his forehead right into Dereck’s face in a pretty threatening and intimidating manner and that wasn’t right. Clearly, Dereck was very frustrated by the fact that he’d twice trained close to a full camp to fight Wladimir Klitschko, only for Wladimir to pull out. Dereck was left with no explanation and no compensation and it had meant he was inactive for a considerable period of time. Understandably, he was pretty raw with that. It was always likely to be combustible.
What we needed was a strong presence from the Board of Control delegate to ensure that there was adequate security and also to have a strong word with Dereck to ‘Behave yourself’ and make him aware of the potential consequences. Sometimes it needs someone from outside the immediate camp to impose authority. We pay licence fees and we needed some support.
How would you expect the designated Board of Control inspector to represent your boxer’s interests during the wrapping of hands in the changing rooms before a championship fight? What usually happens?
Given that they’re paying a sanction fee to the Board from their purse, a British fighter has a right to expect the Board official to be present with him and, normally 90% of the time, that’s what happens.
Given the history of Dereck’s ‘non fights’, we were all unhappy when the Klitschkos nominated Wladimir as their representative to observe Dereck’s hands being wrapped. Immediately, he got in Dereck’s face with subtle intimidation whilst Dereck was sat down but, hey, we’re all over 21 and expect that.
Dean Powell, who helps work Dereck’s corner, is very experienced and has wrapped hands all around the world. He’s widely acknowledged as one of the very best in the business and there’s never been a problem before. He taped Dereck’s hands exactly in line with what had been agreed at the rules meeting the previous day. However, despite observing throughout, Wladimir waited until Dean had completely finished wrapping one of Dereck’s hands, before he complained that it hadn’t been done correctly.
When we summoned Charlie Giles to uphold Dereck’s interests, Giles, while admitting we’d broken none of the guidelines agreed at the rules meeting, said that he preferred hands to be wrapped differently, i.e sticking up for the Germans rather than representing British interests. What the f*** does he know about wrapping hands?! He stayed barely a minute then went on the Missing List again. While hostilities continued in the changing rooms, on the TV monitors, everyone could see Charlie Giles lauding it up at ringside! Dean had wrapped Dereck’s hands exactly as he did for his European title and numerous title fights that he’d had in Britain under BBBC regulations.
Eventually, the WBC adviser acknowledged the hands had indeed been taped appropriately but, by this stage, Dereck had ripped his wraps off and was adamant he wasn’t going to fight. Eventually, Dereck calmed down and Dean re-wrapped his hands exactly the same way he had initially. However, by then Wladimir had achieved what he’d set out to do – interfered with Dereck’s mind less than half an hour before the fight – and the Board official had proved impotent at preventing it.
To what extent do you feel the Board’s lack of visible presence was responsible for the subsequent incident when Chisora spat water into Wladimir Klitschko’s face inside the ring before the contest began?
Again, there was zero security. We’d expressed our reservations and nothing had been done about it. It was left to me to keep everyone apart – even the TV commentator’s commented on that – and that’s not my role.
Do you hold the Board culpable in any way for the ugly scuffle between Haye and Chisora at the post-fight presser in Munich? If not, who?
What happened, happened and everyone needs to take a bit of responsibility. Mainly, I believe the German promoters were culpable because, as at the weigh-in, they failed to provide adequate security.
I don’t think you can hold the Board directly culpable, although Charlie Giles wasn’t present and had he adequately supported licence holders Dereck Chisora, Don Charles, Dean Powell and myself earlier, there would’ve been a different mood. Also, if he’d pressed for better security as we’d requested, that could have prevented the situation.
What everyone needs to remember is that, after the scuffle with Haye, the German police became involved. Dereck was interviewed twice by the German police twice and, after reviewing all the available independent evidence presented from various camcorders and mobile phones, they agreed Dereck had not thrown any punches and it was decided not to charge him with anything. If someone decides to punch you in the face, it doesn’t make you guilty of anything.
I have to say that some of the British press contingent didn’t help. They were sat mainly to the right of the room and the incident happened to the left. They basically saw f*** all yet Jeff Powell from the Daily Mail is calling me at 3am saying what a liberty it was that Dereck Chisora had hit David Haye?! He was the main reporter who lobbied the BBBC for Dereck to be banned. He told me that Robert Smith had asked him what penalty the Board should impose on Dereck. If that’s true why would Smith call him and what has it got to do with Powell?
Also, when Sky Sports had their debate into the incidents on their Ringside programme the following Thursday, they didn’t invite one person who was actually present in Munich. What kind of a debate was that?
I’ve never had a problem having a public, televised face to face with Charlie Giles, Robert Smith or any other member of the Board of Control to debate any of the issues, but Giles has again disappeared.
Upon your return home, clearly Chisora needed to be called to account for his actions. However, you’re unhappy with the nature of the Board of Control hearing that took place in Cardiff in March. Why do you believe that it was unfair?
Following the slap and the spit, the WBC retained £100,000 of Dereck’s purse without having a hearing. Hearings were then proposed by both the German Boxing Board (BDB) and the British Boxing Board of Control for Dereck to explain his actions. How many hearings has the kid got to attend? What was needed was one independent hearing.
In Cardiff, Chisora was hung, drawn and quartered in advance. For a start, I don’t agree with those bringing the charge, then being judge and jury. Clearly that is flawed. Having prosecutors as judge and jurors, gives the equivalence of a police state. Everything was knee jerk to appease the media. It was all very, very unsatisfactory.
Prior to Dereck’s hearing, we wrote to the BBB of C and requested they provide us with all their evidence but they presented us with nothing. We requested that they make recording facilities available so that we could adequately present our video evidence. They provided a ‘laptop’ for 18 people at the hearing to review the evidence all huddled around?! Most who were in a position of judgement couldn’t see. We had loads more footage than we weren’t allowed to show.
And, quite ridiculously, though Charlie Giles, the Board’s Chairman and representative in Munich, was present in the building, at no time did he attend the hearing or provide any written evidence?! Why on earth not? Later, he slipped out the back door like a thief in the night.
It concluded with the Board withdrawing Dereck’s licence but it was said at the hearing, and this has been documented by our legal representative Jonathon Christle, a serving barrister, that Dereck could re-apply whenever, or he could go elsewhere. So that’s what we decided to do.
The Board of Control has an Appeal process. Given you were so unhappy, why did you opt not to follow that process through?
We did lodge an appeal but the initial date was postponed and we were told we’d be given another date around July or August. By the time that was sorted, Dereck would have been inactive for six months and boxing is his livelihood.
Then, within an hour of our press conference to announce Haye-Chisora, the Board suddenly released its date for Dereck’s appeal!
What was the nature of your counter complaint against The Board of Control’s President and Chairman Charlie Giles. Was the formal complaint given due attention?
Basically, the British Boxing Board of Control has a duty of care to ensure that its licence holders get competent and able representation from the Board whenever boxing abroad.
It was agreed in advance that Dereck’s hands would be wrapped at 9.45p.m yet Mr Giles was not in attendance and there was no Board representation. Why not? We actually had to go and summon him from ringside.
Though Dean Powell wrapped Dereck’s hand in accordance with what had been agreed at the rules meeting, Mr Giles failed to support our interests, sided with the Germans then promptly left to return to ringside and watch an NABF heavyweight title fight that had no British involvement. I was left to sort the dispute out myself and all the time Dereck was getting increasingly agitated. Mr Giles abducted his responsibilities and clearly did not know the rules.
He also failed to ensure that the necessary officials were present to observe Vitali Klitschko getting his hands wrapped. He was clearly incompetent so I requested an independent hearing of our complaint to be heard by independent Stewards or a body of Appeal Stewards. We stressed it should be dealt with entirely separately from Chisora’s case.
I also demanded to know, by return
1. Confirmation of who paid for Mr Giles’ flights, accommodation and food whilst he was in Munich
2. How many previous promotions involving the Klitschkos Mr Giles had attended in the past three years.
The questions remained unanswered and I just received a letter back saying that my allegations were ‘frivolous and vexatious and required no further action’!
Clearly, there’s no accountability and no redress, they judge themselves and are not answerable to the license holders! Likewise, the press have not been able to ask Charlie Giles one single question about the issues. Why was he hiding?
Clearly you feel the Board’s response to you being involved in the Haye-Chisora fight under the auspice of the Luxembourg Boxing Federation, i.e its threat to terminate the licences of anyone involved, is flawed both legally and ethically.
Of course. Before we announced the fight on Luxembourg licences, I’d warned Charlie Giles on three or four occasions of our intentions in an effort to get the Board to try to sort something out. People say I’m only doing it to earn a shed load of money for myself but the fight will only work if the people pay for it. Early indications are that they will. I’m Dereck’s manager involved in a fight the public wants to see.
Let’s cut through all the bullsh**. This isn’t about Dereck Chisora being a fit and proper person to hold a boxer’s licence. The Board of Control just don’t want the Luxembourg Boxing Federation operating in the UK.
I’d like to know who at the Board made the decision to send out a press release stating that any licence holder involved in the Upton Park promotion, licensed by the Luxembourg Boxing Board, would have their licences revoked?
I need to know why the Board wrote to Newham Council implying that, as they were the only body licensed to operate in Britain, that the Chisora-Haye promotion would affectively be ‘unlicensed? And why did they suggest that there could be crowd trouble between West Ham and Millwall football fans at the show? That’s totally untrue.
Along with other license holders I’ve issued legal proceedings against them. Initially, they threatened that any licence holder involved in the promotion would have their licence terminated. Now they’ve backtracked and said they may call them to a disciplinary hearing.
What did you make of the recent hearing of the WBC’s Supreme Board of Governors, held in Mexico City, into Chisora’s transgressions?
Again, farcical. Initially, we were instructed that the hearing would be in London. Let’s be honest, the WBC didn’t want Chisora present. The British Boxing Board chooses to align themselves with the WBC and EBU, and Charlie Giles just so happens to be a Vice President of both. The WBC were simply pulling for Charlie Giles, their man.
Clearly, it was ridiculous to ask Dereck to go 3,500 miles to Mexico three weeks before his scheduled fight with David Haye. He’d have had to sort out a visa, and take four or five days off from training three weeks before the biggest fight of his career. There’d also have been complications with jet lag and time differences.
The result was that, in his absence, they fined Chisora $100,000, dropped him from their ratings and imposed an indefinite ban until he’s undertaken an anger management course?! They’re not doctors or psychiatrists. The punishments were extremely inconsistent with the WBC’s approach to other fighters. All we expect is natural justice.
And it’s a bit rich for WBC Life President Jose Sulaiman to accuse Chisora of ‘staining the credibility of boxing’ after he publically attempted to assault journalist Steve Lillis at a post fight presser when Michael Brodie drew with In-Jin Chi in 2003!
Let me tell you, Senor Sulaiman is the biggest hypocrite and bull sh** artist on this planet. All this whinging about Chisora bringing the sport into disrepute, when Sulaiman was the man instrumental in re-licensing his ‘friend,’ Antonio Margarito, who’d been banned everywhere else for attempting to go into the ring with ‘loaded gloves’?! Bricks and crystal palaces spring to mind.
Consequently, you lobbied the required 150 signatures of Boxing Board licence holders to demand an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss the issues. What do you hope to achieve through that?
I’m requesting a slimline Board run by a proper executive and I’m asking for the resignation of Charlie Giles and two other senior stewards who hold a disproportionate influence yet are totally out of touch with the sport at grassroots level and the TV situation. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of the way that they behave. They need to go because they’re killing the sport.
Presently, licence holders, essentially the shareholders of the Board, a limited company, are not allowed any voting powers. They pay their fees yet have no say. A situation has arisen where several long term licence holders like Pat Cowdell and Ross Minter are now running ‘unlicensed’ shows because they’re so disillusioned with the support the Board have provided them. Senior stewards are the only one’s who can elect anyone on to the Area Councils. How democratic is that?
I want licence holders to be given a breakdown of accounts – not a summary – so that we know exactly what is being spent on their ‘private travel club’.
Also, there are several questions that I’d like answered;
How many trips has Charlie Giles been on, how many of those trips have been to Germany and how much of the licence holders money has he received in expenses? Allegedly his expenses are three times greater than the three previous Chairmen combined?!
Which Senior Steward has been barred from restaurants in Cardiff for drunk and abusive behaviour? Who was the Senior Steward, still serving, whom the Cardiff Holiday Inn were referring to when they wrote to the Board of Control to complain about his abusive, drunken and threatening behaviour?
Who was the Senior Steward who made an obscene gesture at Tommy Gilmour and what was done about it?
Is it true a member of the Board interfered with witnesses involved with the Jane Couch case?
Why did the Board of Control recently mislead the Minister of Sport, then subsequently have to phone him to apologise?
I want to know why the Board saw fit to donate $10,000 of licence holders money to the WBC legal fund after they unlawfully took away Graciano Rocchiagiani’s title belt so that they could accommodate one of Jose Sulaiman’s cronies? A rogue decision that ended up costing them twenty odd million dollars!
I’ve raised these questions through the appropriate channels but haven’t received a single answer.
In the interests of the sport in this country, the rift can’t continue long term. How do you go about building bridges?
As things stand, resignation of the President and Chairman and Rees. There are stewards of the Board who really are really good guys who really do have the sports interest at heart. But there are at least four senior stewards who hold a disproportionate influence and need to resign. These are very tough times economically, not just for boxing but for society at large, and the Board are simply refusing to acknowledge the problems that their license holders’ are facing.
I know people think I’m capitalising on Dereck’s situation but the problems with the Board run much deeper and, as one of the top promoters in the country, I’m sick to death of their secrecy and bad management.
I’m very conscious of the need for strong medical and disciplinary procedures but I’m also conscious of the need for a strong democratic process.
If things don’t change, I may opt not to hold a licence with the present Board. If I have to do as Wilfred Sauerland did in Germany (after a fall out with the national federation, Sauerland ran his German shows on Austrian licences), that’s the route I’ll follow. I didn’t hear the Board of Control or the EBU squealing too loud when Mr Sauerland followed that route. The British Board have appointed Charlie Giles, and sanctioned several of its boxers, to appear on those shows in Germany. It reeks of hypocrisy.
In Lord Coe, we’ve an ideal ready made replacement as Chairman, once the Olympics are over, who’d instantly restore credibility. He’s a multiple Olympic gold medallist, a former steward of the Board, a former MP and he was instrumental in bringing the Olympics to London. I understand he’s receptive to the idea and he’d help change round the horrible situation that all licence holders, not just myself, find themselves in.