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Warrior Warren will flex his muscles for Frampton

By David Kelly

From breaking through to become a top promoter in the 1980s, fighting back from financial difficulty to setting up his own boxing channel, Frank Warren has always relished a challenge and now he is determined to drive Carl Frampton back to the summit of world boxing.

Warren's new link-up with BT Sport has strengthened his hand substantially, having worked hard to develop BoxNation, a subscription channel he formed after parting company with Sky television a decade ago.

That move came on the back of a period when he dominated the British boxing landscape, promoting numerous bills featuring such stars as Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, Nigel Benn and Prince Naseem Hamed.

In recent years Eddie Hearn has risen to the fore with the powerful backing of Sky, driving forward with many pay-per-view shows and huge crowds as British boxing entered a boom period which continues to the point that the UK has become the envy of America.

At 65, many would be thinking about sailing off into the sunset away from the tough and often frustrating business of boxing but Warren, whose sons George and Francis are in the business, still has the zest for battle.

"I keep going because I enjoy it… it's like Alex Ferguson staying on as Manchester United manager, there's a natural drive, and look at someone like Bob Arum who's still at the top of the game. Mind you, I don't want to be doing this when I'm 87," said Warren, speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph.

"But I'm a competitive guy, I have quite a bit of experience now and if I haven't learned all there is to learn about the business I never will. I launched domestic boxing on ITV, launched pay-per-view on Sky which is often forgotten, went back to ITV and then Sky and now I'm with BT Sport I'm genuinely very excited about where we're going with the sport.

"Joining with BT Sport does make life easier, it's a game changer for the sport because it's a much bigger company than Sky. Sky goes into 10 million homes, BT because of its services reaches 30 million homes.

"Going with our own channel BoxNation was a big step and it was hard work to make a success of it. But at the time Sky had four promoters - me, Barry Hearn, Frank Maloney and Ricky Hatton - and each had eight shows and they were giving us £100,000 a show so it ended up that you were having to heavily subsidise the shows for Sky's benefit.

"So we set up BoxNation to make them work for us and it was hard but we still managed to create champions, some world champions, and show some of the best fights from around the world. It has taken three years of talks to get to this point where BT have invested in the sport and it will enable us to give the fans what they want, the best fights that can be made."

Already, world champions James DeGale and Frampton rival Lee Selby have signed up to be part of a double header next month but the biggest coup was the signing of Ulsterman Frampton who returns to the ring for his first fight under the BT Sport banner on Saturday when he meets Mexican Horacio Garcia at the SSE Arena.

Warren, who ironically signed Frampton's former manager Barry McGuigan after his loss in Las Vegas in 1986 and subsequent split from Barney Eastwood, is excited about how the final chapter in Frampton's career will be written.

"I had a meeting with Carl and his management and made an offer and it didn't take long to do a deal. He's determined to be in with the best fighters in the featherweight division and it's up to me to deliver those fights and I will," said Warren.

"He wants to be fighting at Windsor Park next summer and that's the plan. Josh Warrington is the mandatory challenger for IBF champion Selby so that should happen next year and then the winner could fight Frampton in the summer. But, there's a lot of options for Carl.

"He's had a fantastic career so far and we want to build on that. He's got a good fight on Saturday night and then we want to really step him up in the new year.

"It could be a world title shot next but it doesn't have to be. The great thing is that he seems to have a new lease of life."

12 rounds with Frank Warren

Q. What do you like most about boxing?

A. There is no sport like it, it’s the toughest of all the sports and the preparation and discipline that is needed means that it is only exceptional people who can do it. Footballers, tennis players, golfers are all allowed a bad day and it doesn’t really effect their careers — for boxers it’s all on the one night. I also love the fact that it gives people a chance through their God-given talent to make a better life for themselves.

Q. What do you dislike most about boxing?

A. I dislike the fact that 10 or 12 years ago I could have done a deal with a handshake, 85 per cent of my deals were done that way, but that’s now gone. There’s not the same trust within the business.

Q. Who are the top three fighters you have promoted?

A. Joe Calzaghe has to be up there, he retired unbeaten but I believe could have been a better fighter than he was. Naseem Hamed was the most talented of them all. At one point I thought he was the best thing I’d seen in boxing but then he started to cut corners in training… Ricky Hatton was a great crowd pleaser but I also promoted Marco Antonio Barrera so he must be up there.

Q. Who has been the biggest influence on your life?

A. I would say my uncle Bob. He was a tough guy, a very shrewd guy and a proper person who didn’t stand any nonsense and did the right thing. His word was his bond.

Q. What is your best characteristic?

A. I have a good work ethic and I am driven, I’m a grafter.

Q. What is your worst characteristic?

A. I trust too much, even today after all I’ve been through.

Q. Who are your sporting heroes?

A. When I was a kid the centre forward Joe Baker came to Arsenal and I loved him. Frank McLintock was a great captain for Arsenal, Muhammad Ali — though Sugar Ray Leonard was my favourite fighter — and Carlos Monzon the great middleweight.

Q. What’s your earliest memory?

A. Going to the pictures with my mum to watch Calamity Jane.

Q. What four people from history would you want as dinner guests?

A. Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra — who I promoted in London — and Groucho Marx

Q. What has been the lowest point of your life?

A. When the financial crash came in the late ‘80s I had London Arena and it went into administration. It took a lot to fight back from that but I did it.

Q. What has been the highest point of your life?

A. My kids being born, family.

Q. How do you want to be remembered?

A. Always being fair with people.

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