DIRTY POOL: On David Haye, Dereck Chisora, & Frank Warren


A dangerous precedent was set last week when Frank Warren circumvented the British Boxing Board of Control and announced a sideshow between David Haye and Dereck Chisora, two lunatic fringe members looking to cash in on notoriety not earned in the ring. Neither man is licensed to fight by the BBBoC. The fight, which has already sold over 20,000 tickets, is scheduled for July 14 at Upton Park. Since this travesty was announced, threats of lawsuits and license revocations have flown back and forth between Warren and the BBBoC.

As for the fight itself, bad taste seems to be its generator, not competition. Haye is a thermonuclear bore. He is also the boxing equivalent of a morning glory. More and more Chisora resembles a sociopath and not the limited journeyman that he is. In fact, his last win came against a fighter with a 19-43-3 record. After a brawl at a post-fight press conference in Munich, one that involved glasses, tripods, and death threats, Haye and Chisora will now bring their special brand of vulgarity to West Ham punters and BoxNation subscribers.

But this is not an issue of morality. Boxing is full of vile characters—managers, matchmakers, fighters, promoters, trainers, editors of certain independent websites—and there is no point in pretending that a livelihood based on hurting and being hurt can have an air of gentility about it. Moral qualms about a blood sport ought to be checked at the door the moment you decide to buy a ticket, order a pay-per-view, watch Fight Night Club, or cheer for a KO finish.

No, this is about thwarting regulatory protocol. If Haye wants to “glass” half of Western Europe, it is a matter between him and the authorities (if they can ever catch him, of course). Similarly, if Chisora is compelled to abuse women, that is a matter for the City of Westminster magistrate and his own conscience. (In 2010 Chisora was found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend.) But when a boxing context is involved—and this includes press conferences—some kind of order has to reign. Last week the BBBoC released a statement condemning the fight. “Those behind this proposal are not concerned with the interests of the sport of professional boxing,” it read in part. “Any member who participates in such a promotion would bring the sport of boxing into disrepute and would wholly undermine the authority of the British Boxing Board of Control, of which he/she is a member, as the regulatory body for professional boxing in the United Kingdom. This is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the decision of the Stewards of the British Boxing Board of Control, in respect of Dereck Chisora, for monetary gain.”

The Board—self-appointed and, apparently, without statutory powers—also threatened to suspend any current licence holder who dares to get involved in the Haye-Chisora circus act. From Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian: “As neither fighter has a board licence, the promoter Frank Warren drafted in the Luxembourg Boxing Federation to supervise the show, and the conflict has now reached another level. The implications are wide-ranging because the term licence-holder refers to everyone from promoters, managers, boxers and trainers through to officials, including referees, judges and timekeepers. Effectively any of those people who are involved in this promotion will be unable to work at any show sanctioned by the British board.”

Some have compared the Haye-Chisora situation to fighters receiving licenses in different states in America. This is a poor analogy. Until now, at least, the BBBoC oversaw boxing throughout the United Kingdom—from Truro to Thurso. Boxing in America, on the other hand, has no national commission, and is comprised of dozens of regulatory jurisdictions (athletic commissions) run by individual states. Yes, boxing commissions in America are largely staffed by political hacks; yes, they are incompetent, inept, underfunded, and, here and there, possibly corrupt. In addition, as municipal agencies, they must also keep state budgets and tax revenues in mind when they make decisions. But these commissions are the only flimsy barriers between prizefighting as a sport and prizefighting as it was practiced during its outlaw years—like a particularly mean little clip joint. Boxing needs more regulation, not less, but, incredibly, we are now seeing fighters who have suffered brain bleeds (Alejandro Valdez, Jermain Taylor) plying their dangerous trades with approval from major boxing jurisdictions like New Jersey and Las Vegas.

The strange machinations behind Haye-Chisora are best explained by the BBC, but this farce also brings up a number of odd questions no one seems prepared to ask. Boxing in the United States and the United Kingdom are two different things, of course, but how is it possible for Warren to be a promoter and a manager simultaneously? And how is it possible for a television network—in this case, BoxNation—to be a co-promoter of Haye-Chisora? And how about the fact that Frank Warren is a shareholder of BoxNation?

With Warren running a dummy-pass on the BBBoC, it opens the possibility of other managers and promoters doing the same thing. Unfortunately, the BBBoC chose the wrong fellow to knuckle up against. To his competitors, Warren, raised in a council block in Islington during the Kray era, is a deadly combination of Don King and Bob Arum. Although Warren is never seen in public without an elegant suit and a recession-proof wristwatch, there was a time when he could be spotted wearing a t-shirt at a pub full of topless waitresses. The son of a bookmaker, Warren learned early what it took to make money in twilight, and when he reinforced what he gathered from racetracks with a short-lived position as a clerk to a solicitor, he set the foundation for a tumultuously successful 30-year career in boxing. Having survived an assassination attempt, splits with high-profile clients, dozens of lawsuits, and competition from upstarts in a cutthroat business where hostile takeovers are the norm, Warren will be damned if the BBBoC is going to get in the way of him making millions of pounds.

Warren has never had an easy time with the BBBoC, which gave him the hairy eyeball as long ago as the late 1970s, when Warren took underground boxing matches out of smoky back rooms and glizted them up under the auspices of his own National Boxing Council. When he finally got a “legitimate” license, Warren managed to crack the previously indestructible UK boxing combine of Mickey Duff, Jarvis Astaire, Mike Barrett, and Terry Lawless. Not many people ever managed to get an edge on Duff, whose ruthlessness ought to have gotten him a part in The Long Good Friday, but Frank Warren is no morning glory. Twenty years ago, the BBBoC suspended his license temporarily over a monetary dispute with Tom Collins, and now, in 2012, Warren and The Stewards are at it again, with Warren having the upper hand at the moment. In fact, Warren-BBBoC looks like a mismatch.

The BBBoC erred when they suspended—with vague airs–Chisora last March. By allowing Chisora to fight in other jurisdictions, the BBBoC likely figured “Del Boy” would be shipped across the Atlantic as if the States were still a penal colony for The Crown. But Warren boomeranged on the poor stewards, and now they are forced to see a fight they are against (and one they will not be able to profit from) succeed under their upturned noses. “He is not banned from boxing,” Warren told BBC 5 Live about his client, Chisora. “The fight has been licenced by the governing body in Luxembourg, which has the same standards as the British Boxing Board of Control. It is the biggest fight of the year and the fact of the matter is that the fight is legal, lawful and will go ahead.”

It is possible that the BBBoC is not competent at overseeing boxing in the United Kingdom. Otherwise, why would hazards like Robin Deakin—who has lost 46 bouts in a row–be allowed to continue fighting? Still, nothing good is going to come of having promoters and managers making up the rules as they go along.

Boxing is an open city for grifters of every type. Nearly anyone can walk into boxing at nearly any level. And ticket-buyers for Haye-Chisora will make it easier for the lowest of the low to turn loopholes into wormholes in the future. Boxing in the United Kingdom deserves better than that, even if, in the end, all anyone really cares about is seeing two dim geezers bash each other up.


In addition to The Guardian, The Telegraph, The BBC, The Sun, The Daily Mirror, and The Independent, this post uses Lords of the Ring by Harry Lansdown and Alex Spillius as a source.


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Tags: David Haye Dereck Chisora Frank Warren HEAVYWEIGHTS

  • JohnPaulFutbol

    Hi Carlos, do you have the contact info for the Luxembourg Boxing Federation?

  • jet79

    Hi CA,
    This is really great stuff, very informative. None of these shenanigans are surprising of course, except it’s somewhat puzzling that, given its long history, boxing hasn’t managed to patch all the holes that let the rodents in.
    As for the fight, I can’t get up for it. Haye doesn’t throw punches at heavyweight, and Chisora is getting too much mileage out of trying to get beat up by Vitali Klitschko (though, kudos to him for actually trying, I suppose.) They’re a couple of chuckleheads trying to parlay boorish behaviour into financial gain, and it sounds like it’s working. When all else fails, appeal to the lowest denominator.
    Both guys are milking the last of their appeal with this one, and it’s telling that it took bottling and death threats to secure interest. Desperate times for Haye. As for Chisora, he needs a psychiatrist. 
    If this fight doesn’t come off I won’t care, but I’ll watch it if for no other reason than to see both guys get punched in the face. They both have it coming. 

  • safesideOTR

    Warren’s letter to the board: http://www.britishboxers.co.uk/2012/05/frank-warrens-letter-to-bbbofc.html
    A colostomy all round this. The board get a slap and look impotent. They also miss out on the most lucrative bout held on these shores all year (I seem to remember a similar rift with Nigel Benn around the time he’d put himself in position for moolah making bouts with the remnants of Leonard, Hearns and Duran).
    I feel it a bit for Chisora (only a bit mind you). The first heavyweight in years to have a pair of balls dangling down where they should be, he should never have been thrown in with V Klit after only a handful of fights. He may be cracked up top but he’s shown guts. Haye has shown nothing in recent years – marketing savvy aside. He plays the media like a drum and, impartiality aside, I’d be happy to see his ego take a beating.
    I actually favour Chisora here. He’ll make Haye fight – and Haye doesn’t like fighting. He barely bothers doing it often and his sucker punch attack stank of fear. Chisora worries him and he’s suffered before from the effects of nervous energy in fights. It isn’t wise to back a proven loser but I’m keeping one eye on the odds for this one.

  • thenonpareil

    Hi JPF,
    I don’t know why, but for years I confused Luxembourg with Lichtenstein.  And I’ve actually been to Lichtenstein!  Just remember: one is a Principality and one is a Duchy. 
    As for the Luxembourg Boxing Federation–a reliable source told me that actually trying to find the LBF is like trying to find Bob Dylan’s secret gym!

  • thenonpareil

     @jet79 Hi JT,
    thanks, man.  I’d say there are too many rodents to wage war against.  You ever see that movie “Deadly Eyes?”  It’s about mutant rats that threaten to take over Toronto.  They attack and eat poor Scatman Crothers. 
    Anyway, the funny thing about this fight is that neither Haye nor Chisora are actually worth seeing as prizefighters.  Haye is often dull despite his bombast, and Chisora, well, I would like someone to point out more than four or five clean shots he landed against Klitschko.  So I’m not really sure they’ll even manage to punch each other in the face, despite how much each man deserves it.  Two middling heavyweights have created an absurd stir just by being the oafs that they are.  I can understand if it was two dynamic fighters getting all this hype because of their shenanigans, but Chisora?  Even Tyson Fury beat him!  Whatever.  I’m interested in the regulatory aspect of this renegade matchup–how the promotion will play out, legally–but as a fight, it’s pretty much worthless. 

  • thenonpareil

     @safesideOTR Hi Harrison, 
    Thanks for writing.  Yes, the BBBoC is really in a bind here thanks to Warren, whom I admire greatly for his lean, mean hucksterism over the years. If he is opening the doors for mercenary EU license vendors to operate haphazardly in Britain–or anywhere else in Europe–then we are talking about a pretty scary precedent.  If money is the big deal here, then standards of licensing will drop precipitately.  No country needs that, and Warren has, I believe, gone overboard this time.  Although I think this is a mistake, it’s a folly Warren will likely win, because he is as good in court as Jimmy Wilde was in the ring!
    To me, this fight is neither here nor there (as a fight).  Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think Chisora can fight a lick, and Haye is often dull, so it looks like a negative toss-up.  I do believe that Chisora is genuinely cuckoo, so I guess some of his behavior is understandable, but I don’t view that as a reason to find a fighter interesting.  This is a dreadful event and one that may have serious ramifications in the future. 

  • FunkyBadger

    Great stuff, Carlos – but I think your dislike of Haye’s boorishness is obscuring the more important points about Warren.
    What on earth are the legal implications of all this – is it too hysterical to think bare-knuckle tv-shows aren’t too far away?
    Haye was nowhere near was no-where near “glassing” anyone, in the commenly accepted usage – its unfair to suggest he was. No one’s trying to “catch” him either, zero arrest warrents issued, the Munich police responded to the whole circus with a resounding “meh”.
    As to the fight itself? I think you’re right about Chisora – he’s (as Haye put it) a decent club fighter, and would be better than that if he could bother getting in shape seriously. But he does appear to be completely unhinged. Haye’s developed a very “boring” safety first style, which makes sense if you’ve got iffy stamina, no great chin, excellent head movement and knockout power in each fist… Booth’s hand at work, I suspect.

  • FunkyBadger

    Forgot to add, Robin Deakin’s sort of brilliant – there’s an interview with him floating around the internets somewhere, he first comment on his record “I’m not as bad as it reads”.
    And he’s got a club foot. No, really…

  • thenonpareil

     @FunkyBadger Hi MW,
    Believe me, I’d like to say more about Warren, but he is a very litigious fellow and I can’t risk having a writ thrown at me!  
    For me, the fight itself–if it had the blessings of the BBBoC–is no big deal.  Worse characters than Chisora and Haye have made a living as fighters.  It is the legal limbo that bothers me most, not Haye or Chisora. 
    As you say, what happens after this?  The bareknuckle example you bring up is interesting because there’s a fellow in the States, Bobby Gunn, who has been trying to revive that very “sport!”  Of course, no commission  in its right mind would sanction that, and Gunn was forced to fight under Native American jurisdiction (sovereign land under U.S. law) last year.  There is an underground network of “fight clubs” in America–a pretty big one in New York, in fact–and it defies logic that anyone would actually try to take boxing back to those sports slums. 
    Maybe I’m overreacting, but if another jurisdiction is allowed to license fighters just for paychecks, boxing will be in trouble.  Let’s assume the Luxembourg folks are nice, upstanding citizens.  How do we know the next EU member will be?  And so forth….I have read somewhere, I can’t recall where, that the Luxembourg contingent will be paid 1 million pounds just for rubber stamping this fight.  
    As for the “glassing” stuff, it was Chisora who felt he was glassed, and I’m going to defer to him on this one!  The German officials may have been lax in following up with Haye, but that doesn’t make it right, although I could be making too much of it. 
    Deakin has a club foot?  Good grief…even in America, which has several inept commissions, he would not be allowed to fight….I should hope.

  • nealo

    Hi Carlos
    This really is a mess and leaves the BBBoC stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place. As you say Warren did not get where he is, dealing with some of the characters he has met along the way by being a shrinking violet. I feel the BBBoC has picked a fight it can’t win here and in many respects they have fallen into a hole, they dug themselves. Had they banned Chisora, that would of being they end of it but with this indefinate suspension nonsense, there was always the possibility that a sharp operator like Warren would find a way round it. They probably thought that if Dereck fought again, it would be on the bill, somewhere in the Australian outback or some Eastern European state. I doubt that in their worst nightmares, they imagined it would be in the East End of London, on the biggest show in the country just before the Olympics!!. Frank Warren has completely out manouvered them and seems to have European free trade and labour laws on his side. You also question whether the board has the finances to get into expensive litigation with Warren. The board was nearly bankrupted by the Michael Watson case, following the life changing injuries he  sustained against Eubank. I can only see this fight going ahead.
    The worry is the affect that it has on the future credibility and effectiveness of the board. They might not be perfect but as you say, Boxing needs more regulation not less and this sort of nonsense is not what Boxing as a sport needs right now. In the UK, there are some good shows being held at the moment and competitive fights, with a number of good fighters just below world level. There has not being much success at world level but hopefully that will change when our middleweights realise that wailing way on the arms and shoulders of Felix Sturm for 12 rounds is not going to get you a decision in Germany.
    As for the fight itself, it is generating quite a bit of interest over here with, allegedly, 20000 tickets sold already. If Chisora can bother to get into decent shape, I fancy him to outlast Haye.
    The shame about this whole fiasco is that it is overshadowing a very interesting fight on the undercard with Kevin Mitchell facing Ricky Burns.

  • thenonpareil

     @nealo Hi Neal.
    Thanks for writing.  I just saw Warren assailing the BBBoC in his latest column.  He also took a few shots at the reptilian Jose Sulaiman as well…you almost want to cheer Warren on when he does that!  
    Yes, the BBBoC must be unable to sleep; this deadly combination of  Warren, Chisora, Haye, and the Olympics is enough to give any organization collective insomnia.  
    I agree–there is no stopping this fight, and the BBBoC will open itself up to further counterpunches from those it threatens to ban.  The best thing for them to do–and I stole this point from Kevin Mitchell of the Guardian–is to hold an “emergency” meeting with Warren and come to some sort of behind-the-scenes agreement where the fight gets some sort of retroactive sanction from The Board.  This doesn’t make what happened right, but it might give some the idea that the BBBoC is still in power and will discourage people in the future from trying to go around conventional jurisdiction.  Also, as you say, the BBBC may have some trouble waging a legal war because of finances.  I thought it was cute the way Warren swideswiped the BBBoC for having nearly gone into receivership…haven’t some of Warren’s own non-boxing ventures had the same problems? 
    The Australian outback!  It’s true, the BBoC probably thought they had rid themselves of Chisora to some Commonwealth backwater, but they did it so smugly that they left themselves open to a Warren left-right combination. 
    I read somewhere that Mitchell-Burns may not happen? But, as you pointed out, not much has been written about this potential barnburner due to the whole Haye-Chisora travesty…..What a shame.  I thought Katsidis would outwork Burns, but Burns had an easy time of it.  It would be fun to see him go at it with Mitchell.  And with a funky main event–along with Hasim Rahman on the undercard!!!!–you need a solid fight on the bill in case something goes awry between Haye and Chisora.  That’s a fight that has weird vibes and there’s no telling what will happen there.  A disqualification, maybe? 
    Anyway, let’s hope this mess is just a one-off and that UK boxing can move on without too much damage.