Frank Warren marks 40 years in boxing with irony of selling no tickets again

Frank Warren laughs at the coincidence that the show to mark his 40 years in boxing will be as empty as his first.

This week sees four decades pass since he kicked off his career as a licensed promoter with a show at Bloomsbury Crest Hotel between two Americans in Otis Gordon and Jerry Martin in 1980.

“I didn't sell any tickets for it, you could have driven a bus through there and not run anyone over,” joked Warren.

Now this weekend only key workers have been invited to an exciting light-heavyweight clash between two of Warren's rising stars in Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur at Church House in Westminster.

“It's ironic that my 40th anniversary will also have little or no fans there,” he added.

In between these two shows there have been superstar fighters, creating boxing TV channels, pay-per-view bonanzas, sold-out arenas around the world, court cases and even a shooting.

But now, even at 68, there is now slowing down for Warren.

“I would get bored if I wasn't doing this,” said the promoter, who grew up in Islington. "I just enjoy it.

“But what I'm really missing now is the crowd and the atmosphere of a big fight. I'm getting withdrawal symptoms.”

Covid-19 is the latest battle Warren has taken on in the sport. But challenges are nothing new for him.

“I think breaking the cartel was my greatest achievement,” he said.

Late promoter Mickey Duff didn't want a young pretender taking up slots for shows and TV dates and he tried with the British Boxing Board of Control to block Warren entering the sport in the 1980s.

“I wasn't going to roll over,” he said. “I relished the challenge. The more they were putting obstacles in my way the more I was determined to come through it.”

Then in 1989 he was shot by a masked gunman as he was getting out of his car and lost half a lung.

“I know who did it, but like everything else in his life he couldn't do it properly,” he said.

The hall-of-fame promoter has helped British boxing greats such as Frank Bruno, Naseem Hamed Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan and now Tyson Fury reach the top.

“In one year I did almost 40 shows,” said Warren. “I didn't know any different. It becomes a way of life, that is what it is for me.”

A way of life for the family now, too, with sons George, Francis and Henry also working in the business.

“I didn't want my kids to be involved in the sport but I didn't realise they were being seduced by it, he said.

“They all got well educated and got their degrees and I was hoping they would go and do different things but they got into it so now I support them in the sport. They do a great job.”

Warren has an array of rising young stars, too, so there doesn't appear to be any immediate plans to walk away from the sport.

And he seems to be enjoying his rivalry with Eddie Hearn, who recently released a book called 'Relentless'.

“I'm the relentless one, that should be my title,” added Warren. “I came into this sport with nothing.”

Frank and Fearless: A Life in Boxing by Frank Warren is published February 4 2021 (Constable) and is available for pre-order now

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