by Charles Jay
The “legal proceedings” that are being filed by the Luxembourg Boxing Federation (LBF) against the British Board of Control isn’t necessarily something that is going to threaten the existence of the 83-year-old UK governing body, but the entire scenario that has unfolded since the announcement of the Dereck Chisora-David Haye fight could serve to neuter the organization that is more or less the self-appointed ruling body of British pugilism.
You see, the BBBofC, which is neither a national governmental agency nor a consortium of government agencies, understands that it really has no authority to prevent the fight from happening, and has failed to get the Minister of Sport to take a keen enough interest, but it has taken the back-door approach, which is to threaten any BBBofC “member” who participates in this fight with a termination of their license.
What that really means, when it comes down to it, is that this committee is telling any fighters who are on the undercard that their licenses will be revoked, not to mention promoters Frank Warren and Sauerland Boxing.
Of course, if you’re a fighter and you’re in a four or six-round fight, you have every reason to feel threatened and bullied by such a thing, because on the way up (or down, as it were), you are inevitably going to need to fight on cards that are sanctioned and approved by the British Board, so unlike main event fighters or major promoters, they don’t carry much leverage into the fray against a much more powerful adversary.
At least not for the time being.
As you may be aware, the two fighters in the July 14 bout at Upton Park were involved in an altercation that came after Chisora’s unsuccessful attempt to wrest the WBC heavyweight title from Vitali Klitschko back on February 18. That was red meat for most of the boxing public, and not much time was wasted for an opportunistic promoter like Warren to take advantage. The idea of Chisora and Haye turning a disgraceful brawl into a money-making opportunity is kind of repulsive, and the BBBofC thought so too. Chisora was stripped of licensure, and the same would have been done with Haye, except for the fact that he was not even licensed at the time.
But as they say, it is what it is, and the imbroglio has succeeded in reminding casual observers of the fact that when it comes right down to it, no one really needs to be “licensed and approved” by the British Boxing Board of Control unless they really want to be. The LBF’s involvement has demonstrated one way of exposing that, and Warren was all too happy to hammer the point home to the BBBofC when they wanted to get stuffy about it:
“Under Rule 4.12 of your own Rules and Regulations, as a licence holder I can participate ‘(a) in or at a Promotion which is licensed by the BBBofC; or (b) in or at a Promotion organised by a Federation, Commission, Association or Controlling Authority affiliated to, or recognised by the BBBofC’. The Federation Luxembourgoise De Boxe is a Federation affiliated to and recognised by the Board; both are affiliated to the EBU. As that Federation is sanctioning the Haye v. Chisora fight, my participation is not a breach of your Rules.”
Never mind that there has been only one professional fight show in Luxembourg in the last year and a half. Hey, these guys need the work.
Of course, by now the BBBofC doesn’t care for the LBF too much and the EBU is looking seriously at expelling Luxembourg from their organization. But that is not going to stop this show from going forward.
And it probably won’t stop shows taking place in the future either. As many British fans know, the BBBofC isn’t a mandatory element to hold fight cards of local interest either. There have been “unlicensed” fight cards springing up all over the UK, producing a certain “alphabet soup,” albeit among low-rung organizations, and although the BBBofC might squawk, there is, in the end, little they can do about stopping them.
Except for the threat to blackball participants, that is.
But you see, this is the double-edged sword for them.
Sure, they can scare a lot of fighters and officials out of being involved in those outlaw shows, but with each instance where it is demonstrated that you don’t really need to be licensed by them to be involved in professional boxing in the United Kingdom, the BBBofC loses strength. And if challenged by someone strong enough, they could be found in restraint of trade, since their actions, as a non-governmental for-profit company, seem primarily intended to limit competition.
Some people who may have been left out in the cold are using this as an opportunity of their own.
The LBF appointed Mickey Vann, who reportedly has been third man in the ring for more world title bouts than any other British referee. That, in and of itself, was an outlaw move, since Vann, aged 68, was retired by mandate of the BBBofC three years ago.
Alas, that slap in the face won’t likely come to fruition, as Haye and his manager, Adam Booth, have lodged a rather strong objection to him.
More importantly, however, there is Frank Warren himself, who is the leading promoter in the country. He has the strongest stable, and he is the architect of Box Nation, an all-boxing channel carried by the Sky platform that is televising the Haye-Chisora fight and, although it may not be doing as well as it wants with subscribers, is certainly one of the most significant media outlets for the sport in the UK.
What may have been lost on BBBofC officials – or what may have become a painful reality, if you will – is that when it comes down to it, promoters are far more critical to the overall landscape than they are, and Warren can bring the biggest promotions and any number of fighters wherever he wants to take them, including the outlaw organizations if need be, or better yet, establish his own, with a much higher profile and a television channel behind it. Then things start to snowball.
You can imagine that the fighters who have stuck with him on this promotion are going to be rewarded for their loyalty, and that won’t be lost on other fighters. And so on and so on.
On Tuesday night’s edition of “Newsnight” on the BBC (that’s the British Broadcasting Company, for the uninitiated), it was indeed kind of pathetic to listen to Robert W. Smith, the Secretary of the BBBofC, talk about Chisora being “banned” from the sport in the UK, even as he is training for a fight that is going to take place right under Smith’s nose in ten days’ time. He couldn’t have sounded more toothless.
While the BBBofC has probably taken the correct and prudent moral stand on the issue of the legitimacy of allowing Haye and Chisora to cash in on their spectacle, their position as a company that is in it to make a buck or two may have led them to overstep, and for that there is likely to be a long-term price to be paid.
When people decide that they don’t need you anymore, there is a tendency to fade into obsolescence.
Is that the direction the BBBofC could be headed?