LIKE FATHER, UNLIKE SONS: FRANCIS AND GEORGE WARREN EXPLAIN HOW QUEENSBERRY PROMOTIONS WILL STAND ON ITS OWN.
By Ezio Prapotnich
Frank Warren is a tough act to follow for anybody in boxing promotions, but even more so if you share his same last name and blood. Against his advice, his sons Francis and George chose to follow in his footsteps but rather than taking over their father empire, like Eddie Hearns is doing with Matchroom, they chose to stand on their feet and start their own company: Queensberry Promotions. They make no secrets of where they learned their trade from but are very much determined to create something different and new. Ahead of their first event, Liam Walsh defense of the Commonwealth Super Featherweight title, which will be broadcasted live on new born channel BoxNation (Sky platform 456) from York Hall this Friday, we had the pleasure to meet The Warren Bros…
BOXINGINSIDER: What is your earliest boxing memory?
FRANCIS WARREN: I remember Frank Bruno coming around our house in the mid nineties when our father was promoting him.
GEORGE WARREN: Nazeem Hamed’s fight with Medina in Dublin.
BOXINGINSIDER: Do you have a genuine interest for the sport or do you see it purely as business?
FRANCIS WARREN: I never practiced it as a sport but being involved at an early age with characters like Bruno or Naz Hamed definitely helped me to develop a passion for it. I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I can practically do what everybody dreams of: turning my passion into business.
GEORGE WARREN: I am a gym freak and like to keep fit, but I haven’t practiced boxing either. Obviously, it runs in our blood from growing up around it and going to shows. Personally, I have been studying it from a business point of view as well, learning how fights and events get put together. Ultimately, the goal for me is to make it a successful business, for us and for our fighters.
BOXINGINSIDER: What is your education/professional background prior to establishing your own promotions company?
FRANCIS WARREN: I was self employed and ran a business for about 3 years, then I started working for my father.
GEORGE WARREN: I completed a Marketing and Business degree at Manchester University, I worked for a sport agency taking part in high profile commercial football deals and also as consultant for a German investment bank.
BOXINGINSIDER: Why did you decide to step out of Warren promotions to start your own?
FRANCIS WARREN: It was a natural progression. I have been going to these big shows since I was a child, then I was working in them. The roar of a 10.000 people crowd cheering, the big lights, the camera always had a charm on me. After years of learning experience with the best team not only in the UK or in Europe, but in the world, I felt I had something to build and improve on.
BOXINGINSIDER: How does your father feel about it?
FRANCIS WARREN: He is very supportive, although he always advised me not to take that route, as it is a very tough business, but, you know, kids never listen to their parents…
BOXINGINSIDER: Are you making any sort of statement by naming the company Queensberry?
FRANCIS WARREN: Boxing has a long and well established tradition in this country and it seems like we are going back to its roots, even in the format of the posters of the fights. The name Queensberry should leave no doubts of where we stand in respect to this tradition.
BOXINGINSIDER: Are you saying that the way forward for boxing in this country is actually to go backwards?
FRANCIS WARREN: Not necessarily, but you certainly cannot lose touch with what has been developed up to this point.
BOXINGINSIDER: Is Queensberry’s a separate, independent entity in respect to Warren’s or are they someway connected?
FRANCIS WARREN: We share some of the same staff but we are very much our own company.
BOXINGINSIDER: Do you share the same stable of fighters as well, as Commonwealth champion Liam Walsh will be headlining your first event?
FRANCIS WARREN: We had to pay a fee just like everybody else does when my father’s fighters feature in other promoters’ shows. In that and in every other sense, we are no different and get no favours.
BOXINGINSIDER: Explain how your company philosophy is different from Warren’s.
FRANCIS WARREN: We have a passion for London. Our aim and focus is to sign and develop local fighters, feature them in events which will take place in the local area and build a local crowd. The formula is perfect ly exemplified in our first event, which will take place at Bethnall Green York Hall with fighters and support based within an area of 25 miles around the venue.
BOXINGINSIDER: What do you actually bring on the table on top what your father taught you?
GEORGE WARREN: Apart from some youth? (Laughs). Boxing needs time movement, a new generation of fighters and promoters, but of audience especially. In that sense, youth is an asset on its own. We have the same age of our target, we speak the same language. Particularly, we know how to use technology and take advantage of it. Social networks like Facebook or Twitter, or sites like Youtube have become an important aspect of the game.
BOXINGINSIDER: Don’t you reckon that the average boxing crowd, unlike football, is made mostly of hardcore fans that know the history and technicalities of the game inside out and are immune to trends?
GEORGE WARREN: I disagree. I admit that to be a boxing fan you must have more passion as the sport is not as accessible as others in this country and does not get the same coverage, but I think that through the use of the above technological tools while improving the quality of the bouts at the same time, keeping them competitive, we can create a new audience.
BOXINGINSIDER: Which of the fighters on the bill are your own signings? How big is your stable?
FRANCIS WARREN: We have two fighters on that bill: Tony Conquest, a highly touted Cruiserweight prospect, and Lightweight Liam Shinkwin. Next week, we will announce 13 more signings.
BOXINGINSIDER: According to which criteria do you decide to sign a fighter?
FRANCIS WARREN: The human factor is essential, because if you can’t get along with someone, it is impossible to make business together.
BOXINGINSIDER: What about the dynamics of your relationship with them? Are you in total control of their careers or do you support and encourage their own choices?
GEORGE WARREN: Dean Powell is in charge of the matchmaking but we like to keep in touch with fighters and trainers and listen to them as much aspossible. Bottom line is, though, that my brother and I are making the investments and put our money on the line, so we make the final decisions.
BOXINGINSIDER: How would you feel about putting one of your fighters in Prizefighter, for example?
GEORGE WARREN: Prizefighter is a unique and interesting format, although it takes some of the thrill of traditional boxing away. I favour a traditional title fight and undercard over it, but if it would make business sense and would help raise a fighter profile, I would not dismiss it.
BOXINGINSIDER: What are your short term objectives as a firm?
FRANCIS WARREN: We want to establish our brand in the business by putting on good shows and develop a stable of British and Commonwealth champions. In the end of the day, titles are what keeps boxing going.
BOXINGINSIDER: Don’t you think that sometime the politics around the titles take away from the entertainment side of the sport?
FRANCIS WARREN: Only when it comes down to mandatory challenges, if the matchup is not of interest, but, within the boundaries of what the Board decides,I think it is possible to create competitive fights and for sure competitive undercards.
BOXINGINSIDER: What are your long terms objectives?
FRANCIS WARREN: The business side of boxing is very much like the actual fighting:there is no point in starting if you are not aiming for the top. We want to become the biggest boxing promotions company in Europe and in the world.
BOXINGINSIDER: What will be your immediate step after next Friday?
FRANCIS WARREN: One of the signings we are about to announce is Cruiserweight Southern Area champion Leon Williams and we will promote his British title bid on the 21st of October. If he is successful, then it will be natural to match him against Conquest.
Tickets for Liam Walsh vs Paul Appleby are priced at £40 and £60 and are available from Frank Warren Promotions Box Office on 01992 550 888 or online at www.frankwarren.tv