Not so very long ago it seemed like Frank Warren was watching his stable of boxers implode. Both George Groves and Ricky Burns, two of his most high profile boxers, left him and eventually signed with Warren’s main domestic rival Matchroom Sports.
Now it look like it could be happening again.
Stephen Smith is one of the four Smith brothers (along with Callum, Liam and Paul), with Stephen, Liam and Paul all holding British titles and Callum the English belt. Stephen won the belt with a beautiful uppercut knockout over Gary Buckland and looks to be one of the brighter lights in British boxing… if nothing else his war with Lee Selby was great fun to watch, even if he came out on the losing side.
Smith has just announced that he intends to leave W Promotions (one of the many promotional companies Warren has control over)
I’ve been with W Promotions since I turned pro and during that time have held the British Featherweight and Super-Featherweight titles. Now though the time has come to pursue my career away from W Promotions. As such I’m today announcing the termination of my contract with W Promotions. I would like to thank everyone at W Promotions for the support and guidance they’ve given me.
As expected, Warren hasn’t taken this lying down and has come back with a denial and the promise of legal action.
Mr. Warren will defend his rights as both the Manager and Promoter of Stephen Smith and a complaint has already been lodged at the British Boxing Board of Control and a letter sent to his solicitors. Other parties, who we are aware have induced Mr. Smith to breach his contract and in doing so have tortuously interfered with Mr Warren’s rights, will also be the subject of action through the BBBofC and the Courts.
It must be noted that he said something along similar lines when Ricky Burns first said he was signing with Matchroom and yet Burns was able to sign with Eddie Hearn’s outfit without any real issues.
Regardless of whether or not Smith is legally able to terminate his contract or if he remains under Warren’s control, it’s rarely a good sign for a promoter when one of their boxers went to leave. It’s especially strange in this case where the Smith brothers have been a major part of Warren’s stable and BoxNation broadcasts over the recent past and Paul Smith in particular is a pretty integral part of the broadcast, often featured as an analyst and commentator. That’s not to say that blood ties always bind but it is somewhat strange to see one of the Smith brother want to leave.
Warren’s a wily old operator and he’s survived bigger stars then Stephen Smith leaving in the past. Reports of his death over the past few months have certainly been exaggerated but I don’t think even he’d deny it’s not been a particularly brilliant time for him. One world title holder in Burns leaves, another loses his belt when Nathan Cleverly was brutally stopped by Kovalev while George Groves walks away and almost immediately gets a high profile bout with Froch. And Matchroom Sports just renewed their deal with Sky, once again giving them the lions share of domestic TV coverage and dates. That said he still has some depth to his stable with a talented selection of ex-amateur stars (notably Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders) to call upon and with Chisora having picked up some nice wins that put him back in the heavyweight mix. Write off Frank Warren at your peril.
But he may have to do it without Stephen Smith…