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Hatton v Harris: The frustration factor

BY David Payne ON July 26, 2004
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Frustration is something that grips all of us from time to time, whether it’s the raise you don’t get or simply being stuck in traffic. Frustration can reach out and grab you anywhere.

And when boxing fans discuss Ricky Hatton’s next opponent, frustration is almost the name of the game.

Less than two weeks since the welcome news that a mouth-watering clash with WBA champion Vivian Harris was signed, problems are already emerging that threaten the fight.

Proving, the moment you think you’ve got this frustration thing licked, it catches you with a cruel counter.

It began last week as sceptical scribes picked through the detail and semantics that emerged in a high-profile interview with Frank Warren about Hatton, and specifically his next fight. In reality, just how ‘sealed’ was this fight?

The biggest problem wasn’t the reported media spat between Hatton and Warren, but the difficulty Warren had marrying up dates between his British and American TV partners. Showtime wanted, or expected the 9th of October. Sky and the MEN arena could only accommodate the 2nd.

So what gives? Well, without one of those broadcasters involvement suddenly the purse pot is considerably smaller, and when you factor in Harris is receiving a career high purse (according to Frank Warren at least) potential problems are clear. Surely, the fight HAS to come to fruition; another late replacement just wouldn’t be tolerated, would it?

Harris’ promoters, Main Events, yesterday announced that Warren was trying to reduce the purse pot by 25%, a move unlikely to be received well by either Harris or Hatton. As recently as last week Frank Warren stated the fight was locked in and was confident the problem of coverage and dates would be resolved.

This latest development appears to undermine that confidence. Donald Tremblay, part of Vivian Harris’ promotional team, reported Warren was already trying to negotiate the purse bids down. Suggesting Warren’s previous optimism was proving misplaced.

Would the fighters really proceed on lower purses? Harris turned down $300,000 to rematch Otkay Urkal in Germany and as the champion is unlikely to be in any mood to reduce his purse. Hatton meanwhile, has gone public recently with his career frustrations and specifically the fact he didn’t even know what his purses would be for the Vilches and Pederson encounters.

Is he likely to take a pay-cut for his toughest fight to date? Of course, the cynics will say; ‘he’s made plenty of money fighting nobodies, he owes the fans this fight!’ But does he really owe fans anything? He’s the one taking the punches and the risks, not the fans after all.

Frank Warren’s Sports Network stable were happy to confirm Showtime’s inability to show the fight on the date proposed was forcing their hand, leaving Harris with a pay-cut of $200k.

..when terms were agreed with Main Events, Showtime were going to be involved. Now that Showtime have a problem with the date, not Sky, Harris will have to take $200k less.

Whether this reflects the 25% Harris’ promoters were referring to appears hard to believe. Was Harris really on $800k for the fight?

Kathy Duva, Harris’ manager, was happy to try and elaborate.

We agreed the deal in principle at one figure, now they (Sports Network) want to work at a lower figure. That’s just not going to happen.

But surely the contract was based on the involvement of both broadcasters to make the numbers agreed viable?

We don’t really care what the excuse is and we never actually got down to the contractual detail. Vivian was already taking less than half the money despite travelling to Hatton’s backyard and being the champion in the fight!

So at this stage the fight is looking in serious jeopardy, or are you still negotiating?

Our attorney Patrick English continues to exchange faxes with them and obviously we still want to progress but presently I would say the fight is less than 50-50.

Presumably, you’ve begun to prepare contingencies for Vivian and I’d expect you have some sort of time limit on the ‘negotiations’?

Well, obviously we’ve had to begin to look at alternatives for Vivian but we haven’t put a deadline on the discussions with them, I know Patrick is still in talks and I would need to speak to him before I could reveal those kind of details.

It looks possible the fight could end up going to purse bids, meaning the involvement of another promoter like Don King for example, who could bring the fight to America?

Suits us, after all any purse bid on the fight would mean Vivian getting 70% as the champion.

Frank Warren would doubtless still be competitive in any purse bid; he’s unlikely to give up controlling Hatton’s next fight that easily?

I’m sure he’s not, but we’d put together a very strong bid too, but purse bids could very well suit us.

Whatever the outcome it seems hard to contemplate anything less than a marquee opponent for Hatton will cause dissent amongst even his die-hard fans.

And as the television interviews with Frank Warren highlighted last week, he’ll feel just as frustrated as the next man because Ricky Hatton, and the whole of British Boxing, in fact, needs this fight.

Comments and feedback to dwpboxing@yahoo.co.uk

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