Warrington Away

osh Warrington may have a name suitable to the north west, but it is across the Pennines where he has made that name. He's done it the hard way; leisure centres, hotels, banqueting suites at football grounds. They've all been graced by the frenetic paced Yorkshireman over the years, to the point where he has amassed a 24 fight uneaten record. In these latter years, Sky viewers will be familiar with seeing him in the more palatial surroundings of the First Direct Arena in Leeds.

The memory will live long, perhaps not for the correct reasons, of Johnny Nelson recreating a Warrington ring walk on fight night in front of the baying Leeds fans. Or who can forget cockney Vinny Jones rolling back the years to carry a Warrington belt to the ring, still a fan favourite in the Yorkshire dales. Jones is

not insignificant in this tale, a man who is still adored by the white rose football fans, helping to cement the Warrington cross-appeal to the football culture.

Maligned in some boxing quarters, the Leeds faithful turn out in numbers to support their man. Rarely is there a spare seat in the 13,500 First Direct Arena. It is this support that has made Josh Warrington a key pivot in the increasing British boxing battle. 

Just last week it was announced that Warrington is to leave the biggest promoter in the UK, Matchroom. A surprising move, they seemed the perfect marriage of convenience. Eddie Hearn has gained a cult following by turning boxing into THE night out with the lads, none more typified than the Leeds alliance. Fights nights are carefully placed in the calendar to coincide with a Leeds home game; what better way to round off a Saturday supporting your team than a Saturday supporting your boy? The percentage of genuine boxing fans is questionable, but the results are not. Raucous crowds, crackling atmosphere and an undefeated fighter. It's a Promoter like Eddie Hearn's dream. So how has this scenario gone off piste?

There are two potential key pivots in play here. Lee Selby and Frank Warren. Starting with the former, a long mooted showdown between Selby and Warrington was rumoured to be in place for the summer of 2016. 'Marriage plans' from Warrington put paid to the showdown, but didn't stop Warrington taking another fight around the same time. There is no doubt that Hearn had pencilled in Elland Road for that fight, contradicting what is written above, he could get the stadium out of the football season and entice those same fans along. There's no guarantee Warrington wins, but there is a guarantee they all line their pockets healthily. The fact the fight never came off is only down to the Warrington side. Selby openly wanted it, Hearn openly wanted it. Only the Warrington team decided against it. This is in an era where Hearn has openly said he expects his fighters to take more competitive fights. We have seen the model change in America, the Al Haymon money train has ground to a halt and now we are seeing the reeping of a number of high profile seeds sewn over two years. Hearn has a different challenge though, Frank Warren.

Long in the Sky shadows, Warren and his BoxNation channel have grafted away. That is, until BT Sports have shone a                                                                                         light upon them and offered not only a far wider platform but also, presumably, a far bigger budget. 20 shows per year                                                                                    we are being promised from the new coalition. A big ask that requires a big stable. One which arguably doesn't exist at                                                                                      present. Last week we saw British super lightweight Tyrone Nurse sign terms with Frank Warren and widely advertised. Nurse is a fellow Yorkshireman, based out of Huddersfield. The rumour mill suggests that Kid Galahad, once highly touted before being given a ban for banned substances, will also sign with the Warren stable. He has been flitting around Sky and Channel 5 shows, so it may be he has found his home. Of course, his physical home is also Yorkshire based, in Sheffield. There are the Leather brothers, also Northern based, who have ties to Warren. There are many other Northern names up for grabs too, the likes of Martin Ward.

In other words, there is a regional hub. Alone, none of these are known to be large ticket sellers. All that talent but without attraction. If only there was someone in Yorkshire who had the ability to fill an arena that you could build a regional stable around....

Josh Warrington. Nothing is official, nothing is announced. But there are very few other places Warrington can ply his trade. He lacks the crossover appeal of a Eubank Jr, someone who could go it alone. He needs to be a part in a bigger system, and right now the biggest system he can fit into is Frank Warren's. 

Of course it may not happen, but it would raise eyebrows if he went elsewhere. So what has lead to his Matchroom departure? Jump, or pushed? You suspect Hearn is bitter about the Elland Road show not happening, but his dealing with Eubank Jr show that he is willing to put finance over morals. Four times in fifteen months Warrington has fought at the First Direct (between April 2015 and July 2016). Assume the average ticket to be £60 with 13,500 fans and you're looking at £3.24 million of income walking out the door. 21 shows have been promoted by Hearn in that period. Roughly speaking, that is 20% of his shows. In that time there have been sold out O2 shows and non sold out shows around the country. If we assume that the FD Arena sits as the absolute average of Hearn's promotional events, then we can also assume that 20% of his ticket sale income has just walked out the door, potentially to his closest rival.

That is huge. Huge. You can't help but think there will be pressure on Hearn to replace that revenue stream, either in house or externally. If, as would seem logical, Warrington lands with Warren, that is a massive power play. Arguably, only Anthony Joshua is above Warrington in the scale of fighters guaranteed to shift a ticket. Not Brook, not Callum Smith, not Quigg, not Whyte, not Crolla. Perhaps Burns has a case in Scotland but even that has a very limited shelf life right now.

If Warren does sign Warrington he can gloat, and rightly so, about offering an alternative to Hearn and Sky. Quite what fights would be lined up, who knows? But the Leeds faithful hardly seem concerned. They haven't to this point and I'm sure a promotional rebranding wouldn't dull their enthusiasm. 

The rumour mill kicked in over the weekend about another jewel in the Yorkshire crown, a certain Kell Brook. He wrote a very short denial on Twitter that anything was happening, and on the back of a career high payday against Golovkin you suspect he is firmly in camp Hearn at present. But if Warrington does end up with Warren, I would expect Kell to keep a close eye on proceedings. If a Yorkshire hub does appear, Brook would be the final, centre piece addition.

Of course it is all speculation for now.  There are other potential homes for Warrington; ITV are rumoured to have something in place, but nobody knows quite what.  Cyclone Promotions have found a home on Channel 5 too.  But if the pieces of the promotional puzzle start to fall into place, it promises to make 2017 one of the most interesting outside of the ring for a long time.