Following the British Boxing Board of Control’s firm condemnation of the 14 July showdown between David Haye and Dereck Chisora, former Board General Secretary Simon Block has become the latest figure to show his disdain for the fight which audaciously intends to go ahead at Upton Park under the sanctions of the Luxembourg Boxing Federation.
In an exclusive interview with BoxRec News’ Deputy Editor, Ben Carey, current Commonwealth Boxing Council (CBC) honorary secretary Block was keen to stress that his views were being made in a personal capacity as a former General Secretary of the BBBoC, not on behalf of the CBC.
Block’s association with the BBBoC first began in 1979 when he worked under Ray Clarke and secondly in 1986 with John Morris. Block took over as General Secretary on 1 January 2000 following Morris’ retirement at the end of 1999 before he eventually retired himself in October 2008.
BC: Is the proposal to stage Haye v Chisora bad for British boxing? If so, why? If it goes ahead will it do more harm than good to boxing's image in the long-term?
SB: I do not believe a match at this stage between these two is good for the image of the sport particularly among sections of the public that are ambivalent about the game. Boxers like Henry Cooper, Barry McGuigan and Frank Bruno did so much for the sport's image when they were active. Despite the fact that this match will be a commercial success, if it goes on, the conduct of both boxers in their respective Klitschko matches will undoubtedly re-inforce prejudice in anti-boxing types that it is just a sport for thugs, which you and I know is absolutely not the case.
There is another factor. Despite all the ballyhoo words are just words, and they are cheap. There is every chance that when the bell goes for round one, it will be an absolute bore. Remember Harrison - Williams 1, Haye – Harrison and Haye-Klitschko.
BC: It seems that what is being proposed is perfectly legal. Can you explain how the BBBoC is unable to prevent this fight happening?
SB: The BBBoC can only regulate the sport within its own authority. It governs by the consent of its licence holders and its status is the same as every other sporting governing authority in the UK. Although some sports are affected by Government legislation, the Government is not responsible for governing any sport, each one having its own authority which has evolved historically.
‘Unlicensed’ boxing has always gone on outside the BBBoC, but it has been a marginal activity and anyone seeking a proper career in the sport has had to get a BBBoC licence. This case is a bit more complex as the promoter claims to hold a licence from Luxembourg, which has a federation which is a fellow member of the European Boxing Union, and EU legislation may be a factor. I have no expertise in this area but I am sure both the promoter and the BBBoC will have sought expert advice, and if they haven't, they should have.
BC: Do you agree with the BBBoC's statement, particularly this: 'Any member of the British Boxing Board of Control who participates in any way in such a promotion will be deemed to have terminated his/her membership of the British Boxing Board of Control and his/her licence therewith, for the reasons stated above.' ?
SB: Forgive me for not answering this question. I am not going to comment on the BBBoC statement.
BC: OK, if this challenge had arisen during your time as General Secretary of the BBBoC, what would your strategy have been? Robert Smith has clearly come out fighting but actions speak louder than words and he has been placed in a very difficult position.
SB: I faced similar challenges in my career both as General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary under John Morris. However, the General Secretary works for the Stewards and both he and they will have sat down and considered the options open to them utilising the variety of differing abilities around the table. If they felt it was necessary to get further expert advice they would have sought that from the appropriate specialist/s.
I have great regard for Robert Smith and don't envy his current position. I hope both he and the Stewards will benefit from the type of advice which I, John Morris and before that, Ray Clarke, all enjoyed in our times.
BC: Would you accept that, whatever the outcome, the Board's authority has been seriously compromised by this proposed bout? Is there anything that can be done to strengthen the Board's future position?
SB: If this match goes ahead it will undoubtedly compromise the BBBoC's authority but the organisation has faced many similar challenges in the 80 odd years of its existence and has always come through, sometimes stronger than before but always better equipped.
BC: The general perception of the BBBoC is that, whilst full of well-intentioned people, it lacks transparency, is self-appointed almost throughout and can be anachronistic. Firstly, would you accept this? Secondly, could this challenge result in some unintended good by provoking necessary change?
SB: The BBBoC has its democratic processes but ultimately may be termed a 'benevolent dictatorship' and there is a good reason for this. The regulation of this sport requires a dispassionate oversight, something not possible with competing interests seeking financial gain. This is something I believe Frank Warren is acutely aware of, despite his apparent current dissatisfaction, and it would appear also that his principal competitors such as Frank Maloney, Barry and Eddie Hearn and the Hattons feel the same.
When the BBBoC had its difficulties around the time I took over, following the Michael Watson case he was of tremendous help, acting as an intermediary to get a settlement and put up some of his own money to assist with that settlement. He also was the major contributor to the BBBoC's compulsory subsidised annual MRI brain scanning scheme and I am sure he will tell you, following my many battles with him that he got no special favours as a consequence.
If the Stewards had to be elected by the licence holders, the major promoters would be compelled by necessity to ensure their own nominations were appointed, and the biggest and most influential promoter of any era would have an advantage way beyond that which he (or she) might currently enjoy. It is noteworthy that licence holders in three of the Areas of the BBBoC (Southern, Midlands and Scottish) decided to overthrow their elected financially interested Area Councils in favour of non-elected, non- financially interested Area Councils, constituted in a similar way to the main Board so fed up were they of the infighting and general chaos caused by competing parties.
The BBBoC is only as strong as the people that sit around the Board table and there is a need at all times to ensure younger, eminent Stewards are brought on when vacancies occur who have the intellect and judgement to make appropriate decisions in difficult cases. It is not necessary for every Steward to have an expert knowledge of the workings of the sport provided he or she brings some other expertise eg legal, medical, business, political etc. which can assist the BBBoC in its work.
BC: Do you have any final thoughts on what could prove to be a milestone week for British boxing?
SB: Frank Warren has been one of this country's greatest ever promoters and has been responsible for some of the greatest nights of boxing over the last three decades, both at home and abroad. In my dealings with David Haye I always found him to be a complete professional, as well as likeable, and I consider him to be a significant talent. I am only sorry that he has apparently chosen to adopt a public persona which I don't think reflects the real man.
I don't know Dereck Chisora personally but I believe he has let himself down by his pre and post- Klitschko match antics, which undermined the tremendous showing he put up in the ring. He was called to account by the BBBoC in a properly constituted tribunal process for which he had the right to be legally represented and call witnesses. Having been penalised, he has the right of an Appeal, before the Appeal Stewards, who are mostly if not wholly eminent legal people, completely independent from the BBBoC who hear each case afresh.
All three have benefitted from a sport which for so many years has been properly governed by a responsible body and I am saddened that their intended contest may jeapordise the future proper governance of this sport’s interests.