Frank Maloney Interview – Talks Heavyweights, Audley Harrison, ‘Bums on Seats’ and more
By Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
This coming Friday, March 15th, promoter Frank Maloney returns to the York Hall in Bethnal Green for his latest offering ‘Loaded and Dangerous In London’, which is headlined by Matt Skelton versus John McDermott for the vacant English Heavyweight title.
Frank Maloney with John McDermott (L) and Matt Skelton (R) / photo Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
This event is a sort of homecoming for Peckham London born Frank, having not promoted at the Capital’s home of boxing since his huge show in June 2009, which was headlined by Jason Booth’s successful British Super Bantamweight title defense against Rocky Dean.
This classic Frank Maloney Promotions event featured the cream of his stable, including sadly missed former Beijing Olympic Bronze medalist Darren Sutherland, Akaash Bhatia, Ashley Sexton, Martin Power plus a host of local prospects and debutants. Of course being a FMP event it had to include a Heavyweight bout, in this case Tom Dallas versus Stas Bilokon.
Before I get carried away and start talking too much about that excellent event, I’ll change tack and move on to Frank’s greatest passion within the sport and of course his interview.
Frank is Mr. Heavyweight Boxing, OK, he lives and breathes boxing so maybe that should be Mr. Boxing, but that aside he has singlehandedly worked his socks off to try and breath some life into the Heavyweight division over the years.
His love affair with the ‘Big Boys’ may not have started when he began managing Lennox Lewis, but I can’t help but feel that was the biggest shot in the arm to this particular tryst.
Over the years Frank has taken virtually every British Heavyweight under his wing at one time or another, so when we got together, following the ‘Loaded and Dangerous in London’ press conference at the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym in Canning Town, I didn’t have much difficulty getting him to talk about Heavyweights and Heavyweight Boxing.
RIO: You have a big Heavyweight fight coming up on Saturday at York Hall. You’ve always been one of the biggest supporters of the Heavyweight Division, why is that?
FRANK MALONEY: I wouldn’t say a big Heavyweight Championship fight, I’d say an interesting Heavyweight Championship fight.
You know you’ve got two Heavyweights that people say are past their sell by date, but I’m a great believer that no Heavyweight is past his sell by date, because one punch changes the whole history of the Heavyweight division.
You know how many times we’ve written people off, they’ve written off Mohammed Ali, they’ve written off George Foreman, you know they’ve written off Larry Holmes, yet they kept coming back. They had written off Kevin McBride, then he came back and knocked out Mike Tyson.
The Heavyweights is an interesting division, an interesting situation, there’s Boxing and then there’s the Heavyweight division and everyone knows I love Heavyweights.
I’d like to bring all the old Heavyweights together, get them in a tournament to just see who the best man standing is, but they did that with Prizefighter didn’t they. The average age in that was thirty eight years old and guess what the guy that everyone loves to hate, Audley Harrision, has reinvented himself and come back bigger then ever.
Just imagine if Audley Harrison won a World title, he would have been the greatest star British Boxing could have ever had. Boxing would have been in every National Newspaper, every TV station, because this guy is a crossover star.
I have a lot of respect for Audley Harrison, I’ve had the pleasure of working with him, I’ve had the pleasure of slagging him off, but have to say knowing the guy I would have loved to have handled his career for him. Could I have made him a better fighter, I don’t know but if he had ever won a World title Boxing in this country would have totally changed.
RIO: You worked with Lennox Lewis, who was the most successful British Heavyweight, besides your current boys, such as David Price, which other Heavyweights did you take under your wing?
FRANK: Yeah I worked with Lennox and James Oyebola, he won the WBC International title and the British title under me.
I worked with Julius Francis, who was an average Heavyweight, yet he won the Lonsdale belt outright and ended up in with Mike Tyson.
I built Kevin McBride’s career up, until a bookmaker came chasing me for his debt and I gave him back his contract.
RIO: With the current World Heavyweight division being dominated by the Klitschko brothers and the domestic scene by upcoming stars such as Tyson Fury and David Price, is there a future for the loser of Friday’s big fight?
FRANK: It’s interesting, obviously there is a future for the winner of this weekend’s Heavyweight fight, but even the loser still has a future, he could still easily be recycled.
I mean it’s Boxing, every promoter is trying to recycle fighters from all divisions, as we have no new stars coming through.
We haven’t got great trainers out there no more, we’ve got fitness coaches. Saying that you come here, they’ve got some really good trainers, Johnny Eames is a very good trainer who learned his trade in the amateurs, like myself.
I look at it this way, when you go to secondary school you don’t take your primary teacher with you, when he finishes senior school and goes to university, he doesn’t take his senior teacher with him.
In Boxing it’s a little bit different as you can take your amateur coach with you when you step up to the pros, but you have to have someone else from the pros involved as well.
No one is learning how to box, every fighter now is much fitter than they have ever been but they haven’t got the skills they need to fight, that’s the problem.
RIO: You say about the lack of ‘stars’ these days, is there anyone from the current crop that you feel could one day become a true star?
FRANK: I think the simple answer is that there was no rush to sign any one of the 2012 Olympians, which was actually staged in our own City of London.
The last big signing was 2008 Beijing, and none of us promoters have got our investment back from then.
TV has changed the face of Boxing, I would say we are just about above a minority sport in Britain, you know and there are still people trying to bring it back.
If you find the right fighter, you will bring it back, but at this very moment we are a struggling sport.
Football’s taking everything, look what Sky bid for the last football and who got cut back the most, Boxing.
I’m not a great believer that there should be one promoter, which would be bad for the sport if it becomes a monopoly.
We had that during the time of Mickey Duff and the BBC, Boxing was OK but no one else got a look in.
Frank Warren took on the establishment, now in a certain way you could say Frank Warren is in the Mickey Duff situation and you’ve got young Eddie Hearn taking him on.
It’s interesting, is it even history repeating itself, we don’t know. Personally I think there’s still a lot of life in Frank Warren, I wouldn’t write him off as he’s a little bit more adaptable than Mickey Duff and them was in their day.
Frank’s got his sons working in there, which seems to be the new trend in Boxing.
Yeah it has changed, when I started there was no Internet, there was no Twitter, there was no Facebook, there was no mobile phones, I think I had one of the first mobile phones, it was as big as briefcase, I remember being down at the Becket with it.
So it has changed, but if we’re going to survive we need to adapt. Look at Don King, the greatest promoter the World’s ever seen, look at Bob Arum, the oldest promoter but still top of the pile.
You’ve got Golden Boy trying to make it more corporate, Boxing can’t be run like a corporate business, I don’t care what you say Golden Boy are bankrolled by a major TV station, let them go out and promote, you know work to get bums on seats, then see how well they do then.
RIO: OK, so do you think that’s because we look at Boxing just as a sport, instead of taking the wider view that Boxing is part of the Entertainment business and needs to compete with other sectors for those ‘Bums on Seats’ as you put it?
FRANK: It’s the entertainment business, Boxing isn’t recession proof and people in Boxing need to learn that.
Us promoters know that, as we have to put our hand in our pocket, but now you’ve got lawyers coming into your office, you’ve got trainers coming into your office and they’re telling you how much a fighters worth. I’ve got a message for them, put your hand in your pocket and you pay that sort of money, because you’re not recession proof, you know we are hit by recession.
We’re the only sport where the TV rights have been cut down, instead of going up, everything else has had them go up, Darts, Football, Formula One, which are the main sports on TV at the moment and they are taking all the money at the moment.
Sky have cut back so much on Boxing, that was a business decision by them because they claim they were not getting the viewing figures, you can’t blame them.
Loaded have come in on the ground floor, they’re like a Conference league team in Boxing at the moment, they’re just dipping their toes in the water, but you know what but if people start coming and demanding a hundred grand for a show and all that, even thirty grand for a show, Loaded will walk away from Boxing.
It’s just not there at the moment, we’re not recession proof and we have to accept that. Maybe fighters may have to take a pay cut, maybe we’ll have to sit down and look at the whole thing again and rebuild the game.
RIO: Funny that you have made such a point of the recession, I can’t help but notice that the tickets for Loaded and Dangerous in London start at £30, whereas the starting price over the past couple of years have been £35 or £40.
FRANK: We’re trying to bring people back to boxing and there’s not a British title fight on the show, so we haven’t got the same sanction fees.
We as promoters, well my company we do sit down, myself, James Russell, Mark Harnell and my daughter Emma, who is now on board, and we look at the situation and then cost a show, we say we need x amount to break even and this is what we’ve got to aim for.
I don’t know if it’s true but I’ve heard that Amir Khan’s cheapest tickets are £75, as I said I don’t know if that’s true, I’m waiting to see the posters.
Our average ticket for David Price is £40 and that’s up North, so yes, it is unusual for standard tickets to be just £30 these days.
Saying that I do believe the right fight sells, now will Carl Froch-Mikkel Kessler get the PPV numbers, which will be interesting as neither of them have crossover appeal, it’s just within Boxing they’re known.
Will they do as well as people think they will do, I’ll be watching that with great interest.
RIO: Getting back to this week’s show, I know you would prefer to remain neutral but I’m sure the fans would be interested in knowing who you think will emerge victorious on Friday.
FRANK: It’s a very interesting fight, I think that Matt Skelton can’t change the way he Boxes, so he will try and bully John to the canvas, he’s got it in his head that he’s already knocked John McDermott out.
John, who talks a great fight, the problem with John is he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in himself, you know if John gets it right John McDermott is one of the best Heavyweights out there.
He’s got a great jab, but he’s never believed in himself, he’s the unluckiest fighter in the history of British Boxing in the Heavyweight division.
RIO: So you’re not going to make a prediction then, OK, we’ll move on, you’re showcasing some upcoming young talent on the show, are there any standouts in your view?
FRANK: I’ve got to hold my hands up and say I don’t know much about them, because I’ve not promoted in London for about two or three years now, so it’s nice to come back to London and York Hall.
I’m really looking forward to it and working with Johnny (Eames) here at the TRAD TKO, who some of the young fighters are with.
I’ve left James Russell to put the whole card together, James is the sort of oil in my engine, he takes full credit for this show.
It’s the young upcoming fighters that need exposure, that’s what we’re selling to Loaded, it’s the upcoming fighters that they can highlight and develop. They’ve got the magazine, in fact I’m going to try and get them to come down and do an article on the TRAD TKO gym, because this is an old traditional gym and it’s a proving ground for young fighters so yeah I am hoping to get Loaded to do an article on it.
We’ve got a years contract with Loaded, with a years option, we’ve sat down with their management team and we’ve discussed the way forward, I do believe there’s an opening there for young fighters to get the exposure they deserve, but if people do not tune into it they’ll pull the plug on it as well.
It’s down to all of us, promoters, trainers, boxers, media and to get it out there and the fans up and down the country to watch the shows.
RIO: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today and I wish you all the success with ‘Loaded and Dangerous In London’ and all your future promotions.
FRANK: My pleasure.
Loaded and Dangerous In London, which takes place at York Hall, Bethnal Green in London on Friday 15th March 2013, is headlined by Matt Skelton versus John McDermott for the vacant English Heavyweight title and will be broadcast live and exclusive on Loaded TV (Sky platform channel 200)
Tickets, priced £30 and £70, for the Frank Maloney promoted ‘Loaded and Dangerous In London’ event at York Hall on Friday 15th March, are on sale now at www.tkoboxoffice.com or direct from the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym, Gillian House, Stephenson Street, Canning Town, London E16 4SA.
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