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CALM meets Frank Maloney: Part 3 “I thought one of us in the camp had to be brave”

In part three of CALM’s five part Frank Maloney interview series, Frank talks of Lennox Lewis’ ‘world’ title, first loss to Oliver McCall, the current heavyweight division and the tragic loss of a young fighter from his stable, Ireland’s Darren Sutherland, to suicide.

For part one of the interview – “Too small to box” which details Frank’s journey into boxing promotion, go here: PART ONE.

For part two of the interview – “I nearly had everything, and now everything’s gone” which covers Frank’s early career challenges and disappointments, go here: PART TWO.

“And from that moment I got a little bit of drive back. I went out and I found new financial backers, and it just went from strength to strength really.”

CALM: And then obviously Lennox won the world title a few years later.

Frank Maloney: 1992 we fought Razor Ruddock at Earl’s Court, which was described as one of the best wins by a British heavyweight ever in a ring. That was to fight the winner of Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield. Bowe won the title, against all odds, then refused to fight Lennox Lewis.

“I had friends, or let’s call them acquaintances because they’re not really friends are they, because Lennox lost, people stopped phoning me up.”

CALM: Bowe didn’t want to fight Lennox did he?

FM: Yeah, he dropped the belt in the bin! So we got this campaign and we was awarded the belt without a fight which took a little bit of gloss off it. Then we had to challenge to fight Tom Tucker in the mandatory [mandatory fight for the ‘world’ title] who was a Don King fighter. Don King won the purse bids and Lennox Lewis got £9.25 million for that fight, which was unheard of for a British fighter. He won it, things went from strength to strength, and then all of a sudden Lennox lost to Oliver McCall. Again, my life just went…

McCall celebrates the Lewis stoppage

I remember that night, I’d met another girl, Tracey who’s my wife now, she was with me and she decided to come down to London. Lewis got beat, and there was a picture of me on the back of the Evening Standard, I mean it was the worst picture you’ve ever seen. I was really angry screaming in it because I believed we’d been set up at that fight. But when you sit back and look at it we weren’t really, it was the mistakes we made. Anyway I remember after that fight, it was like, from being on a high you just deflated totally. For Lennox they were doing This Is Your Life the next day. I hadn’t left the hall, and my mobile phone rang and it was the producer saying they’d scrapped it.

CALM: They didn’t want to do it?

FM: They didn’t want to do it. And I thought, “Fuck!” One minute everyone wanted to talk to you the next minute no one did. I had friends, or let’s call them acquaintances because they’re not really friends are they, because Lennox lost, people stopped phoning me up. Again I had Tracey with me this time and I remembered the things my Dad said to me the first time it all happened so you know I wasn’t as bad, but I was totally, depressed, to say the least.

“I really believe that I am now going to go, this time it’s not from Peckham to Las Vegas, it’s from Chislehurst to Las Vegas”

It did take me a little while to get round it but I thought one of us in the camp had to be brave. The good thing was Lennox called me up to his room that night when he lost and he sat there and it was in total darkness in the room. He was sitting on the middle of the bed, just this big massive fella. He had a split in his lip and there was me, five foot three little cockney kid with tears in his eyes thinking, “one minute I’m on top of the world, the next minute, I’m fucked.” And he looked at me and he said, “I’ve let everyone down tonight but I’m not retiring Frank, we will come back. So we will keep the team together.” And I think that was what…

CALM: Gee’d you up?

FM: Yeah, and we came back again and he re- won the title.

CALM: And now his legacy is completely different.

FM: Yeah. The problem is the two losses, he’s had two losses in his career which sort of damages his legacy but he did reverse them losses. Without them two losses he would have been the ultimate heavyweight. He would have been up there with, well he is. He’s in the top five heavyweights in my opinion.

CALM: And the heavyweight division now…

FM: It’s absolute rubbish. Absolute rubbish, no one cares about it. The Klitschkos are good fighters don’t get me wrong I’m not knocking them, but there is no competition out there for them and that is the problem. My plan now is to build the competition in a fighter called David Price from Liverpool, I’m looking after his career. I really believe that I am now going to go, this time it’s not from Peckham to Las Vegas, it’s from Chislehurst to Las Vegas. I’ve got the same sort of vibes.

“Unfortunately there were a lot of problems that we didn’t know about until it was too late”

You know in this career I’ve had lots of ups and lots of downs. The last Olympics I signed three good fighters. I signed an Irish lad called Darren Sutherland who I thought really was the ultimate fighter. Out of all the fighters at the Olympics that was the one I really wanted to sign. I actually signed Tony Jeffries and David Price by default. Sutherland I took the effort, I went to Ireland a couple of times, I met with him, met with his advisors. I knew Frank Warren was trying to sign him, I knew David Haye was trying to sign him and a number of Irish people and Americans. I don’t know if it was because of my Irish background or connections but again there was a connection there.

Darren Sutherland with his Olympic bronze medal

Eventually we signed, and there was a lot of money changed hands, contracts were signed. He came to live with me in England. Part of the deal was that he had a flat but he didn’t really want to go into a flat. He asked could he stay with myself and my family which we allowed him to, and we were quite happy with that. He was given a car, he was given a large signing bonus and he was earning very good money. I mean if he was still fighting today he would beat DeGale and George Groves without any problem. Unfortunately there were a lot of problems that we didn’t know about until it was too late, and one morning I found him, in his flat… That was September 2009, that was the Monday after, what a bad weekend, the Monday after the first Tyson Fury fight.

Parts four and five of this interview series are due to be published online on Thursday May 17th and Friday May 18th.

Frank’s new heavyweight prospect, Liverpudlian David Price, faces Sam Sexton for the British and Commonwealth Heavyweight titles on May 19th. Tickets are on sale and the fight is live on SKY sports.

By Adam Laudus Thorn


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