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CALM meets Frank Maloney Part 4: “I had a heart attack at ringside”

Frank Maloney with Darren Sutherland and Tony Jeffries

In the penultimate section of CALM’s interview series with boxing promoter Frank Maloney, Frank talks about his heart attack, and some of the boxers with problems he has had over the years, including the inspirational story of Jason Booth, who beat drink and drug problems to return to boxing and fight for a world title.

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.

For part three of the interview – “I thought one of us in the camp had to be brave” where Frank tells of Lewis’ first ‘world’ title, and the sad death of one of Frank’s young fighters, Darren Sutherland, go here: PART THREE.

CALM: You had a heart scare.

Frank Maloney: I actually had a heart attack at ringside they tell me, but finding Darren, sort of made it show. My blood pressure was something like 290 over 90 and I don’t remember much about it. All I remember is waking up in hospital.

CALM: Do you think with Darren if he’d have had what you had, if he’d have been able to talk it would have helped?

FM: Yes. We, I mean, because there’s been no inquest I’ve not really spoke about Darren’s death, or the build up to the death or what I actually know. I’ve been asked by many newspapers to speak, and I’ve refused to speak until after the inquest. But all I can say is if we’d known what we know now when we’d signed Darren, we may not have signed him, we may have signed and dealt with everything differently.

“To be a boxer you’ve got to have something not right, and I mean that in the nicest way.”

I went through a bad stage myself after I parted with Lennox Lewis, really bad, and I started hitting the bottle and drinking. The only good thing was I never done any drugs but I was drinking twenty four hours a day. I wasn’t going home, I was arguing with my wife and my children, my friends and my family. I took myself away and I checked myself into a clinic down on the south coast, and I found this clinic for another fighter I had who had lots of problems called Scott Harrison.

CALM: Well I mean Jason…

FM: You’re gonna say Jason Booth.

CALM: Yeah.

FM: It sounds like I had every problem fighter! But look I mean it goes back ages, to be a boxer you’ve got to have something not right, and I mean that in the nicest way. If I had sons I would not encourage them to box, even though I love the sport. It is the most dangerous sport there is in the world. Years ago, yes, but now there’s so much out there you don’t have to box. That doesn’t sound good coming from me but that’s how I feel about it. There’s too many other alternatives out there now for people to choose from.

CALM: Do you think as a pastime maybe or just not at all?

FM: I think the training and the amateur side of it and the discipline of boxing is the best thing in the world for anybody. As I said earlier it teaches you something, it taught me something. The discipline is great not like football, it’s a completely different sport. But to actually get in and want to whack people and to get whacked I think you’ve got to be a little bit nuts, and maybe I was, or still am! Everyone knows the story of Scott Harrison, he eventually he sacked me over what I’d done.

CALM: He didn’t like being made to go to rehab?

“Jason Booth, he was a great young fighter, one of the most talented we’d ever produced. For some reason, he got involved in drinking… he was going around drinking meths and looking in bins for cans.”

FM: No he didn’t like being made to go down there. He sacked me. He never fought again and he ended up getting two and a half, three years in prison. In fairness in prison he sent me a couple of letters, he has spoken to me since and we are in contact now. He said, “if I’d have listened to you Frank and took your advice, I wouldn’t have gone so far down.” This kid earned quite a lot of money, I would say he earned over a few million and he hasn’t got a penny now. His houses got repossessed, everything was repossessed. He’s now back, he’s reapplying for his licence and he’s talking to me on a regular basis but you know.

CALM: What is Jason Booth doing now, do you know?

FM: He’s resting. He’s wants to have one more fight at a lower weight. You know because…

[Booth has since fought and lost to unbeaten Kid Galahad at Bantamweight]

CALM: Well Steve Molitor…

FM: He could have won. He didn’t believe he could win that fight because he was winning the first five or six rounds of that fight. But I think that stems back to Jason Booth’s past. Everyone knows the story of Jason Booth, he was a great young fighter, one of the most talented we’d ever produced. For some reason, he got involved in drinking. He’ll tell the story openly, where he was going around drinking meths and looking in bins for cans.

Ringside special on Jason Booth’s troubles and comeback

CALM: Yes I’ve read this.

FM: So you know it. He picked his life back together again from rehab and I don’t think he could believe it. He was just so grateful that he was still fighting for the world title that he just wanted to go the distance, instead of say being a hungry fighter and saying I want to win it, which he could have won it.

CALM: I had him winning the first few rounds.

FM: Yeah everyone did, I did. He just went into that shell; “I’m there…” And after the fight his first words to me were, “I didn’t let myself down did I?” so it showed you that mentality that he just wanted to be there, and I think age has caught up with him now. You can’t live how he lived. If you’re an athlete you’ve got to live a certain lifestyle.

CALM: Do you think it stems from something, I know when Joe Calzaghe retired and he was going into acting, he said, “I’ve done acting as a boxer, because I’ve always got to convince myself that I’m the better person; that I’m going to win the fight. Even sometimes when you meet the guy and think fuck I’m going to get beat…” Do you think that mentality affects boxers?

FM: Well I think you’ve got to think that you can’t get beat, that you can’t get beat when you step in the ring.

Part five, the final part of our interview series with Frank is due later this week, and in it Frank talks retirement, partying with Lennox Lewis, Don King’s attempts to wind Frank up and politics. Don’t miss it.

by Adam Laudus Thorn


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