By Frank Warren
LITTLE DID I realise some 46 years ago when I first clapped eyes on Brendan Ingle that our respective careers would later become entwined in such a glorious fashion.
The British fight guru who, as much as anyone, put Sheffield on the sporting map through his fine works at the Wincobank Gym, passed away at the weekend and I would like to again extend my sympathies to his wife Alma and all of the family.
I first saw him when he fought my cousin, Johnny Wall, at the Bedfordshire Sporting Club. Brendan came in as a last-minute sub on the night, giving weight away and losing to Johnny by three quarters of a point.
Of course, Brendan found his true calling as a trainer, looking after the likes of Herol Graham – considered to be one of the best to never win a world title – Ryan Rhodes, Junior Witter and, of course, Prince Naseem Hamed.
Brendan adopted a unique approach to training his fighters and you can identify a boxer reared in the Ingle way to this day. He didn’t believe in head sparring and his charges were always famously elusive operators.
I became seriously involved with him when he came down and we struck a deal for me to promote Naz. We all worked together successfully for many years until a well-documented fall out between trainer and fighter resulted in a split and, very sadly, the pair never speaking to each other again.
It was such a great shame and, although Naz was keen to reconcile in later years, it was not to be.
The split did immeasurable damage to the career of Naz, who went downhill from that point on as far as training and preparation for fights was concerned.
He had various other trainers who just never got the best out of him again and his application in the gym was never the same.
I have said many times before that Naz, while working in tandem with Brendan, was the best fighter I have ever been involved with, but he simply didn’t fulfil his full potential.
Having said that, he beat so many champions and top quality fighters and should still be regarded as one of the greats.
Brendan was one of a kind. Every morning he would get up and sweep the local church before turning his attention to what he did best – being a mentor and inspiration to so many young men from the area.
I will always remember him as a gentleman – just a really good bloke – and the last time I saw him was at the Boxing Writers’ Dinner back in October, where we were able to catch up and have a little reminisce over old times.
To me he is one of our sport’s great success stories. You always think along those lines about the fighters, but he was a success story as a trainer, as a person and for what he gave to boxing.
He could also be a very persuasive character and I remember him always banging on to me about Johnny Nelson, who I really had no interest in signing.
Naz, who was a big friend of Nelson, also started chipping away at me too and he and Brendan were at my house trying to get me to promote Nelson.
I remembered when he fought on ITV against Carlos De Leon in 1990. It was one of the worst fights you have ever seen in your life and it stank the place out. I recall saying to them that if he were to fight in my back garden I would close the curtains!
Anyway, they managed to talk me into it and the rest is history, with Nelson remaining undefeated in 15 world title fights until he was due to fight Enzo Maccarinelli and retired.
There was much more to Brendan than being a top trainer and, in some ways, he was more of a psychologist to his fighters.
He was just a good bloke all round, someone who did brilliantly for his fighters and I really got along well with him. We did a lot of good business together.
It is fitting that his legacy continues with his sons and his methods and messages will be passed on to fighters for many years to come.
THE BOXING WORLD was dealt another tragic blow on Saturday when news broke of the passing of Dean Francis at the age of just 44.
Dean, who fought on a number of my shows in the mid to late nineties, demonstrated his true fighting heart and character by battling cancer since a diognosis in January 2017 gave him four months to live.
During our time working with him, Dean enjoyed the most successful spell of his career at super middleweight, winning the WBO Intercontinental title and defending it three times, the British title and the European title.
His career momentum was disrupted by the suffering of a dislocated shoulder in 1998, an injury that would keep him out of the ring for over three years, before coming back to us in 2007 and winning the British and Commonwealth titles at light heavyweight.
I remember him as a great lad, a top fighter and boxing has sadly lost another one of the good guys. My condolences go to all his family and friends.
Rest in peace, Brendan and Dean.
LAST WEEK WE brought together two contrasting characters who will be pitting their wits and fists against each other as a key attraction on the big 02 Arena show on June 23.
Being heavyweight boxers is probably about all Daniel Dubois and his next opponent Tom Little have got in common.
The amiably brash Tom really doesn’t mince his words and told young Daniel exactly what he intends to do to him when they step on the canvas in a few weeks time.
The studiously reserved Daniel took absolutely no notice whatsoever and let it all wash over his head. He was never going to start exchanging verbals and there was no way Tom was going to rattle his steely resolve.
What we have though, is a fight on our hands and there is no doubt that this is a significant step up for Daniel. Tom believes he is the man to put a young upstart back in his place, while Daniel views the occasion as simply another rung on the ladder.
I am sure Tom will provide a test for Daniel and that is what he needs at this stage of the game. If he can get some rounds under his belt and be required to get his defences in order, so much the better.
Saying that, if Daniel connects clean on anyone, we are in for another early night.