It is with great sadness I have learned this morning of the death of my former boss, ‘Jack’ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, former Chairman and President of the British Boxing Board of Control.
He took over as the Board’s Chairman not long after I took over as General Secretary in 2000 during one of the bleakest times in the Board’s history following a successful claim made in the Courts against us by boxer Michael Watson. In those early days of our tenure in office together an Appeal was lodged, this proving to be unsuccessful. Leave was granted for a final Appeal to the House of Lords, in view of the legal implications of the Appeal Judges decision but Jack and I both recognized that at the heart of the case was a severely disabled boxer. If we pursued every legal avenue available to us unsuccessfully, justice for Michael Watson would be delayed and the future credibility of the Board may suffer irreparable damage. We were supported by the Stewards in this view and we then set about determining the best way we could deal with the matter, as damages, yet to be awarded by the Courts, had not been determined but were likely to be set at a figure over and above the total assets of the Board.
This led to the Board going into Administration and eventually moving to Cardiff a move which led to the only serious disagreement we ever had, as it was not a move I welcomed at the time although ultimately it proved to be successful. Even then, Jack having made up his mind and overruled my objections, fair man that he was, still allowed the Stewards to consider a late alternative proposal made to me by a property developer, which possibly could have led to us remaining in London which ultimately they rejected. We were also able to reconcile on a personal basis with Michael Watson, who became a recipient of the Board’s ‘Special Award’ and on whose behalf we were able to obtain a WBO World Championship Belt.
We worked together so well and much of any credit that came my way during those times should really have been attributed to Jack who never laid down an order, but whose gentle advice and instruction almost never proved to be wrong. He was a lot of fun and I so enjoyed our pre-Board Meeting advisory meetings at the bar in House of Lords although, raconteur that he was, it was sometimes difficult to ensure I had advised him fully of all the matters to be considered by the Stewards the next day while he regaled me with drink and stories. However his astute mind was always able to absorb those matters which fully deserved his attention. Following our move to Cardiff he never quite understood my dissatisfaction, as a comparatively younger man to his more senior status, at having to have those meetings in a pub in St Mary’s Street called ‘The Cottage’.
His contribution to Boxing, a sport he knew and loved so well, vital and substantial though it was, was miniscule compared with his achievements in other spheres notably as Political Agent to Prime Minister James Callaghan and as the man who made the development of Cardiff Bay possible a key factor in the regeneration of Wales’ capital city. He is credited with being one of the three most important figures in its’ centuries old history.
He was also a family man and took great delight in the sporting and educational successes of his grandchildren, and a humble man, living in a smart but modest enough flat in Cardiff and enjoying his betting, the occasional pint and pipe, and chats with his old pals in politics, the press and boxing.
We kept in touch over the years and I last saw him last July when it was clear he was very frail but still with a mind a sharp as razor. It has been a month or so since I last called him and I very much regret not ringing him more recently, something I had intended to do but had not got round to.
Jack was my boss, my friend, my mentor and in the most positive sense of the word, my patron. To Lady Brooks, Peggy, to whom I will write to direct, and to all Jack’s family my most sincere sympathies for their loss.
Hon Secretary, Commonwealth Boxing Council.
Former General Secretary, British Boxing Board of Control