By Alan Hubbard
A few days ago I was chatting on the phone with a boxer friend who is both black and former world champion, about the current rumpus over racism. During our discussion he asked me: “Would you take the knee in support of Black Lives Matter?”
“Of course,” replied this ancient scribe. “Just as long as you help me up afterwards!”
It may have been a light-hearted response to a very serious issue but yes, I do understand what is going on in the world right now. I am vehemently anti-racism and have been after being brought up by a liberal minded father who, as the manager of the sawmill department of a well-known furniture manufacturer, was among the first to employ a Jamaican immigrant following the arrival of the Windrush in 1948.
A few years on my dad promoted this very pleasant Jamaican lad named Joe to be his assistant, an action which caused other workers in the company to send them both to Coventry – i.e. refusing to speak to them – for a year.
The memory of such blatant prejudice has remained ingrained in my consciousness which is why I have always campaigned against any form of it in my career as a sportswriter.
This week we saw football coming home – again. At least, after a fashion when the Premier League re-started with stadiums now crowd-free zones. To the game’s authorities it must have been be a bittersweet moment. Delighted that football is back on its feet but secretly relieved that the crowds are absent.
Why, when the loss of revenue from the turnstiles will be massive? The answer is that in these volatile times matches will be also be free from the current violence of a racist nature that might have been transferred from the streets of our cities.
I have covered the majority of sports in well over half a century of journalism and the question that puzzles me is why, in this country it is only some ignoramus football fans have such a repugnant attitude towards black players?
This is why it is so pleasing to report that’s boxing is making a comeback too, with Frank Warren beating the others to the punch by announcing he will stage three British title fights in a new series of shows starting on Saturday July 10, to be televised by BT during the summer months.
At the moment, until Lockdown is lifted, these will be behind closed doors. But what we do know is that when the fans are allowed back in there will be no worries about football-type racism as boxing has an exemplary record an in this respect.
Alongside athletics it is the most integrated of any major sport. I haven’t taken an exact tally but there must be at least as many, if not more, British fighters from ethnic communities as there are white guys.
All get along fine – except of course when they are in ring doing their thing. But when the last bell sounds whatever race they may be, inevitably they will clasp each other in an embrace which, as I’ve said before, so often results in lifelong friendships.
A typical example is the camaraderie among Queensberry’s ever-expanding army. It is a veritable melting pot of colour, creed and talent with never a racist word among them, from man mountain Tyson Fury down to little Charlie Edwards. Go to any show and you won’t hear a syllable or sentence of racist abuse from spectators. Black and white fighters are applauded – or booed – equally. Colour has nothing to do with it. Thank goodness.
Indeed the only racist incident I can recall came 40 years ago when white British world middleweight champion Alan Minter foolishly declared before engaging combat with American Marvin Hagler that he would “never lose my title to a black man”.
Understandably this infuriated Hagler so much that he set about Minter from the start, belabouring him brutally and bloodily, ending the one-sided contest in three rounds.
Some members of the National front who somehow had infiltrated the Wembley crowd began raining down abuse accompanied by banners, bottles, beer cans and chairs as Marvelous Marvin tried to leave the ring. They even had to abandon the presentation of the world championship belt and the late BBC commentator Harry Carpenter remarked: “The Wembley arena was reeking, not so much of nationalism but had a decidedly rancid smell of racialism.”
The promoter, Mickey Duff publicly apologised to Hagler “on behalf of British boxing.”
Had such an incident happened today Minter, who has since apologised, may well have had his licence lifted by the Board of Control. Certainly any fine and/or suspension would have been substantial.
In terms of tolerance and equality boxing has long since put his house in order although I doubt I am alone in wanting to see a black presence on the Board. And I don’t think boxing has had a black promoter since the days of Grimsby’s likeable Joe Frater. However, there are numerous black trainers and coaches. Outside the arenas, though, things have not always been quite as hunky-dory. There are incidents of many black sports figures, among them several boxers including Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno early in their careers, being pulled over by police simply because they were driving rather nice cars. Some have been detained in cells overnight until their identity was verified. Then, of course. it was autographs and selfies all round ,please chaps from the an obsequious Old Bill.
In America, even when two black promotional figures, Don King and Al Hayman dominated the sport alongside Bob Arum there have been pockmarks of racism stemming from the days when the rednecks – some of them sadly among the media – racially vilified Muhammad Ali. But of course he gave as good as he got, infuriating them even more.
And it wasn’t that long ago that Joe Calzaghe was told by Bernard Hopkins “I will never get beaten by a white man”. Like Minter he proved a rotten prophet.
BLIGHTY BOXING is a lively new YouTube channel which largely looks at the sport’s up-and-comers, the majority of them from Frank Warren’s burgeoning stable for which he has been spending the Lockdown recruiting the cream of young British talent.
Stories of the biggest stars in the Queensberry firmament are well chronicled but the likely lads lower down the ranks, many of whom will be appearing in Queensberry’s forthcoming BT-screened shows, also have fascinating tales to tell in video interviews as they aim for the big-time. Blighty Boxing is full of them, as it takes a refreshing look at boxing behind the scenes.
Here I must declare an interest as the website Is the work of my son Richard but I do think fight fans will find well worth a visit. It is free and you can find it on this link: