By Matt Christie

THIS WEEK’S edition rightly paints a picture of a sport that’s thriving.

There are fight reports from London where Hamzah Sheeraz cemented his position as a future star and Reece Bellotti became the latest to exhibit what it really means to be British champion. There are interviews too, like with Mikaela Mayer, which is a beautifully written piece by Anna Whitwham who highlights, among other things, the positive impact fighters can have on children.

There’s also plenty about fights we may soon be getting, and wow, what a period this is shaping up to be. I do not recall a year beginning quite like this when so many fights we’ve been eager to see are in the works. Whisper it, but in a few short months we might be basking in the afterglow of Fury-Usyk, Beterbiev-Bivol and Buatsi-Yarde.

Not all skies can be blue. We also publish a quite stunning article on Gerald McClellan, the American boxer who was left brain damaged after that unforgettable battle with Nigel Benn in February 1994. It’s always difficult to address that side of our sport, but nobody should be fearful of what they’ll find within that story. Boxing News’ Oliver Fennell, who recently spent the day with McClellan, has done a masterful job. In fact, thanks largely to the unconditional love of Gerald’s sister, it’s one of the most uplifting pieces I’ve ever read.

BN should never shy away from these stories, regardless. It’s our job, I’ve always believed, to address the good and the bad. And more so today when so many members of the boxing media are seemingly fixated on being mere microphones for their ‘friends’ in high places. Never forget that the point of addressing the bad is only ever born to desire for the opposite to be achieved.

It was suggested to me recently that my fixation with Ringside Charitable Trust is becoming a little tiresome. I understand that but make no apologies for it. Every week, I hear about more and more ex-boxers who are struggling.

The more we talk about their plight, the less taboo the subject becomes. Particularly if we can more frequently highlight what a good job we’re doing to look after our own.

Tris Dixon’s book, Damage, changed the landscape in many ways but still too many are fearful of addressing the issue. A coach I respect immensely told me they dare not read that book, while also admitting if they did, they may rethink certain training techniques like the amount of sparring they allow. Make of that what you will.

However, I do believe we have seen boxers become increasingly aware that they need to plan for a life after boxing. Furthermore, boxers retiring at the right time has been the norm in recent years, particularly those at the top. For every Derek Chisora who carries on regardless, and that of course is his prerogative, there are substantially more like George Groves, Anthony Crolla and John Ryder who walk away the moment they realise they’re not quite who they used to be. That doesn’t mean any of them have got out unscathed, however.

Their retirements are unlikely to be a consequence of anyone banging on about a charity designed to help ex-boxers but if one 30-something boxer thinks twice about fighting again because of an article they’ve read, so be it. Shining a light on potential brain injuries and the like is not, let’s be clear, any kind of effort to harm the sport. Only those who shy away from their responsibilities are doing that.

These days, one runs the risk of offending people with the mere mention of something not designed to be a tongue up the backside, like questions about failed drug tests going unpunished or drug lords running amok with their drug money. For too long, the industry has been scared to address the truth that too many punches to the brain are bad for you. One train of thought even suggests that doing so only encourages those who want boxing to be banned. What utter rubbish. Boxing will only be banned if those inside the game show constant disregard for its potential consequences. What we should be doing, instead of rolling our eyes at those trying to help, is admit there’s more we can still do.

Boxing in 2024 is in a healthy place. The dream is for the boxers of 2024 and beyond to live long and healthy lives and for those who do fall on hard times – and, in different ways, plenty will – there are systems in place to help. As a united fraternity, we can achieve that.

Though one wonders what would become of McClellan without the care of his sister, his case is different to the boxer who fights on too long. An awful lot was learned from what happened to G-Man that night. However, as with any sport or business that is hoping to progress, the education should never stop.


IT came to my attention last week that Bobby Kelsey, the Londoner who represented Great Britain in the light-welterweight division at 1960 Olympics, passed away in January at the age of 85.

Kelsey, then boxing out of Monteagle BC, was one of five British boxers competing in Rome that August and September, but he would not medal. In the third round of competition, he lost to eventual silver medalist Quincey Daniels of the United States.

The team would return with three bronze medals, deemed as a disappointment at the time. Team manager John Henderson even criticised the effort of the boxers, a view not shared by anyone else. “I’ve got a cut eye to prove that I tried,” Kelsey said. “I would have been in hospital if I had not. We all did our best.”

Boxing News made a sage point at the time, long before the funding system we know today was put in place. We wrote: “It must be borne in the mind that our amateur sportsmen, unlike those of many other countries, really are amateurs. And until such a time as a State scheme proves practical way of collective training for working lads, we must expect them to start at a disadvantage against sponsored sluggers.”

Top promoter Jack Solomons didn’t seem to share Henderson’s view either, as he made each of the five boxers guests of honour at Wembley Pool the following week for heavyweight Henry Cooper’s bout with Roy Harris.

Kelsey, of Forest Gate, would turn professional, going 10-7-3 (5) before retiring in 1963. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.