THE annual Boxing Writers’ Club Dinner was back with a bang this week, for the first time in more than two years due to the restrictions on gatherings because of Covid-19.
And the gala dinner returned to form with many of the big names of British boxing out in force. Among the glittering array of former pros were Frank Bruno, Barry McGuigan, Duke and Clinton McKenzie, Colin McMillan, Derek Williams, Billy Schwer, Spencer Oliver, Johnny Nelson, Anthony Crolla, George Groves, Matthew Macklin, James Cook MBE, Glenn McCrory and many more.
The prestigious Young Boxer of the Year Award – the Geoffrey Simpson Award – was won by the Frank Warren-promoted and Andy Ayling-managed 6ft 3in middleweight Hamzah Sheeraz, who is 15-0 as a pro. Ayling collected the award on Sheeraz’s behalf, because Hamzah is currently training in Los Angeles for a fight in July. Sheeraz sent a video message of thanks for the award.
“God willing I go on to equal the former winners,” Sheeraz said.
The first winner of the award was Randolph Turpin, back in 1951, and other stars who lifted the prize have included McGuigan, Bruno, John H Stracey, John Conteh, Ken Buchanan, Nigel Benn, Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe and Amir Khan.
Sky Sports, with the help from other broadcasters, neatly packaged a big-screen review of the year and guest speaker Jamie Moore entertained everyone with his stories from his fighting days, amateur and pro, and as a trainer.
He thanked everyone for coming and said he was honoured to be talking in front of so many champions, adding that he was there in front of one of his own, Chantelle Cameron. Jamie added he “should have” another in his stable following Jack Catterall’s controversial defeat to Josh Taylor for the world super-lightweight championship.
Moore spoke of his 10-year career that spawned three fight of the year contenders, against Michael Jones, Matthew Macklin and Ryan Rhodes, but said it was an early loss to Scott Dixon that moulded him.
He lost to the Scot in the fifth round of their 2001 contest, despite dropping Dixon in the third round. Jamie admitted that he believed his own hype that night, but said he “crumbled” when he faced real adversity for the first time.
“Can you improve how brave you are? Could I have dug deeper? They were the hardest questions I ever had to answer,” Moore recalled.
He paid tribute to his late coach Oliver Harrison, and the three years of work on his defence that followed his first loss. Moore told of how he became Salford’s first fighter to win a Lonsdale Belt outright.
Of the Macklin war, one of the great British tear-ups, he said: “It was the most difficult thing I’ve been through; the best and worst experience of my life.”
During the fight, he was thinking: “This is amazing, but it’s so painful.”
Moore eventually stopped Macklin in the 10th of that classic bout.
Joint winners of the Amateur of the Year Award were Lauren Price and Galal Yafai, while veteran ring-maker, MC and all-round boxing good guy Mike Goodhall was deservedly presented with the Joe Bromley Award for Outstanding Services to Boxing for his decades in the sport.
Yafai wasn’t there, but Price was, and previous winners of the Ken Jones Best Amateur of the Year Award started with James DeGale in 2008 and include such luminaries as Anthony Joshua, Josh Taylor and Joe Joyce, while Goodhall’s Joe Bromley Award has been held by boxing royalty including Chris Finnegan, Henry Cooper, Jim Watt, Terry Downes, Mickey Duff, Dennie Mancini, Ernie Fossey, Brendan Ingle, Ernie Draper and Mick Williamson.
“I think boxing is a fantastic sport and everyone in this room has dedicated their lives to boxing,” said Goodhall. “Thank you very much indeed.” Thank you, Mick.
The return of the Boxing Writers’ Club Dinner, chaired by Richard Maynard who presented Goodhall with his trophy, was one of boxing’s post-Covid triumphs.