BACK in 1989, when I was 11 years old, I spotted a magazine in the local newsagent and my heart instantly galloped with excitement. ‘Britain’s first colour boxing monthly’ was the main cover line alongside a photograph of Mike Tyson’s unmistakeable features emerging from the shadows. For some kids it was cars or superheroes or football. For me, it was boxing magazines.
It’s no exaggeration to say that I spent several of my formative years scouring shops for boxing magazines, old and new. Even today, I still occasionally dream that I am walking into a newsagents and the shelves are absolutely full of them. That dream slipped further from reality this week when it was announced, to my great sadness, that Boxing Monthly – with coronavirus running riot – will print its final issue in April, 31 years after the first put smiles on the faces of so many.
I reached up and scanned through the pages while pleading with my mum to buy it. Thankfully, she did. From that moment I was hooked on Boxing Monthly and barely missed a subsequent issue. The content was first class. The imagery was sublime. It couldn’t quite beat Boxing News for being up-to-date but it was substantially more current than other excellent monthlies of the time like The Ring, Boxing Illustrated, World Boxing and KO Magazine.
The quality of writing was more than a match for any of them, too. The brilliant Jim Brady penned Fight Game Confidential: Letter from America, reporting that Don King’s New York office had been firebombed: “Excellent gumshoe work by the New York Police Department narrowed the list of suspects down to 6,823,214 people,” he wrote. Brady was a little less subtle with his observations on Doug DeWitt winning the WBO’s inaugural middleweight title. “What a joke,” Brady ripped. “DeWitt, a glorified club-fighter, had retired and was a salesman for a brewery. Seems like anyone who can afford a letterhead can ‘sanction’ fights for a ‘world’ title.”
There was an interview with 13-0 middleweight, Chris Eubanks, who prophetically dismissed the emerging threat of Nigel Benn in an interview with assistant editor and former pro, Steve Holdsworth. “I’ve heard that if Benn hits anyone they will go, but I’m not anyone. Benn can only try to knock me out and no one has ever put me down.”
Michael Nunn was the international fighter of the month after flattening Sumbu Kalambay while Duke McKenzie was named his British counterpart for defeating Tony DeLuca in a defence of his IBF flyweight title. There was irresistible reporting of Evander Holyfield’s victory over Michael Dokes while Andy Till and Wally Swift Jnr engaged in a small hall eight-round classic at York Hall.
Barry Hugman, who alongside Edward Crawshaw founded the publication, wrote of his visions for the magazine, for its independent voice that would be free from bias or influence. The early years were hectic as Hugman, Tony and Steve Connelly, Ian Probert, Frank Wiechula, George Zeleny and Graham Houston shared editorial duties before the irrepressible Glyn Leach – a workaholic involved in the publication from pretty much the start – took over in 1992.
It was Leach who elevated the magazine to its greatest heights and his fearless monthly editorials soon became a must-read, remaining so until his death in 2014.
Houston returned to take over from Leach and the magazine continued to enthrall as the internet, via social media and YouTube, became the fans’ No.1 choice for digesting their news. Houston, one of the best of all boxing minds, did wonders alongside his army of talented contributors to keep the magazine going during times of change.
The current crisis gripping the world’s throat will threaten all of us in some way, not least Boxing News. Plenty took to social media to express their sadness that Boxing Monthly was no more. One wonders how many of them had actually bought a subscription or even a single copy in the final years. The warning about the future of BN, I sincerely hope, is stark. We need you more than ever.