MY dad Harry Mullan would have been 75 this week. He has never left the Mullan family even though he passed away over 20 years ago. We talk about him all the time like he’s still around. He didn’t get to meet all his grandchildren but they all know who their grandad is.
Even his great-grandchildren know who their great-grandad is. Ashley Mullan, my eldest grandson, is 12 years old and will make his amateur boxing debut in the coming months. While many were drawn to football, Ashley expressed an interest in boxing from an early age and I’m told he’s a natural with lots of talent. He currently boxes at Aylesham ABC (where Shane McGuigan started out) and wants to go on to become a professional one day.
My dad would have been so proud. He lived and breathed boxing. He was like a walking, talking boxing encyclopaedia. He could store so much information in his head.
I remember him always working and he loved that work. There were many nights when he would sleep, in a sleeping bag, in the old Boxing News office at Langham Street after going to a fight in London with a press deadline looming the following day. I can still smell the archives in that office. It would be our summer job to sort out those archives.
My bedroom was directly above where he would write and I used to fall asleep to the rhythm of his old typewriter. The words you will read from him in Boxing News were written on that typewriter many years ago. It was a book he started in the early 1980s but never finished, though he often talked about going back to it. In the end, he ran out of time.
Even at the end of his life he was still passionate about writing. My brother would visit him in hospital and come away with the words for his next boxing column. He died in May 1999 but even in March that year he hoped to fly out to Las Vegas for the Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield fight. The doctors had initially said he was well enough to go but he suffered a heart attack and after that he was too weak. Yet he remained the same, always wanting to write, until it became too much in his final days.
Because of my dad’s eternal love for boxing I developed the opposite feeling for the sport. There were always fights on when it was my birthday so, in a way, it felt like boxing was taking my dad away from me.
As a child I didn’t understand the extent of what he had achieved. Kids at school would come up to me and say, ‘Wow, we saw your dad on television last night!’ and, to me, it was just normal, no big deal.
It was only when I was 15 or 16 when I realised the extent of his achievements. He would take me to school and we talked about his work and how special it was to him. He told me he’d always wanted to be the editor of Boxing News since he was a kid in Ireland and it dawned on me what an incredible achievement that was, to fulfil his lifelong ambition.
I didn’t appreciate it back then but every time I answered the phone there would be a famous boxer or a promoter on the other end of the line, asking to speak to my dad. Everyone wanted to talk to him and he loved that. It means the world to me and the whole family that people still talk about him so affectionately today. He’d have loved that too.
NOTE – If any readers would like a copy of Fighting Words, the collection of Harry Mullan reports and features that was recently reviewed on the BN podcast, please contact Siobhan directly (Siobhan.firstname.lastname@example.org). They cost £10 (including P&P).