FOR a six-month period in 1980 Alan Minter was the only undisputed world champion in any weight division. That fact alone should have been enough to guarantee Minter, who sadly died from cancer on September 10 aged 69, a prominent place on boxing’s podium of immortality. But it never quite panned out that way for the handsome and likeable man from Crawley. For just as football chose to abandon Minter’s good friend and regular drinking partner Bobby Moore, so boxing was often guilty of failing to acknowledge the boxer’s not inconsiderable ring achievements.
One of the last times that I saw Alan happened to be at a benefit in London. That evening one could only look on in dismay as a parade of retired middleweight boxers were applauded on to the stage. These included Nigel Benn, Michael Watson, Herol Graham and Rod Douglas. All of them fine fighters, one of them a former two-weight world champion. Alan Minter sat quietly watching at a table towards the centre of the room, conspicuous by his absence. No-one had thought to invite the most decorated man in the room to take his rightful place on the stage.
Born in Penge on August 17 1951, Alan Minter was the son of a plasterer. It was from his German-born mother that the fighter inherited the piercing blue eyes that would unnerve opponents and make hordes of female admirers swoon. Introduced to boxing as an 11-year-old schoolboy, Minter enjoyed an inauspicious start to his career, losing his first three fights. When the winning habit began, however, it was clear that the boxer had the potential to go far.
After joining Crawley Amateur Boxing Club, Minter earned himself 125 wins in 145 amateur contests. Tall for his weight class, Minter was a come forward southpaw with fast hands and a stinging punch. The youngster clearly enjoyed a tear-up and was often prepared to take three punches in order to deliver one. In later years this reckless approach would come back to haunt Minter when the boxer became increasingly susceptible to cuts.
After winning the auspicious ABA middleweight championship in 1971, Minter competed at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, where he progressed to the semi-finals but lost a controversial decision to the eventual gold medallist, Germany’s Dieter Kottysch. The bronze medal that Minter carried home with him that summer would remain a lifelong source of disappointment to him. It was also during the Olympics that Minter’s “Boom Boom” nickname stuck, on account of his habit of grunting when throwing punches.
Minter made his professional debut at the Royal Albert Hall in October of that year, where he stopped journeyman Maurice Thomas. Managed and trained by future father-in-law Doug Bidwell, the busy fighter followed this up with a further 10 wins during a period which saw him fight as many as three times a month. In June 1973, however, Minter suffered his first setback when he was stopped on cuts by future British title contender Donald McMillan. This was followed by a period which saw him lose a further three fights out of six, all of them on cuts.
It was when former British featherweight champion Bobby Neill was added to Minter’s training team that the boxer’s fortunes began to change. Making greater use of his long reach, Minter embarked upon a run of 13 straight wins, picking up the British middleweight title in the process. Notable victories included a stoppage win over American Olympic Gold medallist Sugar Ray Seales – who had previously drawn with Marvin Hagler – and two hard-earned victories over Britain’s Kevin Finnegan, whom Minter would always call his “toughest opponent of all”.
In April 1977 Minter’s progress was derailed when he was stopped by future middleweight title challenger Ronnie Harris. A morale boosting win over the shell of the great Emile Griffith three months later put the fighter back on track. However, the ugly spectre of cuts once again returned to haunt the Briton when he lost his European title to France’s Gratian Tonna in September of that year.
Two months later, Minter was back in the ring for a third titanic struggle with great rival Kevin Finnegan. That hard-earned victory was the launchpad for a run of 10 straight wins which saw Minter regain his European title from Tonna and earn himself a chance at the world middleweight title.
In March 1980 Minter gained a hotly-disputed points victory over Italy’s Vito Antuofermo in Las Vegas. In doing so Minter became Britain’s third post-war middleweight world champion. Antuofermo, based in New York, was probably the only fighter whom Minter faced who bled more than himself. This was brutally illustrated in the rematch at Wembley three months later in the course of a dominant performance which commentator Harry Carpenter called “an absolute piece of butchery!”
Alan Minter’s reign as undisputed middleweight champion would unfortunately only last a further three months. In September 1980 a fired up Marvin Hagler ushered in a new era in middleweight boxing when he proved to be a class above Minter, overwhelming the Briton within three rounds amid disgraceful scenes at Wembley Arena. The sight of the new champion fleeing the ring under a hail of beer bottles would unfortunately become one of the defining moments of Minter’s career.
Following a loss three fights later to Leicester’s rising star Tony Sibson, Minter finally called it a day in September 1981. He was only 30 years old but readily admitted that he never enjoyed the rigorous training that boxing demands. Even so, the retired fighter remained a huge star: appearances on the popular TV programme Superstars were followed by a long stint as boxing co-commentator. In later years Minter was also much in demand as an after dinner speaker.
Like everything in his life, Alan Minter took the fame in his stride. Always happy to sign photographs for fans, and never once complaining as his star began to fade. As well as losing one of its most accomplished exponents, British boxing has also lost a true gentleman.