FRANK HOPKINS says his rates are as follows… “It’s £5 for an autograph, £10 for a selfie and £100 for an interview. But you’re a friend, so it’s £50 to you…”
I’m one of many friends Hopkins has in boxing and many more want to know his story after the 75-year-old from Portsmouth was given the job of being Tyson Fury’s cut-man for the Dillian Whyte fight this month.
Jorge Capetillo, who helped Fury get through the Otto Wallin fight in September, 2019 after he suffered wounds that needed 47 stitches, is unable to make the trip to London and Hopkins takes his place.
“People in their thirties will be saying, how come that old man’s got the job?” said Hopkins. “The reason is, I’ve been doing it for a long time and there’s nothing I haven’t seen. I’ve had fighters come back [to the corner] with their eyes shut and I remember Jazza Dickens’ jaw falling in half in my hand in the [Guillermo] Rigondeaux fight [in July, 2016]. I kept calm and called the referee over.
“I don’t panic. I just get in there and do the job, whether it’s a four-rounder at the York Hall or a world-title fight.”
Fury-Whyte will be the 38th world-title fight Hopkins has worked on, and he says that Terry Flanagan gave him some of his busiest nights. “I remember Terry coming back to his corner once and he had a horrendous cut on his head that went to his skull,” said Hopkins. “He asked how bad it was and I told him: ‘There’s nothing there. Don’t worry about. Just get on with winning the fight.’ He went on and won the fight. He got cut to ribbons against Regis Prograis in New Orleans as well. He lost that one, but I got him through it.”
Hopkins says he got to know Fury after a Flanagan fight. “I’ve never worked with Tyson before,” he said, “but I’ve been in the same changing room as him – and we’ve had a few beers together as well. I was working with Terry at a fight in Manchester and when I went back to the hotel, Tyson was there with his dad, his wife and Billy Joe Saunders.
“I started chatting to them and we ended up taking a crate of beer up to my room. We stayed up all night drinking and talking about boxing and horses. It was a good laugh.”
Hopkins says working with Fury is “the pinnacle” of a career that started with his nephew, Tony Oakey.
“I was always a big fan of boxing,” he said. “I’ve always made decent money as a car dealer and horse dealer and if there was a big fight in the States, I would go.
“That would be my holiday, going to watch Lennox Lewis or Prince Naseem [Hamed]. I went to watch Lennox and Frank Maloney was in the bar one night. I told him my nephew, Tony Oakey, had won the ABAs and he was going to win them again. He gave me his card and it went from there.
“I was a car dealer and a horse dealer. I didn’t even know how to put a pair of gloves on a fighter. Frank said, Why don’t you do Tony’s cuts? I asked Dennie Mancini to teach me and he said, Why would I teach you my job?
“I told him I was only going to work with Tony and he said, come and sit alongside me, and that’s what I did. I did that for six months and then Dennie retired and gave me all his kit.”
Oakey gave Hopkins some of his most memorable nights, along with Jamie Moore. He rates Moore’s battle with Matthew Macklin in September, 2006 as the best fight he has worked on.
“It was a humdinger,” said Hopkins of Moore’s violent victory. “And three years later I was in Atlantic City with Jamie Moore when he was training Macklin. What a turnaround – but that’s boxing.”
Hopkins has seen most things in boxing and rates unbeaten featherweight Ryan Garner as “good as anyone I’ve had in the last 30 years.” He added: “It’s a good story isn’t it? One of us is good-looking and charismatic and the other one’s got no looks or charisma at all. We’re the odd couple, aren’t we?”
Garner knows which half of the odd couple he is and responds that Hopkins is “an idiot… but a legend.”
Hopkins also works with the Chamberlain brothers, Mark and Jamie, who kept him busy at the York Hall last month.
“After the first round, Jamie’s left eye was cut and then his right eye went in the second,” said Hopkins. “He came back after the third and his nose was bleeding. I said to him, Stop coming back looking like this! Keep your hands up!”
Hopkins will be back at the York Hall six days after Fury-Whyte, working with the Frankham cousins, Josh, Levi and Charles. “I’ve got six children and 48 grandchildren and great grandchildren,” he said, “so every Christmas my wife says she needs £2,000 for presents. Two weeks later it’s: ‘Have you got another £2,000’ and two weeks after that she asks again.
“So you see, I’ve got to keep working.”