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COLIN JONES
a boxer’s tale

I came up through a very tough background but one in which we were all loved. I had a great mother and father, one of eight children and an auntie and a dog, all living in a four bedroom council house. Yes, there were hard times but there were great times, too.

Just living a matter of 400 yards from the Penyrheol Amateur Boxing Club, at the age of nine, back in 1968, I was first through the door. Gareth Bevan ¬ who coached me through all of my boxing career from the age of nine (until I retired at twenty-five) – and Benny Price were opening the Club, and there was a bunch of lads just playing outside, nine year olds, and old Benny Price shouted across – a great old character old Benny – “Righto then lads, who wants to come in and try the art of boxing?”. Well, out of everybody, I was the only one who went through the door. So, I guess that invitation of Benny’s, the great old Benny Price from Cwmgwili, who was a professional light welterweight Welsh Champion himself, stood me in good stead. I’ve never looked back.

winning

It all started with a Welsh title at the age of eleven. At twelve, I boxed in the Welsh Championship, where I lost in the prelims, so my coach, Gareth Bevan said, “We’ve got to start developing more power”. The following year, at the age of thirteen, I think I won my six fights in the Welsh Championships and went on to win the British. That was my first British schoolboy title. I repeated that three times on the trot, which meant at the ages of thirteen, fourteen and fifteen, I won the British, Welsh and schoolboy titles, which I’m very, very proud of.

There’s something about boxing: I think it attracts winners. We can’t all be winners but most people who are prepared to step in between the ropes, they’re pretty strong-willed. Boxers have got to have split personalities. You’ve got to be able to take that fire of venom into the ring, but also, as you come out, you’ve got to return to reality, and be yourself.

In secondary modern school, rugby was the main sport. I played for school, I played for district. A typical boxer’s position, I played hooker. I was actually given an ultimatum by my coach at the age of twelve when I’d lost in that championship. It was a choice between playing district rugby or boxing, and I accepted what he said, you know: “You can only be good at one sport”.

an iron fist

Gareth was a hard taskmaster, there’s no doubt about that. He wasn’t the most popular man in the village with the youngsters because he ruled the gym with an iron fist, and I think, if it wasn’t for that, there’s many a youngster in the village who wouldn’t be where they are today.

Most boxing coaches have got a very keen eye. They can pick that something different out in a kid that separates you from all the rest. When you get in them ropes, you change, and they pick that out, and then they guide it in the right direction. It’s not just in the gym; it’s what these coaches discipline these young lads to do when they are outside of it. You’ve got to be polite; you’ve got to have good manners; you’ve got to eat and sleep well; and, if you’re taught this from a very young age, I think that it stays with you for the rest of your life.

role models

My brother Ken and my brother Terry were boxing in the mid-sixties, both of them Welsh National Champions. Ken in 1968 won the Welsh Welterweight title and I would imagine that that had a little bit of an influence on me, really, to see his photograph up in the house and, being a nine year old, obviously hearing the word boxing.

Ken Buchanan was an idol of mine. He had that flair. He could box fight. He was a very colourful character in his tartan shorts and, believe it or not, for several fights, I boxed in a pair of tartan shorts which my mother had bought in a jumble sale somewhere.

My parents were very supportive. They came to all the championships, all the club bouts. I think that, from a very early age, they could see my potential. There were no real downfalls, really, no obstacles put in my way.

diet

If you start a schoolboy championship in January, sometimes the final wouldn’t be until April. You’ve got to maintain your weight, you’ve got to train hard, and you’re growing. And there was no such thing as nutritionists in those days. Diets? I don’t think they existed. I think it was just a case of don’t eat as much. I can recall back as far as eleven, twelve, thirteen, just living on Ryvita and cheese, a smear of cheese on just one piece of Ryvita, and sometimes just half a cup of tea, and that would do you for the day. It was that will to win, you know. However weak or tired, that will to win was far greater than anything else.

banned

I loved training, used to train every day. But, once Gareth Bevan and Benny Price found out about this they put the blockers on me. They said, “There’s such a thing, son, as over-training!”. Well, as a youngster, you wouldn’t know anything about that. I most certainly didn’t. So, I was actually banned from the gym on a Tuesday and a Thursday! That’s something. That’s a little bit unique, being banned from a boxing club for your own sake.

knuckles

Like most boxers, hand problems, knuckles, that was a big issue, because in those days you weren’t allowed to wear bandages to protect your hands as schoolboys. Being such a big puncher, such a big hitter, when I was hitting people’s elbows I did suffer quite a bit. But, of course, as you get older, they allow you a certain measurement of bandage, and as you get to the professionals, then, of course, you’re allowed to bandage, tape and pad, so that major problem went away.
Because I started boxing at such a young age, I had an advantage over most people. I went to the gym when I was nine and I was in the gym for two years solid before you were allowed to compete as a schoolboy, which was at eleven years of age. I had a big advantage over people. And, of course, again, being such a big hitter, it became easy. If you can take people out early, then, obviously, the fights don’t go so long, and you don’t get so much damage done to yourself.
I would imagine I had about a 100 plus fights, as an amateur. You always remember the ones that you lost. The ones you win are, to be honest with you, irrelevant. I can recall to this day losing six fights, so I won about a 100 contests and lost about six, which wasn’t bad when you consider one of them was the Olympics and one of them was the European Championships.

montreal

In the build up to the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, I had won numerous national titles: British titles, ABA titles, and at the age of sixteen, I’d won the Welsh Junior title. There was no British Champ-ionships in the Juniors at sixteen, so the chairman of the WABA at the time, Mr Ray Allen, realised I was too young to go into the Seniors. I wasn’t seventeen until the March but the prelims of the Senior Welsh Championships were in January. So, they had a special meeting and they decided that they would allow me, at the age of sixteen, to go into the Senior Welsh Championships. Perhaps for any other sixteen year old it would have been too big an ask, but again, because I had won so many titles on the build-up, and the style in which I was winning my fights was stopping people, knocking them out, then they made a special exception for me, going into the Welsh Seniors at sixteen.

So, I went through the preliminary rounds, got to the final, and won the Welsh Championship. I’d just turned seventeen in the March. Then, in April, you look forward to the ABAs. The semi finals were in the Old Bellevue in Manchester and should you come through them, then you’d go through to the final which was in Wembley Arena. At the age of seventeen, I had won through and I’d actually won the National title.

Now, at seventeen, they thought I was too young, so they fetched a crack USA team over to Wembley, just a month later, to see if I came through that unscathed, which I did. I boxed a Marine by the name of Rocky Flatto, and he was a twenty-three year old tough guy, Golden Gloves champion, and they wanted to see how I would deal with him. I had him down a couple of times but he went the course and I won unanimously, and I think that is where I actually earned my ticket to go to the Olympic Games.

There were a lot of people for it and there were a lot of people against it, but I think, if anything they put in front of you, if you can overcome it, immaterial of what age you are, then you’re good enough to go, and I was on my way to the ’76 Games. One of the proudest moments, I think, of not only my boxing career, my life as well, was when I turned up at the train station in Swansea to take our first trip up to London, up to the airport before we left. Who was waiting for us at the train station but Carwyn James, Carwyn James of Llanelli, the rugby coach. Carwyn was working for the BBC at the time and he was waiting there, and I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face when Carwyn was there waiting to interview me. The old man was so pleased, so chuffed that he’d actually seen Carwyn James interviewing his boy.

1976 was when there were problems with the African countries and they withdrew from the Games. Nevertheless, the draw was done and I had drawn an African boxer which meant that was a walkover, and then I boxed Eamon McLoughlin of Ireland which was a good old battle, not a lot of science. It was whoever could dig the deepest and wanted it the most, and I came through that close with a 3-2 split decision. In the next round, I boxed an old campaigner, Victor Zilberman of Romania. It was Victor’s third Olympics. He was twenty-nine years of age and first round, Bingo! I hit him with a left hook, had him down. But I think his experience and strength was the main factor and he came through and won the bout and there was no argument about that. Victor went on to win the bronze medal. At seventeen years of age, that was one of the best experiences of my life.

That was the pinnacle of it at the time. What an experience! It set me in good stead for the rest of my life. I was the youngest ever to compete in the boxing, and it’s only just recently been beaten by Amir Khan.

the british title

I had a British title eliminator against a Welsh lad from Cardiff called Billy Wraith. Billy had had over one hundred fights and, in the build up, in the press releases Billy was saying that he had forgotten more than I had ever known. It was building up into quite a contest, you know, and it was taking place in the World Sporting Club for Jack Solomons and, of course, Eddie Thomas had this thing about the valleys: Merthyr were always better fighters than Cardiff. Although I was always based in Gorseinon, I still did all my preparation in Merthyr when under the guidance of Eddie Thomas and, of course, when the fight came around there was a Cardiff referee, Jim Brimmel, who’s now gone and a great referee, a great character. So Brimmel, before the bout, said, “There’s one thing you’ll get from me, son, and that’s fair play. Wherever you’re from, I will guarantee you will have fair play.”. And, indeed, I stopped or knocked Billy out in, I think it was six rounds.

Of course, after that there was another eliminator, against Joey Mac who was a bit of a knockout specialist himself, so it was a battle of the big hitters. That was in the Double Diamond Club in Caerphilly. It was a big event. I think that went nine rounds, and I think I had him down more than half a dozen times on the deck, and, again, a great referee in charge of it, Harry Gibbs. I came through that, which then led to the big stage, the big stage being Wembley. Eddie Thomas said, “Listen now, son. You’re going to be up against it up here”, and he kept me away from the London cartel by promoting me in Aberavon, bringing me along, and I had thirteen or fourteen fights undefeated. Eddie promoted a lot of them, released me out to a small hall once or twice, but the big occasion was Wembley and, of course, it was against the great Kirkland Lang.

The weigh-in was on the day of the fight. It always took place at one o’clock, immaterial of what time you were boxing in the evening. And, of course, getting there, being the not-so-streetwise Welsh kid. I was only a small welterweight, anyway; I was only coming in at around about ten stone four and I could only make ten four, ten five. As far as the other boys, like Kirkland Lang, they were coming down to the division.

When we arrived for the weigh-in, Kirkland Lang’s first statement to me was, “Listen now, son, doesn’t your manager like you?”. I said, “What do you mean, doesn’t my manager like me?”. He said, “Well, you know you’re going to get a terrible beating from me, tonight. You haven’t got the physique, you haven’t got the physical attributions that I’ve got. Look at the difference in the size of us. You look anaemic, you’re going to take a whipping tonight.”.

This really, really turned me and I said – and I’m not that type of person – “Well, we’ll see about this tonight, son! We’ll see about this, tonight!”. And, of course, the fight went on, the big build up, The Puncher versus the Supreme Boxer. He was oozing with ability. They were looking to Kirkland Lang to actually go on and do great things and, of course, there’s this Welsh kid in the way, and, for eight rounds, it looked like that, because, all credit to him, I couldn’t get to him with my big shots and he gave me a bit of a seeing to.

When I come out for the ninth round, I overheard Eddie Thomas in the corner saying – believe it or not you could pick up things when you’re in the ring in the corner and they’re shouting advice – I picked up Eddie Thomas saying to my trainer, Gareth Bevan, “I hope I haven’t taken this bout too early for the kid”. Well, that inspired me. I thought, “Well, no, he haven’t taken me too early. It’s just that I haven’t been able to get my big shots off.”. And, of course, we all know what happened in the ninth round, bang, one punch turned the fight around, and Kirkland Lang was out of there and we had a new British Welterweight Champion who was the anaemic, skinny, pale-faced kid from – what did one of the daily tabloids say? – “from the grey area with the dark-slated council house roofs”, and that could very well have been the case, but he was British Champion.
That was the turning point. Title fights were fifteen rounds, which suited me. They suited a puncher and they suited me because I loved the game. I lived the game. I prepped hard. Everything I did was right, was for the boxing.

he boxed my head off for eight rounds

Then the big return was on with Kirkland Lang, which meant going back to London where Harry Carpenter said, “Okay, the first one was a lucky punch. He won’t do it again.”.

But the fight took the same course. For the first eight rounds, he boxed my head off, let’s make no bones about it. The video evidence is there. He boxed my head off for eight rounds, and in the eighth round he gave me a shell again, which was not what was in my mind. I wanted to win that Lonsdale Belt outright so much. That was my third notch on the belt which enables you to keep the belt, the best belt in the world as far as I’m concerned. So, when I came out for the ninth round – I’d been on the deck twice in the eighth – it was unique, it was like déjà vu. It happened again. Bang, I hit him with a big left hook. He’s down. John Coyle, the referee counted to eight, nine and that was it. It was all over. He was unfit to continue It really was a dream come true.

just a big puncher?

If you win three British schoolboy titles, and you win two senior ABA titles, and also nine Welsh National titles, you must be able to box as well, because you’re not going to knock everybody out, over three one and a half minute rounds at schoolboy, three two minute rounds at junior, and three threes as a senior. There isn’t enough time. So, I must have been pretty good at boxing, jabbing, moving. I must have had that, too. Everybody seems to have always recollected about a certain punch, but if you can box fight then that’s a tremendous advantage, I think. Without sounding big-headed, I was probably a good box fighter, a good box fighter with a big punch. The punch was the asset which, if I couldn’t match people for boxing ability, as was the case with Kirkland Lang, then I could revert back to my true grit and punching power.

he came to fight

I took the Commonwealth title off Mark Harris of Ghana. That again was another nine rounder, hence the car number plate. He was a tough guy based in New York with a good reputation, a good solid amateur. I think he was a Commonwealth gold medallist and came to fight, which suited me down to the ground. But, as tough as he was, and as big a puncher as I was, he still managed to go nine rounds and again that was another title to be added.

one of those nights when you can’t do anything wrong

The European next, the Dane. That’s a little bit different, the old days to the present day. The old school managers like Eddie Thomas, they like to see you do your apprenticeship: win the British, win the Commonwealth, win the European, advance on to a World title. Today, they jump from, anything from four, five or six bouts and they’re fighting for a World title. It’s a bit meaningless but, as I say, with Eddie Thomas, you had to come through the ranks and once you’d won that European title, you were virtually guaranteed the world rating, the world ranking.

We had to go to Denmark to box Hans-Henrik Palm, and, on the first occasion we went there, I can recall I think my purse was within the region of £17,000. I hadn’t long been married and I purchased a house on the strength of that £17,000. I’d already sold my first house which was a little terraced house in Loughor. We’d sold that and we’d put in the £17,000 towards the new house in Penyrheol, so the money was spent before I’d got there, really. I’ll never forget going down to see a great character, Gwyn Walters, a big noise in Gowerton Cricket Club, very highly respected in sporting circles. He was the manager of the Gateway Building Society, and I had to go down there and ask him, cap in hand, “Listen now, Gwyn, I’m going to Denmark, to Copenhagen, to box for the European title. There’s the contract that I’ve signed and that’s the amount of money I want to borrow on the strength of it to purchase the house.”. And so, we signed up to it. We done the deal.

I went down the night before the fight with appendicitis, so I was rushed home from Denmark. I had the operation and it was only a matter of months before I was back in the gym. I had this £17,000 debt looming over my head, and that is something I was never brought up to be, you know, in debt, and that’s about the only time I think I’ve ever owed money in my life.

So we went back then, a couple of months later. In the meantime, Hans-Henrik Palm had knocked out George Warefal, a Frenchman for the vacant title, so we knew Palm was a great fighter, tall, rangy, had beaten all nine previous British opponents and beaten them well. So, we knew we weren’t going to have it all our own way. But, I think, if I was honest and truthful about it, that night when I boxed Palm for the European title, I think I’d have given any fighter in the world a run for their money, immaterial of who they were, because that was my night. Every boxer gets one of those nights where you can’t do anything wrong. Your feeling is good, everything is right, whatever you do comes off, and Bingo!, I knocked him out in three rounds.

When we went back to the hotel, two great men, two great reporters, Huw McIlvenny and Ken Jones came in and they said, “We’ve just had confirmation through. We’ve notified America of the win, the great win you’ve had, and it looks as if they’re going to line you up for a World title fight with either Milton McCrory or Don Curry.”. I could either box McCrory for a WBC vacant title, or WBA and Don Curry, and that is how it blossomed, just over that one victory out in Denmark, how the next step came onto the world stage.

turning professional for the price of a tracksuit

When I went to Germany for the Europeans, all we had was a tracksuit. The finances weren’t there, unlike today where the boys are very well looked after. I wanted a memento from the Games and, when I came home, I said that I’d lost my tracksuit, because I wanted to keep it. I received a letter off the WABA and they said you’re going to have to reimburse us for the tracksuit.

They wanted £38 for the tracksuit and I said, “Well, I want a memento”, and they said, “If you don’t give it back or you don’t pay the £38, you won’t be going to the Commonwealth Games.”. I thought, well, I was only earning £48 a week, working underground in the Brynlliw colliery, and I thought I weren’t prepared to work a week just to pay for a tracksuit.


I was playing snooker in a local hall here and Eddie Thomas turned up. I didn’t know who Eddie Thomas was, didn’t know what he looked like, never really heard of him, and he said, “Look now, son, I’ve heard of the little dispute you’ve got on. If you want to, you can turn professional with me. You’ll have no fancy sums of money, but I will look after you, and I’ll sort you out with all your kit, with everything you need, and manage you and really look after you.”.
So, I had a word with my father and that’s when I decided to turn professional. So, it was just a little bit of a dispute over something trivial that turned me professional.

it’ll never show in the history books

The McCrory fights, they were great events. At that time, they’d reduced the rounds from fifteen down to twelve, which was a little bit gutting for me because I like the thought of fifteen rounds and I think when you’re looking at a prestige or a World title, I think fifteen rounds is the right distance. Then you see who the true champion is. But, unfortunately for myself, they’d reduced it in that period. It was the first twelve rounder in the United States, and we took a great following with us, great support. We went to Lake Tahoe to prep for altitude, then we dropped down into Reno, Nevada, where the fight took place and, of course – these aren’t my words, they’re other people’s words – it was a little bit of a controversial decision, the draw but, nevertheless, as far as I was concerned, to get a draw in the States was as good as a win. It’ll never show in the history books but as far as all the people that were there that afternoon, I think the majority thought that there had been an injustice. I still hold McCrory with high esteem and he’s a credit to the game, and a worthy World Champion.

I think deep down, my heart says I did enough to win it, but when you look at all the circumstances – Don King the promoter; the attachment that Don King has to the WBC; the conditions that we had to put up with when we went to America to prepare and train for the title – I think we were up against a lot. So, to come away with a draw really was a result.

3339KO

On arriving home from America in 1983, after I’d had a draw, I just happened to be strolling at the top of the village, and in our local garage was a BMW that was for sale with 3339KO on the plate. Three three’s are nine – I’d won a British title twice in round nine, I’d won a Commonwealth title in nine, and nearly won the World title in round nine on two occasions. I wanted the plate, so I went in and made enquiries but they didn’t want to let the plate go without selling the car.

So, a couple of weeks went by and the gentleman who purchased the BMW came to the house and once he mentioned private number plate, I thought, “Here we go. He’s learnt that I’ve earned a few bob in America and he’s come to fleece me.”. But in all fairness to him, he said, “Look Colin, I’ve watched you over the years. You’ve given us great pleasure. Would you like to have the plate?”. And I said, “Well, what’s it going to cost?”. He said, “Just pay for the transfer of the plate and to re-register it on your new car and that’s it.”. And that’s how I came by it in ’83, and it’s been on a few cars since.

sports personality of the year

There was a really interesting build-up to the time that I won Sports Personality of the Year in 1983. 1980 is when I won the British title. I was invited along for being British Champion and, at the time, Neville was also British Champion, so we were both invited, had a presentation on the stage, and I quite liked the feeling. When I came back then in ’81, I had third place, and I thought, “This is a good feeling”. Eddie Thomas said, “You don’t worry, son. You just keep winning the titles and you’ll be number one on the podium, don’t worry about that”. So, indeed, ’82 came and I came second. I’d won the Commonwealth and European that year and when ’83 came, when I come back after the draw, then that’s the year that I won Sports Personality. And what an honour that was, especially looking out onto the great sports men, past winners. It was something that would always leave a mark in your mind.

no regrets

For the rematch with McCrory, you couldn’t have a greater build-up for a World title fight. We’d already boxed twelve blistering rounds in an air-conditioned unit in Reno, Nevada. I think it’s important that it’s said that I did have the option of boxing for these World title fights in London, but the difference in the purse money was tremendous. It was life-changing amounts of money. I had a young family. I had a wife. I was only young. Obviously, when you’re that age, money is important, as a boxer’s life is short and you need to build a nest egg.
So, I did have the opportunity to box in London, which I declined. I remember saying to Eddie Thomas when we met with Mickey Duff in London to try and knock out a deal: “If I hit him on the chin in Las Vegas or I hit him on the chin in London, we’re going to have the same result, so let’s take the gamble”. The gamble was my own. It wasn’t Eddie Thomas’ gamble. It was my own, so I can’t blame anybody other than myself.

So, off to America we went. In the return, they probably stacked the obstacles in our way, twice as high as in Reno, Nevada. First of all, sticking it out in the car park of the Dunes Hotel (and by the way that’s where Barry McGuigan lost his title to Steve Cruz because of the tremendous heat). It was something like about 116 to 120 degrees, which is ridiculous. No white man can be used to it and, especially, pale-skinned and used to rainy weather as we are. But, nevertheless, again we went to Lake Tahoe for two weeks, then we dropped down to Reno, where we prepped outside the MGM hotel, who sponsored me. They put a fantastic facility outside, where we could train out in the heat for a fortnight, and then we dropped down to Vegas for a fortnight. So, we were well prepared, if you can ever be prepared for temperatures of 120. But, climatically, it’s going to suit a black man better than a white man, and I think, in the end, that was the difference. Again, I got off to a slow start but managed to gain momentum through the fight. If it was a fifteen round fight in the two bouts, there would have been no doubt who would have been the World Champion. McCrory came out in the majority, 2-1, the victor. Devastation, dreams, a lifetime of dreams, a lifetime of hard work, all lost in forty-eight minutes.

With what I’ve got today, the family I’ve got, the home I’ve got, the lifestyle I’ve got, then, no, I don’t regret it. The difference in the wages with those two fights, they were life-changing amounts of money. Perhaps I wouldn’t have the faculties that I have today. You do tend to see with some boxers who go on too long because of money. We are talking hundreds of thousands of pounds, which back in ’83 was unbelievable amounts of money. There’s a lovely little story that happened in Las Vegas. It was two nights before the bout was to take place when I had a knock on the door from Duke Durden, who was Don King’s right-hand man, and he said that, due to the withdrawal of the sponsorship from the Dunes Hotel (because they were in the hands of the receiver), if I didn’t take a £100,000 reduction in my purse, then, the bout would be off. Well, this was devastating news, so Eddie Thomas and myself had a bit of a conflab and we decided to fly a lawyer in from New York by the name of Mike Trainer, who was looking after Sugar Ray Leonard’s finances and all his contracts, to try and sort this out. If you can imagine, this was two days before and it took us a day to fly in a lawyer from New York and, of course, it disrupted everything, your sleep pattern, your state of mind.

When you think about it, the £100,000, I worked underground only a couple of years before all this happened, and was earning £48 a week. So, to tell somebody you’ve got to take a £100,000 pay cut, two days before the event, it was devastating. But we flew Mike Trainer in, we went up to Don King’s office, and when we confronted him with all the contracts that Eddie had brought in with him, Mike Trainer said to him, “Is there any truth in this Don, what you just said?”. “No”, he said, “There’s no truth in it. I haven’t said it.”. Well, he wasn’t lying, because he hadn’t said it. But his right-hand man had said it. Those are sometimes the tricks that they get up to, you know.

six weeks in merthyr

After boxing out in America, and having the two World title fights against McCrory, everything that’s going through my mind, going through everybody’s mind, going through Gareth Bevan’s mind, is about retirement. Where was I going to go from here? Do I go back to the domestic scene for far less money? Could I get the enthusiasm back after a defeat in America for the World title, the pinnacle, the thing I really wanted in life? I did honestly feel rejected. Eddie Thomas said, “We won’t decide now. You can have a little break”, but I weren’t one to take a break. There was no break, there was no week’s holiday, fortnight’s holiday. As soon as I came back, I went straight to the gym.

Frank Warren was the up-and-coming promoter. He’d just got his licence with the Boxing Board of Control. He was looking for a big title fight to put him up there with the elite promoters and so he approached Eddie and myself and said that he could offer me a three-fight deal, and two Americans in Aberavon, in the Lido, and should I come through them successfully, then they could do a deal with Don Curry to come over and defend his titles in the NEC, in Birmingham. Well, that really did pick me up. My enthusiasm soon came back.

I boxed Alan Brasswell first and knocked him out in a round, and then it led on to, and these are Frank Warren’s words, “We’ll get you another little warm-up in Billy Parks”. Well, Billy Parks had different ideas, and they were ten blistering rounds and I thought then that the writing was on the wall. I sat down with my eye cut up badly. I had to have an hour’s operation on a very bad cut over my right eye which got infected and I started to bump up. I started to feel that I was bumping at the bruises. I started feeling the punches. But, nevertheless, they were in discussions with Don Curry for a World title fight in Birmingham, so I thought I’ve got to get my head down now, get myself together, really prepare. But, hand on my heart, I really knew that something wasn’t right. Everything was well in my life, with my marriage, with the kids, with the home, and certain mornings I was opening the curtains looking out the window, seeing the frost on the deck, shutting the curtains and going back to bed. That isn’t the way to prep but, nevertheless, we went away. Eddie Thomas took me away for six weeks up to Merthyr and if you spend six weeks in Merthyr, you’ll know what I mean. You’ve got no other option but to get fit there, especially with the Brecon Beacons on the door and plenty of tough nuts in the area, plus the sparring we’d imported, and I got myself into a good condition for the Don Curry fight.

the final straw

This was Frank Warren’s first ever world title fight. If you look at the list of the title fights Frank puts in his programmes, recent programmes, it’ll probably run into hundreds, but the first ever title fight he put on was Colin Jones and Don Curry in the NEC and that was, believe it or not, a fifteen round world title fight because the IBF which Don Curry held, had to be fifteen rounds. They changed that just shortly after. I thought that the distance would have suited me, but it came, unfortunately, too late in my career. It was my last fight. I suffered again another bad cut or a couple of bad cuts, and one so bad over the nose, I think I had about twelve stitches in it.

That was the final straw and it was quite sad, actually, because I had had quite a successful career as an amateur and a professional, and to end with the first stoppage of my whole career, in my final fight, which was a World title fight, I thought that was quite sad.

Eddie says, “We’ll decide where we take it from here immediately after the fight”, but I knew in my heart that it was all over. I was never going to get another chance. I had numerous offers off promoters, mainly Frank Warren, who still thought I was within a punch’s chance away from winning a world title. He really did think that, and even when I was stating that I’d had enough, still Frank said, “Go away to Spain. I’ll treat you to a holiday. Get a bit of sun on yourself. You’ll be in a different frame of mind when you come back”, but it never happened. By the time I came back, I was still reluctant to box again. My body was telling me I’d had enough. From the age of nine to twenty-five is a long time, and when you love boxing as much as I did, I gave it everything, every opportunity, every chance I gave it all, just fell down on the final hurdle, when it came to the big stage of the world titles. I’d had a draw and two losses for the world title, and to me that was failing.

where to now?

So, where do you go after that? It’s very difficult because, when you train twice a day, nearly every day of your life, of your boxing life, there’s a big void. What do you do? And I think that’s where 95% of boxers fall down. They don’t fill their lives with something, they don’t fill that void, that gap that is in their life, and, unfortunately, most of them go into pubs, some into restaurants. I don’t think I know of any ex-fighter who can handle being a landlord or run a pub or a restaurant.

putting something back

So, I had time out from boxing, spent quality time with the family for a number of years, and, of course, I still kept contact with the local boxing club, ‘the shed’ as they call it. I’m still involved in a major way and we’re pushing for large grants which are hard to come by these days. We’re depending on a large grant to demolish the old prefab and put up a new purpose-built state-of-the-art boxing club for the community, because I think I owe that to them because of the standard of living boxing has given me. I want to put something back.
I’ve just been given a coaching job in Wales which is looking after development and the national team. I’ve been revitalised, if you like. It’s nice to pass on the information that you’ve gathered all these years in the game, not only during fights but life experience.

three words

Three words to describe myself? That’s very difficult. I could never do it in three words but I could say that I only ever had one boxing club; only ever had one coach; only ever had one manager. And, up to this point, I’ve only had one wife.
So I think loyalty is one, honesty, and a good discipline.

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