PRO boxing may be brutal and extremely dangerous yet, despite it’s obvious macho image, it has always had it’s feminine side.
History books tell us that women were boxing in London as far back as 1720.
And over the centuries they have been promoters, managers, trainers and worked as seconds at every level.
Boxing writing is the one area of the sport in Britain where the so-called weaker sex have been conspicuous by their absence.
Melanie Lloyd is the exception. The feisty Ms Lloyd has this month published her third boxing book “Sweet Fighting Man”.
It is a collection of fascinating and revealing interviews with middle-aged former champions and journeymen who are long-retired.
That includes Dave “Boy” Green, James Cook, Sylvester Mittee and Billy Schwerr.
There can be no greater satisfaction for any sports journalist than to be trusted implicitly and respected by the characters you are writing about.
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The way these ex-fighters fulsomely praise Melanie must make her very proud.
Mittee, 60 who was British and Commonwealth light-welterweight champion said:
“Being interviewed by Melanie is like being interviewed by a friend.
“We feel safe and secure enough to tell it as it is because we know our thoughts and feelings are going to be portrayed with the bitter-sweetness that we intended but without being taken out of context.”
Former British and European super-middleweight champion Cook is also one of Melanie’s greatest admirers.
He said: “Melanie understands the boxing game and the boxing game understands Melanie. That’s why fighters speak to her the way they do..”
It certainly doesn’t surprise me that these hard men have happily unburdened themselves to the woman from Swansea.
Melanie become obsessed with boxing after watching the 20-year-old Mike Tyson knockout Trevor Berbick to become the youngest world heavyweight champion 31 years ago.
As she’s from Wales, the home of so many outstanding champions, it’s little wonder that she has a feel for boxing and a great rapport with fighters.
Because of her knowledge of the sport, combined with her warm and vivacious personality, they have no hesitation in revealing their innermost thoughts and feelings.
Information, by the way, which they probably wouldn’t share with their mothers.
Schwer, 48, who held the British and European lightweight titles and won an IBO world championship belt, was particularly illuminating.
Now a motivational speaker, Schwer told Melanie: “The last few hours in the changing room before a fight, the way I would describe the feeling, is like waiting for the hangman.
“You know the pain is coming but there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t avoid it. You can’t hide.
“It’s not a game. It’s life or death in there with real consequences. We find the courage to step up over our fear and take the risk.
“Boxers are a rare breed. We ain’t normal. We don’t think normal. We are a different animal.”
People often ask why it is so many brilliant fighters continue way past their sell-by date only to end up defeated and often humiliated by nonentities.
Schwer confided: “From being a professional athlete to life in the real world, that’s another story in itself.
“It’s the hardest battle that fighters ever have when we have to retire.
“Because we know that in the ring we’re experts. Trying to reinvent and recreate ourselves into something else. It’s tough out there to survive in life.
“Sometimes it’s easier being in the ring than being out of it. A lot of us are left by the wayside.”
On the lighter side Jon Thaxton, who wore British and European lightweight championship belts, told Melanie about one of his title defences.
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He worked himself into such a frenzy he punched the changing room so hard before his ring walk he broke his hand!
Fans who read this book will have a far greater understanding of what makes fighters tick – and also why they chose to earn their living in the most hostile and hazardous workplace of all…
* Sweet Fighting Man, by Melanie Lloyd is published by Pitch Publishing Ltd. Price £12.99.
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