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Frank Maloney: ‘I was born in the wrong body and have always known I was a woman’

Once-pugnacious manager of Lennox Lewis stuns boxing world with sex change revelation

After 30 years in the macho world of boxing, the former fight promoter Frank Maloney has revealed that he is undergoing a sex change and living as a woman called Kellie.

Kellie, 61, once the pugnacious manager of the former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis, said that she has undergone hormone therapy and is now more than a year into the transition to becoming a woman.

“I was born in the wrong body and have always known I was a woman,” she said. “I have a female brain. I knew I was different from the minute I could compare myself to others.

Lennox Lewis: 'I thought it was a wind-up'

“I never felt comfortable doing boys’ things, playing boys’ games. But I buried myself in them to make sure I wasn’t seen as different.”

Frank Maloney grew up as a Millwall-supporting south Londoner, became a boxer and then a trainer, and achieved greatest success while working with Lewis, who became a world champion in 1992.

Having also managed the former world cruiserweight champion David Haye, Maloney appeared fearless, tough-talking and flamboyant, with a fondness for going to fights in Union Jack suits.

But Kellie, who gave her interview to the Sunday Mirror wearing a dress and stilettos, said she was constantly fighting the urge to dress as a woman. “Mentally I was tearing myself apart.

“I knew it was either continue and succeed, throw myself off a bridge or give into my urges and be ridiculed.”

She admitted that she had spent years fearing her secret desire to be a woman would be exposed.

“I have never been able to tell anyone in boxing.  Can you imagine me walking into a boxing hall dressed as a woman and putting an event on? I can imagine what they would scream at me. But if I had been in the theatre or arts world, nobody would blink an eye about this transition.”

The twice-married father of three quit as a boxing promoter last October, saying he had “fallen out of love with boxing” .

She admits now that she was preparing to withdraw from the public gaze so she could continue with a gender transition that had begun in her final year of managing boxers.

In the past two years, she has had hormone therapy, hair removal electrolysis, voice coaching and counselling.

She told her wife Tracey about her desire to become a woman in 2012. “We were standing in the kitchen and I said, ‘I have to tell you that I have lived with this all my life. I’ve lived a lie and I really am a female in my head.’

“We are very good friends now. She is very supportive and very loyal to me.”

Kellie said  she was amazed by the supportive response of her elderly mother Maureen.

She added: “I hope society will be open-minded. I know I could have done my job in boxing as a female.”

Comment: As brave – and mad – as some of his fighters

By Steve Bunce, Boxing  Correspondent

Frank Maloney loved a fight on both sides of the ropes, and in 50 years in the boxing world he had plenty. He won most of them. He now has one more battle to overcome after announcing that he is undergoing a sex change.

He walked away from the boxing business last October and vanished, until he emerged yesterday on the front page of a paper with a new hairstyle, a new name and a gentler voice. Kellie looks much better than Frank did, to tell the truth.

It has been a terrible five years for Maloney, with heart attacks, separation from his beloved second wife, a suicide attempt, the death of his father and the discovery of arguably his last great fighter, Darren Sutherland, hanged in a south London bedsit in 2009. Maloney was the first person through the door and has never recovered.

Maloney overcame each terrible setback and problem with the same determination that had seen him go head-to-head with Don King and boxing’s other powerbrokers during his 15 years with Lennox Lewis; the pair went from virtual obscurity to the heavyweight world title on their terms in one of boxing’s greatest partnerships.

Over the past 25 years, I have been in a dozen boxing outposts with Maloney, some exotic and some diabolical, and the revelation was shocking. It had some of the usual Maloney flourishes, and as I read it I had to smile. I sent Kellie a text to tell her that she was brave. “It could be plain mad,” she replied, which is true, and the old Frank never much cared for rules or what people thought about him.

There had been rumours back in June, but nobody believed it. Maloney, you see, was a veteran and an expert in the brutal business of boxing. The old Maloney was a throwback, operating at all levels from running pubs with boxing gyms above the bars to guiding fighters to world titles and riches. He was at the centre of a savage, macho world and he seldom put a foot wrong – now we know he was talking to a counsellor and buying women’s clobber.

Maloney managed and trained some stupidly brave fighters, men who took terrible risks in a fearless business, and yesterday morning the trainee priest, apprentice jockey, amateur fighter, promoter, publican and manager of fighting men showed that she was their equal. Well done, Kellie.