Frank Maloney: Being Frank

He guided Lennox Lewis to boxing glory before the suicide of a star signing hit him hard - now the biggest fight of his life is battling the BNP. Alan Hubbard speaks to Frank Maloney

Nick Griffin boxed a bit when he was at Cambridge, winning a Blue (light, not dark of course) but he may have a real fight on his hands from someone who knows rather more about bloodying noses when he tries to win Barking for the BNP at the next election.

Boxing promoter Frank Maloney, who is standing against the BNP leader as the UKIP candidate, has already beaten him to the punch, challenging him to come fist-to-face in the ring, for charity, before their bout at the ballot box. Griffin hasn't responded, of course, but Maloney, who had 69 amateur fights before becoming a promoter, impishly reckons he would beat him black and blue, so to speak. Naturally, it is a publicity stunt. But that's the name of little Frank's game and he's already ahead on points.

So Barking's big fight beckons, though some think the 55-year-old, 5ft 4in Maloney is barking for even contemplating a career in politics after unsuccessfully running against Ken Livingstone (he finished fourth) for London Mayor five years ago.

In his office down an alleyway off Chislehurst High Street in Kent, up two flights of rickety stairs, Maloney sits in a boxing glove-shaped settee surrounded by fistic memorabilia, including Lennox Lewis's world heavyweight title-winning shorts and a gorilla-like Don King doll, and explains why he'll be a hustler at the hustings. "I am very passionate about politics," he says. "A lot of things I see in this country annoy me. What's happened over the last five or six years hasn't been good and it's right for a change. UKIP are a party which cares about Britain. I look at the politicians today and they are in it for themselves and not the people. I wanted to stand here in Chislehurst, which is where I got my best results when I ran for Mayor, but they already had a candidate so they asked if I'd be interested in taking on Griffin in Barking and I jumped at it because I detest him, the BNP and everything it stands for.

"If you take out race and religion, they've got nothing worthwhile to say; they are just fucked. I spoke to a friend of mine who is very big in politics and he said there couldn't be a better place to stand with my profile and the type of campaign I'll run. UKIP think I'll surprise people because the sitting MP, Margaret Hodge, is very unpopular over the expenses row. Also I am well known in that area, and I have run shows in Barking as well as Dagenham and Romford."

But, he says, what he really wants to do is give Griffin a good hiding. "I've never met him, but I don't like what he says. Yes, there is prejudice in this country, but it's a prejudice that is controlled, and we have to learn to live together. His philosophy is one of a pure white racist, he is like a Nazi. I spent quite a lot of Christmas reading their website and it's bullshit.

"Having Irish blood in me, I know my family were first persecuted when they first came to this country. I remember my father telling me that when I was born, they didn't have anywhere to live and when they were looking for places, there were signs that said: 'No Blacks, No Irish and No Dogs'. So it's a big issue for me and

we must stand up against it." But isn't he a bit right-wing himself? "Yeah, I am slightly, but not extreme. More like inside right. I know David Cameron calls UKIP nutters and fruitcakes but he's trying to be something to everybody. He's Tony Blair in a different suit with a different smile."

In the event of him becoming an MP, what would happen to his boxing business, one that almost cost him his livelihood, and his life, last year? "That would continue. My office would run itself. I have good people here. If I did get elected, parliament would know it. I would question everything. The arrogance of some of the politicians is unbelievable when all people want is honest answers."

Always a little man with big ideas, the cheeky chappie from Del Boy territory in Peckham, south London, seems to have a penchant for being in the middle of maelstroms – and there were plenty swirling around him last year, his 25th as a peripatetic promoter. "I was glad to see 31 December," he admits. "I wouldn't wish what happened last year on my worst enemy in boxing – and believe me, I've got a few. It was probably the worst of my life." It was certainly one ravaged by tragedy and trauma, encompassing the suicide of one of his star signings – the Irish Olympic bronze medallist middleweight Darren Sutherland, whom Maloney found hanging in the fighter's flat in Bromley – his own heart attack, which followed an apoplectic outburst over a scandalous decision against his heavyweight John McDermott, and financial losses on several of his shows which almost closed him down.

Maloney learned he "died" for 30 seconds on the operating table. "Later they told me that I'd got a damaged heart and this may have dated back to the Lennox Lewis days because of all the stress and strain. I was a walking time-bomb, and if I hadn't gone to hospital when I did, I wouldn't be here. My arteries had closed up. When I was coming round and started looking at my bank account, I thought, bloody hell, I have let myself go. Then my broker phoned me and told me I had quite a lump sum to come as I had a critical illness insurance policy I didn't know about. I decided to put the money into the company and that has steadied the ship. Now I do believe with the boxers I've got [including Olympians David Price, Tony Jeffries and Rendall Munroe, the boxing binman] it will all come good."

But he believes his biggest hit since Lewis would have been Sutherland, whom he signed after the Irishman lost to James DeGale in the Olympic semi-final. "I would have put my house on him being a superstar. But as time passed I began to notice something different about him. He didn't seem to be the person he was when I first saw him. I still haven't fathomed out what went wrong. Maybe it will all come out at the inquest next month. I think there was basically something wrong with him from the start and I wasn't told about it. There was a background we didn't know about." He says he still has nightmares about making the grim discovery that September afternoon, and continues to receive counselling. "The memory of finding him hanging there in that flat will be with me forever."

Maloney points to another pair of shorts in a picture frame on a wall in his office. "They were Darren's from his first pro fight with me. Sometimes I think I should take it down to erase the memory but I can't do it because it's part of what's made me. He's the one I put everything into. For about eight or nine weeks after Darren's death I couldn't work, I was just sitting here like a zombie going through the motions. But now I am back with my finger on the pulse and this political challenge has helped me."

Which brings us back to the forthcoming Barking punch-up. I remind him that during his Mayoral election bid he was accused of Griffin-like racism. "That was ridiculous," he snorts. "There were black members of my campaign team. Just look at the support I have from my black fighters." Fair enough, but didn't he make remarks that were deemed homophobic? ("I don't think gays do a lot for society... I don't want to see gay policemen walking hand in hand... I'd ban gay pride marches.") "Yeah, I said certain things about gays but to quote [US promoter] Bob Arum, 'then I was lying, today I am telling the truth.'

"I have looked at everything I said and I know it will come out of the woodwork, but I was inexperienced then and I suppose I just wanted to make people know I was there. It was very silly and in boxing, of course, as a promoter, you often say something outrageous to get publicity. What I said was wrong, I don't have a problem with gay people but I hold my hands up and say I am against same-sex marriages and same-sex parents, I won't change my view on that. If you're gay, you're gay. It's not an issue with me. Those remarks were a little bit stupid. I've grown up since then. Once I get out there and start talking to people, they will get to know me because I am quite a warm personality. I will argue my corner and I love solving problems.

"My ambitions now are to produce a couple of world champions, win a seat in parliament, and maybe become leader of UKIP. I think I am someone who can relate to the public and help change the face of politics in this country."

So will that Union Jack-the-lad suit we saw so often before he and Lewis split up after 12 years in 2001 be brought out of the closet again? "Nah. I don't want to be seen as a joke character. I'm a serious contender and I'm going in to start throwing some heavy punches." Not for the first time, Nasty Nick had better get ready to duck.

From priest to jockey to old-school promoter

In his youth, Frank Maloney trained for the priesthood but quit and tried, unsuccessfully, to be a jockey and a footballer before becoming a chef and publican. He boxed as an amateur, trained fighters professionally and, for 25 years, has been what he calls "an old-school promoter".

Twice in partnership with Frank Warren, he now says of him: "We don't exactly see eye to eye but I respect him as a promoter. In fact, he's the only one I see as a rival." Maloney took Lennox Lewis from six-round fights in Hull, Gateshead and York Hall to the world heavyweight title in Las Vegas and Madison Square Garden before their famous Little and Large act ended in a lawsuit.

He initially promoted David Haye, who also walked away, and he says of the trend of fighters to self-promote: "Unfortunately when they become superstars earning millions they start to think promoters are ripping them off, but what they forget is the work that goes on behind the scenes to get them where they are."

Twice married, with three daughters and two grandchildren, he is a Millwall fan "because it's fun and I like the atmosphere. If I wanted to watch football, I would probably go to Arsenal."

Alan Hubbard

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines