Frank Maloney: 'Count me out' says battered, bitter promoter

Legendary promoter is appalled by outlaw Haye-Chisora contest and can't get over suicide of his prized fighter

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The Independent Online

It has been a wretched week for boxing. In the space of three days Floyd Mayweather Jnr, the world's supreme ring artist, exhibited a fistic masterclass before heading to jail; Lamont Peterson, the pumped-up Washingtonian who had dubiously relieved Amir Khan of his world titles, failed a drugs test before their now abandoned return match and the renegade heavyweights Dereck Chisora and David Haye, separated like alley cats by a seven-foot steel barrier, menacingly agreed to participate in an pre-Olympic punch-up at West Ham that suggests the sport may well be beyond anyone's control. Not least that of the outflanked British Boxing Board of Control.

All of which brought a resigned sigh from Frank Maloney, an old-school promoter who admits his growing disenchantment with the battered old game has heightened his desire to walk away. "I am sickened by it," he said of the upcoming Upton Park affray. "I am a traditionalist. I would never have thought about doing anything like this. It is a nail in boxing's coffin.

"The British Board needs to be protected, possibly by the Government in this instance, because the sport must be kept under control. This fight will give boxing's opponents more ammunition to marginalise it. Do these fighters deserve such a big payday after the way they have behaved in Munich? If they hadn't had that brawl, no one would be talking about them, they are yesterday's men. To draw attention to themselves they have had to cause a night of shame and bring boxing into disrepute.

"One of the things wrong with modern boxing is that it's not about building fighters, it's about doing stunts for TV," he added. "Let's be honest, this fight will help sell BoxNation [the new Frank Warren-backed subscription channel] but I wouldn't buy it out of principle.

"But the Board of Control have made a rod for their own backs with the way they mishandled the situation, leaving this sort of loophole."

By coincidence Maloney stages a major heavyweight fight of his own in Liverpool next Saturday, the unbeaten 6ft 8in Olympic bronze medallist David Price contesting the vacant British title with Sam Sexton – "a real fight under Board of Control rules".

Although it is set to sell out Aintree's 4,000-capacity Equestrian Centre, it has received a fraction of the publicity generated by the mischievous pairing on 14 July when 10 times as many will pay up to £1,000 ringside to watch Chisora and Haye split a £5m purse courtesy of the Luxemboug Boxing Federation. That's blow business for you.

Maloney, 58, considered making the Liverpool show his big fight swansong, but decided to postpone his exit out of duty to the boxers in his care. "Part of me wants to go, part of me wants to stay. But while I am not quitting straightaway, I won't be signing any more fighters. Boxing has changed. There are too many people in it now who don't know a left hook from a fish hook. I am disillusioned with the way it is going.

"My love of the sport has dwindled. I am a person who works with passion and love for something. But I have a responsibility to the fightersI have, like David Price, who I believe I can take to the world heavyweight title as I did Lennox Lewis."

Always a little man with big ideas, short on height but never controversy, the cheeky chappie from Del Boy territory in Peckham, south London – now resident in leafier Chislehurst – seems to have a penchant for being in the middle of maelstroms. There have been plenty swirling around him in his 28 years as a promoter. "I wouldn't wish some of the things that have happened to me on my worst enemy – and believe me, I've got a few."

The year 2009 was 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 subsequent heart attack and financial losses on several of his shows which almost closed him down.

"I saw what my family went through with the Darren Sutherland business. I think that finally made up my mind. I've seen some of the obscene remarks on Twitter. I go to an inquest to find out why someone took their life and my professionalism was attacked.

"Darren's death preys on my mind a lot. I know why he hanged himself but at the inquest I felt as if I was on trial. I couldn't understand why they weren't looking for the reason why he did it instead of criticising me. It looked like they were trying to say Darren killed himself because of Frank Maloney, which is why I got legal representation.

"I had nothing to be ashamed of but it was the way they were directing the questions about the contract. Actually it was so one-sided in Darren's favour it was unbelievable, which my barrister pointed out.

"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 has nightmares about the grim discovery, and still receives counselling. "The memory of finding him hanging there in that flat will be with me for ever. I've been through a hell of a lot in the last three or four years and it has taken its toll on me physically and mentally, and I don't want to end up a broken, bitter old man.

"When I quit I will enjoy my life in the country or at my house in Portugal and I will probably breed Airedale Terriers."

That day may yet depend on the outcome of his next promotion. He still has three fights left on his contract with Sky, who recently ditched their deal with Ricky Hatton.

"I am still in negotiation with them but I don't kid myself. They will probably want to see how this show goes next Saturday. If David Price gets hit on the chin, I probably won't get a phone call."

David Price v Sam Sexton is on Sky Sports 1 on Saturday from 10.30pm