Inside Lines: Frank Maloney's bombshell leaves boxing shaken but supportive

 

Even by the bizarre standards of boxing's tales of the unexpected, the news that the veteran fight promoter Frank Maloney had undergone "gender re-assignment" and from now on is a woman known as Kellie ranks among the biggest bombshells to rock the sport. You could have knocked the fight fraternity down with a feather, let alone a right-hander.

I suppose the only more gob-smacking situation might have been if it was one of boxing's other famous Franks, Bruno or Warren, who had changed sex. Or that in the United States Don King was now Donna King.

Some very odd things happen in boxing, but nothing could have prepared us for this hard-nosed Millwall supporter, whom I had known for 25 years as a bit of a geezer in the most macho business of all, pictured wearing a blonde wig, a dress and declaring: "I have always known that I was a woman".

I have not been as stunned since back in 1971, when a group of us attending the first Ali-Frazier fight at Madison Square Garden were asked at the weigh-in if we would like to meet the screen superstar Burt Lancaster, one of the ringside pundits. Eagerly we agreed, and as we approached the butch idol of films such as Trapeze, From Here to Eternity and countless other smash-hit movies he turned towards us wearing mascara and lipstick, and with rouged cheeks. "Hi guys," he simpered. "Don't ya just love their muscles!"

Weeks later Lancaster, a thrice-married father of five, was arrested in Hollywood wearing women's clothes, and it was revealed he was bisexual and a transvestite.

Thankfully, times and attitudes have changed, which may be why Kellie Maloney's "coming out" at 61 has been received with far more understanding than opprobrium. You might have expected boxing's reaction to be one of cynicism, disbelief or revulsion, but it has been refreshingly supportive.

Maloney wants to return to the boxing scene as an administrator and adviser to young fighters and, I understand, would like to manage any gay boxer prepared to "come out". We await another book (his original biography was titled No Baloney), and doubtless film and/or TV spin-offs worth a million or more, as well as Kellie Maloney's first fistic-related appearance at the Boxing Writers' Club annual dinner.

Just as well the rules have been changed to allow women to be present.

Flying for the Olympics?

So far the Olympics haven't reached for the skies — but don't bet against planes providing more than a ceremonial fly-past in the Games of the future. Thomas Bach, the new president, says he wants the International Olympic Committee to consider exciting and spectacular new sports, and both Formula One and air racing could be on the agenda.

Which makes this weekend's UK leg of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship over Ascot Racecourse of particular curiosity. Top racing pilots, led by Britain's Paul Bonhomie, compete.

Another Ali rises

Fifty-four years ago Muhammad Ali was a precocious 18 when he won his Olympic title in Rome. This weekend a talented young namesake from Bury, also 18, goes prospecting for Olympic boxing gold, one of 33 young Brits taking part in the 28-sport, 204-nation Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China.

Sadly, it is the first major sports event to be affected by the Ebola epidemic, and athletes from virus-hit countries have been told they cannot compete in contact sports or in the pool. Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia have already withdrawn following pressure from the Chinese government.

a.hubbard@independent.co.uk

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