McMillan remains a free spirit

Despite indifferent promoters, one of Britain's most intelligent boxers is sure he will be back with a title challenge. Greg Wood reports

They still introduced him as "Sweet C" on Tuesday night, but perhaps he should have been rechristened "Sweet FA". Colin McMillan, the former World Boxing Organisation featherweight champion of the world, now has something in common with anyone who has ever been punched, be it in a playground or a pub - they have all been thumped for free.

Justin Murphy, McMillan's opponent at the Broadway Theatre in Barking, did not do a great deal of thumping, but it was not for want of trying. Beneath a veneer of ring rust - this was McMillan's first fight for many months - the speed of thought, foot and hand which once saw him hailed as one of the finest talents Britain has produced was as compelling as ever. Nor was there the faintest hint of the shoulder injury which had cost him the world crown four years earlier, a problem now cured by an American surgeon.

Murphy was finally stopped after four and a half rounds in which punches had landed from every angle, and his attempts to respond had found their target long gone. McMillan was in a different league to the other seven fighters on Tuesday's card, and he was the reason that 600 spectators had filled the Broadway almost to its capacity. It is all the more astonishing, then, that McMillan left the ring without a penny to show for his efforts.

Those whose sport is their living are generally as reluctant as any other worker to do their job for nothing. When the sport in question is boxing, it is all but unheard of, but for McMillan there was no clearer way to register his frustration at being unable to secure a match worthy of his talents.

"It was a big decision and I wasn't over-keen," he says, "but I'd be walking along the street and people would say: 'What are you doing now'? I've been training for seven months and it's soul-destroying when there's no goal. It had got to the point where I had to fight."

But why for nothing, in a small-time venue and a pitiful audience on a cable television channel? "Boxing is as much politics as merit," Jonathan Rendall, McMillan's agent, said. "The ratings are manipulated by the big promoters. Some people get there on merit, but others get manipulated to a high position because the promoters have large amounts of money invested. Colin is self-managed, he's not attached to a big promoters, and he's been frozen out."

And this is a fighter who won a Lonsdale belt in record time, whose injured shoulder gave way in only the second round against Steve Robinson, yetMcMillan lost the points decision only narrowly despite effectively completing the rest of the fight with just one hand. Nigel Benn admits to studying videos of his fights for tips.

McMillan's reluctance to sign over his soul to a promoter does not endear him to the power-brokers, but he is no dewy-eyed idealist. "I don't mind being exploited," he said. "That's the nature of the game. But there's limits to how much you want to be exploited to get a title shot. I've still got a certain belief about how good I am."

The ultimate title shot for any featherweight at present is against Naseem Hamed, but a meeting between the flashy Prince and McMillan, the supreme stylist, remains a distant prospect. "I'm sure Hamed thinks he can beat Colin," Rendall said, "but he must also think that there are other people he can beat more easily. And, for a fight like that, you'll be taking a very small percentage of the purse, which is fine, Colin's the challenger and he needs the chance, but you'll also have to sign yourself away for the rest of your career in the event that you do beat him. That wouldn't be tolerated in any other sphere."

And so it is that a sport which could do with some good publicity just now can allow one of its most intelligent and elegant practitioners to fight for free in obscurity. The British Boxing Board of Control, meanwhile, believes that Peter Harris is the No 1 challenger for the British featherweight title. In his latest fight, Harris was knocked down four times and stopped in the third.

Lesser men might buckle under the frustration, but McMillan takes succour from the examples set by Benn and Frank Bruno. "It takes a lot of mental strength to believe in yourself and prove everybody wrong, but I know what I wanted to achieve and when I won the world title that was just the first step. Unfortunately the shoulder injury threw everything out of sync.

"Now I'm going to pick myself up and get on with it. That's the fighter in me."

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
health
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine