Inside Lines: How 'Nasty Nick' boxed clever to land his political punches

Alan Hubbard
Sunday 14 June 2009 00:00

Surprise, surprise. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, is actually a leftie – and a fan of Amir Khan. So he told us last week when we discussed his own boxing career, which included winning a Blue for Cambridge (light, not dark, of course).

The University's honours board reveals that one N J Griffin boxed three times against Oxford in the annual Varsity match, in 1978, '79 and '80, winning twice and losing once. He was a lightweight then, and says he converted from orthodox to southpaw (leading with his left).

"I wasn't bad. I had 12 bouts in all and won seven but had to give it up because of a hand injury." Apparently he first took up fisticuffs at nine, then got serious after a brawl with an anti-fascist demonstrator in south London. Contemporaries say he had nifty footwork – though this didn't help him avoid the eggs thrown at him last week. He's a regular ringsider at Varsity punch-ups and while he admits he's not a great sports buff, he says he follows boxing and is a particular fan of Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe.

So what about Amir Khan? Didn't he once suggest that the Bolton-born Olympic hero should be "sent home to Pakistan"? "That's bollocks," he countered. "Never said it. I do think some of the ethnic minority fighters are overhyped but I like Amir. He's very skilful and a good role model for kids – particularly Muslim kids." Seems "Nasty Nick" is still boxing clever.

Lewis finds fame at last

Wonder what Griffin makes of Lennox Claudius Lewis, born in West Ham of Jamaican parents, an Olympic gold medallist for Canada and now resident in Miami (that bit he'd like).

Never as popular here as he should have been, Lewis today becomes only the 10th British boxer to be inducted into the sport's Hall of Fame. Now 43, Lewis sensibly keeps resisting mega-bucks offers to make a comeback and try to break the eastern bloc grip on the heavyweight championship. Congratulations, too, to my old colleague Hugh McIlvanney, also inducted, a wordsmith who shows the pen can be as mighty as the fist.

Will Jowell go for gold?

No wonder Tessa Jowell is looking distinctly happier than most ex-Blair Babes these days. Not only has she survived as Olympics Minister in the latest cabinet reshuffle, but Gordon Brown, who demoted her from Culture Secretary when he took over as Prime Minister, has now brought her back into his inner circle as Cabinet Office Minister – no doubt as a reward for speaking up for him while others were putting unladylike boots in.

However, her joy could be short-lived if Labour are kicked out at the next election. She could even lose her MP's seat in Dulwich if the current swing is maintained. In this case the Westminter rumour mill suggests she would not be averse to accepting a role with 2012, perhaps as ambassador.

Jowell, 61, has become an Olympics aficionado and is well-liked by many IOC and Locog members who appreciate how instrumental she was in persuading Blair to sanction a bid for the Games. But while Tory peer Lord Coe might welcome her on board, Boris Johnson, whom she so vigorously attacked during his mayoral campaign, may not be quite so keen. And to stave off objections from a future Tory government she may need to play more of a non-political game during the coming months.

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