Dereck Chisora and David Haye’s press conference punch-up is a world away from the noble art of boxing former fighter and promoter Ron Gray has known all his life, writes Enda Mullen
Anyone involved in boxing in Britain is sure to know Ron Gray.
The Cannock-based businessman has a lifelong association with the sport that began as a promising young boxer, who turned professional at the age of just 16.
He was a fighter on the bill of both title fights between Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper in 1963 and 1966 and he went on to enjoy a successful career as a manager and promoter.
This year his company, Grays Promotions, celebrates 38 years in business and while Mr Gray admits he is enjoying being involved as much as ever, the fracas between Dereck Chisora and David Haye at the weekend left more than a bad taste in his mouth.
“It was disgraceful,” he said, “they disgraced British boxing.
“Think of the years of Henry Cooper and other people building up the boxing game and giving it a good name – and two people like that can lose it over a weekend.
“They should definitely be banned and I would stop every penny of Chisora’s money.
“They should give the manager his 25 per cent, as he hasn’t done anything wrong, and the 75 per cent that’s left should be given to the Boxing Board Benevolent Fund to do good out of the bad to help ex-boxers in bad times. He should end up with nothing and shouldn’t be allowed to box again.”
Mr Gray is equally damning of Haye for his part in the debacle.
“The other fellow shouldn’t even have been there,” he said. “All he was doing there was promoting himself and he aggravated Chisora with his comments. You want an impartial view commentating and that was diabolical.
“I know they can’t do much to him as he doesn’t hold a licence but they could put a massive fine on so if he does apply for it again he has to pay it.
“But Chisora is a loose cannon and I think it is going to happen every time he fights.
“I don’t think the boxing game needs that. It needs champions that young people can look up to like Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper.”
Mr Gray has fond memories of both Ali and Cooper, though he feels Ali was treated appallingly by his home country.
”I remember meeting Ali a few times and he was lovely,” he said.
“But he went back home as an Olympic champion and was turned out of a restaurant.
“The US was the most powerful country in the world yet they were still living like that – it was disgraceful. He could come to this country, walk wherever he wanted to and do whatever he wanted to.
“But who knows, he might have been president today if his health hadn’t deteriorated.
“He made boxing. People go on about Tyson but he would have destroyed him – he wouldn’t even have hit him. Tyson never did it for me. He was a great fighter but in a poor era. You know what they say, ‘in the land of the blind the man with one eye is king’.”
Following his own boxing career Mr Gray went into management and promoting. At various stages he had the biggest stable of fighters in the Midlands, managed a fighter at every weight and managed Pat Cowdell for a world title fight.
He has also been involved in promoting fights featuring some of the world’s greats including Nigel Benn, Alan Minto, Frank Bruno, Tim Witherspoon and Joe Bugner.
These days Grays Promotions concentrates on organising corporate sporting lunches for businessmen. “I had an angina attack and had to have a stent fitted, so after 25 years promoting I thought I’d better leave it to the younger fellows,” said Mr Gray.
The Gentlemen’s Friday Club, which takes place four times a year at Birmingham’s Novotel Hotel is invariably a sell-out way in advance. The events feature a well-known speaker from the sporting world, usually connected with boxing but sometimes football or another sport, as well as a comedian.
These days Mr Gray is helped by his son Steve, who joined the business in 2000 as part of a drive to target the business community.
Steve Gray said: “It’s about networking and we get all different kinds of companies, from blue chip to family-owned companies. We’re bringing Midlands businesses together – that’s the idea of the show and we get people from Wolverhampton, Cannock, Birmingham, Redditch and all over the Black Country.
“Recent speakers we’ve had include Glenn McRory, Frank Worthington and former Wolves player Steve Kindon. They talk about their careers and tell a few stories.
“Some are extremely serious, some really funny and some tell it from the heart.
“As soon as the show is over people generally book for the next show and we only have about three tables left to sell – in today’s world that’s wonderful.”
The next event on March 9 features boxing legend Dave ‘Boy’ Green. The occasion is again being sponsored by West Bromwich-based Reliant Windows, a firm which has an association with Grays stretching back 25 years.
Reflecting on a life in boxing Mr Gray added: “I’ve had some wonderful times and been all over the world with boxing.
“Boxing today is just like any sport though. People seemed more reliable years ago and they also wanted to do it. Today it’s all “how much?”.
“I’m still dealing with people I did when I started so I mustn’t have been too bad to people.”