Tuesday, November 23rd, 1999
It was heartening to receive overwhelming support of my condemnation of the heartless statement by ' Mr Nasty', Mickey Duff the one time despot of British boxing, that Reggie Kray should never be released from prison despite having served 31 years for killing a fellow gangster.
It takes a singular form of heartlessness to deliberately suggest that a person, whose crimes of violence were restricted to other criminal who had elected to live outside the law, should never be released.
There is no evidence that Reggie Kray harmed a decent member of the public but did kill a gangster who had lost respect from his peers and had become a drug addict bully who had lost all sense of decency. It may surprise many people but a killing in gangland has to have some form of acceptable justification if it is to be generally approved by members of this society. A wanton killing is despised because it is unnecessary and is often met with retribution.
It is abhorrent for anyone who claims to be sane and wishes to be accepted as a decent minded person to pretend that a 66-years-old senior citizen, is now a danger to children and decent folk. Reggie Kray has seriously overpaid for his crime of ridding society of a 'mad dog'.
Remarkable as it may initially sound but Reggie Kray is now a victim. A casualty of mental, and at his age physical, torture of such severe proportions by a political authority that it disgraces a just society. If the Home Officer Minister Jack Straw is unable to appreciate this then it casts serious doubts on his qualifications to be the Home Secretary of this country.
A Home Secretary has to have the guts to stand up and be counted if he is to do his job correctly. If he is lacking in courage mentally and physically to act humanely then he should resign or be replaced.
Some little time ago I was at a boxing function and came face to with 'Nipper' Read the policeman who was responsible for preparing the case against the Kray twins and others which led to their arrest and conviction.
Because old habits die hard and the fact that I knew more than most about the dark side of Jack McVitie who was killed by Reggie, and fully aware that Reggie had paid his debt to society, I could not bring myself to shake the hand of 'Nipper' Read. Fortunately, my partner Marilyn was more levelheaded and shook his hand.
I should have known better because some time ago our paths crossed over a professional matter. 'Nipper' Read was then a sergeant and while his colleagues would have a field day with a person under arrest with my reputation, he played the game.
Since the occasion of the meeting at the boxing function 'Nipper' Read has come out in favour of Reggie being released and has said so on nationwide TV. I respect this and it confirms the advice that I have been given by people and to whom I pay heed, that "Nipper' Read did his job when conducting the case against the Kray people and kept within the rules.
This was very different behaviour to those responsible for preparing the case against me, and my fellow defendants, in the fantasy events of the 'Torture Trial' case.
With hindsight it was wrong of me not to shake 'Nipper' Read's and I need to apologise.
When you compare the compassionate attitude shown by the former no-nonsense Assistant Chief Constable of Nottingham, 'Nipper' Read with the deplorable, granited-hearted behaviour of Mickey Duff it is the proof, if any is needed, that those who are as like-minded as Duff are very wrong. They set a bad and dangerous example to the young people. How is it possible to convince youngsters that scum crimes like muggings, fraud on the elderly and the abuse of vulnerable members of our communities are appalling because they are devoid of compassion and rightly isolate the perpetrators as outcasts of even the criminal class, when those that act in the name of society are also exposed as heartless? To attract followers you must lead!
To keep Reggie Kray incarcerated in a prison cell cannot be justified if only because it serves no purpose whatsoever .
Compassion is a fundamental need in a democratic society. Without it we would be an uncivilised people with a sympathy quota equal to that of a predator about to make a kill. For impressionable young people this then becomes a path to follow and a way of life fraught with danger for the vulnerable members of society.
In my lifetime I have often had to behave in a hard and dispassionate manner to people who presented a threat to family, friends, or me but I have never caused the vulnerable members of any community to have fear. In fact the opposite is correct. Those who are vulnerable knew that they could rely upon no liberties being taken against them if I was able to prevent it. This protection could also be relied upon from Charlie and Eddie Richardson, the Kray twins and the Great Train Robbers. In fact any respected villain.
Young people are often what we make of them. They are inclined to follow the example set by their elders. To be without compassion is inhumane and when society is encouraged to follow the lead of soulless people like Mickey Duff then there is no hope for young people and the future because inhumanity rules.
To release without delay Reggie Kray is not only just for Reggie, and his innocent loved ones, but will also prove to be a long-term lesson in compassion to young people. Society has to judge whether it wants granite-hearted gauleiters or people who have a wise understanding of life and know when enough is enough, to chart the way forward for our youngsters.
To release Reggie Kray, and any other being unjustly punished, will also carry the important message that no matter what may happen to you in life there is always hope.
I noticed in the book recently published by Nigel Benn that he was upset by advice he was given after winning a boxing bout, by a good friend of mine, Leslie McCarthy, who is highly respected in boxing circles and is the Director of Communications for the World Boxing Council.
Leslie thought that the subsequent ecstatic behaviour by Nigel after having his hand raised as the winner, in the earlier days of his career, was over-the-top.
I was intrigued by this. I have known Leslie for many years and know he is the type of person who would very much prefer to encourage rather than discourage anyone. So I asked him for his account of the event and would he mind if I shared his answer with you.
Leslie readily agreed.
"Yes, I did tell Nigel that it is never correct to humiliate an opponent knowingly or otherwise", said Leslie.
"The fact that Nigel had proved the superior fighter was enough. Respect, in the true sense of the word, for an opponent is essential for all sportsmen. A display of humility is also essential to qualify as a class winner.
Histrionic behaviour may be excusable for those who win occasionally or are low on talent and are forced to indulge in play-acting to cover up their lack of real boxing ability.
Nigel belongs in neither of this categories. He was a very good fighter and a warrior.
However, what Nigel doesn't mention in his book is that I told him to his face of my view and did not follow the example of the large crowd that were telling him what he wanted to hear and immediately bad-mouthed him when his back was turned. That has never been my style and I wasn't going to begin with Nigel.
If honesty is a fault then I am guilty but I think in his heart of hearts, Nigel knew, and is aware today that I only meant well, and my only concern was for him and his image. I will stand by the advice I gave. There was no personal material gain to be made by me.
I first saw Nigel Benn box in a small gymnasium in East London in company with my brother, Burt. Immediately after he had completed his sparring I knew I was watching a special talent and told my brother that he had to sign Nigel on management forms to give him a chance to make real money. Burt was of a like mind and signed Nigel on a management contract.
This greatly pleased his then trainer Brian Lynch because it meant Nigel was now shielded from the greedy boxing predators who were waiting to exploit him and then throw on him on the scrap heap made up of so many other talented boxers. These talented fighters should be as wealthy as Nigel but instead they are broke, and only the predators became rich. You have to understand that I am talking of the time when a group of promoters in the UK, who could have taught the Mafia a thing or two, were desperately trying to hold onto to their iron grip on the sport.
Nigel achieved that which he was entitled to achieve but nevertheless it was good to read in his book that Nigel acknowledges and appreciates the unselfish behaviour of my brother. Boxing is no different to many other professions where the good people do is rarely mentioned but any misguided transgression makes the headlines and the real villains who abuse their power and hide behind a facade of respectability are ignored.
When I gave the advice to Nigel I was aware that black superstars have a duty to their people to be meticulous in their behaviour as role models. Young people easily identify with role models and often try to follow the lead of their idol whether or not the behaviour is good or bad.
Joe Louis did enormous good for black people when there was no help from pressure groups. 'Sugar' Ray Robinson who I knew reasonably well when he came to London near the end of his career and who I was delighted to call a friend was not far behind Joe Louis. There were, of course, many others. They possessed that great asset that many fighters do not have today - dignity in victory and defeat.
You cannot imagine Joe or 'Sugar' Ray demeaning a beaten opponent or strutting around the ring like a wild banshee when a verdict was given against them. They had too much class to indulge in such behaviour.
The 'Greatest' Muhammad Ali set a new trend and became a sensational marketing force for Muhammad Ali, the boxer. On each occasion I have met Muhammad Ali the greater has become my affection for him. In his time he has been called a racist, a cowardly draft dodger and many other names that need to be identified by the symbols *+@*?% to save embarrassing those who dislike bad language. If he was racist then so am I, and so is Nelson Mandela, His Holiness The Pope and so was Mahatma Ghandi. To say Muhammad was a cowardly draft dodger and deserving of a description best described by bad language is about as accurate as my lottery ticket selections.
It is those who have tried to follow in his footsteps that deserve to be treated with scorn. To try and copy a master like Muhammad Ali is akin to trying to sing like Pavarotti, to paint like Michaelangelo, to dance like Fred Astaire or Michael Jackson and to write like Shakespeare. Copies are fakes of the real thing.
It is the bad attitude of these copyists who are playing a serious role in dragging boxing through the sewers. The quicker they stop the better for boxing and young people.
Perhaps, had someone told Naseem Hamed that which I told Nigel years back, then, who knows, he may be a more contented and respected fighter today".
I have to agree with Leslie boxing cannot keep taking the deadly blows the people inside boxing are inflicting on the sport. If boxing people do not stop degrading themselves, and the sport, then it will become unmarketable and TV will be forced to take it of their schedules.
Boxing is not wrestling. As Leslie has said if you take dignity out of boxing then it becomes a degrading circus. Unnecessary bad mouthing of opponents, selfish and uncouth behaviour in and out of the ring is unacceptable. It has to stop!
People don't buy tickets to watch a firework display or special FX's better reserved for pop concerts. They pay to watch two evenly matched men compete against each other using a God given talent and using this talent to prove the superior man within the rules of the sport of boxing.
Boxing is the ultimate challenge to the instincts of the masculine sportsman.
The fact that the reputation of boxing was the most macho of sports but the boxers behaved like gentlemen, was the endearing comparison that other sports could not match.
Unfortunately, today it has now been restricted to being only the most macho of sports. Gentlemanly conduct is now rare.
At one time wrestling was all the rage on TV and the promoters made hundreds of millions of dollars. Today the gloss is gone from this spectacle.
So boxing should take heed and beware!!