'For one night only!': Wayne Elcock interview
Ahead of a one-off return to the ring on Saturday, Wayne Elcock spoke to Veron Graham about his career, his thriving work outside the ring and the importance of giving back to the community...
Despite retiring the best part of a decade ago, the new philanthropic life former British and Commonwealth middleweight champion Wayne Elcock has been building outside the ropes made it almost inevitable that he would one day return to the ring.
It had been a full 15 years since he and I first traded questions for answers, after Elcock had just outpointed Anthony Farnell to clinch the WBU belt. The reason for our rematch, his impending comeback, elicited a refrain my fellow Brummie, now 44, has been using ever since the charity fundraiser against former stablemate Tony Oakey was announced: “It will just be for one night only!”
The often-postponed six-round clash will finally take place on 8 September at St Andrew’s, the home of Wayne’s beloved Birmingham City Football Club.
By the time the curtain came down on his ten-year pro career, after losing his British title against future world title challenger Matthew Macklin in March 2009, Wayne had been in retirement planning mode.
“In the last 5-6 years of my career, it dawned on me that I couldn't box forever. But I was troubled by the many ex-champions I had met that had achieved more or boxed longer that were struggling to make a living, doing jobs just to get by. I'd been in the game 25 years, amateur and pro. If you're in a job that long you would expect to walk away with something. I wanted to do something related to the sport.”
From humble fistic beginnings in the Midlands, after walking away from boxing for three years after a controversial loss in a 1995 ABA final, Wayne rebounded to win the Lonsdale belt outright and train stateside with the late Goody Petronelli, long time co-trainer and manager of middleweight legend Marvin Hagler. Wayne, who went by the unlikely nickname of ‘Mad Dog,’ also made a brave but unsuccessful challenge for Arthur Abraham’s IBF title in December 2007. His professional ledger stands at 19-4 (9 KOs).
“Despite being done over by some, taken advantage of in boxing, I've no bitterness towards anyone. I learned long ago that it's down to us as individuals to do something for ourselves, after we've hung ‘em up.”
Since the Macklin bout, he has established an amateur gym, The Wayne Elcock Boxing Academy (WEBA), with a stable of over 30 boxers, including two national champions. Through Box Clever, he has provided non-contact boxing training in close to 40 schools across the Midlands.
“It’s nice to work on things I enjoy and are related to being a boxer,“ Wayne explained from one of his other enterprises, the Ringside boxing goods store [pictured left], which he opened six years ago in the Chelmsley Wood district of the Second City. Its success prompted a move to the larger premises it now occupies in the more salubrious Sutton Coldfield area, just outside Birmingham.
“I give at least 16 hours of my time each week to give young people a better chance. I’d found a new calling – coaching. Life can’t all be about doing things for ourselves. When you’re boxing, it’s all about you, but the feeling you get back from giving back, for a ‘we’ instead of ‘me’ is better than any winning any fight or money I’ve earned.
“It hasn't been easy: I risked all my boxing money in setting up. I didn't go to anyone for loans or anything. I remember being down to my last £5. It's been a crazy journey but it’s turned out well. I love people. I love helping people, and that’s what I’m doing.”
It was that big heartedness that put Wayne on a collision course with Oakey, who was also once promoted by Frank (now Kellie) Maloney. The bout will be one of several featuring WEBA boxers on fight night.
“(Birmingham City’s) commercial manager was looking for a clash that would be a good sell.”
The club was planning an event to raise funds for Libby Mae’s Little Angels, a charity that supports the provision of vital medical equipment for neonatal units across the Midlands such as ventilators and incubators.
“In a moment of madness I agreed to come back - just for one night!”
There he goes again.
“But we needed an opponent who would fight for free, like me. Oakey’s got a similar CV – he’s won the same titles, but at light-heavy. Also he’s someone that would make me worried enough to train hard! Fair play to him for stepping up.”
Feeling revitalised after surgery corrected niggling back and knee issues, Wayne is looking forward to his swansong: “I’m going to look a million dollars on the night! I’ve felt better than ever as training has gone on but in the first two weeks, I asked myself ‘why are you doing this?!’”
Another reason for his return is Wayne Junior, who will turn 11 the day before fight night: “He will be making his amateur debut. It’s my only chance to box on the same card as him - I’m 44 now and I’ve got so much going on.”
Wayne credits his late Barbadian-born father, who died in a road traffic accident during his three-year hiatus from the sport, with much of the drive he possesses: “Dad is a big reason for the way I am. Even when I had put in a punch-perfect performance, he would always find something. He was very hard on me, always believed I could do more.”
With more than a touch of pathos, he added: “I was 21 when I lost him. He never got to see what I did. He would say ‘always do more than anyone would expect.’ I remember that when pro trainers would tell me to finish but I would stay in the gym and do more, thinking that's what Dad would say.
“I’m an all or nothing person and giving my all to my kids in the gym, gives me a lot of joy.”