When Paz came to London
Former world champion Vinny Paz talks about his eventful life, career and the movie based on his life 'Bleed for This' in the November issue of Boxing Monthly magazine, which is in shops now. As a BM online bonus, and with thanks to Ed Robinson for sharing his memories, we tell the inside story of when Paz came to London to fight Herol 'Bomber' Graham in 1997.
"It's crazy how time flies," remembers Paz when recalling the build up to the London visit, which included a promotional poster with 'Bomber' Graham's modesty preserved only by a minor WBC belt, as Paz held the 'severed' heads of two glamour girls in a promotion billed 'The Taming of the Devil'.
Now a respected Sky Sports analyst and reporter, Ed Robinson was then working as a PR for co-promoter Frank (now Kellie) Maloney and dressed as a 'devil' for promotional events, complete with cape and horned mask. The British boxing establishment was outraged, with the Boxing News trade paper even refusing to print the poster.
Robinson picks up the story for BM.
"The photograph of me in the devil outfit [with Paz and Graham] really tickled Glyn [Leach, the late long time editor of Boxing Monthly] so he printed it on page three [of the December 1997 edition]," recalls Ed.
"[Frank] Maloney was trying to get as much publicity as possible. It was the first press conference for the bout, at the 'Sports Cafe' in Haymarket [since rebranded as Riley's] and Frank had me dress up as a devil. The idea was billing the fight as Good v Evil," adds Robinson.
"Paz was training at the Fitzroy Lodge [gym] and was really popular", recalls Robinson, adding that Vinny met a then teenaged David Haye.
The match itself was the result of a set of unforeseen circumstances.
"It actually started because Maloney and Lennox [Lewis] had Chris Johnson and expected him to beat Graham. When Graham [unexpectedly] won then Maloney had to do something with Bomber [and made the Paz match]," Ed recalls.
A young wide-eyed Robinson was present during filming of the infamous poster and photo shoot. "The [poster] still is from the hotel room. It was actually intimidating for a young man. Maloney had hired page three girls. Frank was quite involved with the Daily Sport at the time, and I'm sure Steve Lillis [boxing journalist and broadcaster] who wrote for them was also there."
Young Ed was amazed at how a seasoned Paz had reacted to this scene as though it was the most normal thing in the world. "Paz took it all in his stride. He seemed very much like someone grateful for a second chance at life [following a serious car crash]. He was certainly larger than life."
Paz himself can't believe how long ago this London episode was, where he ended up losing a unanimous decision against the 38-year-old awkward, skilled southpaw at Wembley.
"That was 20 years? That's crazy. It seems like maybe seven or eight tops," he says. "Yeah, we got in a lot of trouble for the poster and all that, but I really never cared," he laughs.