Frontline Diary: Chandeliers, champagne and champions

Chris Williamson
25/11/2018 11:22pm

Chris Williamson enjoys a random evening which mixes boxing, a three-course meal at a Park Lane hotel and a war of words between ballroom dancer Anton Du Beke and Hall of Fame boxer 'Prince' Naseem Hamed...

The Nordoff Robbins boxing dinner celebrated its tenth anniversary last week and although the evening is arranged to support a tremendous cause in the music therapy charity, there was something quite contrary about enjoying a champagne reception and three-course meal at a fancy Park Lane hotel ballroom while also watching men fight.

However, schedule in some good-natured albeit foul-mouthed anecdotes from the musician Suggs, formerly of the band Madness, as an hors d'oeuvre and add a microphone battle between ballroom dancer Anton Du Beke and boxing legend ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed and the evening took on a whole new level of entertainment. “Fucking hell, as if this night wasn’t already random enough!” laughed the Daily Mirror showbiz reporter as Suggs was introduced.

As for the boxing, the main event saw an exciting ten-round battle for a minor regional WBO belt as Craig Evans outmanned and outfought Boy Jones Jr. The southpaw exerted pressure on Jones from the offset, not letting an early gash over his left eye bother him and taking most of the rounds clearly on my card.

Jones Jr clearly has fighting heart and even won a couple of the later sessions as the Welshman - only given a couple of weeks notice - tired, but at present he simply isn’t physically strong enough to win at fringe domestic level.

The two support bouts were both two-round blow-outs with unbeaten Willy Hutchinson stopping Hungarian Ferenc Albert and London’s Denzel Bentley knocking out Cameroon’s Serge Ambomo with a well-timed right hand.

Nicola Adams was up for the Special Achievement award but produced a sicknote at the last minute, leading her promoter and sponsor of the evening Frank Warren to collect the award on Adams’ behalf.

For those in the room who knew their boxing history, Adams was barely missed as the roll-call of attendees included former undisputed middleweight champ Alan Minter, former WBC light-heavyweight champ John Conteh, former WBC light-middle champ Maurice Hope, former WBO feather champ Colin McMillan in addition to former stars Sylvester Mittee, Dick McTaggart, Sammy McCarthy, Jason Matthews, Ian Napa, Jimmy Batten, Derek Williams and James Cook.

One minor grumble for traditionalists was that Billy Schwer was introduced as the former light-welterweight world champion. Of course, Schwer achieved an awful lot during his career and challenged for legitimate lightweight world titles twice, but an IBO strap does not a legitimate world champ make.

Naseem Hamed was, of course, the world featherweight champ, despite boxing politics preventing him from holding all the titles simultaneously. The Sheffield showman appears to be cropping up at more events recently, with his forthright views an entertaining antidote to the sometimes stale TV punditry on offer.

Anton Du Beke of Strictly Come Dancing proved an acerbic host for the evening but may have bitten off more than he could chew when ribbing Hamed for the weight he’s added to his featherweight frame. Du Beke went too far in my view, suggesting that Hamed would struggle to climb the stairs of the ring, so it was satisfying for guests to hear the quick witted ‘Prince’ land a KO blow when reminding Du Beke who guests were there to see: “I’ve got the microphone now,” said Hamed to laughter and applause, as he did so many times in his 1990s pomp. “You don’t fuck with boxing royalty, bitch.”

Fellow boxing royalty John Conteh did a terrific job hosting the charity auction. The highlight, a replica WBC belt was initially signed by Minter, Hope and Conteh himself. Of course, there was one more WBC champ in the room and the late addition of Hamed’s signature, together with some fine selling skills by Conteh, raised the bidding to £5,000.

To learn more about the work of Nordoff Robbins, including donating to a fine cause, see the link below: