Glyn Leach RIP
In August 2014, Glyn Leach - the longtime, much loved and highly respected editor of Boxing Monthly magazine - passed away. Here are tributes from those who knew him ...
I worked with Glyn from 1991 up to his sudden and untimely passing in 2014. I think we had only two serious misunderstandings in almost a quarter of a century of working together, quickly cleared up on each occasion.
At first, I was editor of Boxing Monthly, working out of an office in Notting Hill Gate, west London, on a year-long sabbatical from The Vancouver Sun newspaper, with Glyn the assistant editor. Inside a year, Glyn and current publisher Nigel Baker had the opportunity to acquire ownership of the title. I re-crossed the pond to rejoin the Sun, and Glyn assumed the role of editor. He gave me the title of American Editor. It was a smooth working relationship, whether on-site with Glyn in London, or long distance.
Glyn was a wonderful editor. He had a quirky sense of humour that showed itself in the pages of the magazine from time to time. While Glyn stayed clear of boxing politics, he did criticise constructively when he felt this was necessary.
One thing that particularly annoyed Glyn was when a TV network would slip in an intentional spoiler. In cases where TV boxing shows were on more or less simultaneously, on different networks, Glyn would watch one show live while recording the other show to watch later, “as live”.
Glyn took a dim view of it if the network he was watching live gave out the result from the other show. As I remember, he took Sky to task for blurting out the result of David Price’s stunning KO defeat against Tony Thompson on BoxNation that evening. (Sky was showing a Prizefighter heavyweight tournament that evening.) As Glyn pointed out, all the excitement and sense of drama had been drained out of the Price fight by the Sky spoiler. Glyn felt that these spoilers were counter-productive because they alienated viewers, whose enjoyment of the other network’s event had been, in effect, ruined.
Glyn was generous in many ways. In all the years I was covering North America for Boxing Monthly, I had a free rein to cover any show I liked on site. The only time Glyn pulled rank was when the Cuban heavyweight Jorge Luis Gonzalez fought Riddick Bowe in Las Vegas. Glyn had a soft spot for Gonzalez and an affinity for the then boxing director at the MGM, Dennis Finfrock, who sadly died in 2009 at only 62.
While Glyn covered big fights on-site in Japan (George Foreman vs Crawford Grimsley), Russia (Al “Ice” Cole vs Glenn McCrory) and Memphis (Michael Nunn vs Crawford Ashley) he had desperately bad luck with trips overseas. Glyn travelled to Hong Kong to cover an ambitious show that was to have featured Frank Bruno against Ray Mercer and three other big international bouts, but the show was cancelled at the last moment due to financial problems. (Glyn phoned from the hotel in Hong Kong to say: “It’s nice sitting out by the pool, but that’s not why I came out here!”) He arranged to cover a Mike Tyson fight (against Buster Mathis Jr) in Las Vegas but the show was cancelled at the 11th hour, ostensibly due to Tyson hurting his thumb but in reality because another show in Las Vegas that night (the Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield rubber match) was proving a far bigger hit with fans and media. Glyn, in Las Vegas, ended up watching Bowe-Holyfield from the auxiliary press seating at Caesars Palace. “You keep the ringside spot, mate,” Glyn told me. “It was just my bad luck that ‘my’ fight got cancelled.”
To cap it all, Glyn was in New York for the Holyfield vs Henry Akinwande heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Garden when the results of routine blood testing showed that Akinwande was suffering from Hepatitis B, and the whole show cancelled the day before it was due to take place. “I can’t believe this,” Glyn said when he phoned from New York. “Not again!”
Through it all, Glyn remained stoic — although he confessed to “losing it” briefly when the Holyfield fight cancellation was made public — and he shrugged off temporary disappointment to focus on making Boxing Monthly the best magazine he could possibly make it. He wanted it to be a publication that would resonate with the boxing community. The outpouring of respect and affection on Glyn’s passing showed that he succeeded. - Graham Houston, Boxing Monthly Editor.
The true measure of Glyn Leach’s immense contribution to boxing was the outpouring of natural and spontaneous affection after his untimely passing one year ago. Glyn was never shy to ‘shoot from the hip’ and tell you how it was (“Mark, for fuck’s sake!”) but his fondness for a profanity and mischievous, no holds barred sense of humour belied an extremely generous, wonderful and deeply kind-hearted man. He was a quick-witted maverick in a world filled with clones and wannabes and poured his life and soul into the pages of his magazine.
What astonished me in the weeks following his passing was just how many young and aspiring writers Glyn had helped in his own time despite being burdened by onerous deadlines. Each had a heartfelt story, a precious memory of an encouragement or meaningful advice that had bolstered their confidence and belief that they might create an imprint in this thankless business.
I first met Glyn in the mid-1990s when I was a young staff writer at Boxing News and liked him instantly. He was a rebel with a heart of gold. A leather-jacketed Glyn dubbed me ‘an exasperated jazz poet’ back then when I was sipping black coffee and performing spoken word in Soho nightspots to the wide-eyed bemusement of others in the boxing community. The banter was natural and ever present with Glyn.
It was a genuine privilege to work for him in his final year as BM Editor and, like so many others, I feel robbed of the rich company and friendship of a wonderful man. In the last year, the people who respected and admired him so much have worked tirelessly to keep his legacy alive. Glyn was a top, top geezer and will never be forgotten. Boxing Monthly fights on in his memory. - Mark Butcher.
When word reached me that Glyn had passed away it prompted a whirlwind of thoughts.
How best to remember the man? How do you pay tribute to him publically while bearing in mind that the people closest to him had spent decades working alongside him and were feeling their own painful and private grief? What had boxing lost?
I can partially answer one of those questions. Boxing lost a champion, a friend, an independent spirit, a colleague, mentor and, most importantly from my perspective, a unique voice in an increasingly monochrome, corporate world.
I bought my first copy of BM in January 1995 (Volume 6, issue 9). Oliver McCall glared at me from the front cover, an effrontery to a die-hard Lennox Lewis fan still struggling to come to terms with his hero’s first defeat.
The next issue brought no small measure of relief; Glyn interviewed Lewis and Emanuel Steward, his new trainer. Both men outlined a plan for the future. Explaining that Lewis was undone by a technical deficiency he had brought from the amateur ranks and that previous trainers had failed to correct.
A paper round first brought the mag to my attention. One of the houses on my route had a BM subscription. I’d secrete myself in some privets or a ginnel and speed-read each issue before quickly graduating to buying my own copy.
The mag would be passed around the school playground like a common cold or an addiction raging its way through a peer group. Fellow boxing fans took a look before handing it to the next in line. It would eventually find its way back to me - I was clear about that.
Next thing you know I was a student, cleaning toilets for a living and existing in an acrid, money tight environment. However, I still made sure that I grabbed BM as soon as it hit the shelves at the end of the month.
My housemate worked nights and we lived hard during the days. We’d pass the magazine around our house so that the comers and goers could have a look - you had to watch and understand boxing if you wanted to come around here. Then I’d take it to my lectures and it would do the rounds there.
In my time, I must have passed many, many copies of BM to hundreds of people. If Glyn was here now, I honestly believe that he’d gently shake his head, look me in the eyes and say: “Fuck’s sake, Tezza, you should have made them buy a copy. We’re running a business here!”
He would have had a point, too, as independence comes at a cost: hard work, dedication, total commitment and attention to the minutiae of both the sport and business of boxing.
Since Glyn’s passing, writers past and present have come together to ensure that Boxing Monthly remains a fertile print breeding ground for the boxing writers of the future.
His long-time brother-at-arms and fellow voice of reason and experience Graham Houston now helms the ship - destination boxing, always boxing.
Ultimately, words fail us when a young person dies unexpectedly and with so much left to give. Only Ernest Hemingway came close to describing that feeling when he wrote:
‘You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light.
‘But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.’
RIP Glyn Leach, who lives on in the publication he loved and through the work of his friends, colleagues, and an army protégés. - Terry Dooley.
I first met Glyn Leach in 1989 at the Thomas A Becket when it was an ordinary south London pub with a boxing gym shoe-horned into the upstairs room. We were there because Michael Watson had won Boxing Monthly’s 'Fighter of the month' award, and there was a presentation. Dean Powell was working behind the bar. It’s so sad that Glyn and Dean are no longer with us. - Nigel Baker, Publisher, Boxing Monthly.
A few weeks after I started work at Boxing Monthly's Victoria Park office I sent Glyn an e-mail asking if I could come in a bit later the following Thursday as I had to take my daughter Molly for her secondary school entrance exam. His five word e-mail reply still makes me laugh now: "Fuck off. Get it adopted." (This meant yes, obviously).
Glyn was consistently hilarious. He would come into the office in the morning laden down with a large black coffee and an espresso 'chaser' and then continue his caffeine intake throughout the day whilst smoking innumerable cigarettes on the patch of grass outside the office.
Glyn was amazingly sensitive and extremely kind. He had a boyish sense of mischief (he told my then 10-year-old daughter that Nigel kept a crack pipe under his desk) and would on occasion be seized by fits of uncontrollable giggles. His absence leaves a huge void in the office. In some ways it doesn't seem like a year since he died but in other ways it feels like a lifetime ago. - Sue Bushnell, Boxing Monthly.
I first met Glyn in 1997 (Robin Reid vs Sugar Boy Malinga) and worked for him the following year as a bright-eyed 18-year-old. I was/am gobsmacked that nearly 20 years later I am still doing various things which stemmed from a Steve Bunce phonecall and a "Speak to my mate Glyn Leach" introduction........ and I owe it all to Glyn.
He gave chances to young scribes, gave direction and advice in a loving way to help fellow boxing fans. He had a way of being able to tear you to shreds, but you came out of it feeling better! (He ripped me a new hole once over the way I'd worded something to him, and I never made the same mistake twice, I can tell you!).
I have fond memories of working in the Boxing Monthly offices in the late 90s, with well-spaced intervals of "Fancy a cheese bagel, son? How many? Tea or coffee? Back in a jiffy!" Or the phone ringing one day and he said, "Yes. Trinidad" and then put the phone down...... I enquired what it was all about and he said, "Someone wanted to know who won the big fight yesterday." (Trinidad vs De La Hoya). I asked who he thought it was: "Some idiot who probably writes for a daily and pretends they follow boxing."
I never met anyone who compartmentalised their life so much, and so well. The four main areas of his life never seemed to have a crossover, so one which sticks in my memory was a phone conversation in which he was desperate to offer advice to Howard Eastman, but didn't think ‘The Battersea Bomber’ would be interested. As the chat progressed, he let slip he wasn't free that weekend as he was off competing in the British Flyfishing championship....... He laughed, heartily I might add, when I said to him that if he won he should use his Editor’s page to say "Howard, from one British champion to another" but just fail to quantify his title!
His final email to me is quite chilling on reflection as he normally gave me a deadline chivvy of some sort: his last one read "Shut down after Saturday coming, Kidder" and he didn't see the Monday...... I miss him and think of him often: my own work philosophy being, "Would Glyn have allowed it?" - Colin Harris.
It was only in what turned out to be the last few years of his life that I got to know Glyn Leach, who by the time he passed away a year ago had become a very good friend for me in the world of boxing. Strangely, we never met, despite twelve months of regular contact and regular work for Boxing Monthly, made even stranger perhaps by our finally arranging a time to meet shortly before his death. Glyn was that rare person, though, in the boxing world: unfailingly generous and selfless, with a degree of skepticism that never tottered over into cynicism allied to a huge love for his sport. He was also a much better writer than he ever allowed himself to believe. In addition, he was a surprisingly eager timekeeper: I'll not forget Glyn having me turn up an hour early to the McGuigan Gym in Battersea for an interview with Carl Frampton, where I discovered Carl halfway through a post-session massage (and wondering what I could possibly be doing there). Glyn's sincerely missed to this day. - Oliver Goldstein.
Glyn was sharp, candid, and exceptionally generous with his time. We initially met via Twitter — he had perfected the art and I was merely a newbie — before he published my first ever contribution to BM, 'Russian Revolution'. He was passionately committed to the sport and his humour, insights, and encouragement will not be forgotten. It is a great personal and professional loss that he is no longer with us, but his legacy is a supremely accomplished one. With best wishes to his family. - Jessi Jackalope.
Glyn would probably say "Don't be soft" for writing something like this.
It took me a long time to get into "BM Towers". Glyn would reply to my ideas with advice and questions. In time, I became part of BM but never did I think I would be fortunate to strike up a friendship with the great man.
Glyn had a significant impact on me. He didn't think he was doing anything but the time he gave to me, which ended up on the phone at least once a week and him calling me Sheamus, rather than Shaun, was always a learning experience.
Sometimes he'd tell me stories of his travels to America, memories of other writers and his straight from the hip opinions of boxing yesterday, today and tomorrow. I'd listen, absorbing it all feeling lucky and honoured after every conversation.
To me, he was a giant of a man with a heart of gold. A superb writer and editor who became bit of a mentor - I used to wind him about that because he used to hate being referred to one!
He got me through some tough times, picked me up when I didn't want to be and pushed me to be better. I owe him more than he will ever know. He is missed everyday, his loss has left a huge hole in boxing journalism because he was cut from a cloth which is hard to find.
His voice and his words made a difference to the BM readers and to those still trying to find theirs. You are greatly missed, boss. - Shaun Brown.