By Dan Emicus

07/01/13

"My proudest moments come whenever I help fighters achieve their ambitions. For example, Ben Murphy was in the boxing wilderness when I signed him and I helped manoeuvre him to two British title shots. I've helped many fighters achieve their dreams over the years and I'm very proud of that." UK Boxing manager and promoter Mickey Helliet sits down with SylvanaBoxing. Check it out!


DE: In addition to being a boxer yourself back in the day, you have since been a trainer, a manager, a prominent matchmaker, and a promoter. How did you come to make the transitions from each of these things until finally you started promoting your own shows?

MH: I began training fighters as a hobby, mainly to fill the void that was left when my own career was cut short. I badly needed something to focus on and began training junior amateurs at Finchley ABC & Dale Youth.

DE: From a matchmaking perspective and with due consideration of a prospect's development, how important would you say it is for a boxer to meet opponents of a variety of different styles and statures?

MH: It's very important. I am perplexed when novice fighters tell me they don't want to fight southpaws, counterpunches or whoever. To me those early fights are an important part of bringing a fighter on. What if a fighter gets made the mandatory challenger against a champion who is a southpaw and the fighter has always avoided that stance up until then? I always take time to discuss an opponent with my fighters, especially if the opponent has a particular style or is awkward, but its part of the learning process. I want my fighters to be in as strong a position as possible and that means getting the right kind of experience.

DE: Given that there can be a thin line between the two, how you distinguish a learning fight from a mismatch?

MH: It's very important not to overmatch a guy before he's ready to step up. The way the business is developing, I see a lot of fighters being slung in out of their depth, as well as before they have even had the chance to be marketed correctly. What is important to me as a manager is that they achieve the best for their potential. It's also very rare that any of my journeymen get stopped. Knowing how to make the right fight at the right time is where i see a lot of inexperienced managers and promoters damaging fighters careers. If they're not signed with me, I guess it's not my problem, but I don't like to see it happen all the same.

DE: What kind of things do you take into consideration before signing up and/or deciding to invest in a boxer?

MH: Lots of things, such as their attitude, commitment, their ability to listen and learn, and their understanding of the commercial side, as well as the sport side of things.

DE: How frustrating is it when a fighter pulls out of a card at short-notice?

MH: Very frustrating but it is part of the business, so we try to have a plan B in place just incase!

DE: Would you say that journeymen are generally underappreciated?

MH: Yes, very much. I speak to and learn about all my journeymen. That way I can help them achieve their aims, taking as little physical punishment as possible in the process, while keeping the BBBoC off their backs. Again, matching is very important for them.

DE: From the perspective of a manager, what in all does looking after fighters normally entail?

MH: Everything! For a journeyman it can be making sure they are busy and well matched so they aren't getting whacked. For a contender, it can be organising sparring and helping them find a training environment that suits them.

DE: Are there any journeymen off the top of your head who you feel could have had very different careers had they been managed differently in the early stages of their careers?

MH: Yes, a lot of them could have had potential and can fight but ended up where they are because they were slung into too hard fights too early. I won't name them because I work with (and will continue to work with) lots of managers and promoters who have done that.

DE: In this day and age, why is constructing a record and hanging on to the '0' still so important when building a fighter up?

MH: No matter what anyone says, TV demands that records are attractive. If the record isn't attractive, the fighters marketability is adversely affected.

DE: Which would you say is worse for the sport, fighters with padded records being fast-tracked to a big fight which they are exposed in, or good fighters being kept apart from each other regardless of how much it "making sense" for them to meet?

MH: Both of those are bad for boxing. I don't sling fighters in. From the other angle, once they are ready and able to step up to a big fight, what's the point in holding them back? I assess my guys, then work towards taking them to the highest level for their ability.

DE: The integrity of the sport typically comes into question whenever a high profile fight is marred by questionable scoring, but surely the issue lies much deeper than that when there are away fighters at all levels that get screwed over constantly and in every country?

MH: Yes it does and for boxing as a sport to thrive, it is something that needs to be eradicated.

DE: Do you feel that Boxing can learn from MMA and take note of what has led to its surge in popularity?

ME: I think boxing can take a lot from the way MMA is marketed. That said, big boxing fights still draw far higher viewing figures and bigger purses, so there isn't any panic around most boxing promoters.

DE: How do you perceive Prizefighter and do you foresee that it can continue being a platform indefinitely?

MH: I'm a fan of Prizefighter. It is very watchable and produces a lot of competitive and unpredictable fights which has to be good viewing.

DE: There is a big difference in the public profile of British boxers nowadays in comparison to the 80s and 90s. Why do you feel that is?

MH: The fact that terrestrial TV withdrew from boxing has to be the biggest factor in this. The BBC is supposed to be the people's channel and it should show the people's sport. Boxing does a lot of good to our country. For the Beeb to have ploughed money in the way I understand it did to Formula 1, which is a sport that attracts huge sponsorship and is the sport of the privileged few, doesn't rest well with me at all.

DE: How significant is it that sometimes unlicensed shows are selling-out, while some small-hall boxing shows aren't?

MH: Pro boxing needs to adapt to the current economic, political and social environment. In its current format it is often unworkable for smaller promoters which is why they turn to the unlicensed stuff. I do think more could be done by the BBBoC to help small promoters.

DE: Off the top of your head, some of your highlights and lowlights to date as a manager or promoter?

MH:  The worst moment was a fighter I managed (Lewis Pinto) taking his own life. My proudest moments come whenever I help fighters achieve their ambitions. For example, Ben Murphy was in the boxing wilderness when I signed him and I helped manoeuvre him to two British title shots. I've helped many fighters achieve their dreams over the years and I'm very proud of that.

DE: With regards to the business element of boxing, what do you feel is often misunderstood or overlooked by fans?

MH: Maybe that boxing is an incredibly short career. For that reason, the fighters need to be carefully mapped out rather than charging straight into the biggest pay day straight away. When the fighters are built carefully, the biggest paydays come. If they are rushed into big fights, careers can be ruined very easily.

DE: Any advice to anyone in boxing who might be contemplating going into managing or promoting?

MH: My way has always been to be honest and reliable,. It's worked well for me, so I'd say follow that and get a good matchmaker!

DE: What kind of interests do you have outside of boxing?

MH: I don't have much time for anything outside boxing. It's pretty much all consuming 24 hours, 7 days a week. I have a girlfriend and I stay in touch with my family!