Glenn McCrory

THE STORY OF A WORLD BOXING CHAMPION

GLENN McCRORY is a man for all reasons whose diverse talents have taken him down many avenues of success.

A world boxing champion, of course. All roads led from such a global, history making achievement.

However McCrory is much, much more. An actor, TV documentary maker, boxing coach, deputy lord lieutenant of Northumberland, honorary colonel Durham ACF, chef, worker with the unemployed across Britain, and of course for the last 25 years one of Sky Television’s high profile boxing analysts whose face is instantly recognised across the length and breadth of our land.

Like a chameleon Glenn can reinvent himself as only people of fertile mind can.

He was of course a warrior first and foremost. In a world of bloody conflict McCrory rose from hardship to heights achieved by only a few. He became the first world champion ever produced by the North East where fighting men have walked for a century and more.

Glenn survived the murky world of rip-off merchants, of politics and greed, being boiled like a chicken to make a weight no longer his by nature and forced to train in his own living room with his missus on the pads. Yet after winning the British and Commonwealth cruiser weight crowns he became the IBF world champion on an ecstatic night of gripping emotion on June 3, 1989.

He did it too right here on his own patch before his own folk and in a style which immediately elevated him into folklore. Another fine mess, Stanley? Not on your life. McCrory strode across the Louisa Centre like a king waiting to be crowned and Patrick Lumumba, a man of considerable pedigree imported to meet the challenge, became doomed to failure.

The title was vacant with the legendary Evander Holyfield having moved up to heavyweight in search of the ultimate of prizes and our boy was given his great opportunity. He was only 24 years old but wasn’t about to make a dog’s dinner of it.

The Louisa Centre was literally bursting at the seams. A small, compact venue of 1,500 had seen an extra 500 squeezed within its walls. The place could have been sold out five times over. Such was the weight of expectation from his frenzied followers but Glenn came out like a real fighting man.

Where some of us, including Lumumba no doubt, thought a cautious start was most likely a dervisher left the corner

and waded into the Kenyan who was caught by surprise and a massive left hook. McCrory had put himself in charge and he was never to lose the impetus.

Though he naturally tired adrenalin was pumping through his body and the rafter-shaking cheers of an enthusiastic Geordie crowd lifted arms and strengthened legs. The point’s decision was his without question and we had our world champion. Stanley rocked and the North East rolled.

Glenn McCrory, the kid from no place, was in the only place worth inhabiting and both Newcastle United and Sunderland were knocked off the back pages. A triumphant fighter rode through the streets of North West Durham on an open topped bus. He had fame though most certainly not fortune.

A voluntary defence was quickly lined up against another African Siza Makathini in the October. The venue switched to a massive tent outside the Eaton Leisure Centre on the outskirts of Middlesbrough. American promoter Cedric Kushner had combined with local fight maker John Spensley to drum up a full house of 3,500. As with his title winning bout Glenn had to work off a pound having come to the scales above the 13st 8lb limit.

He wasn’t a natural cruiser nor a fully blown heavyweight which was the one bad deal nature had handed him.

Makathini was six inches shorter than McCrory but had a reputation as a big puncher and had prepared thoroughly at Brian Mitchell’s camp in San Diego.

Makathini worried us all in the early rounds as he took charge and the champion was made to sweat. However McCrory was a man with a heart the size of a frying pan and bucket loads of courage and from the sixth round he began to turn around the fight. Rounds nine and ten confirmed that Glenn was driving the truck. And 67 seconds into the 11th McCrory struck with a flurry of blows and a clubbing left hander that finished off his opponent. The Geordie kid with the film star looks was carried shoulder high from the ring. He had proved he could win both ways, from the front and coming from behind.

By 1990 dawned McCrory was embroiled in his third world championship scrap.

his time an American Jeff Lampkin was brought over to Gateshead on March 22 but he wasn’t Glenn’s real opponent.

The cruiser limit is what would do for him. I’ve always been the closest of pals with McCrory, even being allowed into the inner sanctum of his dressing-room just minutes before he won the world crown, and what I saw in the build up to Lampkin made me fear for his health never mind his championship belt.

Glenn was being boiled alive. I watched him train in a tight rubber suit in front of fans blowing stiflingly hot air directly at him until he almost collapsed. The man was a bag of bones, no longer amble to make the cruiser weight normally but being sacrificed for the money and the world title. Boxers can become nothing more than pawns in a game with those who never take a crack on the jaw the real winners.

What is ironic is that today the cruiser limit is 14st 4lb and that extra 10lb would have seen Glenn fit and strong, a natural. Inevitably McCrory lost his beloved title well inside the allotted time. Lampkin arrived on the back of a strung of victories inside the distance and McCrory, realising he hadn’t the strength to go the full 12 rounds, attempted to take him out with one good shot. An uppercut stung Lampkin but he survived and in round three a left hook under the rib cage caught Glenn. You could see the strength seep out of him as though someone he pulled the plug in the bath and it was all over.

His world title had gone and so had his manager back to America with nothing to keep him here any more. Fairweather friends!

McCrory had one more crack at gaining a world strap and once again I was with him breaking new ground in Moscow. Pro boxing had been banned in Russia but with capitalism came opportunity, gangsters, glitz and confusion. It was twenties America Al Capone style.

The first pro boxing bill ever staged in the Russian capital was McCrory against Yank Alfred ‘Ice’ Cole on a show flamboyantly entitled the Storm of Freedom. I was the only member of the written press on tour with the McCrory camp at the Prosekt Mitre Stadium in July of 1993 and it really was an eye popper. Everyone, McCrory included, was checked for guns at the weigh in and mobsters running protection rackets were in every nightclub and restaurant.

McCrory had prepared better for this cruiser weight challenge losing weight gradually under the eye of someone who cared, Geordie conditioning coach Steve Black, and he went the distance comfortably enough against an opponent who had won 21 of his 22 fights. It was, however, time for Glenn to say goodbye and so 1993 saw him move on to other exciting and diverse projects.

The man who had sparred almost 100 rounds with Mike Tyson and fought Lennox Lewis for the British and European heavyweight crown switched to the other side of the roped square slipping effortlessly behind a mike as a boxing analyst with Sky Television, a job which has seen him travel the globe for 25 years to watch the greatest fights ever featuring every single boxing icon.

With the looks of a James Bond, excellent delivery, and a willingness to tell it as it is McCrory has won over a host of new boxing fans. The fight game has been good to him and him for it.
However it hasn’t been his only playground. Far from it. A restless, fertile mind and desire to try all things new has seen him flit between making TV documentaries, being a celebrity chef, and acting.

It has been my pleasure to work with him on several projects. We flew to Las Vegas to film The Meanest Men On The Planet comparing the fearsome clubbing fists of Sonny Liston and Mike Tyson. We did a similar documentary on Newcastle United’s last championship winning skipper Hughie Gallacher, a footballer who made George Best and Gazza look like Cliff Richard. And Glenn brought rocker Jerry Lee Lewis back to Newcastle’s City Hall for a nostalgic concert where I joined him behind the scenes to record an epic moment in Geordie pop history.

With someone like Glenn McCrory this isn’t the full story. Not even half of it. Much lies ahead, some already planned others yet to be dreamed up and turned into reality. It has been a joyful switchback ride and I can’t wait to find out what is next!

John Gibson
Multi-Award winning Journalist