Book Review: Frank Maloneys “No Baloney”
By Curtis McCormick.
Most autobiographies emanating from the sport of boxing have been written by fighters. A new book on the marketplace, however, comes from a refreshingly different viewpoint. Frank Maloney, one of the top boxing managers in the world over the last two decades, has penned his life story, entitled ” No Baloney”. This intriguing book, published by Mainstream, (hardbound, 336 pages) offers a unique behind the scenes perspective at the sport of boxing, from the grass roots level of Maloney’s humble beginnings all the way to handling the career of the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. This isn’t just a rendering of the Byzantine business world of boxing, however, as the ebb and flow of Maloney’s fascinating personal life is chronicled as well. “No Baloney” is an enjoyable read from beginning to end, with a no holds barred honesty characterizing the work. Maloney is one of the true “nice guys” in the sport and as this book is more than anything else an extension of his personality, there’s a lot to like about this smart, sharp and at times very funny autobiography.
Frank Maloney has led a very eventful life, even before any involvement in boxing. His early years make for some of the most entertaining moments of the book. Forays into such diverse disciplines as the priesthood, catering, and “ducking and diving” on the streets of Peckham, South London provide often hilarious moments as we see a sometimes bewildered young man struggle to make sense of it all. Perhaps Frank’s boisterous early years, which saw him extracting himself from one tight spot after another, provided him with invaluable experience that would come in handy navigating the sometimes treacherous but always shifting sands of managing fighters.
As the book continues, the action hurtles along as young Frank grows up and learns about business by running a few restaurants and pubs. Soon, Maloney gets further into London’s boxing scene by becoming a licensed trainer and matchmaker. Things began to get more serious after Maloney meets Frank Warren for the first time in the early eighties, training the future Sports Network honcho’s fledgling stable of fighters briefly before parting ways. The book provides a look at a young Warren, already displaying the form that has made him Europe’s biggest promoter. “After the introductions and small talk Frank surprised me when he said he’d already promoted some very well run and successful shows, and then told me how he planned to apply to be licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control. You couldn’t help but be impressed by Frank. He had the sort of drive and enthusiasm that made you feel he would succeed. He said he wasn’t going to be put off, no matter how difficult some of the cosy boxing establishment might try to make it for him.”
Maloney’s next step was involvement in future world champion Nigel Benn’s career. The book continues along at a frantic pace during this pre-Lewis stage of Maloney’s career as Frank’s telling of his personal trials and tribulations intertwine with the business deals. “The whole thing got a bit heavy and on one occasion she turned up outside my pub in a fur coat and asked to speak with me in her car. When I got in the passenger seat she undid the coat and had nothing on underneath other than a pair of stockings. It gave a whole new meaning to the expression ‘All fur coat and no knickers’ as she threatened to expose herself in the bar of my pub if I didn’t do what she wanted. After a lot more hassle I managed to break free of her clutches.”
One wonders how Maloney was able to juggle all the interpersonal and business situations that he did and just how long he could have managed everything, had the Lewis opportunity never came along.
But, the Lewis opportunity did come along and as manager of the man who would become world heavyweight champion, Maloney was truly at the top of his profession. For twelve years Maloney guided Lennox Lewis’ professional career from its inception through the big Briton becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and beyond. Managing Lewis took Maloney to rarefied heights and that aspect of the London native’s career will undoubtedly draw the bulk of public interest to “No Baloney”.
The story of Maloney and Lewis starts off with a phone call that dramatically altered both their lives. “…..it was while I was at my desk one morning in February that I took a call which was to change the course of my life. It came from Las Vegas and was made by a photographer named Lawrence Lustig, who was out there covering Lloyd Honeyghan’s world welterweight title fight with Marlon Starling. I picked the telephone receiver up and was surprised to hear Lawrence’s voice on the other end of the line. ‘Frank, you’re not going to believe this,’ he said. ‘You know how you want to be a big player in boxing? Well, what if you could sign a heavyweight who could win the world title, and that heavyweight was British?’
The early days of Maloney’s stewardship of Lewis’ career make for some of the most satisfying moments of the book, as times for the manager were full of hope and achievement, but not without the occasional powerplay. “Negotiations with Smith were going well and it really did seem as though he could be the man to rescue the situation. We talked about the sort of set up that was in place and then Hornewer chipped in with a comment that knocked the stuffing out of me. He claimed that in any new deal I would not have such an active role to play and also that my percentage would be reduced. I would be kept on but it was clearly only going to be as a gesture. I was in total shock and could actually feel the tears welling up in my eyes. Not only did I feel betrayed, but I’d also been humiliated in front of a relative stranger. I was too hurt to feel angry, but it just reinforced my view of Hornewer. I disliked him from the moment I first set eyes on him and had never trusted him, now he was really showing his true colors.”
Maloney’s dealings with the biggest names and most colorful characters in the sport pepper the text during this phase of the book. Don King, Mike Tyson, Frank Warren, Emmanuel Steward, Jay Larkin, Panos Eliades, Dan Duva, Riddick Bowe, Rock Newman, Mickey Duff, Ambrose Mendy, Roger Leavitt, Seth Greenberg and many more recognizable names all come up. Some of these figures make fleeting appearances in “No Baloney”, while others, such as Don King, are more finely detailed.
“One of the people who worked for King then told us that the President had wanted Don to have dinner with him that weekend. ‘That’s right,’ boomed Don. ‘I said I can’t have dinner with you, Mr. President. I’m having dinner with my friends from England. Panos and Frank are flying in! I must get my priorities right. Doing a deal with my new partners is more important than having dinner with the President of the United States.’ It was all good stuff and only King could have come up with a crack like that.”
As the fights got bigger and the stakes higher, the Peckham native was in his element and positively thrived going up against figures such as King, who at one point tried unsuccessfully to employ Maloney. Inevitably the tide begin to turn against him, however, with Maloney becoming more and more marginalized within Lewis’ organization, as the champ became increasingly remote. While he survived longer than most inner circle management members did, by the time Lewis fought David Tua in 2000, Maloney was largely a symbolic figure edged out by Adrian Ogun.
“In real terms it was Adrian who had taken over. His job description may have said business manager to Lennox Lewis, but in reality he appeared a whole lot more than that. The two seemed very close and it was obvious that Adrian had Lennox’s ear on a whole range of things. When I arrived in Vegas for the fight Adrian had arranged for me to stay in a suite for a week, but I soon began to feel like an invited guest than anything to do with the Lewis team. It seemed to me as though there were three different camps. Adrian, Panos and Main Events. Everyone was very nice to me and I was told that I was a valued member of the team, but if I’m honest I felt like no more than a whore when it came to my involvement in the fight. I turned up, took my money and went away again. I didn’t really feel as though I contributed much, but that wasn’t my fault, it was down to the way the whole operation was run.”
Maloney and Lewis did officially split two weeks before the heavyweight regained his WBC, IBF and IBO titles from Hasim Rahman in 2001. Rather than fade away into obscurity afterward, however, the book shows how Maloney, who had rejoined with Frank Warren by this time, continues to achieve success with fighters like WBO World Featherweight champion Scott Harrison as well as top drawer domestic British fighters such as Alex Arthur, Kevin Lear and Graham Earl, among others. Even without the heavyweight champion of the world in his stable, Maloney remains the one of the top fight managers in the world and continues to attract top global prospects such as Kevin Mitchell and Jamie Arthur.
The book comes to a close as Maloney enters the realm of politics with the goal of becoming the next Mayor of London in June of this year. After reading the book, such ambition comes as no surprise, as Maloney is evidenced to possess many of the personal characteristics that a successful honest politician would ideally have. In the final analysis, “No Baloney” presents a larger than life character thoroughly in his element and you don’t need to be a boxing fan to enjoy this inspiring self made success story, sharply written by Maloney and co-author Kevin Brennan, which has yet to see it’s final chapter.
“No Baloney-A Journey from Peckham to Las Vegas”
By Frank Maloney with Kevin Brennan
Forward by Ricky Gervais
Available in fine bookstores in the UK and on www.amazon.com.uk
Signed copies with personalized message available at www.frankmaloney.com
Log onto www.frankmaloney.com for the best in British and World boxing.