The Pugilist

Good luck to Kellie, but the spirit of Frank Maloney lives on

The Pugilist

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As I type this, Sunday, August 10 2014 is about to draw to a close and I’ve yet to fully get over the shock from what I woke up to see on my mobile phone this morning.

All over Eurosport, other major sport websites and apps and especially social media was the Sunday Mirror front page story that legendary boxing promoter Frank Maloney is undergoing a sex change.


Frank – now going by the first name Kellie – said she knew for years that she was a woman, deep down. This is often the case when it comes to sex changes. For a long time, ‘coming out of the closet’ as homosexual came with the same, arduous inner conflict.

Why? Mostly because of society, it would seem. To have revealed his true feelings back in the 1990s, at the height of his success, would have been immensely difficult, understandably. To do so in such a testosterone-fuelled sport running on the ticket money of boozed-up sociopaths looking for a forum where they can spew bile as they please would not have ended well for Kellie at all.

Moreso than in the modern day, yesteryear has a not-so-glittering resume of intolerance. Sexual, racial, class and various other forms of discrimination lie at the root of much of the evils of human history. It makes sense that Maloney could only make this decision after a high-profile run in the murky world of pugilism came to an end.

And yet, as my eyes scanned the news feeds, the revelation was nonetheless producing a lot of unbearable reaction. Funnily enough, only 30-40% of it was macho, narrow-minded ‘banter’. The rest of it was, ironically, people speaking out against the unimaginative and uneducated.

As with many other serious topics in the 21st century, the Kellie Maloney story was awash with a horde of people desperately trying to come across as the moral conscience of the situation.

It’s almost becoming a ‘second wave’ of insipid social grandstanding on most forums. In fact, they’re as tedious as those making tasteless jokes at Kellie’s expense. The endless supply of migraine-inducing Facebook posts, Tweets and otherwise criticising anyone reacting to the news differently to they was almost as sad as the fact that Kellie had to wait this long to open up.

Even things as minor as when to use ‘he/him’ and when to use ‘she/her’ have been grounds for yet more ‘holier than thou’ nausea. I have to break the taboo.

It doesn’t matter if you use ‘he’ or ‘she’ as you first digest the news. It’s okay to be surprised. It’s fine to be a little confused over how to address it. And that goes for the tedious people building themselves a pedestal every bit as much as those genuinely still taken aback.

Unless you happened to be fairly close to Kellie, this news was a bolt out of the blue in a field of interest where, right or wrong, sensitive issues outside of a fighter’s wellbeing are often swept under the rug. The tragic demise of Dean Powell last year is another example of this.

Amid all the shock and confusion over the last 24 hours, I am certain of one thing, and it may not be a particularly popular thing to say among the ‘pretend enlightened’.

Kellie Maloney may be who she always felt she was, and more power to her for doing so. But, Kellie was born a man. And that man was a legendary British promoter called Frank Maloney.

I will always remember Frank Maloney, the man who was a pivotal fixture in the domestic fight scene and helped put together battles and cards which captivated young fans such as myself and made me a fight fanatic in the first place.

That’s not because I disrespect Kellie’s wishes, or because I’m a chauvinist. It’s because that’s exactly what happened.

Kellie made the decision public in August 2014. To set the truth free any sooner was an option only she could have taken.

She elected not to. Thus, Frank Maloney’s legacy for many of us will be what it is.

Given the nature of professional boxing, it’s almost certain that Maloney would not have helped Lennox Lewis become undisputed heavyweight champion of the world as a female promoter called Kellie.

Yes, it sucks that such discrimination exists at such a high level, but that’s how it is. To look at it the other way, Kellie’s decades of inner turmoil were balanced by fame and fortune as well as sporting immortality. Unfortunately, not everyone in Kellie’s situation gets an opportunity at compensation quite like that.

Was it worth it? Only Kellie Maloney knows the answer, for sure.

Once all the dust settles on this rather unexpected development, there’s a strong chance Kellie will feel that the timing was just right.

After all, boxing promoters are not successful because of their ability to make friends. You need a thick skin and a ruthless streak to thrive in that environment, even for a short while.

That said, the cracks were there late on. When Frank’s last heavyweight hope David Price was knocked out by Tony Thompson, Maloney was rushed to the hospital after a collapse.

At the time, cynics joked that the expiration of his final meal ticket caused the faint. In hindsight, things look a lot differently.

And if so, I hope Kellie Maloney lives a relatively peaceful life from here on out.

It was because of Frank that anyone is sitting up and taking notice of Kellie emerging from the shadows. It is because of Frank that the name Kellie Maloney will likely feature in some boxing halls of fame and lifetime achievement roll calls.

And because of that, I suspect Kellie is not consumed with regret about the first 60+ years of her existence.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe

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