The 78-year-old former boxer turned TikToker dominating influencers at their own game

Frank Gilfeather – The 78-year-old former boxer turned TikToker dominating influencers at their own game
Scottish amateur champion Frank Gilfeather has become a rising social media sensation - YouTube/Kombat Kreation

Frank Gilfeather never expected that at the age of 78 he would be a viral internet sensation dominating the boxing influencer game.

Yet in the past few months the Scotsman who fought the late great Ken Buchanan as an amateur has garnered 400 thousand plus followers from around the globe.

Gilfeather’s no nonsense methods for teaching boxing – “laddie, get your body through your right cross” – and an unbridled love of the sport have made his videos go-to material for boxing fans, TikTokers, and those who admire his passion and love of the sport - not to mention his unbelievable physicality as he approaches his ninth decade.

Last December, Gilfeather had 170 Instagram followers, now ‘Frank’s Noble Art’ has 405k fans on the social media platform, and indeed, his ‘Noble Art’ boxing gloves are being snapped up around the world by young boxers and renowned celebrities – including Frank Stallone, brother of Sly, he of the ‘Rocky’ franchise.

Gilfeather, still a boxer we might say, and a former journalist and television reporter – he had many a run in with Sir Alex Ferguson when he was a football manager in Scotland – has been boxing for over 70 years, had 200 bouts as a Scottish champion including the fight with Buchanan – regarded as Scotland’s finest post-WW2 boxer.

“The Instagram thing has come later in the day, TikTok was the thing that kicked it off,” explained Gilfeather to Telegraph Sport, whose son Paul had filmed him throwing an uppercut and put it on TikTok. “I didn’t grasp the potential enormity of it, before long the TikTok thing just zoomed, it was fantastic. We used to post things occasionally on Instagram, and then all of a sudden, virtually overnight, I went from 170 Instagram followers, to 405,000. Once it caught hold, it was like wildfire. It’s the feedback that pleases me.”

One of the things that comes across so powerfully in Gilfeather’s videos is his insistence on execution when one is boxing, and his physicality in his videos, which belies his years. “Well lots of people mention my age, of course, and that’s fine… sometimes I can’t quite believe it. People say to me ‘why don’t you take it a little easier on the punch bag’, and my answer is, I do not know how to.”

It all plays into Gilfeather’s philosophy, and a truism indeed, that ‘you cannot play boxing’.

Gilfeather started aged 4 in the gym, run by his father. “For me it’s a proper workout, it’s not just tippy-tappy and looking good. I have found a lack of teaching in boxing as opposed to coaching. Why do we throw a punch like this, why do we block, why are we not thinking about defence?

And this is the thing that I feel in the gyms that I’ve been around, few coaches actually talk about defence, they talk about attack all the time, but of course, defence is number one; there is no point I tell kids in going into a contest, winning it, but having taken a heap of blows in the process. It’s all about the violent chess as I call it, the skill, outwitting your opponent.”

There’s no arguing with Frank’s reasoning, either, and he cites Floyd Mayweather Jr’s technical skills which make him one of the greats, “a master of his craft”. “He had this piston-like jab and could connect really firmly and then sway back and he was two inches out of danger…he had this special thing…”

‘Usyk is a boxer, Fury is not’

On the subject of modern boxing, we talk about the upcoming undisputed heavyweight title fight, soon to be played out on May 18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where Tyson Fury meets Oleksandr Usyk. Gilfeather has staunch views on the state of the sport now – “too much circus” – and firmly believes Usyk will outbox Fury in Riyadh.

“Let’s knock out all of this nonsense around boxing, let’s do it the way they used to do it in the old days,” Frank insisted, before delivering his combination punching verdict on Fury-Usyk. “For me, it’s Usyk. I’ve been asked this before and Usyk’s a boxer, Fury is not.. Fury doesn’t light my fire, he’s a 1-2 punch, then merchant grab, 1-2 grab, and that’s obvious why: he’s 20 stone, he’s 6 foot 9, he has zero mobility, he’s got to land the punches then grab. I think Fury may just be slightly going over the hill.”

Then there was Frank’s video about Anthony Joshua. “I cited Anthony Joshua as being a guy I thought had not fulfilled his potential at that point, two years ago, despite having won world titles and so on …I thought he could be better, and one of the flaws I found in him was, in my view, his inability to throw a proper cross so I did this video about used to infuriate me when I saw guys throwing a straight arm cross and so I did this critique of Joshua in that video and I said if only he would do, as you mentioned earlier, turn his head and body… now he does it by the way.”

Gilfeather’s own career was pretty decent, gaining his Scottish vest, boxing many times and travelling abroad to represent his country. He never played rugby – “too brutal” - but he describes and recalls with such circumspection his three round featherweight battle with the late, great Buchanan, as if it were yesterday, rather than over fifty years ago. Both were on the Scotland team, and twelve thousand spectators were there in Leith Town Hall “a stone’s throw from Buchanan’s home for the showdown.

“These were great occasions vying for the Scotland vest, and the atmosphere was electric. I did a stupid thing, at least my trainer Jim Brady did – and this was how primitive things were – we didn’t have a set of scales in the boxing club, but Jim had an antique set of jockey scales, the ones you sit on, and we used those.”

His tales from the ring

Gilfeather ended up under weight, but still had a great battle with Buchanan against whom he aimed “to get under his jab and thump him in his ribs or the heart” which he did to great effect. He lost. But he wanted a rematch too. By all accounts, Buchanan didn’t.

Gilfeather regales with tales of crossing Checkpoint Charlie to box in the European Championships in East Berlin in 1965, past “guards, guns and alsatians” to box for Scotland in an amateur vest, recalled Harry Carpenter calling him a winner in a fight he was “robbed” of, and how, to his chagrin, he had missed out on a place at the Commonwealth Games in 1966 in Jamaica due to the politics and judging in amateur boxing.

Gilfeather may have felt he was destined to be a ring legend, but it was as a journalist (until May last year) that he eventually found his calling. “No one could beat me when I was 15, and at 16, I was even boxing guys like Freddy Owens, who was a Commonwealth bronze medallist and sparring partner of Walter McGowan.

So I had my focus on becoming a professional, but when I was 19, I was at a dinner, staged by the Daily Record newspaper to mark the winning of the world flyweight champion by McGowan.”

He was McGowan’s major sparring partner from the age of 15, and Peter Keenan who was the main promoter in Scotland in those days insisted Gilfeather should turn to the pro ranks and go down to London to make his name.

“I’m looking round this table Peter and the guys wearing mohair suit, drinking the Napoleon Brandy and smoking the Havana cigars is the promoter. It hit me that night these are the guys that are making money, and the boxers who are doing all the heavy lifting and the hard work, they’re the ones who are ending up with sore heads and broken careers and very little money. That was that night I decided not to be a professional boxer.”

As a journalist, Gilfeather enjoyed a long career but his love of boxing – an addiction perhaps – has never stopped him passing on the fighting art form. And there is no stopping him... “If I’m still doing it in 5 years time I’ll be really happy. If a kid sees how it’s done, it’s easy for him to replicate.”

And if Frank continues, the followers online will just grow and grow...