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Meeting Boxer John Conteh ( Interview )

Glax0r's Photo Glax0r 05 Oct 2012

Meeting boxer John Conteh


Published on October 5, 2012

Posted ImageJohn Conteh relaxing in Paphos
Boxing legend John Conteh spent two days in Paphos helping to raise thousands for local causes. BEJAY BROWNE met him

Former World Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion John Conteh looked fit and well as he spoke ahead of a two-day golfing charity event in Paphos. And, his unique take on life proved both entertaining and witty.

Retired from boxing since 1980, Conteh is now both a keen golfer and an after-dinner speaker, sharing his sharp wit and dry sense of humour with captive audiences all over the world.

In his Liverpudlian lilt, the former boxer spoke of his delight at visiting Cyprus for the first time. “It is an honour to be asked to come and play and speak at this fund-raising event. I do what I can for a number of charities in the UK, I think it’s important to help people wherever possible.”

He added, “It's for the families and medical staff in the front line and helping people who are less fortunate than us. Health is what it’s all about at the end of the day.”

And he has had his own problems, suffering from with a high level of cholesterol in the past, which is now under control. “Its important to eat the right foods and stay fit,” he said, “I do a bit of jogging – I play a lot of charity golf - I’ve been playing for 28 years now.”
Still a charmer, the 61 year old - the forth eldest of ten siblings – says it’s difficult coming from a large family. “It’s hard coming form a large family, but you always have company. We all did a bit of sport but none of the others continued with it. But when I discovered boxing I knew it was for me.

“My father was a welder and he was trying to get me into that. I had about eight different apprenticeships, but I couldn’t stick with them I didn’t have the patience. I think my longest stint was about four months.”

He added, “I was interested in music but I didn’t have any talent in that way.” He started boxing at the age of 11. “My Dad took me to Kirkby Amateur Club and that was where everything started,” he said.

And introducing kids to sport is something he is keen to stress. “I got my lad into golf at the age of seven, the earlier the better with sport. Then its natural and you’re not fighting against it. It’s like Harry Potter with his wand.”

Conteh was one of Britain’s most loved sportsmen. Aged 19, he won the middleweight gold medal at the 1970 British Commonwealth Games. But he says his most memorable win was taking the WBC Light-Heavyweight crown at Wembley in October 1974 by defeating Jorge Ahumada.

“That was an amazing feeling - probably like Andy Murray feels now,” he said (after Murray won his first Grand Slam tennis event in the US recently). “To be at the top is fantastic. Nothing comes close to that adrenaline rush, it’s like a dream - you’re at the top now - you’re the best and the world champion.”

Conteh’s retirement from professional boxing saw him notch up an impressive record including 34 wins, 1 draw and 4 losses.

Now an avid golfer playing off a 12 handicap he said, “Golf is my other sport and I love it. Sportsmen and women generally pick up other sports quite quickly, whether its hand to eye coordination or general athleticism I’m not sure, they just seem to adapt. They are very competitive.”

During his career, the antics of Conteh - known for his appreciation of women and love of partying - proved endless fodder for newspapers. Although the former champion is now in his sixties, he still has a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t miss all of the attention, that’s just something that came with my life at the time. The reality is family and kids. You have to accept the reality of life and love.”

Well known for his memorable and amusing after dinner speeches, the personable champ joked, “it’s like a pension for us on the speaking circuit.

“If you asked me why I feel the need to say the one liner I would say it comes from scouser humour - it’s good to laugh at life.”

The two day event for which Conteh was in Cyprus was held at the Elea Golf Club in Paphos and culminated in a gala dinner, where a charity auction raised over €2,250 for the Saint Michaels Hospice and the Paphos cancer patients support group. The event got underway with 84 golfers playing in teams of four to win the iConnect-Cyprus Golf Tournament Trophy. The overall winners were the British Airways Team.