Editor’s Letter: It’s time to say goodbye

By Matt Christie, Editor of Boxing News

WHETHER sitting ringside at a world heavyweight title fight, losing myself in the musty archives, interviewing a real-life superhero, or even squabbling with promoters, working at Boxing News has been the ultimate privilege.

Today it is with biting sadness that I write this is my final issue as editor and the process of writing this last column, for my beloved BN, is incredibly difficult. Even with the benefit of consideration it’s still akin to suddenly being handed a microphone in front of a crowded and expectant room. I can’t quite find the right words, though they’re all in here somewhere, battling to be heard.

I love everything for which Boxing News has stood since it came along 115 years ago and I wholeheartedly believe it’s as necessary today, for broadly the same reasons, as it was then. With that in mind it’s a wrench to say goodbye and why it’s time for me to go. I wish those now in the driving seat all the very best for the future.

To write for BN and then become its editor was the fruition of childhood fantasies. The shy 10-year-old who spent all his spare time trying to create his own versions of boxing magazines in A4 notebooks would have looked in wonder at what he went on to become. Of that I’m enormously proud. To then say I loved every minute in the job would be to take the schmaltz a little too far, however.

I have always believed that BN’s role in the sport is significant: To be the voice that shouts about boxing’s greatest triumphs and the conscience that points out the difference between right and wrong. Perhaps I have taken that all too literally during my time in the chair, but I have no regrets for trying to make a difference.  Doing my utmost to champion the sport while shining a light on the bad, all in the relentless pursuit of betterment, took its toll at times – particularly when the thankless nature of the position became more pronounced than ever before.

It remains my belief that boxing – the noblest and most exciting of sports at its core – has all the ingredients required to be second only to football in the sporting hierarchy. The key, when broken down to its simplest form, is for the powerbrokers to work together with that goal in mind, and the outlook in 2024 is brighter than it’s been for a long time in that regard. As with anything in life, complete contentment will never exist, and we all know that boxing will always be prone to misbehaviour. Challenging boxing’s ingrained conventions for the greater good, while showcasing what a wondrous sport it so often is, should always be part of BN’s makeup.

Some have accused me of being too negative but when one looks back on what we’ve achieved during my time as editor, the considerable steps we’ve taken and the battles we’ve fought, I’m confident that the wise will understand why a few pages of just criticism appeared in 48-page magazines. What I realised very quickly was that, even though we may not always be preaching to hundreds of thousands, almost everyone who is able to make a difference reads Boxing News.

Thanks to a lifetime of holding this publication close, regularly conversing with subscribers, studying online habits, and being acutely aware of the sport’s reputation in the real world, I know the most appreciated articles were those written from the heart. Furthermore, in a difficult era for publishing, I always tried to draw inspiration from respected journals that continued to thrive by staying loyal to their beliefs, those with unique stories to tell through thoughtful prose and, not least, an inherent ability to value those who pay to read them. I’m confident, therefore, that the campaigns we started and the stories you’ll remember will be those that dared to make a difference. The real crux of good writing, or content creation, are those works that make one stop and think. My priority has always been you, loyal consumer, and nobody else.

The greatest delight is when boxing gets it right and it frequently does. Being ringside for those fights which you know will be talked about forever, as the impossible storyline takes shape in front of you, provides a feeling of exhilaration like no other. And what a privilege it was to witness them. Every single time I sat at ringside or was in the company of fighters I thought back to that 10-year-old boy I used to be. My gratitude to the efforts of all boxers, both old and new, can never be overstated.

Putting together the issues surrounding a momentous fight was immeasurably more pleasurable than having to deal with failed drug tests or fatalities or bent rankings or mismatches or drug money being laundered liberally through boxing or the plight of ex-boxers being ignored. Unfortunately, there was an awful lot of misdemeanours occurring during my time as editor and I like to think we addressed them all as BN should. I have wanted nothing but the best for the sport and its fighters and, consequently, we worked tirelessly to make every issue as heartfelt as possible. I will miss that feeling, which comes late on a Tuesday, when we send the pages, admire the cover, and realise that we’ve managed to do it yet again.

Not every cover will please everyone. This I discovered early on when Eddie Hearn graced the front page, with a nod to the rising rate and cost of pay-per-views in British boxing. It was, I felt, an important issue to address. It didn’t occur to me that Frank Warren, who was promoting a domestic bill that weekend, would take offence because we put a rival promoter on the cover instead. More fool me. It provided an early lesson in the complexities of the role.

In short, if one is to be an editor of whom John Murray – who founded BN in 1909 with the mission statement ‘Boxing [News] will stand for good clean sport’ – would approve, brace yourself for endless headaches. While all those around you are battling for attention, finding offence where none was meant, picking holes in honest opinions, and belittling new ideas, an indifference to the noise and criticism is your greatest ally.

So too is the team around you. Nick Bond, Elliot Worsell, John Dennen, Paul Wheeler, George Gigney, Oliver Fennell and Shaun Brown, I thank each of you for believing in me. Testament to the team’s work ethic and journalistic excellence are the seven British Sports Journalism Awards we won in the space of six years and the four separate years when BN was the leading outlet at the Boxing Writers Association of America Awards. It has also been an honour to exhibit the work of some of the greatest boxing writers and build relationships with juggernauts like Don McRae, Thomas Hauser, Steve Bunce, Nigel Collins, Springs Toledo, Carlos Acevedo and the greatly missed Alan Hubbard and Ron Lewis. Alex Steedman and Darren Rees were always, and I’m sure will continue to be, a joy to work with. It has been wonderful, too, to be able to regularly publish the work of up-and-coming talent for the first time.

The support and hard work of all our contributors is enormously appreciated, not least that of Andy Whittle, who goes above and beyond every weekend. It was great to spend a few months being the colleague of Declan Taylor after a decade of publishing his freelance offerings. Declan Warrington and Matt Bozeat deserve special mentions and out in America, Jack Hirsch, a man with whom conversation is always enlightening, helped me an awful lot too. And, of course, Tris Dixon, the man who took a chance on me in the first place, thank you so very much for your unconditional support and guidance. There are plenty of others in the industry – whether boxers, trainers, writers, broadcasters, commissioners or promoters – who will always have a special place in my heart. I trust you know who you are.

Finally, thank you, trusted reader, for the unforgettable ride. It’s been an honour to serve you. I can already picture myself as an old man, one barely sane, telling anyone who will listen that I was once the editor of the greatest publication on planet earth. The hope is that BN – and more so the fearless journalism within it – lives considerably longer.

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