Fearless Leader: Thank you, Matt Christie

By Elliot Worsell

MY long-held fear of ever becoming Editor of Boxing News had nothing to do with seeing Matt Christie on the phone with irate promoters berating him for allowing one of his writers to call their show a two-star show when it was “clearly a f**king three-star show”. It had nothing to do with me seeing Matt Christie, on a Tuesday afternoon, learn that the fight he had assigned to that week’s cover had just been cancelled due to one of the two boxers getting injured. It wasn’t even anything to do with seeing Matt Christie get driven to the brink of despair when either (a) someone in the office unaffiliated with Boxing News would interrupt him hours before the magazine went to press to ask him what he thought of Tyson Fury retiring, or (b) he tried and failed to get a smooth performance from ahead of writing the next issue’s schedule.

Instead, the moment I realised it was not the job for me came at an awards ceremony in Westminster in 2021. It was there, among the big hitters of the media world, we, the Boxing News crew, both took our place and knew our place, yet would, to our surprise, leave differently than we had entered. It was there, not content with giving us awards for our website and bookazines, the Sports Journalists’ Association (SJA) that year recognised Matt Christie with the Special Correspondent honour.

In winning this award, Matt had bested journalists from far bigger publications, and would now have to approach the stage, take the microphone, and speak. He would have to hold it together and represent not only Boxing News but the sport itself; a sport so many are quick to knock or simply view as a bad habit; a child not always easy to defend, even for its parents.

Still, this wasn’t his first time. In 2018, in fact, Matt spoke with both assurance and eloquence on the same stage and even remembered, amid all the excitement of BN winning an award, to pay tribute to Scott Westgarth, a boxer who had recently passed. Following that, the room knew what we all knew: nobody cared more about either Boxing News or boxers than Matt Christie.

Matt Christie, Boxing News Editor (Action Images / Andrew Couldridge)

Three years on, he was the same but better. Three years on, what was now both noticeable and admirable was how Matt’s love for the sport and its participants had never once clouded his judgement, challenged his objectivity, or reduced him to the state of fawning fan. This was shown whenever he spoke in public or tackled contentious issues in his Editor’s Letter. The tone, always, was just perfect.

Which is why that night in 2021 I decided there was nobody better suited for the job of Boxing News Editor than Matt Christie. That night, in both winning his award and addressing the audience, he had managed to represent Boxing News so well it almost felt like we belonged in that room and deserved each of the accolades we had, around that time, made a habit of winning.

Indeed, when people talk about the “award-winning Boxing News”, the reality is this: most, if not all, of those awards were collected during Matt Christie’s tenure. Why? Because of the standards he set, primarily. There was, within his small team, a desire to both work for him and be better than the rest. In a time of flux, when everybody else appeared to be lowering standards and targeting the lowest common denominator, the demand from Matt was always and refreshingly the opposite. That is, he wanted us to rise above, not lower ourselves just because it was easier or the “way things are going”. As a result, during his time at BN we found ourselves becoming distanced from what is now considered boxing media – our supposed competition – and moving towards the kind of journalism both Matt and I read, cherished, and respected.

There was a freedom, too. A freedom to express yourself. A freedom, born of trust, to do things your own way. That, for a writer, is probably the greatest gift you can be given and from day one at BN it was mine. Ahead of covering a fight week, I would be told, “Just go and do what you do,” always with complete trust. You would then of course, because of this, want to make him happy, even proud. You would go the extra mile.

For six and a half years Matt was my boss, yet his respect for my writing never once made me feel inferior or in service to him. In fact, when he told me at the start of my time at BN that convincing me to join was his greatest achievement as Editor, I was then, from that day forward, determined to make sure those words didn’t seem as frankly ludicrous as they sounded when first said. I wanted to be worthy of such an exorbitant statement. I wanted to make him seem a little less insane.

Thankfully, he facilitated this effort. Encouraged at every turn, I would write for him; to impress him; to justify his decision to bring me on board and say nice things about me. It was, in that sense, no different than how I have over the years written for my parents, if just to remind them of the job they did; or for a girl, if just to have them see something in me I cannot.

As a writer, that you need more than anything else. You need your reader, the reason for doing it. Get that and you can write. Get that and inspiration will never be out of reach.

For a time, too, that was all I had. When, for instance, Matt brought me to BN in 2017, my life was not going well and the long walk to and from work was one fraught with dread and what-ifs? Every day I would arrive in the office, sit dead-eyed at my desk, and begin the morning thinking, How is it possible for me to summon the energy or care enough to write about Anthony Joshua and Canelo Alvarez? Whenever this happened, Matt, whether conscious of it or not, would then engage me somehow and again I would try (to come in; to write; to keep going). He might, for example, have praised a piece I had written or distracted me for 10 minutes in the kitchen by asking about the “proper writing” I did in my spare time. There was even one Monday in March when he wanted to know all about the creative writing course I had been doing on weekends, the pride in his voice enough to get me to Friday.

With Matt, you see, there was always an understanding. An understanding of his team, and of human beings, and an understanding of both the difficulty and power of a good sentence. Respect, therefore, was from him a natural thing; nothing forced, nothing performative. Despite the rise of content creators and various new ways of covering the sport, still I was made to feel as though my value was in what I thought and how these thoughts were expressed. For that I will forever be grateful to him.

Even beyond our office you found only respect for Matt Christie, Editor of Boxing News, in those days. His temperament commanded it. His leadership commanded it. The quality of his work, and the authoritative voice, commanded it.

Recently, in fact, and by sheer coincidence, the name Matt Christie has been mentioned to me by people in the trade, both of them trainers, during phone calls. One of them, having explained that he wasn’t speaking to any YouTubers presently but would give some time to me (that is, us, Boxing News), said: “The day the likes of Matt Christie are gone from boxing won’t be a good day. Soon, there won’t be any proper journalists left.”

In response, I just agreed. I had neither the heart to tell him what I knew nor what was to come. Perhaps, in some respects, he already knew himself.

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