I have enjoyed a long association with through my promotion of countless shows over the years. I have managed and promoted many boxers from the region and have always been struck by the steely resolve and spirit possessed by the city’s fighting men.
Such tenacity clearly extends to the wider population too as so admirably displayed by the families of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster, who mercifully this week - after an incredible 27 years - will hopefully be able to find some peace following the verdict of unlawful killing passed down at the inquest in Warrington.
I have long been convinced that the aftermath of the shocking events in April 1989 developed into the biggest police and government cover-up of all time. The steadfast belief of the families in their loved ones, as well as their fellow supporters who were in Sheffield on the day, has been fully vindicated and the truth has finally emerged.
[Image credit: CNN]
‘The Truth’, of course, was the sickening headline plastered across the front page of the Sun on the Monday after the disaster, with the then editor Kelvin MacKenzie authorising a gut-wrenching tabloid assassination of the Liverpool fans who set out on that fateful day with nothing more in mind than cheering their team to an FA Cup final.
It was anything but the truth. To the eternal shame of successive governments, it has taken until now for this to be officially ratified.
I actually had close dealings with the Liverpool squad after their continued participation in the 1989 FA Cup was confirmed. I was approached by the chairman Sir John Smith, in conjunction with Kenny Dalglish, to be the agent for the player’s pool. Back then players did not receive the astronomical salaries of today, so it was the job of the agent around cup finals to get media organisations and other companies to cough up a few quid for interview access and photo opportunities.
The revenues were then split up between the players. I donated my commission to the disaster fund that was running at the time.
It was a surprise to me to be asked to be involved because it wasn’t my line of business, but I was happy to help. I witnessed first hand the animosity of the Liverpool players towards the Sun and MacKenzie was someone for whom I held no regard for. So we were categoric then there would be no access and I believe the policy has continued to this day.
I was privy to another insight into how justice was being corrupted. A good friend of mine at the time, a barrister called Alun Jones - who specialised in human rights cases - told me of police notebooks going missing, having been rewritten and of videos disappearing. He was adamant then that corruption was taking place - as was the general feeling among right-minded people.
I don’t hide from the fact that years later my boxing column featured in the Sun under a completely new regime and I have to say I was more than surprised that the Sun didn’t even cover the outcome of the inquest on their front page - which is the least they owed to the families and people of Liverpool.
The verdicts totally vindicate the people of of the city. It has taken all this time and many would have given up, so it shows the power of the people, the passion. They didn’t give up and fought for the outcome they knew their loved ones deserve.
They shouldn’t have had to do it, but they had to. How could it all have happened like this? It was just awful and the venom directed towards the fans by MacKenzie and the Sun was simply despicable.
It was a delicious irony seeing MacKenzie himself being doorstepped by Channel 4 news this week considering how many of these practices he has authorised over the years. The fact he stonewalled the perfectly reasonable questioning of the reporter shows the character of the man.
This was not about a celeb or sporting star being caught out ‘playing away’, this was about the unlawful killing and immeasurable distress his printed poison has caused these bereaved families over so many years. The flippancy displayed by himself and his paper, then, was nothing short of disgraceful.
What we all need to remember is that the safe and shiny football stadiums of this day and age came about not because of the advent of the money-spinning Premier League, but as a direct result of 96 fans not returning home from an FA Cup semi-final.
Everything comes at a price, including safety, which is why the Premier League and associated television revenues came along at the right time to fund the transformation of stadia. But the safety of the public should have been paramount in 1989 too.
I sincerely hope the people still affected by tragedy of Hillsborough can now find some solace, even if the whole truth could still not find a place in the Sun.
I am particularly looking forward to our show at the Copper Box on Saturday night, where the fight menu is long and with more than a few tasty scraps for the punters to feast on.
Hughie Fury is looking to make a further step towards the elite with a first title challenge against Fred Kassi, with the WBO Intercontinental belt on the line, which brings with it a coveted ranking by the governing body. Hughie hasn’t had much luck with preferred opponents actually making it to the ring in recent times, but Kassi is very much in town and ready to go, so fingers crossed!
Our co-headline bout is Liam Walsh defending his British super-featherweight belt against Troy James. Liam is a fighter I rate so highly, but his progress has been blighted by untimely injuries. If we can get some momentum going now with a win on Saturday, a world title final eliminator awaits for Liam and I am sure he will make good my prediction of him becoming a world champion.
His twin Ryan faces the Belfast banger James Tennyson in what I suspect will be, at least, the fight of the night, while our new signing Jamie Conlan will hopefully mark the occasion with the capture of the Commonwealth super-flyweight crown from Anthony Nelson in what should be another corker.
The show will be broadcast in the US by Showtime as part of our arrangement with them, which will afford the fighters some fantastic exposure Stateside and, with the heavyweights very much in fashion at the moment, I expect young Hughie will certainly catch a few American eyes.