Glenn McCrory talks Career, Tyson and Tattoos
By Mike Jones
Exclusive interview; Glenn McCrory discusses his career from top amateur, world champion pro and long-time Sky Sports commentator
ďAgainst Mike I wasnít scared and more than held my own. He never had me on the floor or had me in serious trouble and Mike himself would tell you thatĒ-Glenn McCrory on sparring ďIronĒ Mike Tyson
IT IS sometimes easy to forget that Glenn McCrory was once a world champion boxer. As a much-loved part of the Sky Sports boxing team, McCrory has successfully forged another successful career away from the ring. Glenn, now 47-years-old, was partner for many years to Ian Darke. Their blend of easy fight-analysis and banter combined to make easily one of the best commentary teams ever from the UK.
As a boxer 6í4Ē Glenn was a star amateur who won the Junior ABAís in 1981, was a semi-finalist in the senior ABA championships and also boxed for England, concluding with a 56-8 record in the unpaid code. Turning pro in 1984, the young Geordie built an unbeaten record as a heavyweight before a series of painful defeats persuaded McCrory to drop to cruiserweight where the strapping prospect flourished as a fighter.
In a three-and-a-half year unbeaten run, Glenn won Commonwealth and British titles before capturing the IBF crown with a heart-warming points success against dangerous Patrick Lumumba. Alas by the time McCrory was defending against American puncher Jeff Lampkin ten months later, weight-making difficulties were taking their toll. Gaunt Glenn was crushed in three by a powerful body-shot.
After losing his title, come-backing Glenn briefly returned to heavyweight to box a young Lennox Lewis before boiling down for his last fight, a unanimous decision loss to then-IBF-champion Al Cole. That failed shot at his old belt was 1993, and Glenn retired with a fine 30-8-1 (12) record.
Apart from his work with Sky Sports, busy Glenn also runs a gym in Newbiggin and has been closely linked with Cuban fighters; training a few proís such as Mike Perez for a short time as well as working to bring the amateur team over to the North East before this yearís London Olympics.
As friendly and amiable off-screen as he is on television, here is what Glenn had to say-
LF) So Glenn, how old were you when you started boxing?
GM) I was twelve when I started and I had my first fight when I was fifteen. I was a big kid for my age so it wasnít easy to get me matched. I enjoyed my amateur career but I didnít really know a lot about it, I always wanted to turn pro after watching Muhammad Ali.
LF) You turned pro in 1984 and raced to a 13-0 (4) record before danger-man John Westgarth shockingly knocked you out in four rounds. You went on to lose four of your next five bouts; did that first defeat affect your confidence as a boxer?
GM) I was only a kid of 20, getting thrown in with big strong men. I went too quickly to heavyweight, my last amateur fight I weighed 12st 6lbs; a few months later Iím fighting heavyweights. I ended up losing five out of six fights, I was in way too deep. I was living away from home and Iíd only just got married, it was a hugely traumatic time for me. It was mainly just bad management; they wanted a ďGreat white hopeĒ to earn them money they didnít look after me at all just kept throwing me to the lions over and over.
LF) The turning point came after a loss to Hughroy Currie; you moved down to the cruiserweight division and wouldnít lose again for over three years. Had it always been on your mind to move down in weight?
GM) I just knew I had the talent but I needed to get things in order to succeed. I knew when I started people had been talking about me (being a good fighter), from my amateur career and also my first pro fight when I knocked the guy out inside 90 seconds. I just needed to sort my life out and get down to a weight I was more comfortable with. When I was boxing at heavyweight I was basically eating s**t every day, all the wrong foods. I believed in myself, lost weight and eventually made cruiserweight.
LF) Is it true (during your bad spell) you lost an eight rounder to Rudi Pika and then fought Anders Eckland just nine days later?
GM) Yes thatís true, like I said I was just thrown in. Can you imagine Tyson Fury doing that now in this day-and-age? As a heavyweight, I think I fought ten times in one season. I was a bit overwhelmed boxing Eckland just the week after boxing before. The crowd thought Iíd won that fight but obviously they gave it to him in Denmark.
Note: Glenn was managed by Londoner Doug Bidwell, who had also guided Alan Minter to the world middleweight title.
LF) Did you feel the benefits of moving down in weight immediately?
GM) Totally, to the point that after Iíd won the Commonwealth title (vs Chisanda Mutti), I went to spar a certain Mike Tyson over in America.
LF) That must have been when he was world heavyweight champion yes?
GM) Yes he was at his peak. I was only 21, I think he was too. I was his chief sparring partner and I did well against him; really well. At that stage, late 87í, early 88í, when I was at 190lbs, I didnít think anybody could beat me. Against Mike I wasnít scared and more than held my own. He never had me on the floor or had me in serious trouble and Mike himself would tell you that.
LF) I understand you also gave him a black-eye?
GM) (Laughs) yeah I gave him a good black-eye one day, he still talks about it to this day. There was a writer in New York named Mike Marley and he did this big spread about how ďthis 190lb British kid beat up Mike TysonĒ, it was crazy!
LF) After beating Mutti for the Commonwealth title, you also claimed the British title with a win over Tee Jay. Your good form was rewarded with a shot at the vacant IBF world title against Patrick Lumumba. Tell me about that fight and the build up to it?
GM) Heíd only had ten fights but that was chiefly because nobody would fight him. He was very dangerous and had beaten up Mike Tyson in sparring and had also beaten Jeff Lampkin (who went on to stop Glenn).
Before the fight, I read Colin Hartís report in The Sun newspaper and the headline said ďGlennís a gonerĒ. It upset me a bit nobody seemed to give me a chance before that fight. It was especially hurtful that Colin Hart said that because he had been supportive when Iíd turned pro; done a big spread on me after my first fight.
Lumumba was a complete lunatic but an amazing fighter; he did things to me in our fight that nobody ever did to me. He was very talented but also a bad man; I think he ended up in prison.
I won that fight but it wasnít all good; I was on the dole before I won the title. I wasnít making any money fighting at all. In my interview with ITV after the fight I said ďtell Stanley dole office I wonít be back.Ē The period when I was world champion was both the best and worst period of my life, on the one hand I was a world champion but on the other I didnít have any money at all because nobody was looking out for me.
LF) You boxed Lumumba for the IBF belt vacated by Evander Holyfield; would you have liked to have fought Holyfield at that time?
GM) I know what Evander achieved in his career and I take nothing away from that. He achieved more than I did but at that time I believed at my weight I was unbeatable. Itís like one day in the sun, every fighter has his day and I would have been confident fighting Evander. Itís a fight I really wanted but obviously he moved up and we never came close to fighting.
LF) You made one successful defence against Siza Makathini but then lost the title against Jeff Lampkin. He was tough and a hard-puncher but itís a fight you were expected to win. Was there trouble making weight at this stage?
GM) Iím not going to make any excuses but I only had four weeks notice for that fight and I was that drained my friend Bob Gibson (who writes for the Chronicle) actually feared for my life. Lampkin was strong and must have heard Iíd been having trouble making weight. Sometimes a fighter just doesnít get the breaks and thatís true with my boxing career but Iím not bitter or dwelling on that because Iíve been incredibly lucky to have worked for Sky Sports all these years.
LF) After the loss to Lampkin you boxed mostly in Europe and America; was there any specific reason for that?
GM) By that stage I didnít want to fight in Britain, I was bad on boxing at that stage. I felt Iíd been mistreated as a fighter. Most of the time I was boxing I didnít even have a trainer or a gym to work in. Training myself in back-yards was bad so I ended up basing myself in places I liked. My marriage wasnít working out so I thought ďI really like ParisĒ so I trained and fought there (laughs).
LF) Your last two major fights were against a young Lennox Lewis and then two years later to Al Cole for your old IBF belt. You retired at just 29-years-old?
GM) Lennox Lewis was the best heavyweight of the generation and there was me leaving a pub to fight him! I had a pub to run and was still the same; no gym, no trainer etc. Itís hardly a winning formula is it? I had a go (fighting Lewis) but obviously he was far too strong for me.
I got the Cole fight and was doing ok until we clashed heads and I couldnít see. After that I couldnít see the punches coming but I think if that hadnít have happened I could have won that fight.
Note: After a close fight early against Cole, Glenn was cut from a head clash in the sixth, was dropped twice in that round and ended up losing unanimously on points.
LF) Many years after you retired, the cruiserweight limit was raised to 200lbs. That would have suited you as your best weight seemed to be around 200lbs?
GM) Iíd probably still be a champion now mate. Fighting at 200lbs would have been fantastic for me; I would have stayed at that weight all of the time.
LF) You are a long-time commentator for Sky Sports, best known for partnering Ian Darke. Why do you think the two of you proved so popular to viewers?
GM) Ian Darke is a very bright man, we started at Sky Sports together and what we had were personalities that gelled and a passion for boxing. I hope one day we can work together again.
I think you just canít buy experience like I have; I worked in Mike Tysonís camp, in Larry Holmesí camp, I sparred ďBonecrusherĒ Smith before his fight with Frank Bruno and Bert Cooper at Joe Frazierís gym. What I did just wasnít done back then, it was in part due to me not being looked after; Iíd just get thrown into sparring all these different fighters. Some of the spars I had were so tough I would literally cry after them, but I learned from it and that knowledge helps me still now.
I sparred Bert Cooper and I was getting the better of him and even tried to gee him up and give him confidence; the year after that he was fighting Evander Holyfield for the world heavyweight championship!
Working for Sky Iíve seen all the best British fighters come through; boxers like Naseem Hamed and Ricky Hatton I watched them from being young boys to becoming world champions. I sat down to watch a Larry Holmes fight and Sugar Ray Leonard walks in with Ray Robinson; what other job can you see things like that? Larry Holmes, Bert Cooper, Teofilo Stevenson; they are my friends and all on my phone. Teofilo called me just the other day.
Iíve been with Sky now for 23 years, itís a great job and I love it to bits and I hope I can carry on working for them for many more years to come.
LF) Apart from your work with Sky Sports you are also closely associated with the Cuban boxing scene. You were, at one point, trying to get the Cuban Olympic boxing team over here to train for the Olympic Games; what happened with that?
GM) I think they are still coming (to the UK before the Games). I went over there and saw how they trained and what they did and I thought (the UK) should have a piece of it. People from certain quarters didnít like what I was doing but I only did it to help fighters in this country. The GB team would improve with learning from the Cubanís in my opinion.
LF) What about the pro fighters you were training, how come you stopped working with guys like Luis Garcia and Mike Perez?
GM) I just didnít quite have the time to train them, I think Luis Garcia has signed a contract with Lou DiBella now. Garcia is one of the most talented boxers Iíve ever seen but in terms of balls, heís lacking. Great fighter but you wouldnít trust him to put the cat out!
I still class myself as a trainer and if the right fighter came along that showed great potential I would train him.
LF) Strange last question I know; is it true you have a tattoo of pop star Cheryl Cole?
GM) (Laughs) Yes that is true.
LF) Are you a fan?
GM) No Iím not really, but I just think in this country weíre not very good at looking after our own and sheís a Geordie like me and sheís done really well for herself. Iím covered in tattoos. On my left inside forearm I have our Lord Jesus Christ and on my right I have Cheryl. I think sheís great.
LF) Glenn itís been an absolute pleasure talking with you.
GM) Ok thanks speak again soon mate.
Glenn in action :-