If we are talking about the greatest amateur boxer Great Britain has ever produced, Birmingham’s Frankie Gavin has to be in the conversation.
He remains Britain’s only male Amateur World Champion, after lighting up the Championships in Chicago in 2007. Current WBO middleweight boss Demetrius Andrade struck gold at welterweight at the same tournament, while ‘The Matrix’ himself Vasiliy Lomachenko won silver at featherweight.
It was the mesmerising performances of Gavin though which caught the imagination and set tongues wagging at the UIC Pavilion. Frankie had speed, aggression and fantastic footwork in spades, but his boxing brain was often two moves ahead of his rivals even on the international stage. He looked nailed on for glory at the Beijing Olympics the following year.
However, they say the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Much has been written about his disappointment of failing to make weight in China, but the man himself is still convinced he would have won an Olympic medal had he moved up and represented Team GB at light-welter.
He won gold at the Worlds in November 2007 as a lightweight, yet the 2008 Olympics were fully nine months away following that Chicago triumph. Those months were not spent honing his already prodigious fistic skills, but instead that whole period of his life turned into an unrelenting grind of trying to make the lightweight limit.
Gavin is not the type of man to make excuses. He holds his hands up and admits there were bumps in the road and personal problems along the way as an amateur and certainly as a professional. In the words of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself: ‘Regrets, I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention’.
He did have a reputation, and was not known as ‘Funtime Frankie’ for nothing. Yet you don’t scale the heights he did in boxing (he also won gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games) without being tenacious, talented and entirely dedicated. The notion that he somehow ‘did a George Best’ with his career is simply not true for a fighter who won 100 of his 121 amateur contests.
Such was Gavin’s precocious and obvious talent, there are plenty of casual boxing fans who might dismissively say he underachieved.
However, while his pro career did not pan out as he may have dreamed - purely in comparison to the heights he soared to in the amateur game - Gavin still won British and Commonwealth titles, owns a Lonsdale belt outright and boxed for a legitimate world title.
He finished in 2018 with a respectable 26-4 pro log. Add to that all that he achieved in a vest and head guard and it’s clear he had a career he should be genuinely proud of. One which 98% of youngsters starting out in the sport would readily take.
Happily, Frankie is not lost to the sport. He’s older and wiser, and happy to pass on the vast knowledge he acquired travelling the world with the GB Squad to the aspiring fighters at Hall Green ABC, where he too had first started out in the sport.
Now training fighters himself in Tyseley, Birmingham, the two-time ABA lightweight champion admitted that while he was at times going through the motions in the latter stages of his own pro career, his love for the sport has returned and a fire has been re-ignited.
He was happy to sit down with Furyjoshua.com to discuss the forthcoming Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua megafight, but has been left clearly frustrated by the British Government’s decision to effectively close down the amateur sport due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it’s piss poor how the grassroots have been treated,” boomed Frankie. “I am a coach at Hall Green Boxing Club. And we have some great little fighters who are not allowed to even train at the moment.
“Then you have pro gyms with about 30 lads all in together taking photos. It’s shocking. It’s a spit in the face for everyone at grassroots level. I think the sport needs more help as I know the Government have been bailing out other sports financially.”
Speaking about June’s proposed heavyweight unification tussle between Fury and Joshua, and with a nod to Joshua’s well-known narrative about him turning his life around through amateur boxing, Gavin pointed out: “These mega fights wouldn’t happen without grassroots boxing”.
He has a very valid point. If the amateur sport withers and dies, where does that leave the pro game going forward?
Gavin turned pro in February 2009, well before Joshua began making a noise as part of the Team GB squad Gavin once represented with such distinction. However, when pushed regarding how he thinks Fury v Joshua plays out, he does not sit on the fence.
“I can honestly see how both men win. They are top, top fighters, but if I have to bet, I think Joshua. I have always said Joshua beats Fury, while Fury beats (Deontay) Wilder and Wilder beats Joshua.”
We asked Frankie who he sees as the A-side in the fight, and without skipping a beat he replied: “I will say Fury as he is unbeaten. And he beat (Wladimir) Klitschko a lot easier than AJ did.”
Fury of course went to Dusseldorf in 2015 to dethrone ‘Dr Steelhammer’ without ever really getting out of second gear. Joshua meanwhile had to climb off the floor before regrouping and punching out a spectacular TKO victory in the penultimate stanza in front of a record crowd at Wembley in April 2017.
Regardless of the result of their unification fight, and any mooted rematch, Gavin does not see either fighter calling it a day straight after. Instead he believes they will carry on, reasoning: “Why not? There is plenty of money to be made”.
Neither does the Brummie star begrudge them the eye-watering figures being talked about to face each other (purses potentially in the ballpark of $100million each).
“The money is mega,” Frankie said. “Fair play to both of them for getting into this position as it’s meant a lot of sacrifice to get to where they are.”
Gavin didn’t dodge any questions, but he was at his elusive best when we asked how both fighters will handle the endless merry-go-round of media obligations, if as expected the fight is broadcast by Sky Sports, BT Sport, ESPN and DAZN.
“You’re going to have to speak with Eddie (Hearn) and Frank (Warren) about that one! It’s their job at the end of the day.”
When pushed about who has the better record going in, Gavin effused: “If we are talking better resume, I think Joshua. But Fury is unbeaten. And let’s not forget he beat Wilder, who Joshua didn’t want any part of.”
Gavin seems in a very good place these days, his only headache being the global pandemic which has left his burgeoning coaching career temporarily in limbo. He is itching to get going again and pass on the skills, knowledge and experience he has accumulated through a lifetime of boxing at the highest level.
Mike Tyson once said “Yes time flies, and where did it leave you? Old too soon… smart too late”. Gavin knows exactly what ‘Iron’ Mike means by that, but he has a focus again and in life, experience is the teacher of all things.
Gavin’s goal now is to nurture the next generation of young stars, keeping them on the right path and steering them away from the pitfalls that can derail even the mightiest prospect.