A knockout book which recalls how a boxing coach from South Tyneside brought US legends of the ring to the North East doesn’t pull any punches.
Martyn Devlin, head of Jarrow’s Bilton Hall Amateur Boxing Club, has rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest personalities in the fight game.
And ‘On Tour with Boxing Legends’ tells the remarkable story of how he persuaded boxing legends Roberto Duran, Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard to hop across the pond and take part in sporting dinners.
Martyn had earlier been an organiser of similar events featuring British champions, including Sir Henry Cooper, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe.
But when the opportunity came to bring over the legendary Panamanian boxer Duran in 2002 it was an offer he couldn’t refuse – although everything didn’t go to plan.
Martyn, a former talented amateur light welterweight and middleweight fighter, said one of his worst moments came when Duran, a world boxing champion at lightweight, welterweight, light middleweight and middleweight, refused to greet Newcastle fans at St James’s Park.
He said: “I had arranged for Duran to go out and be introduced to the fans at half-time, but when we got to St James’s Park, he just whispered something to his lawyer and refused to go inside.
“As Roberto was known as a bit of a wild card and did not speak English, no other promoter in the country was interested in him, so I took the huge gamble to feature him myself as a pilot tester and also organised the reunion with Roberto and Ken Buchanan, the Scottish boxer who Duran had won the world title from in controversial circumstances 30 years previously at New York’s Madison Square Gardens.
“As the show went OK, I ended up touring the country with Duran three times and then went on to tour with Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns and the one and only Sugar Ray Leonard.
“At the end of each day I would jot a few notes down and have eventually had it put into book form.”
The memoir also recalls attending Roberto Duran’s tribute night in Panama City, his dealings with US attorneys and UK promoters and even being looked after in London by underworld figures.
But one of Martyn’s all-time highlights was taking Sugar Ray Leonard home to meet his wife and daughter in 2005 – and the fighter’s surprise visit to meet the young boxers at his Jarrow gym.
On Tour with Boxing Legends, which costs £9.99, can be obtained from Martyn’s website by paypal at www.boxingcelebrities.co.uk, via Amazon or by calling the author on 07752 515280.