Looking a bit younger there! My music video debut 20-years ago – in Morrissey’s ‘Boxers’.
So how did all this come about? It started on the 11th March 1994 at York Hall, Bethnal Green, London, as I fought James Cook for the Lonsdale belt and for the title of British Super-Middleweight.
Even though I’d entered the fight with 24 wins and just 1 loss, I was very much considered the underdog. The ‘Boxing News’ magazine had written off my chances and even BBC Commentator Harry Carpenter didn’t think I’d win. And to be honest it was understandable – James Cook was a really dangerous fighter – British and European middleweight champion. But I had a fixed game plan – hit and move, hit and move – a crucial factor as it turned out. In the early rounds, I stayed on the outside, aiming to come into the fight later. I knocked him down in the 10th round with a left hook, finally going on to win the fight on points! This was for a British Super-Middleweight title and I had won!
Definitely one of my proudest days, especially as I was the first boxer from my native Teesside to have the honour of winning this for over 80 years. A seriously good moment.
And to top it all off – the fact that it had happened at the legendary York Hall – one of my favourite boxing venues. Some of my best boxing experiences were in that hall – I fought 5 times professionally, and won them all. Some fantastic memories. The hall itself has a real old school boxing feel and is still very much used today – I’m pleased to say the atmosphere hasn’t changed at all.
So – getting back to my small screen debut – as I’m sure you know, it’s not unusual for celebrities to attend boxing matches. Unbeknown to me, in the crowd that night was the singer Morrissey. After the fight one of his team approached me on Morrissey’s behalf, asking for a photo of the two of us. I was a bit surprised to be honest – thinking to myself ‘Morrissey – really – from the band The Smiths’. We were introduced and ended up chatting for a while about boxing, during which he actually asked me if I would be interested in making an appearance in a music video for his upcoming single which was aptly named ‘Boxers’. See – I told you that York Hall was a good place for me!
Morrissey came to see me again at Battersea running track during one of my training sessions, and we talked through his ideas for the video. The actual video shoot took just one day on location at – yes you’ve guessed it – the York Hall in London! The other fighter who took a ‘pretend’ battering from me – was a good spirited actor. Although Morrissey doesn’t appear in the video actually singing, if you watch carefully he does make a brief appearance shaking the other boxer’s hand (at 3m 30s into the video to be precise!).
The single ‘Boxers’ reached number 23 in the UK charts in January 1995. It had been a great experience for me and did help to boost my publicity at this stage of my career. In addition I later found out that I was the face of a 20 foot stage backdrop during their entire album tour! I honestly had no idea about this momentous fact until a friend of mine went to a Morrissey gig and was greeted by the wonderful sight of my face staring down at him from the main stage!
After that it was quite surreal when fans of The Smith’s regularly stopped me in the street to ask for autographs – and not because I had won the British Middleweight title, but because I’d appeared in Morrissey’s ‘Boxers’ video! As the saying goes – any publicity and all that…..
By co-incidence our paths crossed again in November 1995. I was fighting Steve Collins for the WBO World Middleweight title in Dublin, Ireland. Morrissey was there promoting his album “Southpaw Grammar” and supporting David Bowie – at the same venue – the Point Theatre in Dublin, the previous night. At this point in time Steve Collins really was the man to beat. He was at the top of his game, having beat Chris Eubank (twice) and Chris Pyatt before our fight. He then went on to defeat Nigel Benn (twice).
At this point in time Steve Collins really was the man to beat. He was at the top of his game, having beat Chris Eubank (twice) and Chris Pyatt before our fight.
Now as we’ve been on the subject of music – I have another story to tell, although this one was more of a mishap to be honest. So back to the Steve Collins fight – I was walking in at the start – wearing a big pair of earphones (playing music loud, to help me drown out the noise from a big crowd – and the booing, after all I was an Englishman fighting the ‘Celtic Warrior’ on Irish soil!). I was busy being focussed and doing the walking/dancing combination considered appropriate at such times – looking the part – but as I approached the ring the batteries must have packed up on my Sony ‘Walkman’ (remember them? It was the 90’s!). So, now I had no music in my ears and no rhythm to shake my stuff to! Ever the professional I kept the headphones on, jumped into the ring, and continued the dance/walk thing, still pretending to listen to the music….and I think I pulled it off. It wasn’t really the moment to ask if anyone had any spare Duracell after all…..
And now for some pop trivia as it’s #Throwback Thursday –
In an interview given on the Jools Holland Show in 1995, Morrissey answered the question “Who’s your favourite boxer?” with “A boxer called Cornelius Carr.” Nice.
Have a good day guys – keep on boxing, Corney.
N.B. Still photos of Cornelius Carr were used for the front and back covers of Morrissey’s 1995 album “World Of Morrissey” And again the 1995 Smiths single “Sweet And Tender Hooligan”.