"HE'S THE NEW WORLD CHAMPION."
Saturday 3 June 1989, Louisa Centre, Stanley.
The bell rang and the whole place exploded into a cacophony of sound. I didn’t walk to the centre of the ring, I sprinted – and smacked Patrick Lumumba flush on the nose. This was my moment, my destiny. I was fighting in front of my own folk. Another chance like this would never come around again. It was time to grab life by the throat. Time to claim my prize. Shy bairns get nowt. I know because I’m from a family of seven.
The Louisa Centre was packed; wall to wall people. You couldn’t wedge a cigarette paper between the folk, all bellowing their support in unison.
All my neighbours were there. I had walked from our house past them to go up the road and fight for the Cruiserweight Championship of the World. It was a surreal experience. I was carrying my bag, wondering where everyone was going. Then I realised. To see me! Not many warriors have entered the coliseum by strolling up and slipping through the back door.
That morning I had woken to six-foot high headlines in The Sun proclaiming ‘Glenn’s A Goner’. And the prediction was made by a pal of mine, Colin Hart! That’s how much of an outsider I was. Lumumba was a beast – he had an impeccable record as an amateur and was the fighter who sane men ducked. I hadn’t a choice, it was him or nowt. So it was him.
Alone, with destiny beckoning, I looked in the mirror and asked myself one question: how much did I really want it? The answer was stark and crystal clear: I’m prepared to die tonight.
What Lumumba didn’t know was that I had a secret weapon. My brother and inspiration. David. I might have been the fighting man but he possessed an unbreakable spirit and a sheer force of will that gave him the strength to battle every day for survival. David was the brave one, not me. So, so brave. He fought for life, not titles.
Mam and Dad had fostered David as a little lad. I remember us all going to Sandyford in Newcastle to pick him up from the orphanage. At first he was just like any other little boy – cheery and cheeky. Competing for everything. David and I were the closest in age and became the closest of all us brothers.
Yet tragedy lay ahead. It soon became apparent that David was suffering from a muscle-wasting disease. He used to lag behind when we were walking to school. Come on, I used to say, hurry up or we’ll be late. Eventually I took him on my back and carried him to school.
Eventually David was left powerless to move or speak by this unforgiving disease, yet he brought incredible love and joy into the lives of everyone he touched.
We both had a dream. His was to live beyond the fourteen years he had been allotted by doctors. Mine was to become a world champion. Together, two brothers with a single determination could both be victorious. This was to be our night. Lumumba didn’t know it, but the outcome was written in the stars.
I decided the best way to become world champion was to attack. Not to stand around waiting to be picked off by snaking fists into my face. Death or glory. I’ve always been like that. A chancer; a believer that my glass is half full, never half empty.
Lumumba was so cocky on entering the ring. He obviously felt superior. He had come to claim what rightfully was his. All right, we would see about that.
I was a whirling dervish and the crowd was electric. They sensed it was a special night as my opponent shipped leather. He was brave, I’ll give him that, but I had David as my inspiration. I was a man possessed.
I established who was boss from the very first round and when Lumumba had his purple patch, as all boxers must over the course of twelve rounds, I had the strength and determination to hold on. I remember being on the ropes under a bombardment when I looked out into the crowd. There was Tim Healy and the Auf Wiedersehen crowd bawling their support. I knew that pop singer PJ Proby, who had infamously split his pants during a particularly raunchy act, was also in the hall somewhere. And then there was Tom, Dick, and Harry, all urging me to stand tall.
My mother had taken our David to stay at my Auntie Delia’s house, a mile or so from the venue. Suddenly there was a sharp knock on the door. My mother answered to be met by a policeman with blue lights flashing. He told her to get in. Fearing something awful might have happened, she bundled David and his wheelchair into the police car as quickly as she could. They sped off towards the Louisa Centre.
Upon arrival, the copper forced open the fire doors, piled into the stadium past security guards with Mam pushing David behind him. He took her down to ringside, parked the wheelchair and told her to enjoy the moment her son was crowned champion.
To this day, we don’t know how the police knew where my mother and David were. Who alerted them or how. It’s still a mystery twenty-seven years later. I would like to thank whoever was responsible because they completed our night, they really did.
As the final bell sounded I walked away arms aloft. Legendary ITV commentator Reg Gutteridge stated confidently, ‘The crowd knows it, certainly McCrory knows it. He’s the new world champion.’
As I was being carried shoulder-high, my gaze alighted on a young man sitting ringside, his eyes burning with pride and welling with tears. It was David. I was in pieces. My joy was complete. We looked at one another and knew what we were thinking: brother, we made it!
We had. David was there in the nick of time to see my dreams come true, our dreams come true. I thought back to carrying him to school and realised we had achieved everything we set out to achieve back then. We had worked together and triumphed together. Two brothers, one fight. Life was never going to get sweeter.
David was twenty-nine when he died. I think of him every day and love him more. 3 June 1989 was our day and I’m grateful to God for that.