MAY 2024

The Tris Dixon Interview

MAY 2024 <h2>The Tris Dixon Interview</h2>

“I thought about going pro over in the States, because I was training with Kevin Rooney in the Catskills, then I moved down the East Coast to Philadelphia and Atlantic City. I think I was kind of hoping for a coach to put his arm around me and say, ‘I think we’ve got some potential here,’ but it never happened! After training with several coaches, I guess I took the hint and kind of segued into writing.”

Tris Dixon

 

Whilst braving the elements of torrential rain and walking his beloved pugs in the beautiful surroundings of the New Forest, Tris Dixon took time to candidly tell his incredibly interesting story, in and around the sport of boxing. The Hampshire resident recalled what ignited his passion of the square ring. “My earliest memories are of Mike Tyson blitzing everyone in the late 80s. Then it progressed through my early teens, as I followed Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Steve Collins, which sort of fed into an interest that took me to Salisbury ABC boxing gym on my own at 16.

“I moved over to America around the year 2000 to fight, but I wasn’t much good. I had a few fights in the UK, a few fights over there, but I suppose my claim to fame was sparring some really good guys and had the opportunity to be around some incredible people within boxing. The best guys I sparred were Lenord Pierre, who went on to fight Kelly Pavlik and John Duddy, and also Jay Krupp, who boxed on ESPN. When I moved further down the East Coast, I wasn’t sparring these guys, but I was in the gym with the likes of the Klitschkos in Atlantic City and then later I was in the gym in Pleasantville for quite a while with Ray Mercer, Virgil Hill, Kennedy McKinney and Thomas Damgaard, from Denmark. Fellow Dane, Brian Nielson also came in to spar Mercer, in preparation for the Mike Tyson fight.

“I was in and around these people, but I was quite young at the time, so it was a case of shut up, watch and listen to everything, rather than having an opinion or any kind of voice. It was all about picking up everything about how to operate and conduct yourself in gyms in the presence of so many highly respected people.”


Chasing his Mike Tyson’s life story, Dixon explained his move to the States was not simply a fortuitous move. “It was very much by design, but more specifically, having read a lot about Cus D’Amato. I always struggled with pre-fight nerves and always wondered, ‘Is this normal?’ Cus was the only guy who broke it down, so I guess part of what took me to America was wanting to improve the mental side as much as anything else.”

Dixon explained how his journey came to fruition as one of boxing’s most prolific scribes. “I can’t look at anything I write. I’ve never read an article or book I’ve done or listened back to any of my own podcasts, because you’ll find mistakes and wish you had time to do things differently. I still can’t think about what I write now, so I dread to think about what the quality of my work was like when I first started. In terms of the move into writing – I was on the East Coast in Atlantic City and was training with Matthew Saad Muhammad, the former world light heavyweight champ and I was in touch with someone from Salisbury ABC - but please remember that this was before the times of mobile phones and technology.

I was handwriting letters to this guy at Salisbury ABC and said, ‘I’m going over to train with Micky Ward,’ who I’d met at the Hall of Fame. He then sent my phone number in Atlantic City to Tony Connolly, who was the assistant editor of Boxing News. This was just a few weeks after the first Gatti/Ward fight and Tony called me and asked if I could do an interview with Micky. That changed everything.

“I already had a degree in journalism, so it was partly on my mind that I was going to end up writing, or something along those lines and when he said, ‘Could you interview Micky?’ the whole trip changed. I said to Micky, ‘Can I come up and do an interview?’ and he said, ‘Sure. Come up.’ Again, it was different times.

It’s not like I had a laptop on me. I had a Dictaphone, a pad and a pen. I travelled up from Atlantic City through the night on the buses, stopping in New York, before going on to Lowell, Massachusetts.

“Micky came and got me from the bus station, then we went to his house, where we watched his first fight against Gatti, which I’d watched in person as a fan. Then we did the interview and went out for a sandwich. Afterwards, he took me back to the bus station and I travelled back that night, again stopping at Boston and New York, on the way to Atlantic City. I was crashing at a place with Matthew Saad Muhammad at the time and the next day I went to the public library, which is where you had to go back then if you wanted to do anything online. I typed up the interview sent it over to Boxing News, which was actually my first feature for them. That was August 2002 and I’ve had a piece in Boxing News every year since and that was 22 years ago.”

Only five years after submitting his first piece to Boxing News, Dixon joined Boxing News as a full time employee. “It was great. I was kind of built for it. My first amateur report was in 1996, covering low level local stuff, then I had my degree in journalism, then after I’d travelled around America interviewing fighters around 2002-2003, I joined the Hampshire Chronicle as a senior reporter and sub editor. I was covering pretty heavy news, like court stories, then in 2007, two jobs came up at the same time. One was the bottom job at Boxing News as editorial assistant, based in London and the other job, was a top job, at my local paper, the Forest Journal, as the editor. I went for both and got both. However, the Boxing News one took ages to sort out, so I was editor of my local paper for about four weeks, before I got the Boxing News gig. From the highest position in one organisation to the lowest in another.” What Dixon failed to mention was that he became the thirteenth editor of the highly Boxing News publication by 2009.

cont...

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From Boxing News to Sky Sports, CNN, TalkSport and many more, BVB asked Dixon about his most memorable boxing interviews. “Ahhhh. That’s a tough one. I interviewed James Scott in Northern State Prison after he’d done about 30 years for murder, that will always be a wild one. But if you look at the top elements of why we’re in the business or what you should strive to be, I have to refer to when I was sent by TNT to do the big sit down interviews with not only the likes of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder before their fights, but to do the big piece with Mike Tyson aswell. When you think you are specifically being sent away to do these interviews, it’s hard to think it gets any bigger or better than that. Mike was great by the way. He was hilarious that day and had everyone in absolute hysterics for the entire time we were there, which is very different to how quite a few of our colleagues found him in the 90s when he was wreaking having in the heavyweight division.”

From heavyweights to welterweights, Dixon’s bestselling book trail started with ghosting Ricky Hatton’s autobiography, ‘War and Peace.’ Dixon recalled the ride with Ricky. “I had a good time with Ricky writing that book. He was in battle with his family at the time we were writing it, so he was quite stressed on occasions and I was going through a lot of personal stuff in the midst of a divorce, so it was kind of like we were doing double therapy sessions. I was going up there every other weekend and we would usually do three sittings of Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon and then Sunday morning and then I’d leave Sunday afternoon and transcribe at home everything that I’d done through the week.

“Working with Ricky was an honour and also very surreal, but despite having some journalistic pedigree going into it, it was still my first book. To think you are writing this story with a national treasure - it’s a helluva job. A real honour. In terms of the satisfaction and pride that came with someone like him asking me to do it, that obviously meant an awful lot. In terms of anecdotes whilst writing the book, at the time of writing it, he was in the midst of making the comeback for the Senchenko fight in 2012. It’s not a happy story, but I do remember walking along the corridors with just him after the fight, having just lost to Senchenko with a body shot, in front of his fans in Manchester and there being a real sense of peace and serenity. I remember him looking back at himself in a mirror in the locker room. At the time, I think he’d been so torn about coming back, and with talk about him fighting Amir Khan, Kell Brook and some other fights that might be made down the line, by this point he just wanted to know what he had left. After that fight, he realised, he didn’t have ‘it’ any longer. I think that was the most gratifying thing, because previously he’d closed that chapter to the door in his life that he wasn’t sure he would be able to get over and I think it really did give him the closure he needed now.”

Dixon has now a number of sensational books to his name, but which was the toughest to take over the line? “I suppose ‘Damage’ would have to be right up there. At no stage of going through the process of the book did I ever think it wasn’t a worthwhile project, because I thought the subject matter was really important. I started very early on to crystalise how I wanted it to look, how I wanted it to be structured and what I wanted to achieve with it. However, it was a taxing project. A big part of it was trying to take very complicated scientific matters and explaining them in a pure English form. I knew that was going to be one of the most challenging parts of it. I also knew that there were elements of boxing that wouldn’t be/still aren’t ready for it, because they don’t want to acknowledge there’s a problem with the sport that we are all so passionate about.

“There’s certain people, who at the time thought I was trying to cash in on the sport, condemning it and writing it off to make a few quid, because I was no longer Boxing News editor and had maybe detached myself from boxing somewhat. That was not the case. The same people read the book quickly realised it was written with nothing but good intentions, to try and help the sport and people within it. I’m sure that certain people haven’t read it because they think it’s negative and it’s maybe one for the abolitionists to stoke the flames with, but it’s not. It’s an instructional book about how we can make improvements to the sport for the long term benefits of the fighters.”

Dixon’s Boxing Life Stories podcast have been a huge success, but does he have a favourite? “No. After 250 episodes, there were some I was really looking forward to which didn’t perhaps deliver and then others which over delivered when I wasn’t expecting much from them. I’ve had some good trips getting podcasts together, such as when I got Peter McNeeley, Micky Ward, Russell Peltz, Dickie Ecklund, Teddy Atlas, John Scully and one or two others, all in a whirlwind week to the US. Things like that were satisfying, because you knew you’d done a lot of work and hoped that people were going to enjoy them. I think we finished very strong with Joe Calzaghe though.”

The Hampshire colossus has been modelling the British Vintage Boxing threads and shared his thoughts on the brand. “I like the message and the marketing. I’m an old school guy and when you look at my journey, it was all built around finding the guys who had vanished, the cult heroes and also the guys who didn’t get the credit they were due when they were fighting. I always think there a niche for boxing clobber that goes beyond the training stuff and when you look at the message from BVB, it’s a nod to the history and to some of those guys who didn’t get the credit, and who might have otherwise been forgotten. There’s a nice healthy parallel with the brand in addressing this.”

Dixon possesses a physique which resembles a marble statue. BVB decided to probe possibly Britain’s fittest scribe the secret to his form. “I do CrossFit, but I’ve trained most days for the last 30 years. I would normally do a strength element to start with, which would be an Olympic lifting session and we’d do a MetCon, which is a metabolic conditioning session, which would involve gymnastics or body weight stuff and maybe some weights in between, with some running, rowing or skipping. It all mixes and matches and no days are the same.” With such an intense workout schedule, one has to wonder how many calories the Dixon machine burns and what fuels it.

“On a hard day, I burn about 4,000 – 4,500, whereas, on a normal day with a normal session, I’ll burn between 3,000 – 3,250 calories per day. I have a pretty boring diet to be honest! I burn roughly what I consume and I watch my macro nutrients, my carbs and my fat intake and I’m always very familiar with where I’m at. My ‘go to’ every morning is my electrolytes, which are flavoured by bulk powders and then I have a smoothie, which has frozen berries, a banana, a scoop of protein, scoop of creatine, almond milk, nut butter and some oats. That’s one of my favourite things to have and I’ll sometimes have a couple of them in a day if time doesn’t allow me to cook properly.”

Finishing in fistic fashion, BVB asked Tris which past boxing legend he would like to spar three rounds with. “I’ve said this before, live on Sky and said it to him. It would be Johnny Nelson! Two reasons – partly because we’re mates now and I think he’d take it easy on me and also, partly, because I’d hope he was that boring that he just wouldn’t come near me. Hopefully, either way, I wouldn’t be taking too much damage. On a serious note, I have loads of respect for Johnny as a fighter. I paid out my own money to go and watch him fight Adam Watt at the Doncaster Dome in 2000 and he stopped him in five rounds. If Johnny fancied it, he could actually be really spiteful in the ring, but hopefully he wouldn’t fancy it against me!”

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