Fire still burns brightly for birthday-boy Bishop

Dave Birmingham. Picture: Neil Marshall

Birmingham wins Irish friends as he eyes future title

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Jack Bishop today turns 90.

And Mr Boxing himself has a dream as he moves into his 10th decade.

‘I’ve had 10 champions,’ says Bishop over a cuppa in his Fareham home.

‘That’s three British champions and a load of Southern Area champions.

‘But I still feel I can have another. I want one more champion before I pop my clogs.’

It’s not just 10 titlists Bishop has picked up in a lifetime dedicated to the noble art.

The marine and army World War II veteran, quite simply, commands the respect of everyone in the boxing world like no one else.

In all his days in the fight trade, Bishop has picked up a few friends, too.

This is a man who counts the likes of legendary promoter Don King, Simply the Best Chris Eubank and former world heavyweight champ Frank Bruno among his acquaintances.

And this is a trainer who can place a special award from the British Boxing Board of Control on his mantlepiece, which has also been given to Muhammad Ali.

Bishop was the only unanimous recipient in its history, though...

Next to that is his lifetime achievement award from The News Sports Awards, picked up on an emotional evening.

It’s not about the accolades for Bishop, though.

As he hits his latest landmark he’s still a fixture in his gym overseeing proceedings.

And when fight night comes around he’ll be present in his boxer’s corner.

‘I’m in the gym four times a week,’ said Bishop.

‘Bobby Williams, one of my ex-boxers, and my pal John Chapman help, too.

‘I try to take a back seat but find myself creeping in there again.

‘I’m still in the corner for fights, as well.

‘You have to keep a cool head. That rubs off on your boxer.

‘I like the involvement still. I haven’t got the energy I once had but it keeps me young.

‘You have to stay positive at my age.

‘I’m quite strong willed, too. I don’t like giving in to anything.

‘I’m in good health still as well, which helps.’

That’s certainly the case now for Bishop with his memories vivid, wit sharp and sense of humour still firmly in place.

‘I can’t play as much five-a-side football as I used to,’ he jokes, ‘and the odd names get away from me but otherwise I still feel good.’

That wasn’t how it was 32 months ago, however, when he was rushed to hospital after his prostate swelled up to the size of a football.

Further problems then ensued that left Bishop fearing his days were numbered.

‘I thought I was a goner,’ he said.

‘I was on morphine and there was urine coming out of my mouth.

‘It was my prostate that was swollen and was blocking everything.

‘They still recognised my face from The News, though.

‘I ended up with a catheter on me and was sent home.

‘A nurse came out and changed it and it felt like someone stabbing a knife into me.

‘Then I woke up at 4am and there was blood all over the place.

‘I fell out of bed and pulled the curtains down – and someone managed to call 999. I was lucky.

‘I was told normally when you go unconscious like that you don’t come out of it.

‘But now I’m feeling healthy. I’m not restricted.’

So cause for optimism when it comes to his health but Bishop isn’t so upbeat when it comes to the condition of the boxing game he loves.

He hasn’t promoted a show in over two years after losing £15,000 staging events.

All the while, the spectre of white collar boxing and mixed martial arts’ growing popularity hangs over the professional game.

Bishop feels the boxing board of control has to carry the can for much of the damage done.

‘I’ve lost faith in the board,’ he says, with disappointment drifting through his words.

‘At one time I was their biggest defender but I’ve lost faith in them.

‘I wouldn’t gamble on a promotion again.

‘The last year I did I lost £15,000 and that’s money I bled for.

‘I have a good MOD pension but why should I give it away? I love the sport. I didn’t get a very square deal, so I try to give boxers a square deal.

‘But it’s a bad show all round now.

‘The income for others is suffering as a result.

‘They haven’t fought this white collar stuff in any way.

‘You must pay for tests that cost a bomb but boxers can go and earn a few bob doing this white collar stuff.

‘We have to go to London to do a first aid course.

‘My local centre, who do it for the army and the navy teams, as well as the police and fire brigade, can do it for £30,

‘But we have to go all the way to London for it.

‘There were people who got suspended for a year for doing it locally, like Enzo Calzaghe.

‘The board have turned themselves into a money-making machine.’

There may be a tinge of sadness at the way boxing has changed but the glint in Bishop’s eye remains strong.

‘I worry for the future of the sport, but I’ll carry on,’ he whispers firmly.

Bishop knows as well as anyone the sweet science isn’t always so sweet but his love for it is firm.

And so is the ambition which incredibly still courses through one of the most special people in sport.

‘I’m still going strong,’ he smiles.

‘I don’t know why I’ve lived this long – my mum and dad had their three score and 10.

‘Maybe there’s someone up there who doesn’t want me!

‘I’ve still got ambition, though. I want that next champion.

‘You have to have something to aim for in life – or you’ll die.’