‘There’s a buzz coming back to the Portsmouth boxing scene’ – Frank Hopkins

He was the man who oversaw Tony Oakey's rise to becoming world, Commonwealth and British light heavyweight champion.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 10:20 am
Frank Hopkins, middle, with Tony Oakey and Frank Maloney, 2003. Picture: Matt Scott-Joynt

Now Frank Hopkins believes there's a boxing 'buzz' that's about to come back to Portsmouth.

Hopkins, 74, was a key part of his nephew's success in the sport taking up roles as trainer, manager and cutsman across Oakey’s 12-year professional career.

The Leigh Park light heavyweight has long stood on his own as the city's most decorated boxing son, with no-one from the Portsmouth area ever coming close to emulating his feats.

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Frank Hopkins, far left, with his arms aloft after nephew Tony Oakey had just been crowned WBU world light heavyweight champion.

But Hopkins believes after a boxing 'lull' across the PO areas since Oakey hung up his gloves in 2010, good times and big nights could - finally - be about to return.

Hopkins remains heavily involved in the sport as one of Britain's leading cutsman and managers.

He has high hopes for those under his guidance, including 8-0 Waterlooville lightweight Mark Chamberlain.

And with his emergence, coupled with Portsmouth brothers Mikey McKinson and Lucas Ballingall starting to make their names in the sport, Hopkins insists these are exciting times for boxing in the area.

Frank Hopkins with multiple featherweight world title winner Naseem Hamed

‘Portsmouth, when I was top of the bill here with Tony (Oakey), we were top of the bill and that was it,’ he recalled

‘There were a couple of fighters that were fighting but you don’t even know their names - I can’t even remember them.

‘But Tony Oakey was the man, everyone in Portsmouth knew him. He won so much and it’d never been achieved in Portsmouth.

‘No-one had won a Commonwealth in Portsmouth. He won Southern Area, British, European, Commonwealth, world titles, Prizefighter - everything you can think of he won, people in Portsmouth don’t do that. I mean it’s a seaside town after all is said and done.

Frank Hopkins, far right, with, from left, Neil Linford, Frank Maloney and Tony Oakey at a press conference to announce the Linford v Oakey fight at the Mountbatten Centre, 2003. Picture: PAUL JACOBS

‘Tony created it and there was a buzz. We’ve had a lull for probably 10 years or more that if I said five years ago who was the best boxer then you’d struggle to say.

‘I think now we’re going to get a bit of a buzz.

‘You’ve got Mikey, Lucas and Mark Chamberlain and Ryan Garner - admittedly he’s not for us, I work with him but he’s from Southampton.

‘We have got boys up and coming, I wouldn’t be surprised if this time next year we haven’t got titles with these boys. When was the last time there was a British title in Portsmouth? Since Tony we haven’t had one.'

Hopkins manages both Wayne Batten-trained pros Chamberlain and super featherweight Garner.

Although they remain his main focus, he has also kept a close eye on the careers of McKinson and Ballingall.

Hopkins spent a lot of time with their father, Michael Ballingall, as he was a big part of Oakey's team during his pro career.

The Emsworth-based cutsman feels McKinson has now put himself on the cusp of big things after landing the WBO Global welterweight title - already the fourth of his pro career - live on Sky Sports Box Office against Chris Kongo.

Hopkins says it's now just up to the Pompey Problem to 'grab' his opportunity - and he insists anything he goes onto achieve in the sport is just reward after taking a hard road to get to where he finds himself.

He said: 'I think his style (Mikey McKinson’s) is horrible and awkward, but that doesn’t make him a bad fighter.

‘He’s now, in my opinion, right there and he’s just got to grab it.

'When you work out what he’s done, I think it’s fabulous.

‘Them boys (Mikey and Lucas Ballingall) I’ve known them since they were two years old, they’ve been away with me all over Great Britain when they were seven, eight and nine because Mikey used to work with me with Tony Oakey and that.

‘I’ll be honest with you, it must have been so hard doing the small halls. If you do 10 small hall shows and win 10 fights, no-one really knows.

‘A lot of people avoided Mikey because he is pretty good. He’s someone you don’t want to fight so you push him aside.

'The big promoters will get so and so from Spain who’s not as good as Mikey and you beat him.

‘I like Mikey and I like Lucas. If you look at Mikey now, he’s on television, he’s being interviewed and he’s Charlie Potatoes.

‘He’s walking around in Portsmouth and everyone is saying, ‘I saw you on the tele, well done mate.’

‘Like Mark Chamberlain and Ryan Garner, everyone knows them, everyone in Portsmouth knows Mark Chamberlain - he’s only had eight fights but he’s been on the tele eight times.'