Gareth A Davies must be the only boxing journalist as recognisable as most of the fighters.
His trademark dark glasses and shoulder-length hair are a constant ringside presence at every big fight.
We spoke to a doyen of his field about what makes him tick.
Listen to the full interview below or have a read of the abridged version.
You work across multiple media – TV, radio, newspapers. Do you have a favourite?
The big thing you need in boxing journalism is stamina. If you haven’t got stamina, you can’t do it. I’ve got mentors in their eighties in the sport – Bob Arum, Colin Hart, Frank Warren – they’re my teachers, they’re people I look up to because of their longevity.
Writing keeps you honest: there’s a discipline to writing a piece, there’s a discipline to getting a call at ten thirty at night and you’ve got 20 minutes to file 400 words. I love that aspect of it because it keeps me honest as a journalist.
Radio, I just love. I always prepare but I love telling stories, I love back and forth and repartee. TV is probably the best paid but it’s different – you get famous by being on TV. Obviously only in your own milieu but it’s different, it’s much more about image.
Do you offer advice to people in the sport?
I give advice to fighters: get in, make as much money as you can, get out. That is the nature of this industry. I always give advice to young people. It’s about being consistent. Be yourself, realise you reap what you sow, actions speak louder than words, decisions determine success and failure, discovery pays dividends, preparation is key, luck plays a part but stamina is very important.
I will only write or say what I will say to a fighter’s face. That’s my rule. I have had fall-outs with fighters in the past – Liam Smith, Dillian Whyte, Deontay Wilder. They’re passionate, they’re sensitive – fighters are often sensitive – and they feel that you’ve said something that’s got under their skin. It’s probably not deliberate: I don’t pick who I want to win; I pick who I think will win.
Always have mentors. There’s always someone – no matter how old they might be – who has been through it in a different time. I’d love to have been covering Muhammad Ali in the 1960s and 1970s. Journalists were on the road all the time, they spent four or five weeks with fighters leading up to a fight, not a couple of days before fight night or one media day. The whole thing’s changed.
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Any memories that stick with you?
I’ve been sitting with Naseem Hameed in a mountain resort for an afternoon when he’s trying to convert me to Islam: “You sound like a Sufi, the way you think about the world!” Those parts of the journey are a privilege.
Meeting Carl Froch’s family in Atlantic City when he was fighting Andre Ward. Being with Amir Khan when he’s battered and bruised, he’s peeing blood when he’s fought Terence Crawford and you’re in his apartment in Las Vegas looking out over the Strip.
You have quite a flamboyant image. Has that ever caused you issues within the sport?
I don’t really think about it too much; I’ve been in the industry so long. We all have doubts about ourselves – fighters have doubts about themselves in the lead up to fight. I’m digressing here slightly but I’ve had the privilege of being in Tyson Fury’s dressing room three or four times before a fight. That’s a very special environment. I am very lucky, even though I would like to say that I’ve earned it through my body of work.
When fighters do an interview with me, they know that I want to go narrow and deep: that I’m going to interview in a certain way; that I’m fascinated as to why they fight. It’s a fundamental question, you know? Thank God fighting is licensed in this country because they are the modern gladiators. They have a calling. It’s a very unusual profession. And documenting their lives and covering it, I think is a very unusual profession.
It’s not normal to be hit. It’s not normal. Most people will run away if they’re hit but they have this fight instinct. It’s primal and it’s fascinating. Because I have a feel for fight sports, I think I’m accepted almost like a piece of furniture now. I’ve been there for so long. But yes, there’s always flack. I think it keeps you honest when people have a go at you. I still haven’t worked out why people want to have a pop at you about the way you look but that’s human nature.
But after all these years, I’d know whether I was accepted in the industry or not. So I’m very comfortable with it. As for my own personal image, I’m very happy with who I am. I’m really privileged and happy and lucky to do what I’m doing. I always say to myself, if it ends next week, I’ve really tried to give it my all. I’ve still got ambitions to do some music interviews. I’ve always had an ambition to get on the front of Rolling Stone with an interview.
What are some of your Vegas highlights?
Well, 50% are tales you never tell. One of the most enjoyable things about Vegas is that it’s a mirage in the desert. People shouldn’t be living there. There’s an atmosphere to Vegas. It’s an adult playground where you can have four hours off, you can sleep five hours, play for four hours, and work the rest. I don’t have any kind of weird wacky sex stories about ending up like The Hangover.
What I’d pick out are the boxing highlights and MMA highlights. UFC 100, UFC 200 as well. Covering Michael Bisping in Las Vegas, being right up close and personal with him when he was fighting Dan Henderson. Couple of highlights there covering boxing are definitely Ricky Hatton against Floyd Mayweather, Ricky Hatton against Manny Pacquiao. I went out early and I was around Ricky. Before Hatton vs Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calazaghe went face to face in the media room – we kind of helped make their fight in the media room that day.
Weird things happen in that media room. Suddenly Mike Tyson’s striding through or Lennox Lewis is there – it’s a who’s who. I’ve been very lucky to go to some Tyson Fury afterparties, and I might have even taken my shirt off with all the travellers as well. I’ve never put those pictures out on social media!
What kind of legacy would you like to pass onto the next generation of journalists?
Wow, that’s a great question. Hopefully my legacy is consistency. The harder your work, the better your luck gets. Take opportunities when they present themselves to you. I believe in being persistent but not pushy. And you find where you belong eventually.
I’ve had Deontay Wilder in my face in the past quite famously, when he fought Fury in Los Angeles. He was annoyed that everyone was telling the amazing story of Fury losing ten stone and coming back from suicide and depression. Deontay took his glasses off and he came right into my face and went, “You tell your friend Tyson Fury that he’s gonna get it. Why should he come here and be loved by everyone when I don’t get that kind of love?”
It was weird. To be honest, I didn’t feel any fear. But those kind of moments, when you look back you go, ‘oh my God!’ And they are a privilege. They are a privilege because that person is engaging you as a character in the narrative.
I want to be remembered for having a passion and a love for what I do. It’s not a normal existence. When we lived in caves and we hunted the giant buffalo and we needed them for the winter, we were the hunters, not the gatherers. There’s one neurotribe that’s gathering, there’s another neurotribe that’s hunting; we belong to that neurotribe. That’s what’s in us and that’s why we love it.
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