Friday, 22 August 2014

Farewell Glyn Leach

I've been away so it wasn't until today that I discovered that Glyn Leach, the longtime editor of British boxing journalism mainstay Boxing Monthly had passed away at the absurdly early age of 52.

Although I've been a reader of Boxing Monthly for many, many years, I didn't know Mr Leach personally and I never met him. I think, in fact, that I've only ever seen one photograph of him. For a personal sense of what he was like as a man and an editor I suggest that you click here or here or here for some illuminating tributes by people better qualified than me to comment on him.

Nevertheless, although I never knew Leach, his passing still hit me like a Bob Fitzsimmons punch to the solar plexus. Ironically enough, I was planning to send him a copy of my forthcoming anthology Boxiana: Volume 1 in the hope that his magazine would review it. I'd even begun to pen, in my head, a letter to go with it, in which I was going to explain to Mr Leach how much Boxing Monthly has meant to me over the years. Sadly, that's now a letter I'll never write, and sentiments he will never hear.

I can still remember the first time I ever read an issue of Boxing Monthly. It was in the early to mid-1990s and I was already a keen reader of Boxing News, and had no idea that there was also a monthly British title devoted to boxing. One afternoon, I was due at a play rehearsal in Croydon and had arrived early, so I browsed around the local shops and the Boxing Monthly masthead leapt out at me. I eagerly bought and devoured the magazine in one sitting while sat on a park bench eating a pasty. I remember, in particular, a fascinating article about Henry Maske, the German light-heavyweight about who I knew very little. So absorbed was I in the magazine, that I was late for my rehearsal.

Thereafter, I pretty much never missed an issue of Boxing Monthly, although about eight years ago, and to my eternal regret, I dispensed with my collection of back issues during a period when I had fallen out of love with boxing. What a fool I feel like now to have done that.

Each month Leach's editorial was always the first thing I read. His honesty and integrity always shone through in these masterclasses of cogency, erudition and journalistic coherence. Sometimes these editorials were angry rants, shot through with shards of dark humour and cynicism. At other times, they were sunny, optimistic treatises. But whatever tone they took, they were never dull, they never courted sympathy or popularity for the sake of it, and they never, it struck me, were anything other than 100% honest, sometimes brutally so.

Given Leach's forthrightness, you might have expected him to possess a huge ego, but I never got that impression. I've barely ever seen a photograph of him, and certainly there was very little sense of self-promotion or self-aggrandising in those wonderful editorials. 

Reading the obituaries of Leach that have sprung up in cyberspace, it has struck me that he was obviously a kind and encouraging soul as well; I've already lost count of the number of novice writers who have emerged to thank Leach for giving them their big break. And the varied names of contributors in Boxing Monthly over the years certainly indicate that, unlike many publications in the mainstream media, Leach was always willing to give an enthusiastic and talented unknown a shot, rather than rely on a clique-riden coterie of his mates. All of which makes me even more regretful that I never had the guts to pitch Leach a story or feature idea.  

Boxing Monthly has now been in print for 25 years, an incredible achievement for an independent print publication. That is Leach's epitaph. Let's, as a boxing community and set of consumers, make sure it is still here in another 25 years' time as a monument to his passion, integrity and excellence, even though, without Leach inhabiting its pages, it will never be quite the same again.

Luke G. Williams
Follow @boxianajournal

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