Imagine having been around boxing so long that you have seen and done it all. From being the MC for the first all British world heavyweight title fight to being ringside on some of those dreadful nights in the sport, Mike Goodall is a man that has experienced so many highs and lows, with many tales to tell it is only fitting that his stories are told. Aptly dubbed "The Lord Of The Rings" Goodall started with just the one ring within his business, but it was one ring that would go on to rule them all.
The sport of boxing has always been a prominent feature in Mike's life and it all began at just the age of four when he experienced it for the very first time.
"The first experience of boxing I had was when I was four, getting out of bed at 1 am to listen to Rocky Marciano vs Don Cockell on the radio with my dad who was a massive fan of the sport so he would always tune in when a big fight was on, and I remember us sat there in our dressing gowns listening to the fight on the radio, and that was it for me I was hooked from there on in"
During the 1950s & 60s, boxing was a part of the school curriculum in the UK, and all boys up until they left school was made to partake in the sport, which as the time educational institutes believe it was a great way to build discipline from a young age.
"When I was at school we were made to box as a punishment, and I had around fifteen bouts, this is where I learned from a very young age that it bloody hurts. Although I knew it was a tough sport I enjoyed it.
Then you move on in life and get a job, get married, but the interest is always there, and it was around the time Muhammad Ali came along it ignited my love of the sport. I remember we used to go and watch him on the closed-circuit in Birmingham. From there I went into business on my own and then a mate of mine used to get tickets to go to the dinner shows which I started going to with him and it was at that point we decided to put on a few shows of our own"
Over the years Mike has been known mainly recognised for his time as a master of ceremonies at many big boxing events, but he is also known for the work his company (Ringcraft Boxing Facilities) produces which is to travel up and down the country every week constructing and preparing the rings from the small hall shows up to the box office events.
"I became an MC because at the first dinner show we promoted in 1979 we were going to pay an MC to do the show, and I thought why are we paying him when I could do this so I went and got an MC's license and that was it from there on out. We then went on to buy our ring for the shows which then led to Frank Warren asking us to hire it out for one of his events in 1988 and from there it just seemed to skyrocket, and I suppose if you provide a good service people are always going to come back to use you again, which is exactly what happened with the business"
Having been the MC for Frank Warren during the late 1980s and 90s there have been many memorable fights that have taken place during this time but there are two that stick out for Mike - Prince Naseem Hamed vs Steve Robinson in 1995 when 'Naz' went to Wales and dethroned the then champion at just the age of twenty-one to become the WBO featherweight champion and the second was in 1993 when Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno contested the world heavyweight title which was the first time in history two British heavyweights had done that.
“Out of all the shows I was an MC for, there were two fights that stick out in my mind and they were when Naseem Hamed went to Cardiff and beat Steve Robinson in his backyard and when Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis fought at Wembley. They were both great nights for the sport and I enjoyed them.
“My favourite fight that I enjoyed being ringside for was Nigel Benn vs Gerald McClellan. I wasn't the MC as Showtime had brought Jimmy Lennon Jr over, but I did the undercard fights and was then able to sit ringside to watch that. It was a tremendous fight, but I was also ringside for Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko which was another one I had the pleasure of being ringside for"
In boxing, many shows go by without any hiccup's, but then there are some which have issues such as fighters not turning up or turning up late and its left to the promoters to scramble around looking at what fights they can put next, and the MC has to try and fill time for the paying audience. With Mike being around the sport so long he has seen it all and recalls one of the nights when it became nothing short of pandemonium
“I remember the night Frank Warren got shot, we were just starting the show as it happened and I was thinking 'christ what do you do now' but the show has to go on and I remember getting out of the ring and Frank's right-hand man telling me he had been shot outside the venue, but the show had to go on, this is show business, thankfully Frank was ok and the show proceeded as it was”
It was evident during our conversation that Mike had so many stories and memories he could share with me, but there was one memory in particular which he credits as his best memory of being involved in boxing.
“I used to go out to Tenerife with Nigel Benn when he was starting up a training camp over there and I would go to set up the ring. So I would go over on a Sunday, set up the ring and back home by the Tuesday and left Nigel and his team over there. On Monday night, they used to take me out for a meal and there was me, Nigel, Jimmy Tibbs, Nigel's father Dixon. On one of these nights we did our usual routine and then I was given this drink, and I must have ended up having around six of them, so I asked what they were, and they're called B-52s now before I knew it, it was 11 pm and I knew I had a flight back home early in the morning. I raced back to my room a little worse for wear at this point and I fell down these steps, I lost my glasses in the process but I did end up making my flight and collapsed on the back seats still hungover from a night of these B-52s".
Two months after this happened I went to see a chiropractor over some back trouble I had been suffering, now as he is checking me over he asks what I have done to my shoulder and I told him about that night in Tenerife. It only turned out I had broken my collar bone in three places from that fall down the stairs and now whenever I see Jimmy Tibbs he always asks me if I fancy a B-52 and whenever I see Nigel he always tells me to keep off the B-52s"
During his time in the sport Mike has seen many fights live, he estimates around sixty thousand fights that he has been ringside for during his time in the sport, and of course, he has seen many talented fighters become world champions or ones that have failed to live up to their potential, but there is one fighter that Mike always enjoyed being ringside to see.
“Naseem Hamed was the one fighter that stood out to me. In his day he was unbelievable to watch, the angles he threw punches from was to a joy to watch. It was that partnership he had with Brendan Ingle that made it so special, the way Ingle brought Nas on through his career was just fantastic to see, I have not seen anyone like Naseem Hamed since but I have seen many a fighter try to imitate him and his style but no one has been able to do it because there is and will only ever be one Prince Naseem Hamed"
“I have seen so much over the years, I remember Derek Chisora throwing the table at a press conference and it was me that ended up calming him down because we have this mutual respect for one another. I always remember Herbie Hide, a guy that could punch like a mule, but in the dressing room before fights, he would virtually shit himself with nerves however when he got in the ring he just switched on"
Over the last three months, the global pandemic which has swept the world has affected many businesses across the UK and with all sports being cancelled there has been no boxing events on for Mike and his team to be able to provide rings for and he speaks about the effect that this has had on the business, but also how he has managed to keep afloat
“As a business owner it has been disastrous, the day lockdown happened we had to get all the vans back to the dept with rings just sat in them, I had to cancel all the insurances we had in place and the staff had to be sent home. I am very fortunate that in 1996 I set up a second company (Signs 'R' Us Ltd) which has still had some work during this period and the fact the government's furlough scheme has helped so the staff has been paid and the only things we have had to cover is the rent."
These days Mike has taken a step back from being on the road every week, and now is only involved with the TV shows travelling from the UK to Monte Carlo to Saudi Arabia for Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz, but at seventy-two years old you have to wonder what Mike has left in the tank when it comes to being so involved and if that passion for boxing is still there.
“My son has taken over the majority of the responsibilities for the companies as he has been alongside me for around twenty-seven years now and it is a case of getting to that day where I hand it all over fully to him.
I have had a great time, and when you can turn a hobby into a living its tremendous. In the last thirty years, I have been ringside for every great fight that has taken place and it has been fantastic and if I died tomorrow I would have absolutely no regrets at all".