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Boxing world’s support for Kellie Maloney – formerly Frank – shows how far we've come

Sports stars have offered their support to Kellie Maloney, who guided Lennox Lewis to the heavyweight title in 1993 when she was known as Frank.  

Former boxing promoter Frank Maloney explained in the Sunday Mirror yesterday that he is undergoing gender reassignment and is now living as a woman called Kellie.

She told the paper that she had never told anyone in the boxing world about feeling trapped in the wrong body from an early age. She said:

Can you imagine me walking into a boxing hall dressed as a woman and putting an event on? I can imagine what they would scream at me, but if I had been in the theatre or arts world nobody would blink an eye about this transition.”

Kellie Maloney is now more than a year into her transition, and her openness has drawn unexpectedly vocal support from others in the macho sporting world.

Lennox Lewis, with whom Maloney worked in the run-up to his heavyweight title in 1993, released the following statement:

I was just as shocked as anyone at the news about my former promoter and my initial thought was that it was a wind-up. The great thing about life, and boxing, is that, day to day, you never know what to expect. This world we live in isn't always cut and dried or black and white, and coming from the boxing fraternity, I can only imagine what a difficult decision this must be for [Maloney].

However, having taken some time to read Kellie's statements, I understand better what she, and others in similar situations are going through. I think that all people should be allowed to live their lives in a way that brings them harmony and inner peace.

I respect Kellie's decision and say that if this is what brings about true happiness in her life, than so be it. #LiveAndLetLive.”

Sky Sports pundit and former WBO cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson tweeted:

Former European boxing champion and Olympic bronze medallist Tony Jeffries, who was also managed by Maloney, also tweeted his support:

Footballer Stan Collymore added his regards:

Trans Media Watch, an organisation that seeks to help media outlets improve their reporting of trans issues, has said that they are pleased with the standard of coverage:

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.