Boxing Social spoke to undefeated super welterweight prospect, Josh Frankham, about the influences guiding him in the sport he was born and bred for.
Frankham, as many boxing fans do, grew up looking at a picture of Muhammad Ali. The difference in this one was that the heavyweight legend known simply as ‘The Greatest’ was on his backside. Standing over him was the frame of Uncle Johnny Frankham.
“He famously put Ali over. It was an exhibition, but we’ll take it. He’s got the photo on his wall back home. That was a pretty cool story.
Another one was my uncle Bobby and Brad Pitt. He lived with him for a few days.”
Yes, Brad Pitt. One half of Brangelina. During pre-production for Snatch, Guy Ritchie got in touch with Bobby Frankham – also a talented boxer – and asked him to show Pitt the ropes of fighting like a traveller for the role of ‘One Punch’ Mickey O’Neil.
“He came over to my uncle’s place, my Granny cooked dinner for him, he had beers with everyone. Top fella … We learned him how to fight, how to talk. It’s part of our history.”
Frankham and his family are a magnet for the sweet science. Case in point: when he was watching his cousin, WBC Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury, box Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas, he ended up doing a bit of road work with Manny Pacquiao.
But these vignettes of Pitt and Pacquiao pale in comparison to the real reason he’s boxing. Back to the man who dropped Ali…
‘Gypsy’ Johnny Frankham began his career in the days of 15-rounders. He boxed all over London from his debut in 1970, going on to fight in Copenhagen, Johannesburg and Lebbeke, before landing back at the Royal Albert Hall for a crack at the 175lb British title.
He fought Olympic Gold Medallist Chris Finnegan over the full 45 minute distance to win the title. It planted a seed, says Frankham, that’s providing plenty today.
“My uncle John was one of the first travellers to be successful in boxing. A lot of travellers followed him. Before the Furys, before everyone else. It was us.”
It’s no surprise that the travelling community is important to him, and he believes there’s a renaissance going on.
“Every child boxes. You get ten schoolboys [from the community] probably nine of them are boxing in the gym. When they get to 16, 17 and get a car and a girl, start to drink, most of them pack up.”
“The last five years where Tyson Fury’s succeeded, Billy Joe Saunders has succeeded, looking back to Andy Lee – people are really starting to take it seriously. Hopefully in a few years now we’ll start having more world champions.”
There’s a competitive atmosphere, and Frankham, 24, knows that it pushes the young fighters to get better. It certainly happened that way for him. Those vices he speaks of aren’t enough to tempt him from the sport, and there’s a sense that he feels he owes it to his community to keep it that way.
On Fury, he’s grateful that he has that connection to someone who’s seen it all.
“If I want it, I can always ring Tyson and ask him advice. I’m very thankful for it. There’s no better man for boxing advice.”
Fury has played a part indeed. He advised Frankham – who is a four-time national amateur champion – to turn over to the pro ranks. He did so during the Covid19 pandemic, his first fight in an empty York Hall. His second was on the undercard of Joe Joyce vs Daniel Dubois in Church House with just a scattering of family members.
He says those fights had the feel of sparring sessions, and walking out in front of fans at the Copper Box in his fourth was an entirely new sensation. It would be his first stoppage victory. Pressure: handled.
Now at 7-0 (2 KOs), Frankham wants to be challenged, believing it to be the best way to progress despite the risks it carries. It’s a refreshing take in the age of the all-important zero.
“My seven opponents haven’t really come to fight. To be honest, my toughest test fight-wise was probably Kevin McCauley in my debut. He came to have a go. When they start having a go, that’s when you’ll see the best of me.”
He’s looking to be 10-0 by the end of the year at a number on the scale he’s now comfortable with after having a couple closer to welterweight. That means another three fights potentially, he says, culminating in his first eight-rounder.
For a fighter with single digits on his record, he carries a deep-rooted confidence into the ring, building work off a stiff jab and letting quick hands go when he’s worked his way in through feints and angles. He’s stalked all seven of his opponents around the ring, inviting them to test his defence. Like his big cousin, he’s a satisfying watch.
Frankham’s goal, for now, is clear – and the path was carved out for him almost five decades ago.
“I love the British title. My uncle John, the reason I started boxing, won it back in the seventies – the light heavyweight. A British title back then was like a world title. A lot of fighters overlook it now, and I don’t think they should.
“That would be a big achievement for my family.”
Frankham is due back out this summer with a date and opponent set to be announced soon.