Trainer, manager, promoter Dennis Hobson has done it all in boxing, and worked with a ‘who’s who’ of top fighters and world champions.
Clinton Woods, David Haye, Ricky Hatton, Jamie McDonnell – to name a few – Hobson has been involved in the careers of some of British boxing’s best fighters. One name though that doesn’t fall from the lips so easily is, Carl Thompson … and that’s a shame because ‘The Cat’ was a tremendous fighter.
The Bolton cruiserweight turned pro in 1988 and by the time he’d retired 17 years later had racked up an impressive 34-6 (25) record; including two wins over Chris Eubank (the only man to beat Eubank inside the distance), a win over David Haye, and a winner of the British, European, WBO and IBO World Titles.
What’s more, Thompson was involved in some hugely exciting contests, including one of the most amazing comeback victories seen in a British ring. In 2004, challenging Sebastiaan Rothman for the IBO World crown, Thompson was on the end of a shellacking and about to be stopped at Sheffield’s Ponds Forge Arena, before detonating a devastating right hand in the ninth round that saw the South African champion completely poleaxed.
First in the ring to celebrate with Carl that night was Dennis Hobson, who takes a look back at that incredible fight and Thompson’s career…
What was your involvement with Carl – and how long were you part of his career?
"Well, Carl originally retired in 1999 after being controversially beat by Johnny Nelson. That left a really sour taste in his mouth with Frank Warren and Nelson because he felt he’d had his title pinched from him. He got put down and was stopped prematurely, because Carl had shown he could get back up to win.
I had David Haye at the time, and a contract with the BBC. So we brought Carl back, and got him a couple of fights but he looked a bit ponderous and I thought ‘have we done the right thing’? Anyway, the opportunity came up against Rothmann to fight for the IBO World Title. I was really excited because I got on really well with Carl, so I rang him up and said, ‘Carl, I’ve got some good news for you. Are you ready … Sebastiaan Rothmann, June 2nd, for the IBO World Title’! I was expecting him to jump up and be over the moon but it all went quiet. So, I said, ‘Carl, are you there – what do you think’? And he said, in his broad Bolton accent, ‘I’m just thinking about that day, I’ll just have to check what rota our lass is on. I think it should be alright but I just need to check first’!
I was actually the promoter that night, with Clinton Woods fighting Glen Johnson for the world title as top of the bill. Before the fight with Rothmann I had a word with Richie Davies, the referee. I told him about Carl’s kickboxing experience, how he could stand straight on, how his balance wasn’t brilliant, and I said, ‘if it does look as though he’s going, give him every chance’. In the fight he was was getting outboxed; Rothmann was teeing off on him and I thought I was going to get slated for bringing Carl out of retirement but then, bang – he pulls that punch out of the bag!
I was first in the ring, and I was absolutely buzzing for Carl. I actually saw Richie Davies after the fight and he said he was about to stop it but had remembered what I’d said and decided to have another look, and then bang, Carl puts his lights out!"
What happened after that fight?
"After that, I was walking down the street in Jersey and I got a call from Adam Booth, who said, ‘with you being our promoter, and the promoter of Carl Thompson, we’d like you to make the fight between David [Haye] and Carl for the IBO world title’. I said to Adam, ‘as a manager as well as a promoter, I’m telling you not to fight Carl, he’s too dangerous for David.’ He wouldn’t listen though, so I asked him to remember the conversation, made the fight … and the rest is history.
Obviously David went on to have a fantastic career, but they were in a hurry and Carl was too much for him at that time. They wanted the rematch but Carl rightly wanted more money for being the champion and having already beaten David, but we couldn’t get him the purse he was looking for. So, ultimately, he just retired out of principle, saying he’d done everything he wanted to do and went out on top."
Does Carl get the credit now that he deserves?
"No, he doesn’t. He was a bit like Clinton [Woods], both were very hard men but they didn’t like to talk. In boxing you have to be able to talk, and I think more fighters get that these days. Carl was more introverted than many fighters now, who sell themselves a bit. It’s a part of the game but Carl was an old fashioned fighter who just wanted to fight, he didn’t really want to get involved in that other side of the game.
It’s a shame because, in the industry, Carl is well respected, but outside of the sport he maybe doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves. In the short time I worked with him, he was in some really exciting fights and I have such fond memories of him. He was a pleasure to work with and so exciting."