PZ: You are one of the UK’S only female boxing promoters. Where does your passion from boxing evolve from?
NC: I grew up in a household with three men – my two older brothers and my dad. With that kind of environment you kind of get thrown into being a tomboy. I have fond memories of watching Mike Tyson fights on ITV, but it was not simply the fights that attracted me to the sport, but also the buzz which came with the crowds and the build up to the fights which I perhaps enjoyed even more. My brothers then noticed my passion for boxing and started to show me some of the older fights with the likes of Ali and Frazier, and the atmosphere and the hype of these guys, to watch as a kid was magical.
PZ: As opposed to getting into boxing journalism, why did you choose promoting?
NC: I used go out with an unlicensed boxing promoter and he taught me a hell of a lot about the business and gave me a real insight. I then found myself working all the hours god sends to make this a success, and at the time my dad was a promoter of music and I learnt from him that it’s not about the product you are selling but how you are looking to get it to the audience. He also taught me and my brothers to dare to go where nobody else will, and have complete confidence in what you are selling. Within a short crime I hosted an unlicensed boxing show (30th December 2009), but also made it a benefit evening for anti-knife crime. I was really nervous before the event, but by the time the night came around, I had sold 1,700 tickets at The Troxy and knew I could make a success at that point.
PZ: You have brothers who are very successful within the music industry. Tell us a bit more about your family.
NC: My dad was a pioneer in Ska music, which falls underneath the umbrella of Reggae. He was one of the first pioneers in this country to introduce Ska to the UK, and certainly the first white man to be promoting this kind of music during those days. He basically went to Brixton and met up with the guys who were playing it privately and asked ‘why are you not playing this music in dance halls?’. They replied ‘because we are black’. He replied ‘I’m not, and I think this music needs to be introduced to everybody!’. He then started playing and promoting Ska seven nights per week in clubs all over London.
As kids our dad bought us really good sound systems and Ska was the flavour of the house from all our systems. If the occasional track of hip hop or rap suddenly got played my dad would ask what was going on, and wait for the Ska to come back on and say ‘that’s more like it’! We also had Graham Lyle as a neighbour, as in Gallagher and Lyle (What’s love got to do with it?), and this also acted as a great inspiration and knowledge base. Before you knew it my brothers formed The Dualers. My dad helped them along the way to show them the difference between good and bad beats and what the public would recognise and appreciate.
I was also a singer. When my brothers started singing, I was about 13 and they did a play on Otis Reading’s life story, and me being a cocky little kid, as one of them started to murder a Carla Thomas song I stood up and said ‘that’s not how it goes’ and starting singing. My brothers looked over at me as this big soulful voice spilled out of me, and a few years later I was signed to 19 Management, and supported the likes of Tina Turner, Paul Weller and the Lighthouse Family.
PZ: You spend a great deal of your time raising funds and awareness for a number of charities, but the main one being the Epilepsy Society. Can you tell us a little bit more about as to why you are involved….
NC: When I was 14 my brother found me on the floor having a grand mal seizure. I was pretty bad and I took a serious blow to the head. Between the age of 14-16 I was in and out of hospital and on one occasion was in there for about a month. From that time onwards I lived in my mum and dads bedroom, as they wanted to keep a close eye on me. It was very frightening for them, but more so for me as a kid being dragged around to see doctors all the time. In addition, I didn’t have any friends as they were scared to see me having fits.
I have epilepsy, but so what. There are people out there far worse off than me and at the end of the day, I could have gone down another path which could have led me to a life of misery. You see so many people being drug addicts, or ruining their lives, so although it’s not ideal, I look at everything I have in life as a blessing and try and work it to my advantage. You need a strong will to live with epilepsy and still achieve many of your goals in life. You need to stand up to the illness and be proud of yourself and don’t let it take you down. I’ve only started doing that recently in the last three years, and now feel I am gelling much better with society than ever before.
PZ: How does Epilepsy affect your day to day life?
NC: I can’t have a bath or cook a meal without someone being with me. I can’t drive before a certain time because my seizures usually come in the morning. I can’t go to sleep upstairs in case I have a seizure and fall down the stairs, unless I have friends round.
I need to take care of myself as I’ve died 12 times.
PZ: I’m sorry did you say you have died 12 times?
NC: That’s right! I have been resuscitated 12 times. Grand mal seizures can be fatal. I had a fit a while ago where I bit my tongue so hard I almost severed it in half and it took about four weeks for it to fully repair. For that particular seizure I was unconscious for 9 ½ hours. There’s a lot that the general public don’t know about epilepsy. For example, with a grand mal seizure you can also get amnesia, and the effects your life will have to take in terms of not always fitting into society, by perhaps not being able to drink, and not feeling like you want to mix with people all the time. A big barrier is overcoming people’s reactions and ignorance to epilepsy after you tell them you have it. They look at you and say ‘really?’. Expecting you to have some noticeable physical disability such as a limb missing or a limp.
I tell everybody that I’m an epileptic and I’m proud. The journey I’ve had to go through to date has made me stronger, more focused and far more ambitious than I could have ever dreamt of if I had perhaps not had epilepsy.
The hardest part I find of having epilepsy is knowing my family suffer looking at me when I have seizures. I will always remember my brother saying to me, ‘when I found you on the floor I had a vision that I was sitting on the floor with my daughters around me and saying you would have loved your auntie Nina.’ That was when he was only 18. For him to think that shows the deep extent my epilepsy had affected him. My parents also found it very difficult. They took me all round the world looking for a cure and took me to see witch doctors, spiritual healers and anything you could imagine to find a cure. The fact is that there isn’t one and that was a steep uphill battle for them to overcome.
The Epilepsy Society is doing so a great job to look after people like myself who struggle with some day to day functions and many more far more severe than myself. I would really like this article to create more awareness of epilepsy and for the general public to understand that it can potential be a killer.
PZ: You have recently broken the headlines by announcing that you will be hosting three nights with none other than the real live stars of recent Hollywood Blockbuster ‘The Fighter’. How did you manage to get hold of Dicky Eklund and Mickey Ward?
NC: When the film initially came out I wasn’t in a hurry to see it. However, once finally did see it I thought it was the best fighting film I had ever seen in my life. I decided to do a bit of research and found out that they (Dicky and Mickey) had not travelled outside of the USA together since making the film.
I thought this is a great opportunity and made contact with their agent who agreed to the terms I was proposing. They strangely had been approached on many occasions before but had declined.
PZ: Why did they agree to take part in your show then?
NC: I’d like to think my female persuasion might have helped. (PZ laughs!)
PZ: What are Dicky and Mickey like as people to deal with?
NC: Mickey and Dicky are as you see them in the film, but Dicky especially has moved onwards and upwards ever more so since the film. People forget that the film is not just focusing on the aspect of being a fighter in the ring, but from Dicky’s perspective he was fighting against what life throws at you and getting his life back on track, which he has done an immense job in doing so. Dicky as a person is hilarious. He has a new joke every time I speak to him. But when you talk about boxing, it’s as if he’s back in the ring and becomes very serious indeed.
Mickey is very down to earth. Very calm and simply a sincere and honest guy. The way in which Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale portrayed them in the film is pretty much how they are in real life. They (Dicky and Mickey) know each other inside and out and an audience with them is going to be incredible.
PZ: Tell us more about the three nights with Mickey Ward and Dickey Eklund.
NC: First night (14th Sept) is in Brighton at the Metropole, the next night (15th Sept) is in Peterborough at The Cresset and the final night (16th Sept) is at the Hilton down the Edgware Road. Massive venues, will be perfect for both the audience and Mickey and Dicky.
A good friend of mine, Danny Dyer, will also be mingling amongst the crowds and acting as a host alongside myself for the evening. He will handle the film side of things and I will handle the boxing side – simply because he knows nothing about boxing! Stick him in the ring with me and he won’t last a round!
There will be other celebrity guests including boxers, and there will also be a boxing show on the evenings. These will not be tacky events. If you like a grand evening with a great atmosphere, then be there on one of those dates. It will knock your socks off and will also raise hopefully a great deal of awareness and funds for epilepsy and a couple of other charities. The evening is not about just sitting in your chair all night, but will also involve a great deal of interaction.
PZ: Tell the readers one thing about yourself that not many people know.
NC: On my chill out days I like to watch cartoons with my Wobby (my blanket which is bright pink and I’ve had it for years!).
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