ME AND MY MONEY: Former boxing world champion JOHNNY NELSON

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Winner: Johnny Nelson won £250,000 for each of a string of world championship title fights


Winner: Johnny Nelson won £250,000 for each of a string of world championship title fights

It took former boxer Johnny Nelson less than 40 minutes to win a quarter of a million pounds half a dozen times in his career.

But Nelson, 52, says he never wanted to be a boxer and planned to give up after his fifth professional fight and become a joiner instead. 

He will be the pundit for the Dillian Whyte versus Oscar Rivas fight, live on Sky Sports Box Office on Saturday.

What did your parents teach you about money?

To live within my means. I come from a working class background and my parents never had money. Their priority was putting food on the table and paying the bills.

My mother used to tell me: ‘Don’t hang your hat too high.’ She was an auxiliary nurse at the local hospital while Dad was a ‘swing grinder’ at a steel factory in Sheffield – his job was to smooth down 20-foot blocks of raw steel with a machine.

There were times when money was good, but we often struggled and my mum would sometimes tell us not to answer the door. 

The insurance man was due to collect his next instalment and we didn’t have the money to pay him.

As a child, I remember thinking that when I have kids I am going to make sure they do not worry about money, I want my kids to just be kids. I felt a lot of responsibility at a young age.

What was the first paid work you ever did?

Delivering papers one day a week when I was 14. I got paid £5.50 a week. It was nice to have my own money. 

The first thing I saved up for was a Harrington bomber jacket. Everyone else had one at school, but my parents could not afford to buy me one.

Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?

Yes, when I was 18 I had three part-time jobs at Wimpy, Next and Wade Smith – selling sports shoes. And I was training to be a boxer as well. 

At the time I did not want to be a boxer. But I did not know what else I wanted to do and my friends went to the boxing club. So I used to box amateur.

I had 13 amateur fights and won only three. I was terrible. But then I knew that professionals got paid for fighting. 

So I thought: I will do five professional fights where I get paid and then I will concentrate on getting a skilled career after that, maybe as a joiner. 

Nelson lands a punch on German Alexander Petkovic during their WBO World Championship Cruiserweight fight in 2003

 Nelson lands a punch on German Alexander Petkovic during their WBO World Championship Cruiserweight fight in 2003

I lost my first three professional fights. But I won the fourth one and got paid £190. So I carried on and I soon realised boxing was a good way to make money.

Quickly, people were offering me quite a few thousand pounds to fight. I remember thinking: Oh my God, I would have boxed that guy for £200 last year – and now I’m getting £40,000 or £50,000. 

To me, it was ridiculous. I could not believe it. It baffled me. I did not think I was anything special, you see, I just thought my opponents were not very good.

What is the most you have been paid for a fight?

Some quarter of a million pounds, half a dozen times, when I defended my title as cruiserweight world champion. 

Each time, the fight would have taken me about 40 minutes at the most to win.

What was the best year of your financial life?

It was 2000, the year after I first became a world champion. I was asked to do five or six other big fights that year as well. I cannot remember exactly how much I earned but it would have been around £750,000.

The most expensive thing you bought for fun?

My car. It’s a Range Rover Sport and it cost £70,000. I live in the countryside and as a child I always loved Range Rovers. I would look at people driving them and think: what do you do to be able to afford a car like that?

Johnny bought a farm in Derbyshire for £90,000 and today it's probably worth £1.2 million

Johnny bought a farm in Derbyshire for £90,000 and today it’s probably worth £1.2 million

What is your biggest money mistake?

Investing £200,000 in a building firm after a so-called friend recommended it. I lost all my money.

The best money decision you have made?

Buying a farm in Derbyshire with 13 acres of land and outhouses and stables, to be my home. It was not actually my decision, it was my ex-wife’s. She had vision. 

I would see a derelict building, she would see it had great potential. I must admit I would not have what I have today if it was not for my ex-wife because of her foresight with regards to investments.

I was 30 when I bought it for £90,000 and today it’s probably worth £1.2 million. I live in the four-bed farmhouse and my ex-wife and two of my daughters live in three of the other houses on the farm.

Do you save into a pension?

No. I should, but you hear about people losing money in pensions and I do not like taking risks. My intention is to buy property and use that as a pension.

Do you invest directly in the stock market?

No. I do not know enough about it so therefore I do not do it. I think it is too risky.

What little luxury do you treat yourself to?

I Like a nice fitted suit. Once or twice a year, I’ll get a couple made by a local company in Huddersfield. 

With my physique, it is hard to find one that fits well off the peg. My feet are size 13 so I also struggle to find shoes.

If you were Chancellor what would you do first?

I would set up a fund that would allow communities to choose where to invest locally. 

Everywhere in the UK has different problems. I think each community knows the best way to invest locally and help the local population, not someone from London.

Do you donate money to charity?

Yes. At the moment, I’m raising money for the Brendan Ingle Foundation at nationalfundingscheme.org.

Brendan, who died last year, was a former fighter from Sheffield who went on to train four world champions, including me.

I want to honour his memory by creating a memorial statue of him in Sheffield city centre to celebrate his life and the impact he had on so many people.

 



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