'I'm the one that has done wrong in life and now I am rectifying it' - Eli Frankham
PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:23 12 February 2020
© 2013 Mark Hewlett
Eli Frankham talks to head of sport Chris Lakey about the hard road from prison cell to boxing ring
Eli Frankham is dripping with sweat... and there's no let-up.
Standing in front of him is Jon Thaxton, demanding more, pushing Frankham closer and closer to the pain barrier. It's good when it stops...
This is the world Eli Frankham is dedicating his life to - a far cry from what might have been as he sat in his prison cell part way through a two-and-a-half-year sentence for affray and false imprisonment, wondering which path his life was going to take when he got out. He weighed more than 22 stone at one stage, which, looking at him in the boxing gym, seems incredible in itself.
Frankham's is a story of a man who has dedicated himself to a different path. Boxing, the saviour of so many on the wrong side of the tracks, isn't a new world to Frankham. He boxed twice as a pro back in 2013. His father, Eli, was a top bare knuckle fighter, a cousin, 'Gypsy' Johnny Frankham, was a British light-heavyweight champion in the 70s.
Frankham's own road to his boxing ambition is affected by his prison sentence: released in September, 2018, he still doesn't qualify for a British Boxing Board of Control licence, so has had to turn to Europe to get his official paperwork sorted - thanks in large part to his manager Mervyn Turner - which is why he heads to Poland with Thaxton this weekend, to put his first step back through the boxing door in a cruiserweight bout against Artsiom Charniakevich in Stalowa Wola.
The road from prison cell to Poland has taken around 14 months of daily visits to Thaxton, who trains with Graham Everett in Norwich.
"I'm completely different now," says Frankham. "I was going to do the boxing even before I went to prison to be fair, but I was only half through the transition of saying 'right, I am going to do it'. Once I got through, after the sentence when it all sunk in, I just used it (prison) as a training camp. I got a good bit of weight off in there, I was walking around at 22 and a half stone at one point. I thought, 'I'm going to get grounded and get stuck into it' and I come out at 16 and a half."
Getting back into the ring will relieve some of the frustrations he has endured of late: he travels over from his Emneth home with Wisbech boxer Joe Steed. They train five days a week in Norwich, but come fight night, Steed and his stable-mates are in the ring, while Frankham watches from the sidelines.
"In my head I am boxing every three or four months since the start of 2019, in my head I believe I have been boxing. These boys I have been training with them, I do their camps with them and I believe I'm boxing at the end of them as well - but I never do. I have had like four or five fights' training with Joe so I have done everything with him and he has had four or five fights since I have been here and I have been watching. I'm not jealous or envious in that way because I like to see them do well, but it is just frustrating."
Thaxton has been good for Frankham.
"I have got to give credit to his manager Mervyn Turner for sorting this and also to Jon," says Everett. "Jon is working really hard with him, he has taken him under his wing and they have gelled. We are obviously all a team but Jon has worked really hard with him.
"And how could you not respect a person who comes from Wisbech every day and trains twice and then goes home - for a minimum five days a week? He had a few days when he was a bit down thinking it was going to be a long time before he could box, but we have found a way to do it."
Frankham is able to fly to Poland because his sponsors - Fenland Landscapes, Charles Dean, who runs Bespoke Gardens and Landscaping, Damien Pearl Consultancy and FNL Pallet Services - have funded him. It's all a far cry from his previous life.
"I will never forget the first night I was inside. To be honest with you, me and my little brother, who was with me, but we did nothing but laugh, it was one of those situations. I said to him 'what have we got ourselves into?' I remember us chuckling because we just didn't understand it, but once it sinks in you realise. Something just clicks and you have got to get on with it. If you don't then that is a long time to be miserable.
"Two and a half years is a long time. People have done a lot longer, but for me it was a long time because I had two babies and when I came out they were walking, talking and running around."
Frankham's target, after this weekend, is to satisfy the British Boxing Board of Control of his credentials.
"I understand the rules - at the end of the day I want their licence. They have got something that I want so I am not going to sit here. I'm the one that has done wrong in life and now I am rectifying it."