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Meeting the Guv'nor: From Goodfella to Godfella: The Dramatic True Story of Boxing's 'Pirate Promoter' Alan Mortlock Paperback – 19 Jun 2003
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A unique book about a unique man. Meeting the Guv'nor is the pacy and dramatic testimony of Alan Mortlock, promoter and kingpin of unlicensed boxing in Britain, and outspoken Christian evangelist with a passion for bringing Christ to the villains and hard men among whom he lives and works. Once an alcoholic drug dealer whose life revolved around street fights and gang warfare, Alan's conversion has given him one of the most fascinating stories of London's East End.
About the Author
Alan Mortlock is a boxing trainer and promoter based in the East End of London. He is known in the sport as the ‘Pirate Promoter’ because he champions the cause of unlicensed boxing (i.e. not recognised by the British Board of Boxing Control). Alan’s surprising other life is that of a committed evangelist, and he heads up the Godfellas, a group of tough East Enders who travel the country presenting their boxing skills and sharing the Gospel.
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For Alan Mortlock, gaining his reputation as a hard man took a lot of fighting and a lot of hard work. His life was an endless cycle of working, drinking and getting into a fight. Thanks to his martial arts training and a lot of time working out in gyms, he tended to win more of these fights than he lost. Life wasn't always smooth sailing, though, as he ended up being expelled from school, lost his mother, and saw his house burn down while he was still in his teens.
No longer being at school let him go to work and this gave him more money to go drinking with. Naturally, the more drinking there was, the more fighting there was and so his reputation grew. Eventually, however, your luck can only go so far and after cutting someone with a broken bottle, he was sentenced to eight months in prison and his reputation as a hard man was secure.
After prison, Mortlock did a variety of jobs that ran from working on building sites, to drug dealing. His life didn't change a great deal, as he was still getting into fights and being arrested. He managed to stay out of prison, but some of the local Police knew his reputation and came looking for him and it's probably only a matter of luck that he didn't end up imprisoned or dead at that point in his life.
Seeing one of the first properly promoted kick boxing shows in the UK prompted Mortlock to think that he could put on a better show and he soon gained another reputation, this time as one of the better promoters around, both of martial arts and unlicensed boxing. None of this made him happy and his biggest success nearly turned out to be the end of the road, as he descended into alcoholism, lost all will to work as well as several jobs and came very close to seeing the end of his marriage.
One day, however, he had a Christmas card and then a visit from Steve Smith, who Mortlock had last known to be a drug dealer, but who had become a born again Christian while he was last in prison. After seeing the impact this had on Steve Smith and witnessing the change in his own wife when Smith had prayed for her, Mortlock decided to given the Christian life a go, if only to stop his wife from divorcing him.
However, the impact was immediate and incredible, as pretty much everything in Mortlock's life changed quickly and for the better. He soon found work, his home life became far more harmonious and he lost the desire to drink all day every day he'd had only days before. Mortlock took advantage of every opportunity to tell his friends about Jesus and the change his life had gone through. Since then, he has gone on to tell people in prisons, gyms and churches the same thing, using his boxing links to get guest speakers and put on a great show; something he also still does professionally.
Mortlock's story is an incredible one. Being a man used to dealing with knockout punches, it would have taken a similar sort of impact to make him pay any attention to God and that turned out to be what God delivered to him. He was quite surprised at how many people around him were willing to listen to his story when he told it to them and at how many people he'd known for violence but not seen in a while had been through similar experiences to him and become born-again Christians. His life changed so quickly that it was as if he'd become a completely different person overnight and for anyone with any sort of belief in God, it's an inspiring story.
The way Mortlock tells his story is simple, without embellishment. He isn't proud of his past now, although the way he tells it, you get the impression that he was quite proud of his reputation at the time. He doesn't hide from the things he did back then; he holds nothing back in the telling of the story in the same way he held nothing back when he was fighting. He tells that part of his life as necessary, to put how much he'd changed thanks to God's input into context as if to prove the point that if God will forgive him for all he'd done, there's very little the rest of us can possibly have done that God would not also forgive us for.
Mortlock's style in telling the story is very much as if he's met you on the street and started telling you his story, much the way that he's told it to some of his friends. His use of London slang, such as constantly referring to his fights as "tear-ups" adds credence to this part of his story and at least some of the names he drops from both before and after his conversion will be familiar to anyone with any interest in boxing. Anyone who has enjoyed films like "Essex Boys" and "Green Street" and especially "Snatch", as Mortlock knows some people who were in that film, will find something familiar and enjoyable about at least the first part of Mortlock's story.
It's simply written, using the same language all the way through, as God has taken the violence from the man, but he's still a boxing promoter from the East End and he still talks the same way. He's a man not given to outbursts of emotion, so it's not a heavy approach to Christianity. He refers to God as "The Guv'nor" and as his "best mate", but despite his history of violence, there's a surprisingly light approach to his faith.
What surprised me was not the story itself, as I know someone from my own church who has been saved from a life of violence by God's intervention and he recommended this book to me. What I didn't expect was to find it as readable as I did. It's only a short book at just under 200 pages, but I went through the whole thing in a single day. For anyone who has wondered about God, this is a no-nonsense approach to faith and Mortlock never gets preachy, which makes it quite readable even if you're sceptical about God and about faith. If you've ever wondered how much God can forgive, the answer is here and if you're prone to violence, this points a way out of that kind of life in simple terms. If you already believe, this book is nothing less than an inspiration.
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My heart was moved as I read this, the life story of Alan Mortlock where the seemingly endless incidents of violence led Alan into a life of despair, where even his marriage & family were severely threatened.
The stress and pain endured by Alan Mortlock and his family are almost tangible as the brutally raw honesty of the text grips the reader into a sense of "almost being there".
The book reveals how this hardened man "met his match" when he came face to Face with the "Guv'nor" in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Alan's remarkably moving experience is captured together with the strength of his personal beliefs as he, from that day forward, embarks on a mission of preaching the Gospel at every possible opportunity, despite still being surrounded by many of the "hardest" men in this country and still employed within the intense world of unlicensed boxing.
(Readers are made aware that "unlicensed" boxing is in fact legal, but instead holds slightly different rules to the "licensed" realm of the sport).
This is the story of a light shining in a dark place.
The transformation of Alan's life so commendably described in the text is a wonderful testimony to Christianity and the forgiving, life changing power of the "Guv'nor". I highly recommend this wonderful, very readable book, to everyone irrespective of their faith, position, or situation in life. Thank you.
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