Donald McRae

Author's posts

Jan 15

Danny Cipriani: ‘I’ve had talks with a French club but nothing’s decided yet’

The Wasps fly-half has had an up-and-down career but, 10 years on from his England debut, he is excited about the next chapter … wherever that may be‘I’ve had enough heartsore moments but the one thing about me that people can’t question is my resilien…

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Dec 17

James Wade: ‘You need to be different to chase something hard when everyone is laughing at you’

As he launches his latest tilt at the world championship title one of the top players in darts talks about his daily battle with the demons in his head“She was shaking like a leaf when she met me because she doesn’t go out of the house normally,” James…

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Nov 27

Mark Foster: ‘I tiptoed around in the shadows for so long, but now is the time to come out’

In his first interview confirming he is gay the former swimmer admits that he has spent years not being his true self and how he feels that probably had a negative impact on his career in the poolSunlight streams through the huge windows that make Mark…

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Nov 22

James Toney: I should’ve knocked Donald Trump’s head off and saved the world lots of trouble

Twenty-six years after their first meeting Donald McRae catches up again with his favourite boxer as the outspoken 49-year-old former world champion prepares for an exhibition fight in Bristol before embarking on a career as a bounty hunter“Why?” James…

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Nov 14

Anthony Ogogo: ‘To complete my story of overcoming adversity, I need to become world champion’ | Donald McRae

After a bronze medal at London 2012 and a successful start to his professional career the boxer’s life fell apart following a devastating eye injury in 2016 from which he is determined to recoverAnthony Ogogo has been an Olympic bronze medallist, a mod…

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Nov 08

Rugby and the rainbow nation: can 2023 World Cup heal South Africa’s wounds?

The Springboks are not the competitive force they were but as they begin their autumn internationals in Dublin on Saturday there is new hope of resolving the issues that have haunted them since their return to world rugby 25 years agoTwenty-five years …

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Nov 01

Warren Gatland: ‘It felt like I was being drained of blood, drop by drop. I was hating the tour’

Taking the Lions to his homeland should have been his proudest moment but now back with Wales the coach believes the welfare of rugby’s elite players is a more pressing concern“I’ve been on the sidelines of some big games and even I’m scared watching t…

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Sep 25

Charles Piutau: ‘I felt invincible as an All Black … but it’s such a short career’

He missed out on winning a World Cup to sign for Ulster but the New Zealander has no regrets and will become the world’s highest-paid player when he joins Bristol in 2018

“I really had to see the bigger picture,” Charles Piutau says as he considers the wrench of abandoning his Test career with the All Blacks to play for Ulster and, from next season, Bristol. Piutau, a dynamic full-back who can also play on the wing, will become the world’s most highly-paid rugby player when he joins Bristol. Yet his motives are more than mercenary and reflect his arduous childhood as well as the growing problems for Test rugby.

“When I was in New Zealand it felt like the All Blacks were everything. It felt like you were going to play forever. You felt invincible. But, taking a step back, you realise it’s such a short career. For me, what really hit home was remembering everything my parents had done for me and my siblings. They left Tonga for New Zealand to give us better opportunities. And for me, coming here, I had the same chance to do something similar for my family.”

Related: British & Irish Lions to reduce fixtures for 2021 South Africa tour

Related: Rugby union: talking points from the Premiership weekend

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Sep 18

Hughie Fury: ‘I’ve had no teenage life, no drinking or friends. I’ve sacrificed everything’

Tyson Fury’s cousin left school at 11 and, with his father in and out of prison, dedicated his life to boxing – next Saturday he could become a world heavyweight champion

On a bleak afternoon in Windermere, where Hughie Fury is preparing for this Saturday’s WBO world heavyweight title fight against Joseph Parker, the past rolls in like a heavy bank of cloud bringing yet more rain to the Lake District. Fury remembers a childhood of little education, a family of Travellers tested by his father being in and out of prison, and a life marked by sacrifice.

He talks simply, without the surreal or distasteful flourishes of his notorious cousin. Tyson Fury was the undisputed world heavyweight champion for just under a year before, last October, relinquishing all his belts amid controversy, depression and associated mental health issues. Hughie is less troubled than Tyson but he lacks the charisma of Anthony Joshua, his far more famous British contemporary who holds the IBF and WBA titles and dominates the popular imagination as the only heavyweight in the world who matters.

Related: Judge Adalaide Byrd’s bizarre call gifts Álvarez another shot at Golovkin

Related: Tyson Fury: I don’t need David Haye and his antics to make money

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Sep 04

Chris Lewis: ‘Talk about acute fear – the first night in prison was the hardest time’

The former England cricketer who served six-and-a-half years for drug smuggling recalls how reporting an approach by a match-fixing gambler led to his fateful offence and how Sachin Tendulkar would never let a bowler into his head

‘I remember going into jail the first time,” Chris Lewis says in a plush hotel on Park Lane in Mayfair. Coffee cups chink and, in the lounge across the marble lobby, a lonely pianist plays tinkling old standards to himself. But Lewis, the former England cricketer who served half of the 13-year prison sentence he received after being arrested for trying to smuggle cocaine worth £140,000 from St Lucia into Britain in December 2008, is back inside.

“Talk about acute fear,” the 49‑year‑old says more intently than if he is describing his Test debut in 1990 or opening the bowling in the World Cup final two years later in front of a crowd of 100,000. “My mind is trying to find any information I have about jail and it all comes from films. You’re scaring yourself and the first night you don’t know whether you can stand it. That was the hardest time. You don’t know how you’re going to survive.”

Related: Former England cricketer Chris Lewis gets 13 years for cocaine smuggling

If a bowled fast I would sometimes read I was like a ‘gangster’

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Aug 01

Moeen Ali: ‘If it wasn’t for cricket I don’t know what I’d be doing now’

The hat-trick England spinner describes how a junior club in Birmingham kept him off the streets and off drugs, his father’s distressing experience of racism and how his high profile helps counter negativity regarding Islam

“How’s it going?” Moeen Ali asks as if it’s just another ordinary summer afternoon rather than an hour since he became only the fourth man in history to complete a Test victory by taking a hat-trick.

Moeen’s deceptively casual way of answering my phone call at The Oval on Monday afternoon soon gives way to delight when, 12 days since we met in Birmingham, he returns to the reflective tone of that first interview.

Related: Moeen Ali takes hat-trick to seal emphatic England win over South Africa

I could have easily gone into that whole drugs line. I was pretty open to it because my friends were easily influenced.

Related: Moeen Ali delights in historic hat-trick after England’s Test win

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Jun 26

Zafar Ansari: ‘If money was a motivation I would have stayed longer in cricket’

Having broken into the England Test side the player’s decision to walk away from the game aged 25 caused quite a stir but he explains that, for him, there is a lot more to life than cricket

Professional sport is scarred by stories of ageing athletes clinging to faded glory, or by bleak tales of their struggles in retirement, and so Zafar Ansari stands out in shimmering contrast. Ansari played three Tests late last year, his debut in Bangladesh and two in India, picking up five wickets and grinding out a highest score of 32. It was a start in the hardest arena of cricket and so Ansari’s retirement in April, having just turned 25, seemed unusual.

Of course those who knew him felt no shock. Alec Stewart, the director of cricket at Surrey, for whom Ansari had played since the age of eight, was supportive. “It’s a brave and considered decision,” Stewart said. “He was always open and honest.”

Related: County cricket: Yorkshire v Surrey and more as day-night matches begin – live!

Related: Pink balls at night may not be every County Championship batsman’s delight | Vic Marks

Related: Eoin Morgan says dropping himself from series decider was a ‘tough call’

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Jun 24

Steve Harmison: ‘I didn’t want the public to know about my depression’

The former fast bowler was the world’s best when he led England’s attack at the 2005 Ashes but tells Donald McRae he spent the peak of his cricket career battling depression and feared fans would not understand

“I’ve been through a fucking hell of a lot,” Steve Harmison says in the deserted bar of Ashington Football Club on a quiet afternoon. “I’ve had the upmost highs and the lowest lows. I’ve gone from being the No1 bowler in the world, to bowling that ball in Brisbane [when, in 2006, Harmison delivered the most embarrassing opening delivery of an Ashes series]. I’ve gone from feeling on top of the world to being in a clinic in the Priory. How much higher can you get and how much lower can you go? I don’t think you can.”

This past week has felt like the dog days of summer across most of the country but, in Northumberland, the heat has been muted. Harmison has dressed accordingly – in sandals, shorts and a long-sleeve shirt. The 38-year-old former fast bowler takes a swig of his fizzy drink as he reflects on a cricketing life studded with plaudits but riven with lasting pain.

Related: Jonathan Trott: ‘I was going back into that pressure cooker, that place of judgment’

I thought: just bump into somebody else’s car and I’ll miss my flight and get three more days at home

Jonathan Trott said ‘I’m not a nutcase’. You don’t use those words to talk about mental health

Related: Women’s Cricket World Cup: team-by-team guide to the tournament | Vithushan Ehantharajah

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May 08

Roberto Durán: ‘Fighters would take one look at me and crap in their pants’

The former world boxing champion, nicknamed ‘Hands of Stone’, has fond memories of a hell-raising career but is happy with the calmer life he leads now

On a Saturday evening in Leeds, in an anonymous hotel where he winks and shouts out hello to a passing waitress who returns his wave cheerfully, Roberto Durán keeps gripping my arm and cackling. The 65-year-old Panamanian, who was a renowned world champion at four different weights and boxed professionally in five separate decades, is in a jovial mood while reliving his years as the most menacing fighter on the planet.

When he fought Sugar Ray Leonard for the first time, on 20 June 1980 in Montreal, Durán transfixed some of his intimidating predecessors. Joe Frazier, the former world heavyweight champion who had fought three savage battles against Muhammad Ali, stared at Durán.

Related: Canelo Álvarez v Gennady Golovkin – finally the fight we all want to see | Kevin Mitchell

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Apr 24

Anyika Onuora: the untold story of Britain’s Rio Olympic medal winner who nearly died

Ten months before Anyika Onuora won bronze with the GB 4x400m team in 2016 she was in hospital with life-threatening malaria. Here, for the first time, she tells of her survival and comeback

“Honestly, it feels like therapy,” Anyika Onuora says with a light laugh. Ninety minutes after she began her incredible and previously unknown story, the Olympic medal-winning 400m runner sounds relieved. “I’ve been hesitant to talk about this for such a long time because I don’t like sympathy or attention. I’ve always just got on with things.”

Onuora did not tell her Great Britain team-mates in the 4x400m relay, with whom she won bronze at the Rio Olympic Games last year, that she had been so ill with malaria 10 months earlier there were concerns she might die. “I still haven’t. No one, apart from my family and closest friends, knows. I don’t know how people are going to react now. But I knew that, eventually, I had to tell my story.”

Related: US glory in women’s 4x100m relay but hope springs for Team GB after bronze

I wanted to cry but it was too painful. I started shaking uncontrollably. I honestly thought: ‘I’m going to die.’

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Apr 10

Barry Hearn: ‘I hit my son with a proper shot but he dropped me twice’

When Eddie Hearn was 16, his father decided to see if he had what it takes to be big in business. The pair’s competitiveness is the bedrock of Matchroom Sport – the force behind the Joshua-Klitschko world title fight at Wembley Stadium

April is a huge month in the money-spinning world of Barry and Eddie Hearn and the father-and-son promotional duo are in knockabout form. Eddie saunters into his dad’s office in Romford and says: “How was Miami?”

“Great,” Barry beams as he rocks in his chair, having landed at Heathrow a few hours earlier. “They’re going crazy about you selling 90,000 tickets for Joshua-Klitschko. They can’t believe it. Where’ve you been?”

Related: Wladimir Klitschko praises Anthony Joshua’s strength but queries his ability

The modern snooker player is in bed at eight with his eye mask and glass of milk

How do they feel about the rise of UFC? ‘People are trying to lure us in’

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