‘To put my good name back together is a hard thing to do’ - Eli Frankham talks boxing, his family and kidnap trial
23:25 12 April 2014
His career curtailed by watching his mother and younger brother stand trial for kidnapping, former European schoolboys boxing champion Eli Frankham is back ready to fight for the British heavyweight crown.
“As a boxer you have to be well liked and perceived as a gentleman,” the 21-year-old said.
“I don’t see myself as someone being seen as a toe-rag.
“I want to make an honest living in boxing, to be a recognised figure and to have done something and fulfil a dream.
“To put my good name back together is a hard thing to do.
“I want to be British heavyweight champion.”
A week after seeing his mother and younger brother sentenced for their part in the kidnap and assault trial, Eli says he is returning to training and refocusing on his boxing career.
Ten months ago the Walpole St Andrew boxer was in the early stages of what looked certain to be a glittering professional future.
The former three-time Golden Gloves, two-time Amateur Boxing Association and European Schoolboys champion had just won his second professional bout.
"I have had hard things happen to me but that’s not going to send me to the bottom because of that but quite the reverse – it’s going to drive me up to the top. I was put here to box, mum always knew boxing could give me a better life, and that’s what I want for my family and for my mum when she comes out of prison."
Then his mother Vanessa Frankham and younger brother Jesse were among those arrested for their involvement in the abduction and attack on a man and his pregnant partner. Boxing became the last thing on his mind.
Last Thursday, his mother was sentenced to seven years in jail and Jesse was given an 18-month detention order for their roles in the crime.Eli’s mum will be behind bars when his partner gives birth to their first child at the end of next month.
Eli said: “When they were arrested last July it put my boxing career on standstill and since then I have been floating in and out of training.”
But now with the trial out of the way he has decided to get back into training, back in the ring, back to sorting out management issues and back to winning ways.
He said: “I have had hard things happen to me but that’s not going to send me to the bottom because of that but quite the reverse – it’s going to drive me up to the top.
“It’s not going to become an excuse for failure in life – I want to shoot to the top as quickly as possible.
“I was put here to box, mum always knew boxing could give me a better life, and that’s what I want for my family and for my mum when she comes out of prison.”
He said: “I can’t work in an office 9am-5pm, can’t face a building site 9am-5pm, can’t see myself chopping down trees 9am-5pm – I’ve got to fight and it’s a career I can develop over the next 10-15 years.
“I’m only 21 – you don’t develop as a full man in boxing until you’re 24 or 25. I have time on my side.”
Eli’s father, also called Eli, died in 2007 aged 42, after suffering a heart attack.
He was a successful bare-knuckle fighter and boxer as a teenager and died a few days before Eli, then 14, competed in the European Schoolboy Championship.
Reporting of trial was unfair to my mum and brother
"What was done to that couple was horrific and unimaginable but the woman victim said Vanessa was there for 10 minutes, hence why she pleaded guilty to false imprisonment. But she was there on the basis of asking why had they put a target on my younger brother’s back. She wanted to know why they blamed him. In court, mum admitted going there – and she would tell you what she saw was terrible, to see the state of that woman and the terrible things they were doing. She was thinking it could have been her son. To say my mum was a ringleader and part of a premeditated gang was beyond a joke."
Accompanied by his partner, who preferred to remain anonymous, Eli spoke of the trial, its background and the part both his mother and younger brother played in the kidnap and torture of a couple suspected of murdering his grandmother Gertrude.
“I disagree with what those people did,” he says. “It was horrendous.”
He accepts his mother was a witness to the couple’s beatings and that his younger brother was there, too, but he feels the reporting of the trial has been unfair in its portrayal of both.
Eli says the night before the couple accused of murdering his gran were attacked, the same group of relatives had accused his young brother Jesse of being involved.
It was that motive, he insists, which led to his mother going to where the gang of relatives had taken the victims the following day.
Eli said: “They had accused my little brother of robbing Gert and threatened to break his kneecaps and cut off a finger.”
And he believes too little was made of evidence which showed neither his brother nor his mum had touched the couple being tortured.
Eli said: “You could say mum was treated harshly – she got seven years and even with time served will still be away for two more years and nine months. That’s a long time to be away from your family – she’ll miss seeing both my baby and my older brother’s baby being born.
“What was done to that couple was horrific and unimaginable but the woman victim said Vanessa was there for 10 minutes, hence why she pleaded guilty to false imprisonment.
“But she was there on the basis of asking why had they put a target on my younger brother’s back. She wanted to know why they blamed him.
“In court, mum admitted going there – and she would tell you what she saw was terrible, to see the state of that woman and the terrible things they were doing. She was thinking it could have been her son.
“To say my mum was a ringleader and part of a premeditated gang was beyond a joke. Why would you help people you despise?”
He says there are deep divisions between his mother, brother and himself and the rest of the family – The Dolans and Chiltons – which have not been reported.
He said: “What happened was horrific. I can’t deny that. I have a pregnant partner and it would be horrific to think that someone would do the same to her.
“But we had nothing to do with that side of the family.
“They disliked my mum because she wasn’t a traveller and the way she handled my dad’s funeral back in 2007.
“You can’t tar everyone with the same brush. This has been reported as ‘The Frankhams’ but this is about the Dolan family, not the Frankham family.”
Eli hardly ever saw his grandmother over the years despite living nearby, but he is convinced she died of natural causes.
“If she was murdered there’s a 100 per cent chance it would have come out,” he said.
Mum played crucial role in promoting career
For now, Eli is determined to work on a return to the ring, even though he recognises the role played by his mother in helping with his career.
“Everything in her ability she did to help me,” he said. “She would sell tickets, get publicity and was always there for me.
“She always pushed me hard and I am going to lose that.
“Likewise, my little brother who was always up at 6am to spar me, to get me on the bike and to encourage me to train.”
Eli, who was present every day for the seven-week trial at Norwich Crown Court, says his mother is desperate for him to return to the ring.
He said: “Every time we talk she asks me whether I’ve started sparring again.
“The fact 200 people showed up to my first fight and 100 came to my second was down to her. She promoted me.
“Every time we talk she asks me if I’ve been training.
“She fell in love with boxing because of what it has done for me. It has given me a better life and I am determined, through boxing, to give her a better life.”
One stumbling block for Eli’s return to the ring is his contract situation – he has started working with a new team but is still under contract with his former management.
But he hopes it will be resolved soon and he will be free to compete again. He said: “I’ve been in a contract dispute with my old management but, hopefully, once that is sorted, I’ll be back in the ring and get a few fights before the end of the year.
“I’ve starting sparring again with Matt Lake and Tom Little, who was on Prizefighter. I’ve got a good team around me.
“I am determined to give boxing everything.
“I will accept getting beaten by someone better than me but not by someone worse who has trained harder.
“I will be on a big card in the next 12-18 months and I still hope one day to be British champion.”