FREDDIE Mack passed away on 11th January 2008, this was one of the last interviews he did chronicling his amazing life.
A QUIET corner of Plains seems an unlikely location in which to find a former Olympic boxer, film actor and musical entertainer.
Larger-than-life American star Freddie Mack encapsulates all these claims to fame, however; and at the age of 74, he is still making his mark in the quite distinct fields of sport and arts.
His riveting life story has taken him from his South Carolina birthplace to New York, the Helsinki Olympics, Rome and London before finally settling happily in Monklands and returning to his first love of boxing by founding the sport’s Scottish hall of fame.
Freddie first ended up in the ring as a result of his childhood friendship with a talented neighbour in Green Avenue, Brooklyn.
That rising star was future Olympic champion Floyd Paterson, who introduced the 13-year-old Freddie to the sport through training with legendary coach Cus D’Amato on Manhattan’s 14th Street.
The duo soared through the ranks together and, aged just 17, were both selected to represent America at the 1952 Olympics in Finland.
Freddie, an alternate for the US team, watched with pride as his friend - “one of the greatest men in the world, and the reason I became a boxer” - struck middleweight gold with a first-round final knockout of Romanian Vasile Tita.
Paterson rapidly went on to become the youngest-ever world heavyweight champion at 21, while Freddie also enjoyed a highly successful career in the ring, reaching third place in the global light-heavyweight rankings courtesy of memorable victories such as knocking out stars Jack Bodell, Chick Calderwood and Sante Amonti.
“I was more successful than a lot of the others, not because I was a good fighter, but because I had speed,” says the 74-year-old, reflecting on a 66-fight professional career which ended just as he was offered the chance to take on Harold Johnson for the world light-heavyweight championship.
He said: “In order to have done so, I would have had to give up my American citizenship, and I didn’t feel I could do that.”
Instead he used his skills as a sparring partner to some of the world’s greatest boxers, including Billy Walker, John “Cowboy” McCormack and Henry Cooper, and also sparred with a 19-year-old Muhammad Ali.
“It lasted around two minutes,” explains Freddie: “I threw two or three punches at him, but I couldn’t touch him.”
Freddie moved to Britain in the early 1960s and his career took a highly unusual turn when fight fans Richard Burton and Rex Harris introduced him to the movie industry.
They helped him earn an impressive debut role - in Cleopatra, where he appeared as one of the slaves carrying Elizabeth Taylor’s character into Rome. “I actually stumbled a little while carrying her, and the director decided to keep it in!”
It was to prove the start of a varied entertainment career, in which the former boxer had a variety of small film roles and then later went on to front the Freddie Mack Sound, a musical ensemble who shared a stage with legends including Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and The Who.
He was also the leader of the gang on the Fantastic Freddie Mack Show and the Freddie Mack Extravanganza in the early 1970s - before “Mr Superbad” was born when he signed a deal with K-Tel Records, releasing numerous albums and teaming up with Ultrafunk on the hit record, Kung Fu Man.
Having been encouraged to move north of the border by boxing promoter Jack Solomon, Freddie continued to entertain as a DJ on Radio Clyde, bringing his brand of soul to the nation and only finally retiring three years ago after working for a variety of stations.
By then, the colourful American star was happily settled in the unlikely locale of Plains, after a chance meeting in a Glasgow bar with “amazing” Airdrie woman Jan McLaughlin.
“As soon as I saw her, I walked up to her and said, ‘baby, you’re the most beautiful woman in this club, you have the most beautiful eyes and I’m gonna marry you.
“She said, ‘that’ll be shining bright!’ But we both knew back then that this was something special and we’ve been together now for 14 years.”
Now Freddie’s incredible life story has come full circle, as he founded the Scottish Boxing Hall of Fame seven years ago and in September will preside over the fourth induction of some of the sport’s greatest names.
Log on to our new-look website, www.acadvertiser.co.uk, for an extended two-part video interview with “Mr Superbad”.