Once Nicky Booth was one of the top prospects in British boxing. Seen as the talented one of two boxing brothers from Nottingham who both won British titles, Nicky’s career was over almost as soon as it had begun, lost to drug addiction. Now, at the age of just 40, Booth is dead.
Nicky Booth’s story is without doubt tragic. Two decades ago, Booth and his big brother Jason were regular headliners on Sky Sports, on bills promoted by Matchroom in the days before Eddie Hearn took over and after his father, Barry, lost the buzz for the sport. Saturday night from the Harvey Hadden Leisure Centre was a regular feature. Jason was the one with the right attitude, Nicky was the one they said had all the natural ability.
He was good enough that he won the British and Commonwealth bantamweight titles at the age of just 20 beating Tommy Waite in Liverpool. He would hold the title for the rest of his career.
He had 23 professional fights, winning 17. losing five and drawing one. He boxed for the IBO bantamweight title in 2001, being stopped in nine rounds by Jose Sanjuanelo at Wembley Conference Centre. He lost his Commonwealth title to Steve Molitor (who would later beat Jason on a fight for the IBF super-bantamweight title) but his final fight, in 2009, saw him lose on points to Nathan Sting for the WBU title looking a shadow of his former self.
That career came to an end at the age of 24 when he was jailed for two years for burglary and theft. By then his skills were already starting to fade and he admitted problems with crack cocaine. The battle against drugs was something he would fight for the rest of his life.
Jason had his battles too, against drink. But his impressive career went on until 2016, as he won British titles at flyweight and super-bantamweight, as well as an IBO super-flyweight title and his brother’s old Commonwealth bantamweight belt.
When Booth first came out of prison, he was still a young man. There was talk of a comeback, he spoke of getting his life back together. Nicky was often present at Jason’s fights, but the comeback talk faded away.
Over the decade after he struggled. In 2017, he was in court, charged with punching a supermarket security guard who had caught him stealing four tins of coffee. Despite being only 37, his defence solicitor Chris Saunders painted a painful picture of the former boxer to magistrates.
“He comes across as a frail character nowadays,” he said. “You can see he has trouble getting his words out correctly.
“You have seen he is almost shuffling when he comes into court. He has been out of trouble for ten years and the problem is Class A drugs. When I spoke to him, he said 'I need some help.' At the moment, he has various illnesses. His immune system is currently attacking his antibodies."
His finest win probably came in the first defence of his British and Commonwealth titles against Ady Lewis in 2001, the first time Nicky and Jason had topped the bill together at the Harvey Hadden Centre. It was thrilling, while it lasted, as the shorter Lewis, the former champion, took the fight to the taller, slicker Booth. But Booth ended matters in a decisive fashion in the seventh with a vicious left hook to the body. That night would be the best way to remember him.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.