IN his own words, Richard Claut “came from nothing” before he took a second-hand car and trailer and punched above his weight to reach the top of the construction game.
Now the 41-year-old chief executive of Newcastle's multimillion-dollar building outfit RTC Group and one-time manager of Chad Bennett is fighting for a new cause.
With the World Boxing Council and his friends and pugilistic legends Mike Tyson, Joe Cortez, Jeff Fenech, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard in his corner, he is on track to founding a world boxing museum that will open in Las Vegas next year.
The museum, which will cost up to $12million, features interactive displays that celebrate the history of boxing and will be used for promotional activities, including pre-fight training and weigh-ins, and should make a tidy profit given the near 40million tourists who visit the US city annually.
But for Mr Claut, the four-year project is personal.
With his lawyer, Sparke Helmore’s Mark Hickey, he is negotiating a licensing agreement with the World Boxing Council to ensure that a weighty portion of the museum’s profit will be reinvested into boxing, to ensure the sport’s longevity and help athletes cope with life after the ring. An independent board will be established to allocate museum revenue for projects including superannuation and scholarship schemes for younger boxers, and a trust to benefit retired boxers.
“Business is business and you do things to make money, but I have done the hard yards, I have got what I want [with RTC], and this [project] is really for the right reasons,” Mr Claut said.
“Money gives you the choice to do things you really want to do and I believe we can change some lives, change the sport. We are looking out for the guys who didn’t do too well out of boxing and educating the new kids coming through.”
With the support of WBC president Joe Sulaiman, Mr Claut also hopes to introduce a “robust” new code of conduct to ensure managers do the right thing by their proteges, who often fall victim to stand-over tactics.
“People say, ‘these big tough fighters, they can hold their own’, but you have to realise that, like me, they come from nothing – and that’s where I relate to them,” he said.
“When you come from nothing, you trust people around you. But these fighters don’t know how to manage money. I mean if you give a kid who is on $100 a week $2million, he never thinks that it will run out, but in these days you can blow that in a year, with women and the parties.”
It is a lifestyle that his good friend Tyson, who lands in Australia next month on a promotional tour, was familiar with in a tawdry former life that includes a rape charge conviction.
The retired heavyweight champion has since cleaned up his act, says Mr Claut, and will probably be on the independent board overseeing museum funds.
“Mike is more articulate than people realise. When he is focused and gives you advice, he makes more sense than a lot of world leaders,” Mr Claut said.
“And I know that’s hard to believe, but he’s seen the best and worst of society and he has participated in that.
‘‘What I like about him is that he has had the courage to face his fear of public speaking, he changed the way he trains and eats, everything about himself because he didn’t like the old Mike and I admire that. I didn’t know the old Mike and I probably wouldn’t have liked him.
‘‘He’s given me some great advice around boxing and the people in it, and emotional support – he’s got a big heart.”
Mr Claut and Mr Hickey expect the museum site to be confirmed early in the new year, with four potential sites in contention.
“It’s going to be a hell of a destination because Vegas is the home of boxing, I think it will almost start a bidding war now that it is stacking up and we have the WBC 100per cent behind us and the heavyweights of boxing saying we are in,” Mr Claut said.