How do you look after one of the most charismatic and outspoken figures in sport? Ask Melissa Takimoglu.
The 42-year-old navigates the circus-like world of professional boxing and helps manage the public image of Tyson Fury.
The PR guru – who works for Top Rank and liaises with the team at Queensberry to handle Fury’s fight week PR and Media – has been present at some of the biggest boxing events in history.
She’s regularly seen organising PR opportunities, coordinating press conferences, sourcing interviews and arranging post-fight press activities for Fury, Josh Taylor, Mikaela Mayer and the rest of the Top Rank stable.
She’s gone from hosting events for garage DJs and running her own cleaning company to handling one of the most vociferous and headline-grabbing sportsmen.
‘I used to work nights and work for a record company called Freedom Records in Watford . Big up Watford! Then I worked with MCs, DJ Ez, lots of big names,’ Takimoglu tells Mail Sport in an exclusive interview.
Melissa Takimoglu has been by Tyson Fury’s side for some his biggest fights
Takimoglu has played a crucial role in building and maintaining the Gypsy King’s profile
‘From there I started doing club nights and garage music. Then there was that phase were there was a lot of shootings and everything went really bad so they knocked it all off. I was thinking, what am I going to do now? So, I set up a cleaning company.
‘My parents have always been very big entrepreneurs and we grew up watching them set up businesses and work around the world. So, you kind of pick that up naturally.
‘I started thinking about what I could do that wouldn’t cost me too much money to set up and decided on a cleaning company. All I needed was Henry the Hoover. Literally I just need a Henry the Hoover and a bucket with all of the gear in there.
‘I went and got some poster and got some customers. It all started from there and bloody hell, the company ran for 15 years. It was a long time but I always knew I wasn’t doing something that I loved’.
Takimoglu’s romance with boxing was an unforeseen twist in her professional journey. Initially uninterested, she found herself unexpectedly drawn to the sport following one unforgettable night.
‘I fell in love with boxing because I got taken to York Hall and told “come in, watch a match and see how you feel. If you like it, carry on.” So, I went to York Hall, looked up at the ceiling and saw the silhouette of the fighter. I just fell in love with the sport then. It was so poetic. Then that drive of having to sell tickets excited me,’ she says.
Takimoglu’s organic connection to the sport reshaped her career trajectory and marked the beginning of her influential role in crafting some of the most exciting narratives around boxing’s dynamic personalities.
‘I started at the grassroots level. I was down at Miguel’s boxing gym in Brixton, met some boxers and asked them if they needed a publicist. They were like what’s a publicist! So I had to explain it to them,’ the director of Melt PR – a leading independent sports media and PR company, says.
‘I was saying to them, you know a PR, a publicist. Someone who can help you sell tickets. But yeah, that’s when I got into it. They were very welcoming to me – especially Isaac Dogboe.
Her job title is UK Media Relations for Bob Arum’s (pictured on the right) Top Rank
‘He was the one who later on, after doing shows at York Hall with Steve Goodwin and Tommy Dove, introduced me to Top Rank. He said “why don’t you come over and be my publicist.” I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to but I went and that was it. The rest is history. Now I am here, 10 years later.’
And what a decade it has been. Takimoglu works closely with major names like Taylor and Mayer. But, the biggest of them all is Fury.
Trust is paramount for Fury. Only those who demonstrate loyalty, authenticity, and a genuine commitment to the Gypsy King’s well-being can break through his protective barriers.
Takimoglu has been one of the very few to gain entry into his inner circle. Her professionalism and strategic guidance has allowed Fury to manoeuvre the complexities of fame without compromising his fight-week preparations.
It was their awareness of mental health that laid the foundations for their relationship. The aftermath of AJ Carter’s defeat to Kamil Sokolowski in 2017 saw Takimoglu struggle with her mental health.
In an interview with Square Mile, Takimoglu said: ‘He woke up two weeks after the fight and didn’t recognise me. I went through the most horrific, horrific experience for the next few weeks. I lost everything. It was the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve never been so close to saying that’s it’.
Fury has been just as open about his own mental health struggles – having spoken about how he turned to alcohol and drugs following his victory over Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015.
The pair developed a mutual understanding and that helped build a professional relationship based on mutual respect.
‘It took a long time to earn that trust but I think me and him always bonded. When we first met I told him the story about my ex [AJ Carter] as something bad had happened during his fight and he [Fury] happened to be there,’ she tells Mail Sport.
‘It was a really difficult time for me as he lost a really bad fight. I didn’t realise Tyson was at that fight. That’s how we first met. I remember looking up at Tyson saying “Hi I’m Melissa from Top Rank” and he was absolutely huge.
‘From there we started talking about how we all got into boxing and we connected about mental health straight away. Then he wrote his book and signed a deal with ESPN – which I think was the best thing he ever did because when he went over there the amount of PR he was shown and the amount of money spent on his promo was amazing.’
Takimoglu pictured alongside Mike Tyson at the ‘Battle of the Baddest’ event last year
Takimoglu is the director of Melt PR – a leading independent sports media and PR company
It wasn’t long before Takimoglu started working closely with Fury. Her transparent communication and grasp of Fury’s needs saw her relationship with the Gypsy King and his family flourish.
‘Every show he did I would turn up saying “Hi I am ready to work!”. There would be him, his brothers, his dad, the whole gang. People don’t understand, there is about 30 of them including the trainer, the manager and others. But, it was amazing,’ she continues.
‘They just listened and they would follow my lead. If I said it was left, it was left. If I said it was five minutes it was five minutes. Don’t get me wrong, the brothers in the family were very strict in the beginning. They didn’t give trust to people easily. But, there was always this respect from Tyson. Even now, he’s so respectful.
‘I don’t speak to him away from events. It’s not like we have that kind of relationship. Paris [Fury’s wife] is incredible as well. She is so appreciative of my work and what I do for Tyson.
‘After every event, Tyson will always say a few words. Something like, “Mel great job. You worked really hard and I appreciate it.” Even just that little sentence, I would be like OK I did a good job.
‘Then each time I’d turn up, I would be thinking is he going to know me? Is he going to recognise me? But, he’s always like “where is Mel? Where is she?” I think he knows his team now. It’s the same people. It’s the same team, minus maybe his trainer.
‘So he now knows who he can trust. Which I think is really important because it must be a horrible position to be in for someone like that not knowing who to trust because you have people coming from all angles.
‘I am so fortunate but I also know I deserve it because I work hard and I ensure I do a good job. I really care and I know the way Tyson likes things so I make sure they’re done well.’
The close bond is evident. Fury even walked barefoot through a hotel lobby, swinging his shoes in the air to encourage Takimoglu to take her high heels off after noticing she was limping in pain.
Takimoglu says Fury is the same behind closed doors as he is in front of the camera
Takimoglu recalled the event in a previous interview, she said: ‘We were in Vegas, you could see I was limping, I was genuinely limping. I was trying to hide the pain in my feet but Tyson stopped me. He told me to take my shoes off and when I said no because everyone was looking at me, he whisked his shoes off and scooped them up.
‘And if the heavyweight champ says take them off, you’ve got to do it! We were laughing our heads off as we walked and I couldn’t believe I was walking barefoot through the MGM Grand with the heavyweight champion with everyone staring at us.’
Fury is known for his captivating and flamboyant presence when in the spotlight, but many wonder what he is like off-camera. Boxing fans across the world want to know whether the boisterous showman endures or if a more subdued, private side emerges.
What is he like behind closed doors? What is he like when the cameras aren’t rolling? What is he like when he’s sitting in his changing room waiting to head to the ring.
‘I am going to take you one step further and bring you into the dressing room next time. You can sit in the corner and see for yourself. It’s exactly the same,’ Takimoglu says.
‘There is no dial up, dial down. It’s the same. Do you know I think is so amazing, he comes away from a crazy events and says wow they were all there for me. It still gets him. It really does.
Takimoglu has joked she is surprised she has a fiance given how busy she is with work
‘He comes away from a press conference and says “do you think that was alright?” He’s not arrogant as people may think. He’s not like that. He genuinely a great person. He’s incredibly smart. He knows exactly what to say and when to say it. He’s exactly who he is.
‘People seem to think it’s Top Rank or Queensberry (the promoters for Fury) or myself and Matt Rich (who represent him) that we all did this. That ESPN did this? No, Tyson Fury is where he is because of Tyson Fury. He’s very intelligent, he’s very smart, he knows exactly what he is doing.’
Takimoglu has become a major player in the boxing world due to her work with Fury and the rest of the Top Rank stable. She thrives as a trailblazing force in a male-dominated industry. Her strategic acumen, resilience, and deep knowledge of the sport has distinguished her in the traditionally male sphere.
Her ability to command respect, coupled with a keen eye for opportunities, not only elevates Top Rank’s success in the UK but also sets an inspiring precedent for women in the boxing world.
But, it’s not been easy. She has ‘cried, screamed, laughed’ in the car on the way home from work.
‘When I used to walk into the room, I would be ignored because you’re just a woman. But, no I am actually the publicist. I am actually the PR. I am here representing Top Rank,’ she says.
‘You know what, I would say I still got that treatment right up until now. When I go into a new environment, I can’t assume everyone to know me, so I still get it now. Especially when working in other territories.
‘To be fair though, Tyson and Mikaela both stood up for me. They would both say, “this is my publicist. This is my PR.” They would tell them to speak to me. I remember Tyson, a couple of times, went off at a camera guy or someone who was trying to push me out of the way. He was like “Hey! She’s with me. Don’t push her out of the way. She’s the best PR in the world.” He was shouting that in a room full of people and I was thinking oh my god.
Takimoglu has been using her success as a publicist to help promote female boxing
‘Even stupid things like, “oh you were in the shot.” So what if I was in the shot? There were so many stories. But as women in boxing, we are sick of talking about this. We are so sick of talking about this but it is true.
‘Thankfully I have hard skin. I have a great support system at home. But, trust me, I have got in the car and cried, screamed, laughed all the way home. I’ve thought I can’t do this anymore.
‘All that being said, I am lucky because Top Rank let me do what I want. They trust me, they believe in me, they’ve allowed me to look after the likes of Tyson and all these other great stars we have. You just have to keep going. You have to show the public you can be successful.’
Takimoglu sees the importance of women’s boxing. She’s played a defining role in Mayer’s career – having helped establish her as a household name in the UK despite being from the States.
However, it was harder than Takimoglu expected. ‘It was like I had just started again. I thought it would be easy. “Hey, it’s Melissa from Top Rank” of course you’re going to say yes to an interview with one of my fighters. No! It wasn’t like that at all,’ she says.
‘I had to pitch ideas and go back to basics again. I had to pitch ideas. That’s how naive I was, I thought I could just get her the recognition she deserved.
‘Everyone knows that me and Mikaela are very close. She is going to be coming to my wedding. She’s suffered so much in her journey and she has had so many obstacles along her way and I’ve had my own journey outside of the ring. That’s where me and her connect.’
Mayer is not the only person Takimoglu makes time for outside of work. She magically fits in personal escapades into her life, as if leisure is just another item on her to-do list. But, the publicist does admit she would benefit from a little more balance in her life.
‘Number one, I am surprised I have a fiance. I don’t know how I managed to bag that and how he wants to be with me as my phone rings non-stop,’ she admits.
‘Honestly, in the beginning when we were first dating, I would have my laptop on the dinner table at the restaurant. Then I was thinking, maybe I am pushing this too far.
Takimoglu works closely with other Top Rank stars including Josh Taylor (pictured above)
Takimoglu has faced condescension in her career because she is a woman – but she has battled through and established herself as a force within the sport
‘Listen it’s business sorry. It’s got to pay the bills!
‘No, he’s incredible, he’s so understanding. So are my friends. I will be talking to them, saying “yeah OK” while working on a press release. It doesn’t ever stop.
‘Do you know what though? After everything I have been through, in my life and in my story, I try not to complain because I really shouldn’t be here. That’s why me and Tyson get on so well. There was two times in my life were I came really close to calling it quits.
‘For a very strong person, it was very hard to me to accept that. When you hit rock bottom and you are given an opportunity like this, to do what you love doing, so what if the phone rings all the time?
‘Do I need to work on my balance? Absolutely. But, I think that’s the same for everyone in every position. I am just grateful that the phone is still ringing and that I am still working and that I am able to do what I love doing.
‘Of course it’s about balance and having the right people around you but honestly, if the phone stopped ringing I would probably miss it.’