“I was the Amateur Boxing Association Welterweight Champion when I was younger. I started when I was nine years old as a junior and became the London Schoolboy’s Champion before going on to win the senior title when I was nineteen. I had 225 fights in total. I won 215, only lost 9, drew 1, and I was never knocked out in the ring. A lot of my opponents from back then went on to turn professional and had good careers. Now they’ve got houses and cars and I’ve been on the streets for nearly thirty years. I’ve been in and out of hostels a lot but mainly I just sleep on the street. Christmas Eve I slept in a phone box.
I used to box at the Fitzroy Lodge gym in Lambeth where David Haye trained, and then at the Repton gym, where people like the Krays used to fight. I fought Michael Watson three times. He went on to become the Commonwealth Champion and famously got injured fighting Chris Eubank for the World Title. He beat me the first time we fought, but then I beat him the next two. I fought all over the UK, and in Europe too. Twice in France, once in Denmark. I won all those fights. I was even asked to fight in America once but got injured at the last minute and couldn’t go.
When I was twenty-one I was preparing to turn professional. I was training everyday and jogging all over London. I was the fittest I’d ever been, but I just had to defend my title first. In the semi-final I knocked my opponent down in the first round, then again in the second, and everyone was saying I’d get through to final and win again, but in the third I caught him with my head as he turned away and all three judges disqualified me. All I had to do was keep calm and see that fight through and I probably would have won it, but instead I got a suspension. It was just this stupid thing, and I’ve always regretted it.
That’s when things started to go wrong for me. I left school at fourteen without much education and boxing had always kept me grounded. My dad had died when I was 13 and my mum had remarried. I couldn’t really stay with them, and I started hanging out with the wrong people instead. I did some painting and decorating and a bit of gardening, but I also started drinking too much and living on the street.
I went to live on a Kibbutz for a while with my cousin to get away from it all, but there was fighting going on in the Middle East at the time and one morning our Kibbutz was attacked. We all had to hide in a shelter and when we came out six people had been killed. Their bodies were just lying there in the open. When I got back I started drinking again, and then I began to get in trouble with the police as well.
Boxing has helped me survive on the street a few times though. I had a gun pulled on me once and managed to give the guy a left hook and get away. I’ve had knives pulled on me too, but last time I was in prison it was for hitting a police officer. It was just the drink got hold of me, but I know it’s no excuse, and if you hit a police officer you definitely get sent away. The thing is the police know me quite well now. They even came to find me on the street and to tell me that my mother was dying in hospital a few years ago. I’d only seen her about fifteen times in the last 30 years, but they actually picked me up and drove me to the hospital so we could say goodbye.
I still watch the boxing a lot with my friends. I don’t think Anthony Joshua has really been tested yet, but he’s very good. A lot of people say to me I should get back into it and become a boxing trainer or something. They say you’re only fifty-one, there’s still time to change, but I feel older. I’ve thought about going back to my old gym to see, but I don’t know if anyone would remember me there anymore.”
Danny, Christmas Day, London.
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