TWO years ago, Deion Jumah appeared to have at last cracked it. Following years in the wilderness, he had successfully defended his English cruiserweight belt, outpointing Sam Hyde in a small-hall classic, and found himself now in prime position – that is, mandatory – to fight for the British title.
Two months after that, however, the world changed irrevocably and boxing was temporarily shut down.
When the sport then breathed again Jumah, to his relief, was booked to fight Chris Billam-Smith for the British title in November. But, alas, that too amounted to nothing once Jumah, cursed with bad luck since turning pro in 2013, took his medical.
“In November last year, the British Boxing Board of Control suspended my licence because of a retinal tear that was discovered in the boxing medical just before I was about to fight Billam-Smith,” he explained to Boxing News.
“Obviously I had to have emergency surgery and the Board then saw it as their duty to make sure I had everything covered – in terms of doctors’ reports and seeing the best ophthalmologist in the country – in order for them to feel okay about issuing me my licence again. That has taken over a year. They’ve sent me all over the place and everything I sent them wasn’t good enough, so you can imagine the amount of work I’ve had to put in to get my licence back.
“Finally, though, with the help of my sponsors and an amazing solicitor, we got the licence back at the end of November.”
Known as the “Ghost”, Jumah is a 32-year-old cruiserweight whose career has been fought primarily in the dark, his skills underappreciated as a result. His is a name rarely heard coming from the mouths of cruiserweight rivals and he has, historically, been easy to ignore, never more so than in the past couple of years.
“It was a tough time,” he said. “I was thinking about maybe pursuing something else, but it’s thanks to my drive and the support team around me that I was able to pursue this wholeheartedly.
“Now I have my licence I should again be mandatory for the British title but the British Boxing Board of Control have said that because I’ve been out for such a long time I have to fight again before they can put me back in the mandatory position, which I don’t see as fair. I think they’ve put Mikael Lawal in that position, even though he’s never fought a British title eliminator.
“At the same time, I’m just grateful to be back and know I will be back in that position in no time at all. I’m trying to look back on everything I’ve been through to get me here. I’m here now and it’s time to crack on.”
Though for much of the two years Jumah spent sidelined there were bigger issues than boxing affecting day-to-day life, it was nonetheless difficult for the Londoner to watch his prime years run away from him. It was difficult, too, for him to watch domestic rivals take fights meant for him and win titles he believed would soon be his.
“It was torture,” Jumah said. “It’s not about seeing other people progress, it’s more about me being so stagnant and not knowing what to do next. I felt like I was doing all the right things and not reaping the benefits of it.
“I did this latest part of my career without a promoter. I decided I was going to get myself in a really good position on my own before I even thought about going with a big promoter. I proved I could do it, too. I got myself in that position and felt like it would be plain sailing from there. I’d done the hard stuff, and now I’m in. But it didn’t turn out that way.
“These things make you tougher, they make you stronger, and I’m still here and I still want it. I feel sorry for my next opponent.”
Jumah, 13-0 (7), has kept himself in shape in anticipation of his return.
“I’ve been around the gym the whole time,” he confirmed. “I was in the gym sparring, doing everything the Board said, hoping for the day when they gave me my licence. When that process took a bit longer than I wanted, I then started working at my gym to make some money. The training dropped off a bit because of that, but just being in the gym environment and around boxers and boxing is training in itself. It’s not like I went and did an office job. Being around it is almost as important as doing it.
“I don’t believe in ring rust. I never have and never will. I’m thinking about boxing every day. It’s who I am. It’s all I think about. It’s my life.
“I also know that I’ve been doing this for longer than a lot of the cruiserweights doing well on the British scene right now. I’ve been fighting from a very young age. If you want to talk about years or hours spent in this game, I’ve put in more than a lot of them.”
Now able to look forward for the first time in a long time, the “Ghost” has his sights set on all the British cruiserweights he feels he should have met before 2022, plus one surprising name on the wish list.
“The Billam-Smith fight still makes sense,” Jumah said. “I would like to fight him, Richard Riakporhe, and Lawrence Okolie. Okolie is a [WBO] champion now but he’s still a target. It seems like cruiserweight Canelo [Álvarez] should be a target now as well.”