Feature | Long read | Premium | Jan 23 2020

Michael Olajide was tipped for the top. But a series of punishing losses, amid one eye going blind, sent him tumbling down

But Ben Dirs finds out how Michael Olajide landed on his feet with astonishing aplomb
Michael Olajide
@i_amsin / #Newnyer

STOP me if you’ve heard this one before: a gifted boxer is lured to the big city with promises of fame and fortune; slick, handsome and packing a decent wallop, he rises through the ranks and gets a shot at the title; he loses, falls out of favour with promoters – and his dad – is forced to retire with an eye injury, soon runs out of money and is left thinking: ‘What on earth do I do next?’

I know, it’s not exactly original. But what if I was to tell you that this story has a happy ending? This kid who had it all – or thought he did – and lost it now trains super-models and Hollywood actors in his upmarket gym in Manhattan. Iman, Linda Evangelista, Will Smith, Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal have all been taught to box by Michael Olajide, and he is the coach of choice for Victoria’s Secret lingerie models. I can think of worse ways to earn a living.

“I’ll be training this exceptionally beautiful woman,” says Olajide, “she’s sweaty and exercising hard, and I’m thinking, ‘I get paid for this? It doesn’t make sense’.”