BRITISH and Commonwealth welterweight champion Sam Eggington vs Bradley Skeete will take place on March 5 in the champion’s home city of Birmingham but for challenger Skeete, from Penge this is merely the latest example of his fighting against the odds. Skeete tells his story below, in his own words.

Where it began
I WAS from Battersea originally, I grew up on the Surrey Lane council estate. We moved to Penge when I was nine or 10. I’ve got an older brother [one year older] and an older sister [five years older]. Surrey Lane, it was a typical council estate, we lived upstairs in a maisonette, my nan lived downstairs on the same estate. Everyone knew everyone. I still go there now, my nan still lives there. I wouldn’t say I was getting into trouble but a lot of my friends who I used to go round with, some are in prison and some are dead now. I’m not saying if I’d stayed round there it could’ve been me, but you never know do you? I could’ve went the wrong way, been a drug dealer on the street.

Boxing steps in
I STARTED and it was just a bit of fun. I always wanted to be a world champ but you dream it. It started getting real from when I went in my first Schoolboys [championships], I lost in the final. I went away with England and won the Four Nations. It was serious from then; I was only 12 or 13. I was always around the England set-up and I got to two more Schoolboy finals and lost them. I won an NABC title, got to an ABA final… obviously I was no good at winning finals! I think a lot of people forget… there was a picture going around recently of when we boxed England v America. I think there was me in it, Tyson Fury, Billy Joe Saunders, James DeGale and two other kids. I look and think out of six, seven of us, three are world champions. I was around them boys, I could be the next one.

School daze
SCHOOL was not for me. I didn’t get kicked out or anything but me and school just didn’t get on. I hated it. You know those kids who say, “I don’t like school,’ but they go? I had to go otherwise my mum and dad would’ve got in trouble, but when I started getting older and boxing a lot, I got time off school for trips anyway. I thought I was older than I was, I thought, ‘I can go work…’ I was one of the oldest in my year so I was 16 before I went into Year 11, so once I was 16 there was nothing legally they could do so I just left. I did home tuition for a bit too. My brother is the complete opposite to me; he did well in school, got a good job. We used to fight and argue all the time. He does marketing and advertising. My sister is a housewife. She was like me, she didn’t like school too. We were close because we bunked off school together, getting up to no good… nah, I actually used to train, go running. A lot of people do school… I tell my nephews go to school, get their education, it’s the best thing for them but for me – and this sounds ignorant – I knew I was going to do well in boxing. I’d like to give back to boxing when I finish, get into coaching or maybe have a gym myself. I know boxing won’t last forever.

Turning over
AFTER I lost to Ronnie Heffron in the ABA final, my mind was set that I wanted to go pro. I was friends with DeGale at the time and training with Jimmy Mac [Jim McDonnell], I was round them 24/7, that was the route I thought I was gonna take. I sparred loads with James and Steve O’Meara. I really wanted to win that ABA title so I thought, ‘I’ll stay another year’ but I come up against Dudley O’Shaugnessy in the London [finals], we had a wicked fight, it was a close fight, I lost that and he went on to win the ABAs and I just knew.

You can call him Al
MINE and James’ relationship didn’t break down but we didn’t talk as much as we used to. I didn’t want to be remembered as his mate and people saying, ‘You only got here because of him.’ So I didn’t go with Jimmy Mac, I went with Al Smith. I had a good chat with [Earlsfield head coach] Sid Khan and he was close with [Fitzroy Lodge counterpart] Mick Carney. As much as Mick was with Fitzroy Lodge he always had his knowledge of the pros too, and he had a good relationship with Dean Powell too. So I phoned Mick and he said, ‘I think you should go and see Dean [to be his manager].’ He also said I should go and train with Al and see if I liked him. He said Al would take my best interests to heart and weren’t just in it for himself. I respected what Mick said and I liked what I did with Al. I knew Al when I was an amateur anyway because I boxed a few of his kids [from the Marvell’s Lane club] so he knew me from 10, 11 years old. He was a bubbly person. Lewis Pettitt had just turned pro as well while Sam Webb had just won the British title; both were in the gym and I knew them from the amateurs. I liked the buzz I was getting from Al and I felt comfortable.

Moving on but not out
BOXING is going well now so I’m saving money good but life at home with mum and dad, I get everything done for me. I know the time is coming soon I’ll need to get my own house, get on that property ladder. I’m not embarrassed to admit, I’m a proper mummy’s boy. I’d be stuck if I didn’t have my mum, probably in a bad way; she does literally everything for me. I’d leave here now and ring my mum and say, ‘Can you do me some food for when I get home?’ I can get my washing done. Silly things you probably take for granted, whereas if I had my own house I know I gotta wash my own smelly clothes, do my food, sort my house out. I got no stress at all, and with the big fights coming, it’s stress I don’t need.