Had the stars aligned differently, English super-middleweight challenger Jahmaine Smyle is convinced he could’ve marshalled Leicester City’s defence to Premier League glory last year, writes Glynn Evans.
During his mid teens, the one they call ‘Smasher’ was a clumping stopper with a cultivated left peg.
‘Growing up, I was convinced I’d be a pro footballer,’ says the superbly chiselled 31 year old.
‘From the age of 14, I played football for Leicester Schoolboys. I was either centre half or left back, I’m left footed.’
Sadly Smyle surrendered both his focus and his liberty after succumbing to ‘street life’ on one of Leicester’s meaner manors.
‘Life was difficult,’ he reflects.
‘I’m one of 13 and I was the youngest for a good while. We also lived in the roughest part of Leicester so I was forced to fight every day. I weren’t a bully as such but I had a really vile temper and could just erupt and explode. Other kids were very wary of p***ing me off.’
Now it is the fight game that represents the best route to realising his considerable athletic potential and, this Saturday, he renews hostilities with bitter rival Darryl Williams at London’s Copper Arena.
‘Prior to boxing I did quite a bit of martial arts; karate and kick boxing, mainly. I was 18 before I tried boxing properly but, due to a few problems with the law, I only had 15 amateur fights over a period of about seven years.’
Pioneered by local ex WBO middleweight king Chris Pyatt, Smyle entered the profession with few fundamentals and even less funding in December 2009. And while he endured early career stoppage losses to Wayne Reed and future British light-heavy boss Hosea Burton, his graft and grit brought a chain of credible victories over worthies such as Carl Dilks, Prince Davies, Ryan Clark, Lee Markham and Leon McKenzie.
The latter win, last November, brought the English title and took ‘Smasher’ to the cusp of British title contention. However, nemesis Williams drowned those dreams by outhustling him at his Leicester homestead last April, in a domestic Fight of the Year contender that was fractious and furious before, during and after.
‘The first fight was a treat for the fans but you don’t want too many of those if you intend having a long career,’ quips Jahmaine, who is now managed and coached by Derby’s one-time British heavyweight challenger Clifton Mitchell.
‘I thought I just edged it but it was very close and I’m not gonna make excuses. If you’re not fit to fight, you don’t fight. No good bleating after.
‘Darryll’s fit and relentless; like a little Yorkshire terrier. He has good movement and rhythm if you allow it. But what he brings doesn’t require a lot of skill. I’ve shared a ring with plenty who had more power, plenty who were cuter.
‘I can’t say I detest Williams because I don’t know him. These days I’m a pretty cool, laid back guy. But, at the press conference and weigh-in, Darryll was like a pitbull, very tense and agitated, so it was natural to defend myself. He’s stopping me achieving my dreams and goals so I’ve got to destroy him!’
This time he concedes home court and walks to the ring without the belt. However, he believes a belated British title gig is probable, if he can turn the tables.
‘I feel I’ve really paid my dues,’ says Smyle whose record presently rests at 14-5-2, having conceded in four of his first 10.
‘All boxers have it hard but my road has been harder than most. I honestly believe I’m above English title level and Saturday’s fight gives me a chance to prove it. If I get through, it should guarantee me a shot at Rocky Fielding.
‘Last time, I went wrong by doing what Williams likes, fighting in the trenches too long. This time I’ll be forcing him to do stuff he doesn’t like.
‘I’ve had a great camp and I’m fully prepared. I’ll be keeping it basic, controlling the fight more, boxing MY fight. I’ll not be looking for a stoppage but I’ve definitely got the potential to deliver one.’