Christian boxer Bolu Kareem first found his pugilism passion in the streets of Newham amidst the post code wars that have plagued London for decades now.
It was when his family moved to a quieter, safer environment that the fighting suddenly stopped, so he sought out a boxing gym for the first time. And the rest, they say, is history.
BBN spoke with BK ahead of his pro debut:
What made you want to start boxing?
“Growing up in Upton Park, I used to fight in school and on the streets. As soon as I left school and left the area, I went to college and just went to a boxing gym one day. I got in and sparred the second day I was there and really enjoyed it.
The first gym I went to was in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, and was an MMA gym, but boxing was what I looked forward to doing and didn’t enjoy the other stuff as much because I preferred to punch.”
Who was your boxing hero growing up and why?
“It would have to be Manny Pacquiao for his hunger and commitment, and for coming from the bottom. I mean, he came from the absolute bottom; there’s bottom over here, but he’s from the Philippines and their bottom is even different, he’s from the very, very bottom.
He’s turned himself around and he’s making life better for other people that needs help. Plus, he’s Christian and so am I, so I look up to Christian boxers. He’s made millions and won world titles in eight divisions, and still going strong at 40.
I also look up to Andre Ward, another Christian boxer, because his style was so awkward and clever. In terms of British fighters, there’s Joe Calzaghe and Chris Eubank, but Prince Naseem tops them all, for me.”
How old were you when you had your first fight and how did you do?
“About 18 when I had my first ever fight, so quite late, but I won my first 11 fights.
My first fight in Birmingham against a kid from the nearby Jewellery Quarter. This was when I was on the University team at Coventry University where I got a degree in sports marketing.”
How well did you do in the amateurs?
“I won 14 fights, lost four, and I stopped about five of them. I won the National British Universities & Sport Colleges Light-heavyweight Title, Central England Light-heavyweight Title, and ABA Midlands Champion Light-heavyweight Title.”
What made you decide to turn pro?
“My hunger and my passion, I just believe in myself. I’ve got so much self-belief. One of my favourite boxers is Sugar Ray Robinson and he said that to be a true a champion you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will.”
What team do you have around you?
“I was at Rumbles Gym in Sittingbourne with Billy Rumbol, but now I have relocated back to Birmingham, where my mother now lives.”
Are you full-time as a pro?
“I’m going to work part time just to sustain myself and then train full time. I am not going to sacrifice my work hours for training.”
What sort of fighting style do you have?
“I’d say I’m a hybrid, sometimes I like to come forward or go back; I like to do what he doesn’t like, so if he likes to fight then I like to go on the back foot. I like switching it up. The right uppercut is my best punch.”
What ambitions do you have for your pro career?
“Lineal champion. I want to take over the game, I want to be known as that guy that would fight anyone. I’m saying it early, I know it’s too early to talk like that, but I know what it takes and I’m going to get there.”
When is your first fight and who will be there in support?
“I’m looking for a Birmingham manager right now because I’ve just moved, but will have my first pro fight later this year.”
For tickets to the debut fight please call: 07908 136733
To follow Bolu on Instagram, click here @bolu_kareem