Mikael Lawal once lived on the streets in Nigeria but now he is eyeing up glory in the cruiserweight division after winning Ultimate Boxxer.
Lawal has survived living on the streets in Nigeria and being beaten by his father.
But fighting through the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns was still not easy for the ambitious cruiserweight.
Lawal, 25, has been giving a fighting chance in life thanks to a social worker who advised him to give boxing a go when he was a troubled teenager.
The London-based cruiserweight had watched his mother die in Nigeria when he was 13 and came back to the UK with his grandmother.
He then went back to the African country to live with his father but when that relationship turned abusive he decided to leave.
Lawal slept under a bridge and scrapped for food for months until he could track down his sister and reconnect with family.
The British commission returned him to the UK but life wasn’t easy as he lived in hostels here and often found trouble.
But he found joy in boxing at 17 and when he turned 18 joined Stonebridge Boxing Club in Wembley.
“Boxing helped me get my confidence back and made me feel like a human being again,” said Lawal.
“For a long time I didn’t even feel like a human being.” Lawal is 12-0 as a professional and has sparred with stars like former undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk.
Last year he won the Ultimate Boxxer tournament which helped him with a decent prize pool of around £16,000 but after everyone is paid from that there isn’t a lot left over.
And now a dad himself, life in lockdown hasn’t been easy but he returns to the ring on Tuesday night in Stratford in a cruiserweight contest as part of the next Ultimate Boxxer tournament for super-middleweights.
“I’ve been out of the ring for a year now,” said Lawal, who faces Ossie Jervier next week. “I was training at home for a bit but then after a while mentally I was starting to get down because I didn’t know when lockdown would end and when could I fight again.
“I’ve gone through a lot but the difference between then and now I could see an end goal back then.
It’s been a traumatic year, it has tested me as a human being.
“People see you fighting on TV and think you’re a millionaire but I could have earned more money working in retail than my boxing career so far.”
But he is keen to look forward and has ambitions to become a world champion.
“I believe I can mix it with the best and do what I need to do,” he added.