Smith looked destined to fight for world honours until he lost unexpectedly - and then fell apart
Mitchell Smith's long road back via two prison terms and an unlicensed nightclub fight

Mitchell Smith's long road back via two prison terms and an unlicensed nightclub fight

Mitchell Smith's long road back via two prison terms and an unlicensed nightclub fight

Mitchell Smith's long road back via two prison terms and an unlicensed nightclub fight

Mitchell Smith's long road back via two prison terms and an unlicensed nightclub fight

Mitchell Smith's long road back via two prison terms and an unlicensed nightclub fight
Mitchell Smith's long road back via two prison terms and an unlicensed nightclub fight
  • 2019-12-03 11:25:10 9 days ago
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A gaudy nightclub more accustomed to babysitting wannabe Love Islanders may not be the most obvious venue to launch a comeback.

But 10 days before Christmas, Mitchell Smith will leave his makeshift dressing room at Pryzm in Watford and walk to the ring for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

He will do so without a boxing license and without his trainer who will be confined to the bar with a pint in hand.

And if he is even a shadow of the fleet-footed fighter who once danced his way up the super-featherweight rankings, Smith will dispatch his opponent with all the satisfaction of a champagne cork popping in the adjacent VIP booths.

For the 27-year-old once tipped to be British boxing's brightest star, however, the result will matter little.

"I don't care who I'm fighting, or if I go the six rounds, I just want to get in there, look good and feel it again," Smith says.

"People will say I shouldn't be fighting at this standard, but no-one is going to give me three or four grand before Christmas to put food and presents on the table for my kids.

"I could go and work a s*** job for £60 a day but I don't want to do that.

"It's good for my head to be focused on something; I've had nothing to focus on for almost three years."

Mitchell Smith is back in the gym preparing for a fight

Smith's road back from the wilderness has been littered not with potholes but with craters entirely of his own digging.

A regional champion at 20, the best in England a year later and Young Boxer of the Year before his 23rd birthday, the prolific ticket seller could do little wrong.

But Smith had taken heed of only part of the adage, 'train hard, fight easy' and soon paid the price – although upon reflection his shock defeat by George Jupp was more an accident waiting to happen.

"I found most of my fights extremely easy and I always thought I could go out, enjoy myself and then have eight weeks of training," Smith says.

"Unfortunately I lost; I showed a lot of immaturity and you can't do that in this sport, you've got to be 100 per cent all the time.

"I didn't train until someone told me I was fighting but what I should have done was stay in the gym all year round because it's my job."

Smith sought refuge with renowned trainer Adam Booth and two routine victories hinted at a way back.

But lurking beneath the surface were demons Smith believes took root long before he stumbled.

"I've been boxing since I was six and it definitely took away my youth but to be an elite athlete you have to make sacrifices," he says.

"I didn't have a normal upbringing; I didn't go out with my friends after school, my dad didn't give me pocket money to go the cinema. I was in the gym 24/7, I was there five, six or seven days a week.

"Instead of playing football in the park I was in the boxing gym or going to boxing shows, it's all I knew.

"Even when I was 18, I still had a bedtime and a time to come home.

"When I had my first child I was still living at my dad's and he said if I wasn't back by 11pm then I wasn't to bother coming home.

Smith was highly rated as he climbed the ranks

"I was 21 years of age with £100,000 in the bank but I was still living on my dad's sofa; I wasn't paying rent and had all that money to myself.

"My dad took all my money from me and put it in his account and saved it but one day I wanted it all back and I kicked off until I got it. Once I got it, it went on nightclubs and strip clubs.

"I started drinking a lot, not every day, but when I was out at the weekend I would drink until I was out of control.

"I got myself into certain situations, showing off in front of certain people and the next minute I found myself inside."

*

Wormwood Scrubs in west London has had its fair share of notorious inmates, from Moors murderer Ian Brady to this country's most violent prisoner Charles Bronson.

It is also where Smith was slung on remand for eight months thanks to the age-old cocktail of jealousy, pride and alcohol.

"I got into a heated discussion in a pub about me having supposedly started talking to a girl," he recalls.

"I was with my missus and I told the guy where to go and that if he didn't like it this is what was going to happen.

"I got hit by one geezer and when I stood up there were four or five of them.

"I left the pub because I knew I'd get hurt but I couldn't let it go. I drove off down the road but turned round and came back.

"I dealt with the situation in the only way I knew how. Growing up I was bullied and my dad taught me if someone hits you then you hit them back.

"Now I wouldn't put myself in that situation, I'd leave and forget about it but back then I had too much pride, so I went back and had a fight.

"He knew who I was, went to the police and I did my time. It was a stupid thing to do and I apologised."

Smith's two young children were cared for by social services while he was locked up and he didn't speak to his dad for over a year.

He saw daylight for only an hour each day as his physical condition rapidly deterioated.

Smith's downfall began with defeat by George Jupp

"I saw the type of people who were in there," he says. "I met some horrible people; I stayed across the landing from a murderer, I worked on a wing which had rapists, but I wasn't that type of person.

"When I went back to my cell and thought about where I was two years ago and where I was then... I began to understand where things went wrong."

Found guilty of actual bodily harm and affray in 2017, Smith was given a two-year suspended sentence, 80 hours of community service and probation.

His punishment would prevent him from re-applying for his boxing license until his sentence had run its course in November this year.

*

Out of prison but out of shape, Smith was ready to get out of boxing.

At 17 stone, almost twice his former fighting weight, he grew tired of constant questions about his fistic future.

"It was difficult to be in the gym with people asking when I was coming back and having high expectations," he says. "I was sick of hearing it and eventually I'd had enough."

But Smith's daughter Sienna, who he jokes is seven going on 17, would see him lounging around at home, roll her eyes and quip sassily, "On the sofa again, are we?".

Spurred on to make one final effort, he dragged himself to West Ham amateur club with his boxing brother Jez.

"I was happy to see him walk through the door, even if I didn't recognise him," trainer Barry Smith says.

"He couldn't even do a round, he wasn't the kid I knew who used to come to my gym and spar."

Undeterred and convinced he could feel flashes of his talent amid the buckets of sweat, Smith soldiered on and made the two-hour round trip from his home in Harrow when finances allowed.

"I'm not earning any money,” he says. “All boxers know they're lucky if they get a good sponsor.

"I've had hundreds in my career but certain ones stick around and I'm lucky to have MG Property Contractors LTD, Stein Contractors and Jock Bonner in my corner.

"My manager Mo Prior is helping me financially and seeing me through the tough times and John Clarke looks after my diet.

"Some days I'll text Barry and say I don't have money to get into the gym so I'll go for a run or to the gym around mine because I don't have a tenner to spare."

Mitchell admits he did not prepare properly for fights

But just as he began to feel something like his old self, Smith again found himself on the wrong side of the law.

"Earlier this year I lost the phone which had the calendar with my probation dates on it," he explains.

"I got a new phone and missed the date so my probation officer rang up and said there was a warrant out for my arrest.

"I handed myself in thinking it was the right thing to do but when I went to court they sentenced me again.

"I went there with a letter from Barry saying I'd been in the gym, that I was looking after myself and changing my lifestyle.

"I showed this to the judge and said it was a misunderstanding but he gave me four months back in the same prison.

"That hurt more than the other time because I deserved it the first time. All the work we had been doing had to be put on hold."

Smith was behind bars for a little under two months before being released on licence, meaning it will be April next year until he can re-apply for his professional boxing license.

*

Sitting now in the gym's office-cum-kitchen, Smith is finally able to map out a route back.

He has lost almost five stone and will face a likely soft touch in Will Cairns at middleweight on Saturday week, some three divisions above his former fighting weight.

Another such bout will follow in February before he plans to re-join the paid ranks as a trim lightweight.

"It's been challenging," he admits with more than a dab of understatement. "I've broken down, I've cried; there have been many lows but I can start to see the end of it all now.

"I've picked myself up from the brink of nothing and now I'm back doing what I love.

"I had a shot at it and messed it up but that was the downside; the upside of doing it at such a young age is that when I get back, I'll already have done the messing around and spent s***loads of money.

"If I can get back in the game and earn decent money - which I think I can - and buy a house for my children then I'll be happy."

What Smith doesn't know is how the British Boxing Board of Control will view his unlicensed venture when they consider his application next spring.

"When I sit down in front of the board and they mention it, I'm going to say the main reason I did it was to earn money," he says.

"But the second reason was that if I had nothing set in front of me, it was going to be a struggle to get back in the gym and work hard.

Smith had been on the verge of world level

"I spoke to people very close to me who advised me to do this and I think it's a good thing for me.

"Previously there were days when I texted Barry and said I'd have the day off because I had nothing lined up; now I'm focused and have a job to do.

"I know what I can do in the sport and it would be depressing... it would kill me if I don't achieve what I think I can achieve.

"Not if I get in the ring with someone better than me and get beat, but if I didn't get in the ring and I was beaten by myself.

"You've got to be honest with yourself; there are some kids in the sport who think they can do something but realistically they can't.

"The first day I came into the gym I couldn't do a round without blowing but now I'm sparring eight rounds with elite athletes and it's starting to come back.

“I'm starting to do things I used to do and see things I used to see. It's always been in my mind but my body couldn't do it because it's not conditioned.

"I believe I'm good enough to crack on and do big things in the sport.

"It's cheap to say that having been out for two years. I've got loads of boxes to tick when I get back but I'm willing to do it all again."

*

What Smith won't do, he insists, is return to the habits which led him down the darkest of paths.

He hasn't touched alcohol since last Christmas and spends his weekends watching West Ham instead of sinking pints.

He has reconciled with his dad and has five children in his care; his own daughter and son, Vinnie, and three stepchildren whom he has brought up for almost a decade and whose own father passed away earlier this year.

"I don't want to put myself in the positions I used to put myself in," Smith says. "I hated going out when I was doing it.

"I used to like the people I was with and having a laugh but I didn't like being drunk and when I was drunk I was out of control. I was loud, I was rowdy, I was pushing and shoving and play fighting.

"I'm trying to show people I've changed and if I go out and do what I did back then... I lost a lot of respect from people, and not just in boxing.

"I never want to have to go through what I've just come through so I'll never go back there.

"I wouldn't do it to my kids; they've seen me at nothing and now I want to make them proud again."

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Mitchell Smith's long road back via two prison terms and an unlicensed nightclub fight

Lionel Messi admits watching Cristiano Ronaldo win 2017 Ballon d'Or "hurt" him

Lionel Messi admits watching Cristiano Ronaldo win 2017 Ballon d'Or "hurt" him

Lionel Messi has admitted that watching Cristiano Ronaldo lift the Ballon d'Or two years ago "hurt" him.

Barcelona superstar Messi picked up his sixth Ballon d'Or award last night in Paris after pipping Virgil van Dijk to the gong - with Ronaldo coming a distant third.

The victory puts Messi above rival Cristiano Ronaldo outright in the all-time record books having been locked on five apiece for two years.

Messi had reached the five trophy milestone first, before Ronaldo won in 2016 and 2017 - and the Argentine has revealed that he was upset to watch the Juventus ace catch-up.

Cristiano Ronaldo poses with his five Ballon d'Ors

“On the one hand, I appreciated having five and being the only one to do so," Messi said.

"When Cristiano levelled me, I have to admit that it hurt me a bit. I was no longer alone at the summit. But it was logical, even if it is nice when you are alone on five.”

As well as his record Ballon d'Or haul, Messi has won 10 La Liga titles, four European Cups, three UEFA Super Cups and the Copa del Rey six times, along with a huge haul of individual awards.

Lionel Messi won his sixth Ballon d'Or on Mondat night

The 32-year-old insists his sixth Ballon d'Or will not be the crowning achievement of his glittering career - but rather a stepping stone to more success.

"I'm going to enjoy this with my family, because those times when it's possible to do it do not last long," he said after being presented with the Ballon d'Or at Monday night's ceremony in Paris.

"Tomorrow we will have to focus again on other objectives.

"I am already focused on the future. This gives me great pride, it gives me a lot of strength to continue my work.

"To the journalists and my colleagues with whom I win and lose, I remember my first Ballon D’Or in Paris, when I arrived with my brothers - now I pick up the sixth, and this was absolutely unthinkable.

"I never stopped dreaming and enjoying football like when I was a child.

"I hope I have more years to enjoy, although I am aware of how old I am, everything happens very quickly and I know that the moment of withdrawal (retirement) is approaching."

Maura Derrane shares secret to her happy marriage with Waterford TD John Deasy

Maura Derrane shares secret to her happy marriage with Waterford TD John Deasy

Maura Derrane has revealed some of the secrets to her happy marriage to husband John Deasy.

The RTE star is happily married to John Deasy, a Fine Gael TD, and the pair have a five year old son Cal together.

However, the last 12 months have seen the couple both extremely busy with work, with The Today Show host holding the fort at home while John’s high-powered job took him to America, RSVP Live reports.

The couple split their time between Dungarvan, Dublin, Cork and the US, however their sense of independence is one of the strengths in their marriage according to  Maura  .

She told RTE Guide that her marriage of fourteen years has kept going due to their time spent apart as much as their time spent together.

However, she admitted that she’s not sure what the pair will do once John leaves his role as a politician: "It might be different now when John leaves politics as we don’t know exactly what he will do."

Maura Derrane and husband John Deasy

John is set to leave national politics after some 17-years, and Maura added: "I don’t know and I don’t think John knows either.

“John has been in politics for so long he’ll take a breath but there will be a lot of opportunities on the horizon.

“John is back and forth to the US quite a bit but I don’t see it as an option for me.

“Cal has just started school, so unless it’s a special two-year period and I really never say no to anything but to up sticks to go to the States; it would have to be something spectacular. But I never plan too far ahead.”

She also revealed she was always careful to keep her distance from politics, aware of the risk of blurring the lines between her career and being a politician's wife.

Maura Derrane with husband John Deasy

She explained: “I have always kept myself quite separate from the political arena even before John and I got married.

“We have always had very defined, separate careers and I never did the wife-of-the-politician thing.

“You have to be careful when you’re on TV and married to someone in politics as you never want to seen biased in any particular way.

“I’m not a bit political and never was but going through difficult times does impact but what what are you going to do?

"The reality is that you can understand so much of what another person is going through.

“All you can do is to be there to lend a hand and a supportive word."

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