WEST LEEDS AMATEUR Boxing Club’s star man Damo Jones could wake up a national senior ABA champion today after his fight in Essex last night.
Club-mate Dexter Thomas admits he isn’t quite the fighter Jones is but becoming his club’s first home-grown national champion is a target firmly in his sights.
Jones, 18, has been the talk of Leeds boxing this week ahead of last night’s bout in the senior ABA finals in Colchester.
However, the importance of next weekend cannot be ignored when the junior ABAs take place in Rochester in which Thomas, aged 16, also bids for glory.
Unlike Jones, Thomas has been a one-club man at West Leeds ABC, joining the gym as a 12-year-old and now one of the establishment’s brightest prospects.
The teenager has the ambition to match and while readily admitting Jones is a better fighter, that won’t stop him trying to emulate his progress.
“Damo is just an amazing boxer, he’s outstanding and if I’m honest he’s a lot better than me!” said Thomas.
“But I’m hoping I can be as good and follow in his footsteps.
“I’m feeling confident and I just want to be the first national champion from my club.
“Damo won it for another boxing club so I would be the first homegrown national champion.
“That would make me England’s number one and that would be mad as I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do anything like this to be honest and if I win these championships I will go and box for England.”
It’s been quite a journey and in no time whatsoever for Thomas, born in Leeds and raised in the Bruce Lawn estate with parents Debbie and Charlie plus sister Lois.
Thomas turned his hand to boxing aged 13 thanks to a persuasive friend and has never looked back since, admitting the sport and West Leeds ABC has been key to improving his life.
“I just remember one time my mate just said why don’t you come down, just try it,” recalled Thomas of how it all began.
“So I went down and I just really liked it and carried on – I was 12 when I started. I just enjoy it.”
“Boxing has just helped me stay out of trouble.
“It’s stopped me getting involved with the wrong people.”
Now Thomas is one of the boxing names that matters most and a name that in eight days’ time could be crowned a national champion.
However, it’s certainly a case of no pain no gain for the teenager who packs in a hectic training schedule with his sports studies at Swallow Hill Community College.
“I train four times a week for about an hour and 15 minutes and the training is hard but you’ve got to train hard,” said Thomas.
“I also go to Swallow Hill Community College where I’m doing a B-Tech in sports which is six hours a day five days a week and it’s quite hard doing it all.
“It can be exhausting and I can feel exhausted when I get in but I’ve got to train, you’ve got to train to be a champion haven’t you?”
Any spare time, meanwhile, is usually spent playing five-a-side football when Thomas more often than not operates at centre-back.
Hardy the ideal defender for a young centre-forward to come up against but Thomas insists away from the ring he is just any other teenager.
“I do like to play a bit of five-a-side football,” he said.
“I play at centre-back but I don’t know what people think when they play me, it’s just my mates who I see every day who I play against and to them I’m just Dexter.”
Just Dexter maybe but a Dexter homing in on a national championship – four years after taking up the sport at West Leeds.
And, win, lose or draw next weekend, Thomas’ progression is unlikely to end there, the Leeds ace admitting moving out of the amateur ranks is the plan for years to come.
“When I’m older, when I’m about 20, I’d like to turn pro,” he said.
“I want to see how I’d do and I think I’d do well.”
Fair to say the future at West Leeds is looking pretty bright.