Leeds Army veteran Dean ‘Smudger’ Smith knows a thing or two about combat – but his recent foray into bare-knuckle boxing was a brave new world.
Dad-of-one Mr Smith, of Middleton, won his debut BKB bout against Jonny Lawson at the London O2’s Indigo venue back in September, and will go on to compete with Kris Trezise for the British middleweight belt on Saturday, November 17.
Mr Smith boxed as a youngster but got back in the ring during his 10-year career with the Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire and later the amalgamated Yorkshire Regiment, where he was a corporal section commander. After tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Germany, he came out the Army in 2011, aged 27, and initially found it difficult to settle into a new gym.
But with the help of trainers Padraic McDonagh and Darrell Kendall at Golden Team Thai Boxing gym in Hunslet, Mr Smith was selected for his debut and is now committed to the sport full-time. He said: “Golden Team was the turning point – I got my hunger back.
“You’ve either got it or you haven’t. You’ve got the edge where you can put all that other stuff to the side.
“It’s about pride I think. It’s about knowing I can go out there and perform under pressure. You’re taking shots that are going to damage you.”
He joked: “I’ve been married a few years now so I don’t need my looks.
“They’re surplus to requirements.”
Mr Smith, 35, believes that BKB will become more recognised in the future in a similar way to how UFC cage fighting has grown in popularity over the last 10 to 15 years.
“Four years ago this started off in just local pubs and clubs and then a few marquees and now it’s in the Indigo in the O2. You get 3,000 people at the Indigo,” he said.
Mr Smith’s son Shay Solas, five, takes part in Thai boxing at Golden Team, and wife Nini supports him during every fight.
‘Smudger’ – an Army name – thanked his sponsors, which include CG Motorsport, Evoke Safety Management, UKFRAS, LD Nutrition, and Ding Dental Laboratories.