Shepherd’s Bush based boxer and Ultimate Boxxer cruiserweight champion Mikael Lawal (12-0-0, 7 KOs) is on the path to a British title despite suffering more hardship in his 25 years than most do in an entire lifetime.
Lawal grew up in Essex, but moved to Nigeria for two years at the age of 13 to live with his father, after his mother tragically passed away.
He soon found himself homeless on the streets of Lagos before he was brought back to London by the British High Commission, and now lives in Shepherd’s Bush.
As a teenager, he lived in a hostel, where he struggled with anger management issues, until his life changed when he discovered boxing.
Lawal said: “Boxing definitely helped me. I was getting into a lot of problems, so they tried to find a way for me to manage my anger issues and my key worker – that’s basically like your mum or dad in the hostel – she referred me to boxing.
“Ever since then I just stuck with it and it was a very good outlet for me because I had all this pent up anger in me, and I had to let it out somehow.
“I had a bit of a past when I used to get in trouble with the law but one time a police officer came to our boxing gym and we got on just fine.
“I met all different sorts of people I could get advice from, talk to, just basically mentors. I never really had that proper family structure for a lot of my life, especially in my teen years when I really needed it most.
“Boxing definitely still has that culture of everyone coming together, it hasn’t been lost and it would actually hurt me to ever see a time when boxing loses that quality, because then what would we turn to?
“It’s such a violent sport, you wouldn’t think it’s the one place where a lot of people come together. It’s a bittersweet kind of thing.”
In July last year, Lawal beat three opponents in one night to win the Ultimate Boxxer 4 tournament, winning a £50,000 prize.
The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown came at a bad time for him, however, and he has not been able to fight since.
He said: “It’s nice to be in history, that’s forever in history now. I’ve succeeded in that path. For me to come out on top was amazing.
“When lockdown was happening nobody could come to the gym and everything was just pretty much at a standstill. As a boxer I’m a self-employed guy so it hit me very hard. My girlfriend was still working, and she had to pull me through and help me out throughout this pandemic so all thanks to her.
“I found myself falling back into depression. I definitely got to the worst I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve been through a lot of things in life and I don’t know what it was, there was just so much more mental strain.
“When I was going through what I was going through in the past I always had a goal in my mind, but with the lockdown, nobody knew anything, I didn’t know when it was gonna end.
“Now the gym is back open, so I’ve been boxing and I’m getting ready for my fight on 10 November. I’m looking forward to a few things and I’m happier now. All these things I’ve gone through, they’ve only made me stronger.”
Lawal has signed a multi-fight deal with Boxxer and his next bout will be on the undercard of the UB7 tournament, at BT Sport’s studio in Stratford, against an unannounced opponent.
He is excited to shake off his ring rust and looks forward to his future British title eliminator contest against Luke Watkins, 30 (14-2-0 9 KOs).
Lawal is supported by his team at Stonebridge Boxing Club in Wembley, and is driven by a desire to inspire the young boxers at the club.
He said: “I would say that my coach is like the father I never had. He’s such a great support and I always go to him for advice.
“I see how the kids look up to me and it inspires me to go further and do more in my career. And to try to achieve more, to inspire them even more. I want to perform well so I don’t let them down.
“I’m preparing for the storm. In my head, I’m expecting the best guy and the person I’m about to fight is a monster, so I’m prepared for anything.
“I’m not trying to look past it too much but after this fight I’m going for the British title eliminator, then the British title, then one day, God willing, I’ll be world champion.”
Another south west London boxer, Zak Chelli, is part of UB7’s headline knockout tournament.
UB7 will be broadcast live on BT Sport and ITV 4 on Tuesday 10 November.