4:38pm Thursday 12th January 2012
By Nick Gentry
Junior Bayou could be fighting for Olympic gold in Stratford this summer – but his life came close to taking a very different path.
The Thornton-Heath heavyweight, who grew up in Brixton, is currently in the process of registering with the Ivorian Boxing Association so he can box for his native country at the Games.
He needs to do well at the their national championships to nail a spot and it will be a remarkable story if he does, given he spent many of his teenage years in jail.
“I was a bit of a naughty kid and always in trouble,” said the 23-year-old, who only took up boxing two years ago at Dynamo Boxing Club in south Croydon.
“I have been in prison a couple of times and as recently as four years ago.
“But then, all of a sudden, I have changed it all around and boxing has made me a completely different person that I didn’t know I could be.
“I was sat in my house watching boxing with my dad and just said I was going to give it a go because I was a little bit overweight, and I was pretty good.
“I couldn’t last a minute sparring but that made me want it even more and my goal was to last for a round and I have taken it from there.”
Bayou is the current south-east London heavyweight novice champion and his rise to prominence has seen Frank Warren try to tempt him with a professional deal.
But he turned down those overtures so he could fight at this year’s Games.
“I had already decided I wanted to represent my country at this incredible event,” added Bayou.
“That meant that, unfortunately, I couldn’t accept the incredible offer of a professional contract at that particular time in my life.
“My mum, my dad and the rest of my family will all be extremely proud and it will also make me very proud to represent my country at the Olympics in the city where I grew up.
“It is hard to communicate with the Ivory Coast at the moment but they have shown interest and want me on board.
“I was supposed to be going to a tournament in Morocco but I didn’t get a passport in time so we’ve had to delay it and just wait and see what happens but whenever they call me over I’ll be ready because I train all the time.
“I will have to go to the nationals and do well, not win the entire thing necessarily but make an impression.
“Then I will go to the Olympics and I believe I will bring back a medal and the colour of that medal will be gold.
“I will then turn professional next year and I want to work my way up and become British Champion like Amir Khan and all the others have done before.”
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